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EFFECTIVELY IMPLEMENTING STRATEGIC PLANS IN LARGE URBAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS : THE PERSPECTIVE OF FLORIDA SUPERINTENDENTS By WILLIAM EDWARD PRATT DANNALS A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013
2 2013 William Edward Pratt Dannals
3 ACKNOWLEGEMENTS An effort of this magnitude could not have been accomplished with out significant help. First and foremost, I want to thank my wife, Jo, for her encouragement and putting up with me working on my dissertation while serving as the Chief Academic Officer, then as Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools. My children, Chris and Kate, also had to hear constantly about my travails or, at times, inability to focus on the dissertation. The greatest support team also included my parents, George and Corky Dannals. While dad is no longer with us in body, both of them have demo nstrated a commitment to servant leadership, ethical values, and hard work. These have served me well in this endeavor. Next, I would like to acknowledge my Duval County Public Schools teammates. Suzi Marlowe has provided extensive support in transcribing the audio tapes, as well as other help in m aking this document better. Dene se Mealor ensured that I was scheduled into classes, my fees were paid, and I was able to run the district while in a car going to Gainesville. Finally, I am appreciative of the rem inders th at Dr. Deni se Hall and Dr. I must also acknowledge Dr. James Doud, former head of the Educational Le adership Program at the University of Florida. Jim agreed to arrange for professors to come to Jacksonville for the first year and a half, which made the classwork possible. Jim also was a great teacher and role model to me. The other individual I would li ke to acknowledge is Dr. Bernard Oliver, my dissertation chair, former district administrator, program and has been an excellent supporter and guide as my chairman. I would a lso
4 thank the other members of my dissertation committee: Dr. Eilene Oliver, Dr. Linda Eldridge, and especially Dr. Jean Crockett for their suggestions and support. Dr. Jon Supovitz, Mr. John J H Kim, Dr. Cheryl Fountain, Mr. Kenneth Manuel, Ms. Patricia Willis also assisted in thinking through the design, questions, and significance of this study as well as providing support and a friendly push to complete the study I am also deeply indebted to the nine Florida superintendents who gave so generously of their time, sharing with honest passion how they used strategic planning in their districts. Finally, I recognize a host of work, church, and neighborhood friends who were always concerned about my progress. They seemed genuinely interested in the topic a nd how it related to the work in which I was engaged. They also encouraged me to share what I had learned through teaching and consulting, which I intend to do.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEGEMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 3 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 8 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 9 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 12 Problem Statement ................................ ................................ ................................ 14 Purpose ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 20 Definition of Terms ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 21 Limitations of the Study ................................ ................................ ........................... 24 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ ........................ 25 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ .......................... 27 Historical Context ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 27 District Directed Change Initiatives ................................ ................................ ......... 30 District level Strategic Planning ................................ ................................ .............. 40 History and Definition ................................ ................................ ....................... 40 Theoretical Foundation ................................ ................................ ..................... 41 Case Studies ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 48 Section I: Historical Case Studies (1999 2006) ................................ ................ 48 Supporting strategies ................................ ................................ ................. 50 Common barriers ................................ ................................ ....................... 55 Section II: In depth Case Studies of San Diego and Duval County (FL) (1998 2005) ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 57 Context ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 57 Theory of action and first steps ................................ ................................ .. 59 Strategic action plans ................................ ................................ ................. 61 Barriers ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 63 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 65 Section III: Recent National and International Studies (2010 2011) ................. 68 Section IV: The Broad Prize for Urban Education Case Studies (2006 2012) .. 70 Strategic planning ................................ ................................ ...................... 71 Curriculum and instruction ................................ ................................ ......... 71 High quality teachers and leaders ................................ .............................. 72 Budget alignment ................................ ................................ ....................... 72 Section V: Recent Doctoral Dissertation Studies (2008 2012) ........................ 74
6 3 METHODS ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 80 Case Study Methodo logy for Data Collection ................................ ......................... 80 The Interview ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 82 Data Analysis Using Grounded Theory and Cross Case Analysis .......................... 84 Procedures ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 86 Grounded Theory ................................ ................................ ............................. 86 Selection of Districts and Superintendents ................................ ....................... 87 Determining the Questions ................................ ................................ ............... 88 Arranging the Interviews ................................ ................................ ................... 89 Conducting t he Interviews ................................ ................................ ................ 90 Analyzing the Data ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 91 Field Notes and Initial Categories ................................ ................................ ..... 91 Transcribing and Coding ................................ ................................ .................. 92 Attributing Ideas and Quotes ................................ ................................ ............ 93 4 RESULTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 94 Purpose of Strategic Planning ................................ ................................ ................ 95 Create Clarity, Focus, Alignment, and Transparency Centered on Student Achievement ................................ ................................ ................................ 95 Clarify Roles, Ownership, and Ensure Accountability ................................ ....... 97 School board and superintendent ................................ .............................. 97 Roles and responsibilities of central office and school staff ....................... 99 Improve Public Perception and Support ................................ ......................... 101 Process of Strategic Planning ................................ ................................ ............... 104 Agree on Process to be Used with Responsibilities and Timelines (Superintendent and Board) ................................ ................................ ........ 104 Using the Current Status, Develop the Vision, Mission, Core Beliefs, Goals and Targets (Superintendent and Board) ................................ .................... 107 Strategic Level Review and Modification (Superintendent and Board) ........... 110 Operational Level Planning and Review (Superintendent and Staff) .............. 112 Implement a Communication Plan for Internal and External Stakeholders ..... 116 Alignment of Academic, Fiscal, and Human Resource Priorities with Strategic Plan ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 121 Academic Alignment ................................ ................................ ....................... 121 Standards, curriculum, materials, instruction, assessments, and use of data ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 121 Professional development ................................ ................................ ........ 124 Program e valuation and strategic abandonment ................................ ...... 127 Fiscal Alignment ................................ ................................ ............................. 129 Human Resource Alignment ................................ ................................ ........... 132 Pitfalls, Possibilities, and Advice ................................ ................................ ........... 138 Relationship with the School Board ................................ ................................ 138 Relationship with Union s ................................ ................................ ................ 141 Relationship with the Community ................................ ................................ ... 144 Relationship with the State ................................ ................................ ............. 145
7 Advice to Other Superintendents ................................ ................................ .... 147 5 DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTHER STUDY ................................ ................................ .......................... 150 Discussion of Findings ................................ ................................ .......................... 151 Supports the Existing Literature ................................ ................................ ..... 152 Districts critical for success ................................ ................................ ...... 152 High leverage strategies used ................................ ................................ .. 152 Superintendent position is tenuous ................................ .......................... 153 Roles of board and s uperintendent ................................ .......................... 154 Strategic planning supports theory ................................ ........................... 155 Extends or Modifies the Literature ................................ ................................ .. 156 Strategic planning most important ................................ ............................ 156 Board and superintendent agreement on strategic plan .......................... 157 U nderstanding the purpose of strategic planning supporting the theoretical propositions ................................ ................................ ......... 157 Increases collaboration, accountability, and service orientation of district staff ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 158 Strategic abandonment ................................ ................................ ............ 158 Conclusions ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 159 Suggestions for Further Study ................................ ................................ .............. 166 APPENDIX A QUESTIONS FOR INTERVIEWEES ................................ ................................ .... 168 B FOLLOW ................................ ............... 169 C PERMISSION LETTERS FOR INTERVIEWS ................................ ...................... 171 D SUMMARIES OF CASE STUDIES ................................ ................................ ....... 173 E REDACTED SAMPLE INTERVIEW ................................ ................................ ...... 223 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 247 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 256
8 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2 1 Wrong and right drivers ................................ ................................ ...................... 39 2 2 Summary of case study strategies ................................ ................................ ...... 80
9 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1 Strategic reform in historical case studies. ................................ ......................... 49 2 2 Strategic planning in San Diego and Duval County, FL. ................................ ..... 67 2 3 Common factors in high performing districts in national and international studies. ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 69 2 4 Strategic planning process from district winners of the Broad Prize for Urba n Education (2006 2012). ................................ ................................ ...................... 74 2 5 Strategic planning components identified in recent doctoral dissertations. ......... 79 4 1 Purpose of strategic planning ................................ ................................ ........... 103 4 2 Operational level planning and review ................................ .............................. 113 4 3 Process of strategic planning ................................ ................................ ............ 120
10 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy EFFECTIVELY IMPLEMENTING STRATEGIC PLANS IN LARGE URBAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS : THE PERS PECTIVE OF FLORIDA SUPERINTENDENTS By William Edward Pratt Dannals December 2013 Chair: Bernard Oliver Major: Educational Leadership District led reform has become more prominent in the last 20 years with an emerging body of research, mostly case studies describing promising practices in large urban school districts with rapidly increasing student achievement. This study explores how strategic planning is used to implement these promising practices as seen through the perspective of superintendents. Nine superintendents from large school districts in Florida representing almost 1.5 million students, who served during the 2007 12 time span were interviewed in person using a semi structured question format. Questions centered around four areas: 1) H ow wer e the strategic plans created, what were the major components, and what were the roles and responsibilities of key participants ? 2) and implemented in the plan? 3) How did inter nal and external forces advance, modify, or inhibit the plan? and 4) What recommendations would they give other superintendents using strategic planning to improve student performance. Using a constant comparative methodology within grounded theory, as wel l as cross case analysis, several themes emerged.
11 Findings included how critical strategic planning is to create a sense of urgency, improve transparency, guide where resources are focused, ensure accountability, and improve community perceptions. A clear agreement regarding direction, roles, and responsibilities between the superintendent and the school board must happen first. District and school based staff need clear direction, appropriate resources, regular monitoring, orientation towards results inst ead of compliance, and a cross divisional Engagement of internal and external stakeholders in the creation and monitoring of the plan is also essential. Conclusions included that, while limited to on e state (Florida) over a defined time period with unique challenges (2007 12), many of the findings can be generalized to other urban districts. Further study could include interviewing other key individuals, such as school board presidents, union presiden ts, senior district staff, principals, teachers, and key community leaders to see how their perspectives of strategic planning are similar or different from superintendents.
12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The pu rpose of this study is to build upon the literatur e and research over the last twenty years that has focused on identifying the promising policies and practices large urban school districts have implemented to improve student achievement and how they have accomplished it The focus will be to determine ho w superintendents implemented strategic planning to improve student achievement. The study will address four research questions: 1. How were the strategic plans created, what were the major components, and how were they monitored? 2. emic, financial, and human resources plans aligned and implemented in the plan? 3. How did internal and external forces advance, modify, or inhibit the plans? 4. What advice would superintendents give to other superintendents embarking on a strategic planning pr ocess? While it builds on earlier and more extensive research on effective classroom and school level practices, the systemic change research at the district level is a unique field that is still very much in its infancy (Caw elti & Prother o e, 2001) Until recently, reform efforts have not focused on school districts, but have focused at the state or local level. School districts are beginning to be respected as a key element in successful uity to a fractured policy (Hightower, Knapp, Marsh, & McLaughlin, 2002, p. 1). What has emerged in the research to date is a fairly consistent set of high leverage practices. These will be discussed extensively in Chapter 2. Few studies have focused on how to implement these practices using strategic planning as the organizing vehicle. Fewer still were based on the views of urban superintendents describing the
13 reality of implementing such plans. Such a perspective is critical if we are to move from theory to practice in improving large numbers of urban school districts. As presented in Chapter 3, case study methodology was used to collect data, specifically using a semi structured interview format. This methodology was chosen because it reveals what, why, how and with what results decisions were made in a particular district. To analyze the results, grounded theory, specifically the Emerging Model developed by Glaser (1992), was employed. In addition to using a constant comparative approach using grounded the ory, cross case analysis was also used to compare across districts. This provided not only the opportunity to see how similar or different their responses were to the same issues, but also increased the ability to generalize results to a larger audience. T his study was limited to interviewing nine superintendents in large urban school districts as defined by the Broad Prize for Urban Education criteria. Interviewees had to have served at least three years as a superintendent in Florida during the 2007 12 ti me period. Limiting the study to one state, one time period, and only superintendent s may have limited the ability to generalize the other places, times, and perspectives. However, to do so made the study limited to a reasonably similar context, given the wide differences among states in financial capability and accountability systems. Results of the study we re reported in Chapter 4 The first two sections present what superintendents saw as the purpose of strategic planning and describes the process they u sed in creating, implementing, and monitoring their plans. Next, the a lignment of academic, fiscal, and human resource plans within the strategic plan are discussed While a number of systems have to be aligned in order to
14 maximize success, these three are as were predominant in Chapter 2 where high impact strategies were outlined. Superintendents described specific issues and solutions that required the alignment of these three areas. Finally, in Chapter 4 pitfalls, possibilities, and advice were presented with a specific focus on the relationship of the superintendent with key groups. These included first and foremost the school board. Having an agreement regarding directions and roles and responsibilities was absolutely essential. Next was the relationshi p with the district staff, clarifying their part in the district succeeding by focusing on results, working together, being constant learners, and being flexible on which strategies and organizational structures to use in achieving the goals. The relations hip with other groups included the unions, the community, and the state and federal representatives, as each played a critical role in the success or blockage of implementing the strategic plan. T he discussion of the findings, conclusions, implications for practice, and suggestions for further study are presented in Chapter 5 The findings and conclusion build upon but extend the background literature of Chapter 2. Next steps include a number of questions to be answered with further study. Problem Statemen t Too many students, especially students with disabilities, students needing English Language Learning services, students from low income families, and racial/ethnic minority students are not graduating ready for college, careers, and citizenship. They are concentrated in large urban school districts that, for the most part, have not significantly improved student performance.
15 Improving students performance in large urban school districts has become widely recognized as an important national goal of the Un ited States. Beginning with A Nation At Risk in 198 3 to the SCANS report in 199 2 and culminating with the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002, there has been a concerted effort to mobilize the nation to better prepare its young people to succeed in the global, information driven economy of the 21 st century. Having all students succeed matters to the individual students and their families, to the local community, and to the nation to maintain its economic viability and social stability ( Marshall & Tuc ker 1992 ). No where is the promise of the American dream least realized than in large urban areas where large numbers of students perform poorly on standardized tests, fail to graduate or graduate with minimal skills, and attend college at lower rates, lea ving them unprepared for participation in the new economy (Hess, 2005) The fact that a large percent of the students served in large urban districts are racial/ethnic minorities, often come from low income families, are more frequently identified as havin g a disability or starting with limited English proficiency exacerbates the challenges of having all students reach high levels of academic achievement ( Hill, Campbell, & Harvey, 2000; Murphy & Shiller, 1992 ; Noguera, 2003 ). Urban districts are also chara cterized by teachers who are not as well prepared and by turnover of leadership, particularly at the superintendent level (Resnick & Glennan, 2002). Some have argued that unless major social changes are made in urban communities, school districts will be l imited in their ability to significantly impact student achievement ( Noguera, 2003; Rothstein, 2004 ) while others point to positive examples of schools that have brought all student groups up to high levels of achievement and argue for a no excuses appr oach (Thernstrom &
16 Thernstrom, 2003 ; McAdams, 2006 ) Current student p erformance is unacceptable, especially for poor and minority students who have experienced low expectations and limited effective support. for poor and minority children is the defining civil right of our time and the test of our commitment to While recognizing the challenge s of urban that schools and districts can have a significant impact on student performance ( Education Trust; Murphy & Shiller, 1992). Resnick and Glennan (2002) state that given high quality learning opportunities, poor and minority students can succeed academically. The issue today is not w hether it is possible for urban students to learn well, but rather how good teaching and, therefore, learning can become the norm rather than the exception in urban settings. The problem, in other words, is taking powerful teaching and learning to scale in urban school districts (p. 61) To date, however, there are very few high poverty urban districts that have produced excellent results in all or almost all of their schools ( Caw elti & Prother o e 2001 ; McAdams, 2006 ; Zav adsky, 2009) What has occurred mo re frequently than change in classroom practice is the adoption of programs or policies that are initiated at the federal, state, or district level and driven by business or special interest groups. These programs compete for human and material resources, are often disconnected from each other, and create confusion and frustration on the part of practitioners (Supovitz, 2006, p. 13). The result is a lot of activity with little real progress (Hill, Campbell & Harvey, 2000; Hill & Celio, 1998; Fu h rman, 1993; Elmore, 1993 ; Zavad the problem as
17 the simultaneous existence of the numerous reform programs each of which is associated with its own training package can lead to diffuse and conflicting efforts, no single on e of which has the power or momentum to significantly influence teaching an d learning inside the classroom. (p. 64) based decision making had little impact on teaching and learning practic e or collaboration ( Fullan 1993). Neither non traditional superintendents, educational management firms, nor takeover of large urban districts by mayors or states in cities like Baltimore, Washington D.C., Hartford, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Lo s Angeles, and Oakland have had a significant positive impact on student achievement unless they also implemented better initiatives, policies, and organizational effectiveness (Hill, Campbell, & Harvey, 2000). Fullan (2002) further observes: What are the summed up in one sentence: School systems are overloaded with fragmented, ad hoc, episodic initiatives [with] lots of activity and confusion. Put another way, change, even when successful in pockets, fails to go to scale. It fails to become systemic. And, of course, it has no chance of becoming sustained. (p. xi) Resnick and Glennan (2002) describe nine inhibiting factors to urban school reform: 1. District bureaucracy and fragmented programs driven by sp ecialized funding while efforts to move decision making to the school level have not been effective. 2. Too much restriction on teacher time from union rules. 3. Too much focus on operations and politics. 4. Too little time spent on teaching and learning. 5. Current r esearch has often not been used. 6. Professional development for teachers has been narrow, episodic, and frequently tied to external categorical programs. 7. Efforts to prepare, recruit, and support new teachers are weak and fragmented.
18 8. Principals and district s taff lack sufficient knowledge and skills to provide instructional leadership. 9. Ensuring high levels of implementation of best practices and programs in every classroom is a problem teachers still want to make all of the instructional decisions without outs ide direction. (p. 161) In a review of the research on large urban district reform, Anderson (2003) focused on three areas of findings: the challenges faced by large school districts to improve student achievement, the strategies they used, and the evidenc e of effectiveness in improving teaching and learning. Challenges included poor achievement for minority and low income students, internal politics causing a lack of focus on students, a high number of inexperienced teachers with high turnover, low expecta tions, a lack of a demanding curriculum, a lack of instructional program alignment, fragmented professional development, high student mobility, weak central office support, inadequate school leadership, inflexible collective bargaining agreements, and a la ck of funding to support reform efforts. Urban school reform takes place in a political and community context. The same business or community pressures that drive the need for reform, often expressed as frenetic activity, limit any real reform and cause re form to be primarily symbolic. In this context, reform can be seen as a tactic to ease political tensions. It is better to be seen as doing something even if it has little impact on student performance. The problem with symbolic rather than real change is that it wastes resources, produces cynicism, and undermines fundamental changes in teaching and learning (Hess, 1999; Fuhrman, superintendent: It seems so hopeful. The city school board hires a promising new superintendent, the local papers are filled with accolades and testimonials
19 to his or her acumen, and the new administration announces a wave of exciting initiatives amid bountiful goodwill. The community eagerly aw aits active leadership and cutting edge reforms, interpreting them as evidence that the superintendent is serious about the task. Far too often, however, this exciting beginning comes to naught. Within two to three years, the once revered leader either has disappointed or departed, leaving the task of leadership to a new white knight. Before too long, the dance begins again. (p. v) Sometimes an external reform oriented superintendent is brought in to fix a school district in crisis characterized by very poo r student performance, especially among poor and minority students. They inherit bloated, recalcitrant bureaucracies with poor financial controls, ineffective human resources and other sup port services departments. The s uperintendent is like Gary Cooper in community hires him with great initial support only to abandon him to fight the crisis alone. Even if he wins, it creates enough tension that he is asked or chooses to leave (Hill, et a l 2000). McLeod and Yee (2003) provide a similar description of an urban make tough, quick decisions often at odds with unions, bureaucracies or special interests; fire principals; mobilize teachers; balance the budget; and raise student support, with little recognition, seem to be the common working c onditions experienced ead the superintendent
20 Such short term leadership with quick fix solutions deflects attention from s, p. 6). Instead of numerous reforms, the most effective strategy is to focus on a few initiatives based on solid theories of teaching and learning and develop deep district capacity in these areas (Hess, 1999; Casserly et al., 2011; Zavad sky, 2009; Supo vitz 2006 ). It is better to implement a few initiatives well suggests reforms fail because of inadequate implementation, planning, and Purpo se The purpose of this study is to extend our knowledge and practices regarding how implementation of key strategies can improve student achievement in large urban school districts. The focus will be the process of creating and implementing a strategic pla n to actualize these key strategies. This will be reported from the unique perspective of superintendents because they have to implement the statutes, policies, and procedures of federal and state and local government and are held accountable for results. While there has been a growing body of thought and research regarding what need s to be done at the district level to create excellence in all schools, relatively little has been written on how to implement these key strategies through a strategic planning specifics on how to pull the pieces tog (Zavadsky, 2009, p xxi ii).
21 The purpose of the study then is to study the process of connecting the what with the how of district led school reform as reflected in strategic plans led by superintendents. From the perspective of nine recently serving Florida superintendents, the following questions will be addressed: 1. How were the strategic plans created, what were the major components, and how were they monitored? 2. and implemented in the p lan? 3. How did in ternal and external forces advanc e modify, or inhibit the plans? 4. What advice would superintendents give to other superintendents embarking on a strategic planning process? Definition of Terms A Nation at Risk (1983 ) : The report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education asserted that schools in the U.S. were fa i ling woefully in preparing students for the future and, unless addressed, would cause the U.S. to lose its standing as the number one country in the world. It touched off a wave of local, state, and district reforms, especially requiring a more rigorous curriculum. A+ Plan (1999) : back to 1973, and preceded NCLB. The purpose was to generate better effort and performance at t he district, school, and student level. It was comprised of four components: state developed performance standards (known as the Sunshine State Standards); state assessments (FCAT) in reading and mathematics in grades 3 10, writing in grades 4, 8, and 10, and science in grades 5, 8, and 11; public reporting of schools graded on an A F report card; and consequences for students, schools, and districts based on assessment results.
22 Differentiated Accountability (DA) : was developed in 2008 as a p i lot, then fully implemented in 2010. The purpose was to differentiate oversight and resources by categorizing schools into level of need. While still using school grades, DA looked at progress or regression in performance over time. Depending on the intensity of need, schools, school districts, or the state led the school improvement effort. Regional support/oversight teams were established to serve five geographic regions. DA was also used as a pilot to provide research for th e reauthorization of N C LB and, in a modified form, was approved as a waiver to that legislation by the U. S. Department of Education. Great R ecession : A major economic downturn in the U. S. economy that lasted from late 2007 until 2012, which was longer th an any recession since the Great sales, and construction; the stock market losing half of its value; high unemployment; and a severe drop in vacationers coming to Florida. The results for state and local governments, including school districts, in Florida were a precipitous drop in revenue, especially from property and sales tax. Large urban school district : School districts are units of school governance within a state and consist of a governing board and a superintendent, who is the chief executive officer. In Florida, each of the 67 counties constitutes a school district, resulting in small, medium, and large districts. Of the 20 largest school districts in the nation, si x are in Florida. For the purposes of this study, the Broad Prize for Urban Education definition was used to identify the districts: at least 37,500 student s 40% or more of the students on free/reduced lunch, and 40% identified as racial/ethnic
23 minorities In addition, the county needed to be listed as an urban area as defined in the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) assessment system. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) : NCLB was the name of the 2002 reauthorization of the federal Elementary and S econdary Education Act (ESEA). It supported standards based reforms by setting high standards and establishing measurable student outcomes using state developed tests. Each state determined what the reading and mathematics. States were required to eliminate gaps based on race/ethnicity, free/reduced lunch status, disability, and English Language Learner (ELL) status. The expectation was that by 2014 all students would reach proficiency. S c hools that met the Adequate Yearly ducation through annual testing, academic progress reports, teacher quality, and funding changes. SCANS Report (1992) : on Achieving Necessary Skills, was led by the U. S. Department of Labor. It grew out o f a concern that students were not being prepared for the highly technical jobs of that time, much less the jobs on the horizon. The report outlines five competencies and a three part foundation of skills and personal qualities needed for successful job pe rformance. Strategic p lanning : A process in which an organization clarifies its purpose (mission), what it would look like if the mission was successful (vision), values (core beliefs), priorities (goals), measurement s to benchmark progress (targets) and a plan to
24 reach the goals (strategies, initiatives, and actions) An implementation plan for each objective is developed, monitored, and modified based on current data using a continuous improvement model. In a school district, the strategic plan combines other plans such as academics, finances, and human capital development. Student achievement or student o utcomes : Defined as student performance on state assessment tests, graduation rates, college readiness, participation and success in college level cours es, and career readiness including industry certification. Student outcomes may also include leading indicators such as student attendance, promotion, and opinions on climate surveys. Limitations of the Study The limitations of the study are threefold: ge ography, time, and perspective. This study was conducted through interviewing large urban district superintendents in Florida. While there are advantages in that the districts were operating under the same financial resources (limited and dwindling) and ac countability system (heavy and top down), this also may limit the ability to generalize findings to other geographic regions in the United States. The second limitation is time. The criteria for selection of the superintendents were those who served duri ng the years 2007 12. This time period was unique, especially regarding the loss of resources due to the Great Recession. This may have focused efforts on how to hold on to key initiatives that produced greater student fiscal environment which could be more assertive than defensive. Finally, while the perspective of superintendents is vital, it is only their perspective. Many other stakeholders were a part of formulating and executing the
25 strategic plan: school board me mbers, district staff, school based personnel, parents, students, community groups, etc. Due to the limitations of time and staff, their perspective is not included. The interview also requires the superintendents to reflect backwards over five years rathe r than taking place in real time. While this may increase a broader view of what happened, details may be lost and memory may be selective. Significance of the Study Urban superintendents are bombarded by a variety of pressures from state legislators, scho ol board members, employees, parents, community groups, and vendors. They are being asked to do more with less and produce now In order to make significant progress in student achievement, a number of key strategies have to be implemented in a coordinated and comprehensive process ( Fullan 2011). A powerful, focused, aligned strategic plan that is effectively executed can produce positive change across the district. Superintendents have a unique perspective in this process. Working with a school board, the y have to create and implement the vision, theory of action, goals, strategies, and accountability mechanisms. It has to be aligned with state and federal accountability requirements, integrate the efforts of various district departments, and provide clear direction, support, and accountability to schools. This is done in a political and fiscal climate where tough questions have to be answered. Where is our focus? Which strategies should be supported and which should not? How do we create alignment and syne rgy between our key strategies across various district departments and schools? Do we have or can we build the capacity to execute our selected initiatives with a high degree of fidelity? How do we communicate our plan, engage our stakeholders, and hold st aff accountable for results?
26 This study proposes to answer these by addressing the four research questions stated previously It will add to a growing body of research on large urban district reform. The stakes are high for students and their families, edu cators, communities, states, and ultimately our nation. As the strategic plan goes success and reputation. Increas ingly, as the school district go es so goes the city. Hopefully, this study will add to the theory and practice to cre ate more great school districts with more promising futures for our greatest resource, our children.
27 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW To begin this review a brief history of the school district change process will be presented. T he study will then re view the literature on effective district directed change initiatives. The next section reviews the history and definition of strategic planning, as well as its theoretical foundation in systems theory, change theory, and complexity theory. Next, a total of 34 ca se studies will be grouped into five sections. The first section will be devoted to historical case studies conducted between 1999 and 2006 focusing on common initiatives, policies, and practices used by urban school districts demonstrating sizeable gains in student achievement The second section presents two in depth case studies of San Diego and Duval County (Jacksonville, Florida) to understand the context and intera ctions in urban district reform. The ne xt group of studies is more recent (2006 12) and conducted by notable organizations like the Council of Great City School and McKinsey and Co mpany The fourth section summarizes the findings of the winners of The Broad Prize for Urban Education from 2006 2012 The last section is composed of recent (2008 12) doctoral dissertations on district led reform and the role of superintendents. Historical Context This discussion of the connection of reforming public schools and the impact on the community at large is not new. Tyach and Cuban (1995) indicate that for over a century the reform of public schools has been seen as a major way to improve society. Education has been viewed as the answer to all of our national social or economic ills. Americans have expected educational reform to solve entrenched communit y problems
28 and actualize their hopes for a better tomorrow. Rather than trying to change adults, reformers chose to educate their children. While the goals of reform may have been 5). The response from educators to call for reform has often been symbolic without changing ontinuing structures that have been relatively stable over a century include age level grade placement, division of knowledge into subjects, self contained classrooms with one teacher, and the use of Carnegie units to determine high school completion. Tya ch (1974) in The One Best System described these schools created by and prepare them for the low to moderate skilled jobs needed for the factories. Designed around the facto ry model, the goal was to provide for a somewhat lockstep process getting the majority of students to basic literacy levels while preserving the college preparatory track largely for the white, male, middle and upper class. McAdams (2006) further defines s 1. Move students through a standard length school day and year. 2. School is not designed to bring all students to standards. 3. Instead, students learn what they can in the allotted time and then move to the next grade. 4. Focus is totally on schools with little or no school to school interaction. 5. Teachers can close their doors and teach what they want. 6. Principals are middle man a gers with no real authority other than ca rrying out district directives.
29 Desp ite reform efforts, the process of selecting and sorting which students will be prepared for college persists today in reality if not in intent. Cuban (1993) describes the process of reforming schools as a cycle. Changing economic, political, or social con ditions prompt an awareness that a problem exists. Policy makers discuss the problem and possible solutions. Various groups including school reformers propose specific policies, some of which are adopted and implemented. Educators are criticized for poor i mplementation of, and lack of commitment to, the new policies and practices. Disappointment over the implementation and results is experienced and the cycle starts over. focus was on a more rigorous curriculum, more credits required, and higher teacher school restructuring, site based management, and teacher empowerment were the focus with little emphasis on systemic school reform which is district level led, with a focus on decentralizing some district level functions and recentralizing some aspects of curriculum, professiona l development, and accountability (Hess, 1999). Tyach and Cuban (1995) attribute some of the disappointing results of educational reform to the length of time necessary to implement the advocated changes, the uneven implementation of changes within classro oms in the same schools and between schools in the same district, and the differences various reforms have on different groups. The most important area, the classroom, where teaching and learning ) separate analysis of
30 school reform and classroom practice over the last century, he concludes there has been a slight change in practice in the elementary classroom but little evidence of any significant change at the secondary level. Most secondary teac hers use only direct instruction to help students acquire knowledge and rarely use either a workshop/coaching model to help students apply knowledge, or Socratic seminars to ideas (Murphy & Shiller, 1992). There needs t o be a willingness to change current instructional practice with more effective practice based on current research (Murphy, 1992; Resnick & Glennan, 2002; Hess, 2005). District Directed Change Initiatives The focus on the school district as the critical u nit of change is a fairly recent phenomenon. In part, it was an outgrowth of concern that application of the effective schools research had resulted in some highly effective schools, some mediocre schools, and some very poor schools. If all students were t o be successful in meeting high standards, then all schools had to be successful. As early as 1993, Michael Fullan 45). Fullan (2002) elaborated on the need for quality across the school district: Focusing school improvement on individual school buildings within a district leaves some teachers and children behind in average and low performing schools. Leaving teachers behind in average and low performing schools is a subtle, but powerful, form of discrimination. School aged children and their teachers, families, and communities deserve better. It is morally unconscionable, I believe, to allow some schools to excel while others celebrate their mediocrity or languish in desperation. Entire school districts must improve, not just parts of the district. (p. ix) It is only through reorganizing and energizing district level operations that the kind of broad, deep change that i s necessary to have all schools perform at high levels
31 is possible. Since the school board, which adopts policies, and the superintendent who implements policies and procedures, are at the district level, they are able to leverage the resources and communi ty support needed to sustain long term growth. Only the district can interact with city wide business, civil rights, religious, and community interest groups (Schlechty, 2001; Supovitz, 2006). To be successful, school reform has to be systemic that is, it must be: 1. S ignificant or large scale; 2. C omprehensive, including all parts of the school district; and 3. M anaged within the context of the community at large (Stone, Heni n g, Jones, & Pierannunzi, 2001). Thompson (2003) defines a high performing school district overwhelming majority of students in all the schools are meeting high standards economic background and where the district decisively and effectively intervenes in schools where student performa nce is declining governed school district as one where all students learn at high levels, the achievement gaps are eliminated, and effective management of operations are use d. In a review of the literature (Hightower, Knapp, Marsh & McLaughlin, 2002), several themes emerged describing school districts that were successfully implementing reform versus those that were not. Successful districts focused on building the knowledge and skills of its teachers and principals through workshops, coaching, peer visits, creating professional learning communities, book talks on professional literature, and the use of consultants. They also focused on building a positive culture and common v ision while involving principals and teachers in setting goals and strategies.
32 Special attention was paid to pacing the reforms over time to increase buy in and minimize resistance. The districts had managed to achieve a balance between central and decentr alized control and clarified which decisions were made at which level to reduce conflicts and fragmentation. Hill and Celio (1998) identified seven major initiatives intended to produce district wide change: 1. Standards a clearly aligned system of standard s, curriculum, assessment, professional development, and materials with the results of the assessments having consequences for students, teachers, and schools. 2. Teacher Development teachers take ownership of own learning and practice, resulting in more en thusiastic and engaging teacher student interactions. 3. School Designs from the New American Schools movement and Comprehensive School Reform grants, these provide an organized, consistent approach to teaching and learning. 4. Site based Management reduces size and control of district office placing greater decision making at the school level allowing more flexibility, creativity, ownership, and student and parent engagement in decision making. 5. Charter Schools creates parental choice within a public school context, more flexibility, more freedom from bureaucracy, and more competition for students among schools. 6. Contract Schools creates parent choice, flexibility on management and staffing, and accountability for results in the contract to be paid. 7. Voucher s creates high quality private providers to drive innovation, parent choice, and market driven conditions. While these seven are somewhat distinct, there are obvious overlaps in practice. There is more commonality in initiatives 1 4 which are perceived more favorably by those within the public education community, and within initiatives 5 7 which are advocated by those who see public schools as a bureaucratic monopoly run by
33 micromanaging school boards responding to political pressure and by unions respo nding to their own self interest (Hess, 1999). Once Hill and Celio (1998) had identified the seven major initiatives, they asked advocates of each to answer a series of four questions and to justify their cause effect logic: 1. Why do you believe the initiati ve can work as intended? 2. Who will do what? 3. What barriers must be overcome? 4. How will you know if the initiative is working? (p. 10) Especially important in their analysis was a requirement of advocates to identify their hidden assumptions and discuss expect ations which were often poorly supported with 23), meaning necessary changes needed to make the initiative work were not planned for in the implementation (Hill, et al. 2000). They also challenged advocates on how their efforts could move beyond success in a few schools to effective large scale implementation in urban school districts. The authors concluded that none of the l enough or well enough thought through onditions, successful urban school district reform requires sufficient resources, time for professional development and collaboration and commitment, particularly from principals. Once these preconditions are met, the following combination of initiatives i s necessary: 1. Focus on results, not activity use state tests, graduation rates, college attendance rates, and other important data to determine success.
34 2. Use an aligned system of standards, assessment, curriculum, and professional development focused on ef fective instructional strategies. 3. High expectations for all students to not only have the knowledge and skills reflected in the standards, but also have a deep understanding and ability to do sophisticated reasoning. 4. Resources should be allocated based on need with students not meeting standards being provided additional time and support. 5. Use parental choice of schools with charter and contract schools as well as vouchers to create competition. 6. Decentralize large districts and flatten the organization with the focus of district staff on facilitating change, helping teachers cope with the stress of change, and coaching effective practice. 7. Give the superintendent broad control over classroom practice including hiring, salaries, and use of time. 8. Provide school level decision making over portions of the budget, hiring, and strategies used to make improvements. 9. Change the reward structures for students, teachers, administrators, and district staff to support student achievement. 10. Require school boards to be specifi c regarding their purpose, goals, resource allocation, and expected outcomes (Hess, 1999; Murphy, 1992; Fu h rman, 1993; Elmore, 1993; Fullan 1993; Caw elti & Prother o e 2001) Reform strategies of high performing districts were used synergistically and in c oncert with each other (Anderson, 2003). While different districts may have begun with different strategies, most districts used most of the strategies identified as common in the review of multiple studies. These common strategies included : 1. District wide sense of efficacy; 2. District wide focus on student achievement; 3. Adoption and commitment to district wide performance standards; 4. Development/adoption of district wide curricula and approaches to instruction; 5. Alignment of curriculum, teaching, and learning ma terials, and assessments to relevant standards;
35 6. Multi measure accountability systems and system wide use of data to inform practice and hold school and district leaders accountable for results and to monitor progress; 7. Targeted and phased focus of improveme nt; 8. Investment in instructional leadership development at the school and district levels; 9. District wide job embedded professional development focuses supports for teachers; 10. District wide and school level emphasis on teamwork and professional community; 11. New approaches to board district and in school district relations; and 12. Strategic engagement with state reform policies and resources. (Anderson, 2003, pp. 9 14) Anderson further notes that while there is extensive qualitative agreement on strategies that impa ct student achievement, there is less empirical evidence on the impact of district wide reform on the quality of teaching and learning. Even with a more limited area of study, such as district wide professional development activities, there is limited empi rical evidence that such activities positively impact classroom practice. It is easy for school districts to become distracted from strategic, systemic reform in order to respond to competing demands of polarized, fragmented community stakeholders. Often t he district spends more time responding to the constituent complaints than fulfilling the long term strategic plan (Schlechty, 2001; Stone, et al., 2001). Instead, for districts to create and sustain change, they need to have a common understanding of thei r problems; have a shared vision and beliefs of what the district can become; have a common understanding that the goal of schools is to create knowledge work that is engaging; focus on quality and measurable results; make decisions based on what is needed for every child to be successful; be flexible in policy
36 and practice, especially as it relates to time, technology, space, staffing, and curriculum; use TQM methods to improve the district social structures; collaborate with other youth serving organizati ons; continue to do what is working; and reward and recognize commitment to and results of the reforms (Schlechty, 2001; Fullan 2002). Resnick and Glennan (2002) stress the importance of using research based design principles when planning for urban distr ict reform. Since any long term systemic school district change has to involve the larger community it serves, the ability to create civic capacity for such change is critical. Civic rom a broad spectrum of the community to solve pr al., 2001, p. 75). Another way of describing the critical success factors for superintendents is to create a coherent well thought out plan, and mobilize enough political supp ort to overcome resi stance to change (Hill, 1998). 1. Effort leads to achievement all students can meet high standards with teacher suppor t and student effort; 2. Classroom instruction is the focus; 3. A culture of continuous learning and two way accountability f or school improvement creating professional learning communities ; 4. School guided by in school coaches; and 5. A coherent alignment of standards, curriculum, assessments, and professional development with shared beliefs on good instruction and good communication between district staff, principals, and teachers (Resnick & Glennan, 2 002) effect positive change. A Theory of Action, which is larger in scope than a single action
37 or initiative, includes how students learn, what motives drive adult behavior, and what conditions create overall improvement. It is a cohesive set of strategies that complement and support each other, and, to some degree, must be done concurrently. Two common Theories of Action designed to produce incremental change are to secure more resources and use existing resources more effectively. Much of the political discussions on improving schools are polarized around these two theories. While both are important, neither alone nor together will bring about dramatic change. In order to produc e dramatic positive change, McAdams (2006) describes five Theories of Action: 1. Performance/Empowerment (P/E) : A) Require results but leave methods and strategies to schools. B) Based on Total Quality Management ( TQM ) theory. C) Accountability with decentral ized authority. D) Initially proposed formally by David Hornbeck in the Kentucky Educational Reform Act (1990). E) Best implemented F) Usually involves rating or ranking schools within the di strict based on performance with positive and negative consequences. 2. Managed Instruction (MI) : A) Defines a common curriculum, instruction, professional development, materials, and assessments. B) Built on content and performance standards. C) Curriculum i s coherent and available to the lesson plan level. D) A comprehensive student management system tracks disaggregated student performance. E) Initially used in New York District #2 by Anthony Alvarado and Elaine Fink. F) Best implemented in Brazelport and A ldine, Texas. G) Other districts effectively using MI were Boston, Charlotte Mecklenbu rg, Duval County, Houston, Long Beach, Norfolk, Garden City (CA), Sacramento, and San Diego. McAdams (2006) reports that all large urban districts that have made signific ant improvement in the last several years used Performance/Empowerment or Managed Instruction. However, both have their limitations. Performance Empowerment does not focus enough on the core business of education, which is teaching and learning. It also as sumes principals and teachers have sufficient capacity, therefore allowing too many
38 limits the creation of new ideas and may produce a compliance, rather than a performan ce, culture. A blending of the best of these two theories is Managed Performance/Empowerment. 3. Managed Performance/Empowerment : A) Begins with a MI approach but moves to a P/E approach with schools being given more autonomy if they have demonstrated signifi cant academic gains overall and in closing the achievement gap. B) Brown University. C) Districts that have begun to implement MP/E are Houston, Boston, Gwinnett County (GA), San Diego and Charlotte Mecklenburg Two other Theories of Action described by McAdams are Charter Districts and Portfolio Districts. 4. Charter Districts : A) Where all schools in an urban sc hool district operate under a charter contract with the school district or the state. B) Charter schools market programs to parents and students with the m arket place determining success. C) District role is to ensure compliance with state safety, student civil rights, finance, property, and other legal obligations. D) District holds charter schools responsible for measurable results and renews charters based on performance. E) No urban district has completely entered into a charter district. 5. Portfolio of S chools Districts : A) Mixture of district run, contract, and charter schools with extensive parental choice B) District schools have significant freedom like charter schools similar to the P/E theory of action C) Districts that have moved in the direction of a Portfolio of Schools include Buffalo Philadelphia and New Orleans Fullan of driving s uccessful reform (p. 66). He defines success as raising performance on higher order skills for all students while closing gaps for lower performing students. The criteria, which must all be met together are: 1. Foster intrinsic motivation of teachers and st udents; 2. Engage educators and students in continuous improvement of instruction and learning;
39 3. Inspire collective or team wor k ; and 4. Affect all teachers and students 100% (p. 66). Of the four, the first and fourth are seen by Fullan as the most critical. Ri ght drivers work because they focus on changing the culture of school systems including values, practices, and relationships, while wrong drivers focus on changing structure and procedures. The urgency for immediate positive change in performance in the U nited States and Australia has created a grasping for four primary wrong drivers. Each of these wrong drivers has a right driver opposite which, if implemented, will have positive results. Fullan agrees that the wrong drivers have value but only if used af ter the right driver has been implemented. See Table 2 1 Table 2 1 Wrong and right drivers Wrong Driver Right Driver 1. Accountability using standards, assessments, rewards, and punishments. Capacity collaborative practice, coaching, technical skill building. 2. Individual Quality focus on individual knowledge of skills human capital (expertise) Group Quality focus on positive and supportive culture social capital (motivation) 3. Technology tool that has been oversold. Instruction can use technology effectively. 4. Fragmented hodgepodge, episodic, individual pieces in competition. Systemic connections obvious in practice, not just theory, in every school. The synthesis of district directed change initiatives is that districts that focu s on improving teaching and learning in a systemic way that positively engages and impacts all stu dents, teachers, and schools have the greatest chance for success. It is the interaction of these areas effectively implemented in a strategic plan that is bo ld, thoughtful, and transparent that will yield the best results for the greatest number of students.
40 District level Strategic Planning History and Definition While the literature on the use of strategic planning at the post secondary level is robust, most of the literature at the K 12 level has been limited to the school level or a subset of district led initiatives, such as improving services and outcomes for students with disabilities or students needing English Language Learner (ELL) services. Implicit in the recommendations provided earlier in Chapter 2 is that a synergistic plan that implements key high impact strategies is necessary to make significant improvement in student achievement. Strategic planning has its historical roots dating back to the 1 950s when it was used by the military and soon after by large business organiz ations. Initially, it was perce ived as a cure all process. It was thought that a purely rational process coul d control the many variables that influence results. At times, strate gic planning has fallen out of favor only to re emerge in a different form because it served specific purposes. The history of its use in education dates back to the late 1980s, but saw a dramatic rise in the popularity in line with the focus on district l ed reform in the 1990s (Mintzberg, 1994). Early adopters realized that strategic planning in educational organizations took place in a more political context than it did in the business arena. Therefore, more stakeholders would have to be involved to deter mine if proposed changes could be accomplished, were aligned to the core beliefs of the district, and had sufficient political educational organizations was similar to qu alitative research in that it had to adopt a
41 less linear and more constructivist approach that acknowledged the context instead of only focusing on the plan development and implementation. Over time, the definition of strategic planning as it relates to e ducational organizations has changed. Cook (1988) simply saw it as concentrating resources to (1991) expanded this view to include developing strategies and plans to achieve a mis sion by aligning resources with opportunities and threats. More recently, Cox and mos t comprehensive definition of strategic planning is presented in Broad Prize (2013) 1. Is developed using a systematic planning process that engages relevant stakeholders; 2. Serves as a guide f or a district and its schools, specifying vision, mission, performance goals, objectives, and benchmarks and the policies and strategies to achieve each strategic objective; and 3. Effectively communicated, leads to understanding, support, and action, and is evaluated for effectiveness (p. 1) Theoretical Foundation Strategic planning is based on several theories. These include systems theory organizational change theory, and complexity theory. Systems theory posits that each system, in this case a school dis trict, contains subsystems and also exists within larger systems. The subsystems include divisions, departments, and schools. Larger systems in which the district operates include the local community and the state educational agencies and legislature. In s ystems theory, there is a reciprocal influence within and between systems. What happens within a
42 system affects the entire system and can result in changes in other parts (Senge, 1990; Stoller, et al., 2006). Systems theory calls for mapping the individual parts and describing their relationships within the system. Any change in one part creates a stress on other parts. If other parts adapt to this change, the change is accepted and the overall system restabilizes. If other parts of the system do not adjust to the change, the change does not last (Scileppi, 1988). Strategic planning begins with a vision for the future that acknowledges that a school district is a part of larger systems, while ensuring that it accounts for the intera ction of the parts. Kaufma n, et al. (1996) describe this as the mega level (community or society), the macro level (school district), and the micro level (school, department, individual stakeholder). They advocate that the vision address some larger community purpose (mega level) a nd ensure that the products and outputs at the micro and macro level are aligned and synergistic in order to accomplish the vision. It is this vertical and horizontal alignment that is critical in strategic planning in order to minimize change becoming iso lated, confusing, and ultimately ineffective (Duffy, 2004). The growth in the use of strategic planning in school districts was a result not only of a recognition that students were not prepared for the requirements of the future, but also because changes in parts of the system were not fulfilling their promise without the system as a whole being addressed in a comprehensive, systemic fashion (Marshall & Tucker, 1992). Strategic planning also draws from the literature of organizational change theory, origin change: unfreezing, moving, and refreezing. The unfreezing stage is when there is a
43 recognition that the current state is not adequate and that a change is needed. Moving is w hen the change is initiated and implemented. Refreezing is when the change has become established or institutionalized. within the three major categories of assessment, plan ning, and implementation. Pearson (2005) kept Li as a fourth stage. Further work by Kanter, Stein and Jick (1992) presenting 10 stages and Kotter (1996) describing seven stages added more specificity while still maintaining the core of ges. Some of the stages within assessment they adde d were: 1) analyzing the organ ization and the need for change; 2) creating a vision, direction, and strategy ; and 3) establish ing a sense of urgency. Within plann ing, they added : 1) creating a guiding coalition and 2) lining up political support. For implementation they included: 1) create an implementation plan and empower broad based action and 2) communicate the change vision by involving people and being hone three stages, they added : 1) reinforcing and institutionalizing the change by anchoring the new approaches in the culture and 2) creating both short term and long term gains (By, 2005). Strategic planning includes the stages presented in change theory. In a meta analysis of 66 books, 29 journal articles, and 28 research presentations from national conferences, Hambright and Diama ntes (2004) describe eight common steps: 1. Preplanning : A) Superintendent informs the board, staff, and communi ty on current status and future needs of the district. B) If received favorably, begin the strategic planning process. C) Create and train a planning team representing a broad base of internal and external stakeholders. 2. Develop vision and mission
44 3. Determin e guiding principles/core beliefs 4. Conduct environmental scan : A) Internal and external seeing the organization as a whole within and environment. B) Conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis with complete honesty. C) Cond uct needs analysis by identifying the gap between what is and what is desired (vision). 5. Prioritize strategic issues using four frames : A) Logical need, impact, and magnitude B) Temporal t ime needed and degree of urgency. C) Political social cost and political opportunity D) Financial resources required and return on investment 6. Identify s trategic issues and resolutions 7. Create goals, objectives, and strategies 8. Delineate guidelines and organizational practices : A) Defines what to do and what not t o do B) Defines and describes the direction of the school district Lane, et al. (2005) further defined goals, objectives, and strategies (actions) presented in step 7 above. Goals are: 1. Broadly stated purposes 2. Issues oriented 3. Related to issues uncovered i n needs analysis (assessment) 4. Focus actions toward clearly defined purpose 5. A ligned with vision, mission, and beliefs 6. Focus on a single issue 7. L ong range 8. Few in number Objectives should be SMART (Drucker, 1954): 1. Specific and limited to goals interim steps toward achieving long term goals 2. Measurable 3. Aggressive and attainable 4. Results oriented 5. Time bound Activities (strategies) include: 1. Who, what, when, where, how many, how much, and how often 2. Connected to each objective 3. May change frequently to meet the objec tive
45 In line with the change theorists, Rutherford (2009) argues that the degree to which the initiation stage (assessment) is done well determines the level and quality of the implementation of the strategic plan and its eventual institutionalization in t he school district. In her view, it is critical to pay attention to the context, capacity, and commitment toward the proposed changes. Within context, particular attention needs to be paid to various stakeholders in order to ensure buy in. There are both r elational issues, often presen ted as ideological differences, as well as leadership issues, which are particularly important when identifying resources an d commitment to change. Reiger ( 1994) noted that educational leaders were often frustrated by an inclu sive planning process because they were unaware of how groups and organization s process change. Capacity, as defined by Rutherford (2009) includes understanding the proposed changes and the processes used as well as the readiness to accept change. In asse ssing goals and those of the participants must be determined. If they are not congruent, the implementation will be at t he surface level, if at all. Full an (1997) states that policies and mandates alone are insufficient in creating lasting change and are relied on too heavily in education. Instead, greater attention needs to be paid to developing the skills and understandings that nurture long term cultural changes. Originally, strateg ic planning came out of a view that the universe is orderly and controlled and, therefore, plans can be developed in a closed system where there is little interaction between systems. Simple cause/effect plans could be created with predictable results.
46 Sys tems theory, as discussed earlier, emphasized the interconnectedness of systems and subsystems. This prompted both an emphasis on involving a wide range of constituents, communicating with them regularly and honestly, and ensuring that plans, policies, pro cedures, and finances were transparent (Serbrenia & Sims, 2004). More recently, complexity theory (of which chaos theory is a subset) proponents have questioned whether strategic plans that traditionally span five years are useful given the increasing comp lexity, technological and cultural change, globalization, and the rapid expansion of knowledge. Complexity theory sees organizations as open ended, organic systems that are dynamic, complex, self organizing, and embedded in multiple contexts. Since it is n o t possible to predict the impact this multitude of interconnected interactions will have on each other or the larger system (school district) it calls for a more fluid, nimble, and collaborative planning process based on guiding principles, relationships and core competencies (Wheatley, M., 1994). In order for strategic planning to work within a framework of complexity theory, it must be dynamic, adaptive, build on connections, encourage systemic thinking, and recognize the interdependency of the compone nts and the role of context on the change process (Board). and unpredictable behavior of non linear systems like the ones in which we hire and thinking has two parts: insight about the present and foresight about the future. She describes her experience as an aide to a U. S. Senator,
47 The use of maps, models, and visual images helps planners see connections, relationships, and patterns that might otherwise go u nnoticed. It is important to be aware of emerging conditions, likely future scenarios, and opportunities for innovation. trategic thinking in the new planning paradigm is to help an (Sanders, 1998, p. 146). Organizations that reflect this new planning process are called complex adaptive systems in t hat they adapt to change that exists at the boundary between chaos and order (Sanders, 1998). The impact of systems theory, change theory, and complexity theory on district led strategic planning can be summarized as follows: 1. A school district must be awar e of how it fits into larger systems (the community) and subsystems (departments, schools) that interact within the district. A change in any part of the system affects all other parts. If the other parts adapt to the change, it will become part of the cul ture; if not, it will likely not remain, at least not as intended. Therefore, in strategic planning, strategies need to be developed at the outset to address these connections and interdependencies (systems theory). 2. The changes proposed in a strategic plan follow a series of prescribed steps within the broad phases of assessment, planning, and implementation. Doing each phase well is critical to ultimate success. Changes as a result of strategic planning will have forces supporting and opposing them. It is important in each phase to identify these, strengthening the supports and minimizing the opposition. Communication is critical in this process to identify the strength and rationale of those opposing the changes (change theory). 3. When crafting the vision fo r the district, it is important to be aware of the complexity of the context in which the plan is created and implemented, paying attention not just to current conditions, but also to emerging trends, shifts in paradigms, and innovation opportunities. In t he implementation phase, it is important to be flexible and adaptive to new conditions, focusing on the larger core beliefs and relationships, and remaining collaborative (complexity theory).
48 Case Studies Section I: Historical Case Studies (1999 2006) The case studies that follow were conducted in medium to large size urban districts between 1999 and 2006. Two of the studies looked at only one district and one reviewed 23 districts. The others ranged from four to 11 districts in their studies. Districts wer e identified through a variety of means ranging from districts showing higher gains in academic achievement than their peers to those recommended by researchers and state education agencies. They tended to be concentrated in large metropolitan areas in th e northeast and west coast, as well as Texas. The only district representing the southeast was Charlotte, and no Florida districts were represented despite having six out of the 20 largest school districts in the nation. This section will be divided into t w o subsections the first one outlining the six common strategic reform initiatives that supported student achievement gains. These include: 1. Build Civic Capacity and Mobilization 2. Ensure Strong Superintendent/Board Leadership Team 3. Establish Common Vision, M ission, and Beliefs 4. Create Aligned Instructional Systems 5. Develop Data Systems for Improvement and Accountability 6. Support High Quality Teachers and Principals The second subsection discusses f ive common barriers that made growth limited or not sustainable. Figure 2 1 illustrates their relationship in the strategic planning process. Individual case study summaries can be found in Appendix D
49 Figure 2 1. Strategic reform in historica l case studies. Support High Quality Teachers and Principals Establish Visi on, Mission and Core Beliefs Create Aligned Instructional System Become Sidetracked by Barriers Loss of Board or Superintendent Support Develop Data Systems for Improvement and Accountability Teacher Resistance Build Civic Capacity and Mobilization Ensure Strong Superintendent and Board Leadership Face Barriers Poor Planning or Implementation Avoid or Minimize Barriers Improved Results Large Financial Investme nt Focus on Low Performing Schools Stagnant Results
50 Suppor ting s trategies Build civic capacity and mobilization : School districts exist within a community and can only implement effective reform with the support of a broad range of groups such as business leaders, teachers, principals, pare nts, the school board, and the superintendent. Stone, et al. (2001) in a study of 11 school districts sought to words to deeds and good intentions to effective actio assess the degree to which the district used their civic capacity, which they termed reforms. They found that all 11 districts had some level of civic mobilization and some were stronger than others, but no city had all of the key stakeholder groups involved. Only one city had a systemic approach to parent engagement and none of the districts cited school boards as having a significan t role in shaping reform policy. The superintendent and key community leaders were important in creating and sustaining support for reform agendas ( Caw elti & Prother o e 2001). In addition, the superintendent was crucial in cre a ting a sense of urgency, cham pioning support for academic achievement goals, building confidence that the goals could be realized, ensuring openness and transparency, and demonstrating strong moral and ethical leadership, both within the district and in engagement with the larger comm unity (Ragland, Asera, & Johnson, 1999; Skrla, Scheurich, & Johnson, 2000). One of the most successful efforts in mobilizing civic capacity was documented by Cuban and Usban (2003) in their study of the Boston Public Schools after Mayor Manino appointed To m Payzant as the superintendent in 1995. The replacement of the elected school committee by a mayor appointed system was due to wide spread
51 community dissatisfaction with racial strife and poor student performance. Payzant had the support of the mayor ( his de facto boss ) union. The appointed school committee focused on setting policy, leaving the daily management of the district to the superintendent. Confidence was restored in the upward trajectory of the school d istrict and community wide efforts in support of the district increased. Business and Annenburg Foundation funds support ed the creation of the Boston Plan for Excellence, which supported a community wide reform agenda. The city and school district cooperat ed in providing after school programs to health, recreation, and social services with school serving as an arm of the city. Ensure strong superintendent/board leadership team : In order to create and implement a strategic planning process, there must be agr eement on the major reform strategies and an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the superintendent and the school board. The school board should set policy supporting improved academic achievement and leave the day to day operation of the s chool district to the superintendent (Snipes, et al., 2002). The superintendent should provide leadership in creating a sense of urgency and implementing district wide initiatives contained in the strategic plan (Skrla, et al., 2000). Throughout the strate gic planning process, it is important to develop a high level of trust between the superintendent, the school board, and the community (Ragland, et al., 1999). Establish common vision, beliefs, and commitments : The strategic planning process for any distri ct must begin with an agreement among key stakeholders on the
52 led reform must include a vision of increased achiev emen t for all students, improve instruction, provide a safe a nd supportive environment, and ensure parents and the community are committed to lo ng term support of reforms (Togn eri & Anderson, 2003). This vision is built on a belief that all students need t o and can learn at high levels, especially poor and minority students whose performance has lagged their peers (Thompson, 2003; Cawelti & Protheroe 2001; Ragland, et al., 1999; Skrla, et al., 2000). The vision and belief are supported by a commitment to a no excuses mentality and do whatever it takes every day until all students achieve ( Cawelti & Protheroe 2001; Ragland, et al., 1999; Skrla, et al., 2000). Aligned instructional systems : One of the most important strategies in district led reform over th e last decade is the creation and use of an aligned instructional system (AIS). AIS is the alignment of standards, curriculum, assessments, instruction, and professional development. Performance standards delineate what students must be able to know and do and at what level of quality. States have created these within core academic areas of literacy and mathematics and some have expanded the effort to numerous other content areas. The adoption of the new State Common Core Standards by most states will creat e a more common expectation across states. Within AIS, the standards are then aligned with curriculum and assessments. Curriculum is what you teach in order for students to meet the standards and often include guides and materials. It is typically determin ed at the district level. Assessments are used to determine the degree to which students meet the performance standard. Assessments
53 are developed at the state, district, school, and classroom level (Thompson, 2003; Hill, et al., 2000; Cawelti & Protheroe 2001; Skrla, et al., 2000). Next, instruction that is aligned to the standards, curriculum, and assessments is conducted. While probably the least tightly coupled of all of t he AIS components, teachers are expected to teach the district curriculum (Snipes, Doolittle, & Herlihy, 2000) and to use strategies that are research based (Togneri & Anderson, 2003). In order to enable teachers to teach at a high level, a comprehensive professional development plan must be implemented to increase their knowledge, skil ls, and use of appropriate research based strategies. The professional development should be long term, continuous, focused on content, and connected to the daily experience of teachers (Massell & Goertz, 2002; Stein & Damico, 2002). In order to create las ting change in implementing new instructional strategies, instructional coaches, who understand both high quality instruction and how to assist adult learners, are used to support teachers (Togneri & Anderson, 2003; Cuban & Usdan, 2003). Hill, et al. (2000 ) also noted that a number of districts in his study used outside vendors to build professional development capacity that was turned over to district staff over time. Develop data systems for improvement and accountability : In addition to the advent of the AIS, the capacity of school districts to generate, analyze, organize, and communicate data has fundamentally changed strategic planning. The requirements of state and federal accountability systems have provided strong impetus to use data more effectively This is particularly true in assisting low performing students and schools (Skrla, et al., 2000).
54 Data is used at the teacher team and school level to identify needs and to plan and implement instructional strategies for their students (Cawalti, et al. 2001; Snipes, et al., 2002). Measuring goals and targets at the district, department, and school level requires extensive data analysis (Ragland, et al., 1999) to hold all staff accountable for results (Cawalti, et al., 2001). As a part of a continuous i mprovement process within a strategic plan, real time formative data allows for better decision making throughout the organization (To g n eri & Anderson, 2003; Massell & Goertz, 2002). Finally, data is critical in keeping the public informed through increase d transparency, ease of access, and clear explanations (Ragland, et al., 1999). Support high quality teachers and principals : The recruitment, development, and support of high quality teachers and principals are critical to the success of any strategic pla n. No amount of work in the previously discussed areas will have posi tive impact without the human c apital to execute and inform the work. Hill, et al. (2000) noted that districts in their study sought out teachers fr om new sources. Several studies (Togner i & Anderson, 2003; Massell and Goertz, 2002) discussed the importance of instructional coaches in supporting teachers grappling with using data and research based instructional strategies. In addition to the instructional coaches, the use of school based collaboration between teachers in professional learning communities (PLCs) provided additional support and opportunity for development (To g n eri & Anderson, 2003). The role of principals and other school based administrators had to change to focus more on i nstructional discussions, observation, and reflective feedback. The observation process moved from purely evaluative to a process of continuous
55 improvement with the goal of everyone impr oving through collaboration (To g n eri & Anderson, 2003); Cuban & Usban, 2003). Common barrier s While all 12 of the studies focused on supporting strategies in implementing district led reform, only five also covered the common barriers. Teacher resistance : According to Hill, et al. (2000), teacher resistance is the most powe rful barrier to the implementation of strategic initiatives. Their opposition comes from a lack of willingness to change, lack of confidence in the superintendent and other senior leaders, or too many non aligned competing initiatives. In addition, teacher s often experienced extreme stress that came from new expectations, especially if the changes were perceived as too top down from an administration more focused on directing than supporting their efforts (Snipes, et al., 2002). This often resulted in dissi dent teachers organizing to vote out board members who supported the reforms resulting in the scuttling of the reforms and/or the firing of the superintendent. Loss of superintendent or board support : According to Stone, et al. (2000), the most serious pr oblem in executing reform is when opponents of reform dilute the support of the board. Sometimes this is a result of the board never truly understanding is supposed to o versee is fatal to an initiative that must be carried out over time (as all boards are more focused on minor operational issues and constituent concerns than focusing on student achievement. Hill, et al. (2000) noted that if boards focused on more strategic issues they may attract higher quality board members.
56 Whether a superintendent leaves under pressure due to a backlash toward reform s implement ed or leaves on a posi tive note, there is a danger of the reform agenda becoming sidetracked. Most superintendents bring their own plans based primarily on what worked in their prior districts. Unless there is strong succession planning on the part of the board to ensure a new superintendent agrees to the vision, mission, core beliefs, and goals of the district, there can be a major change in direction. While the new superintendent may bring different key staff and modify actions and initiatives, these will not be as disruptive if the core of the strategic direction remains the same (Snip e s, et al., 2002). Poor planning or implementation : In most school districts, even those that are generally making progress in improving student achievement and closing achievement gaps, there i s a significant difference between the planned reforms and the real impact due to poor implementation. These are due measures, and quality professiona l development, which as noted earlier is a strong supportive strategy for district reform, districts were not very adept at implementation. Professional development was short in duration, not coordinated, not focused on the most important instructional pra ctices, and provided few opportunities to interact with colleagues (Stein Large financial investment : As discussed previously, appropriate use of technology to generate, store, analyze, and present data was noted as an important component of district wide strategic planning. Districts had to build or buy data warehouses that integrated financial, human resource, and student information to chart
57 progress and begin to conduct return on investment (ROI) research. These systems not only called for substantial initial investment in hardware and software, but also in recruiting or developing talented staff to make such systems useful in real time. There also had to be a commitment to provide professional development to all staff to make data info rmed decisions, which was an additional cost (Snipes, et al., 2002). Often districts were not able to support the various investments needed to make the reforms effective, especially if the district lost funds (Hill, et al., 2002). Focus on low performing schools and students : While admirable and necessary for districts to focus on improving academic performance of low performing schools and students, there was some resistance to do so. In some instances, this was due to a new requirement that was outside o f the current skill set of the staff, primarily teachers and principals. At other times, it was about the balance of resources allocated to low performing rather than high performing students (Snipes, et al., 2002; Shipps, 2003). Section II: In depth Case Studies of San Diego and Duval County (FL) (1998 2005) C ontext From 1998 until 2005, two large diverse urban school districts traversed similar paths and were studied in depth to glean best practices for other districts and highlight which pitfalls to avoi d. San Diego City Schools edited by Hightower, Knapp, Marsh, and McLaughlin (2002), documented changes in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), led by Alan Bersin, between 1998 and 2002. A second series of studies (Hess 2005) extended the time p eriod into 2005. At the same time (1998 2005), Jonathan Supovitz studied the Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) located in Jacksonville, Florida and chronicled its reform efforts, led by General John Fryer, in The
58 Case for District Based Reform: Leading, B uilding, and Sustaining School Improvement (2006). What made a comparison of these two districts so compelling is that both superintendents were hired to create significant change and came from fields other than education. Alan Bersin was a former federal district attorney and John Fryer was a retired two star Air Force General. They had both excelled in their prior careers and brought extensive leadership and planning skills to their new task They brought a sense of urgency to make their respective schoo l districts more efficient, effective, and responsive to the needs of students and their families (Hightower, 2002; Hess, 2005; Supovitz, 2006 ). In many ways, the districts were similar in that they had both urban and suburban areas served by the district. Both had a high percent of free/reduced lunch students and racial diversity with DCPS having a higher percent of African American students and SDUSD a higher percent of Hispanic students. Both districts had large achievement gaps based on racial and econ omic factors, a number of low performing schools with novice or extremely veteran teachers ready to retire, fragmented curriculum and instruction, widely varying instructional and leadership competency, and in many places, a culture of complacency and low expectations. San Diego had experienced a teacher strike in 1996 and Duval County was experiencing the fi rst wave of heavy state testing and accountability with schools being graded A F In both cases, the business community had become frustrate d with st agnant and unacceptably low student achievement a nd was supporting major changes w ith the advent of these two non
59 traditional, first time superintendents (Hightower et al., 2002; Hess, 2005; Supovitz, 2006). There were some difference s in the political la ndscape s Bersin and Fryer experienced upon entering their respective district s Bersin was appointed with a 3 2 (SDE A) represented by the two 0 vote in a community less (Hightower, et al., 2002; Supovitz, 2006). Theory of actio n and first steps At the outset, Bersin structured a unique senior leadership structure appointing Anthony Alvarado as Chancellor of Instruction, with Bersin being responsible for operations, school board interface, and community engagement. Alvarado insti tuted many of the same instructional practices that had been effective in his prior district, New York City District 2 where he had been superintendent His theory of action was to describe what good teaching looked like, then to systematically train, coa ch, and support Bersin and Alvarado quickly aligned policy, organizational structures, and resources to support a learning organization. Resources were focused on low performing schools, with $62 mil lion being spent in 2000 01 and approximately $96 million in 2001 02. In reorganizing the district office, the guiding mantra was that there (Hightower, e t al., 2002, p. 83 ). Area Superintendents were changed to I nstructional L eaders supervising 25 schools and began implementing intensive research based
60 literacy strategies and classroom walk through protocols. Numerous nationally known consultants were hired at significant c osts to help construct and guide the work. Thirteen principals were demoted and replaced by candidates who could provide stronger instructional oversight and support and changes in district staff were immediate and far reaching (Hightower, et al., 2002). Bersin described his strategy: Much like Bersin, Fryer began with a vision, theory of action, and a strategic plan to implement lasting change. All district activity was organized around the vision of college readiness for all students by building the capacity and commitment of teachers and prin cipals with effective support from the district staff. Similar to San Diego, Fryer aligned standards, curriculum, assessments, professional development, and the use of data. This work was organized through a strategic plan with measurable formative and sum mative targets and frequent monitoring using data. Also similar to San Diego, Fryer imported the outside expertise of Judy Cotting and Mark Tucker who had developed Fryer implemented key elements of the model district wide including using the structure, frameworks, and coaches to support the work (Supovitz, 2006). In contrast to Bersin and Alvarado, instead of impl ementing the reform effort district wide all at once, Fryer rolled out the plan over four years beginning with 17 volunteer schools the first year, to 51 volunteers the second year, to 64 the third year,
61 and, finally, the remaining 100 schools the fourth year. Not only did this phased roll out with volunteer schools allow the district to ensure a high level of implementation, it also allowed early adopters to forge ahead and resisters time to look at the reforms before implementing t hem themselves. Fryer u sed a combination of top down clear direction, while genuinely valuing bottom up teacher and principal feedback to improve the implementation. There was a greater emphasis o n influencing and convincing tha n directing and requiring. Also in contrast to Bers in, Fryer retained the majority of senior leadership and principals in the district, at least for the first year. He believed in giving leaders time to learn, adopt, and implement change while still holding them accountable for results (Supovitz, 2006). Th ese differences could have two possible explanations. The first is the difference in leadership styles and change theories between the two leadership groups. Another explanation is that Alvarado had implemented his strategies as a superintendent in another albeit smaller district and had confidence they would work. Fryer was taking a reform designed for individual schools and implementing it in a large, diverse district. Finally, as earlier discussed, Bersin began with tenuous political support that could easily change with the next school board election. He had to show results quickly in order to provide a rational e for continuing the reforms. In contrast, while there sup port on the board and a collaborative relationship with the reform minded Duval Strategic action plans Both San Diego and Duval County outlined their reform efforts in a planning document outlining purpose, goals, major initiatives, and new roles and relationships.
62 agenda, particularly for teachers and principals, which was designed to create a direct impact on classroom practi ce. In addition, significant resources were targeted toward lower performing schools and students, particularly in the areas of literacy and mathematics. Phase I of the Blueprint for Success called for a non incremental 2005, p. 55). Building on common language, philosophy, and instructional practice of Phase I, Bersin sought to institutionalize the efforts in 2003 when Alvarado left. Phase II included renaming some in itiatives and providing more school based decision making on budget (Hannaway & Stanislawski, 2005). Principals were seen as the key agents of change. They received extensive training, collaborated by conducting walk throughs of classrooms and giving each other feedback, and participated in study groups (Schnur & Gerson, 2005). The second key group, school based instructional coaches, were trained together to provide modeling While novice teachers appreciated their support, veteran teachers thought the role lacked clarification and should work directly with struggling students (Hightower, et al., 2005). the Framework for Implementation of Standards in DCPS, outlined f ive goals academic performance, safe schools, high performance management, learning communities, and accountability. Supovitz (2006) described the DCPS approach as a blend of garde ning and engineering. Gardening was convincing staff that changes were needed and the
63 benefits in implementing the strategies learned in professional development institutes. The engineering side was building the knowledge, skills, and competencies through engagement with instructional coaches, feedback from administrators, and collaborative conversations in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). At the school level, DCPS used a self analysis tool called the Implementation Rubric that helped them benchmar k areas of growth and those still needing significant work. In the same way, a complete and unique system of district level implementation analysis, called Snapshot, was designed to give the district a systematic and hones t view of the level of implementat ion of a key area such as literacy mathematics, and safety nets (Supovitz, 2006). Barriers Both school districts faced significant but different barriers. In San Diego, the initial conflict wit h the union persisted as SDEA challenged the district over who selected the instructional coaches, the number of meetings for professional development, and differentiated pay for teaching in low performing schools. Bersin also p. 12). Po wer struggles over wh ether the business community or SDEA had more Detractors of Bersin and Alvarado cited their abrasive, down your throat, take it or leave it approach. Even some who a greed with their reform agenda were troubled by their methodology and attitude. On the other side, supporters described them as visionary, passionate, focused on low performing schools and students, and adept at bringing in additional funds to support refo rms. Complaints from principals and teachers undermined community support for Bersin, who was terminated when a school board election tilted support toward the SDEA positions Usdan (2005) observed that the long term
64 questionable because they were not yet in the In DCPS, there were different issues that Fryer had to confront. As described earlier, Fryer used a phased process of rolling out his reform agenda. While there were many benefits o f this approach described earlier, there was a perception that schools that were early adopter late adopters who were perceived as being less forward thinking and less courageous. School board support also became more tenuous as they questioned the need for on As previously discussed, Fryer had early on aligned the instructional system making it more consistent and coherent However, he inherited a literacy program that allowed elementary schools to choose from one of three very different reading programs. Not only did this create confusion when conducting district wide literacy institutes, the coaching and monitoring of rea ding instruction became very school specific. Direct Instruction had received strong support from some African American leaders, especially clergy, and had formal support from an interdenominational group called ICARE. Of the three reading programs, it was farthest from the balanced literacy and school board meetings, Fryer said schools using Direct Instruction could continue if they balanced the explicit phonics based approac h with stronger comprehension strategies. Another confrontation even less associated with the reform agenda was when Fryer recommended that the school board contract out student transportation in an
65 open bid process within five zones. The old system, whi ch had been in place for decades, was to directly negotiate with a consortium representing 110 small to medium sized contractors. Not only did Fryer see the old system as not complying with the purchasing code as confirmed by legal counsel, but there were also about $3 million in savings that could be generated and invested in professional development for teachers and principals. What exacerbated the conflict was that a number of the contractors were African American, including the daughter of one of the bo ard members, and had fleets that were too small to compete in the new five zone proposal. In fact, with the exception of one local contractor, only national companies were large enough to compete. While Fryer eventually secured board support, the process c ost him significant political capital in a city that was already divided by race and income (Supovitz, 2006). Supovitz (2006) summarized his findings of the tenure of Fryer by crediting him with making significant headway in four of his High Five goals. Th e only exception was in creating learning communities where Supovitz found a lack of consistent understanding or refined practice in actualizing the intent of this goal (Supovitz, 2006). Summary Both SDUSD and DCPS faced similar issues in similar districts at the same time, 1998 2005. They developed robust plans based on a common theory of action: invest in improving the knowledge and skills of teachers, principals, and district staff around teaching and learning. That, in turn, will improve instructional p ractice which will lead to improved student achievement, especially for low performing students and schools. Both districts were led by non traditional superintendents who had distinguished themselves in their prior careers and brought strong leadership sk ills and courage to
66 their new calling. Both redirected funds from prior uses to provide extensive professional development provided by national experts. Both Bersin and Fryer faced resistance to their reforms and questions about the cost of contracting wit h outside providers. They differed in the pace of implementation, with Bersin going immediately district wide and Fryer phasing in his reforms over four years. There were also differences in their approach to change management, with Bersin advocating no intentionally balancing both requiring and convincing. They also split board and Fryer dealing with outside pressure groups and the fallout ove r improving efficiency in transportation costs to invest in professional development. Both districts made academic progress in elementary schools, less so in middle schools, and less still in high schools. Even though they had long tenures compared to most urban superintendents, their work was not completed and the degree to which their reforms were deeply rooted was mixed, especially in the case of San Diego. Together they illustrate the challenge of taking reform to scale over an extended period of time t o the degree that the culture of the district is transformed, teaching and learning is significantly improved, and students, especially those who did not perform well in the past, are achieving success. See F igure 2 2 for a visual representation of the sim ilarities between the two districts.
67 Figure 2 2. Strategic planning in San Diego and Duval County, FL. Theory of Action Aligned Instructional System Goals Long term Improved Performance Strong Superinten dent Leadership Vision College Readiness for All Students Major Initiatives Align Organizational Structure and Resources Face Internal and External Barriers Overcome Barriers Brought into Reform System Non traditional/ First Time Extensive Use of National Consultants Data Used Extensively for Monitoring Progress a nd Accountability Build Teacher Principal Capacity Extensive Professional Development Academic Support Using Instructional Coaches and PLCS Barriers Impede Plan Short term Improve ments Return to Prior State
68 Section III: Recent National and International Studies (2010 201 1) In the fall of 2011, the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS), a member organization composed of 67 of the largest city school districts in America, teamed up with the American Institute of Research (AIR), a highly respected national research organizati on, to identify common factors in three school districts that were performing well or improving performance rapidly on NAEP compared to similar districts. The result was a report titled Pieces of the Puzzle: Factors in the Improvement of Urban School Dist ricts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). To date, it is the most comprehensive study of improving urban school districts in America. At about the same time (2010), Mourshed, Chijoke, and Barber produced a report titled How the World for McKinsey & Company, a world wide business consulting group. It identified 20 school districts world wide that had achieved significant and sustained gains in student achievement based on national and international assessments. Their conclusions not only focused on common factors, but also highlighted differences based on their starting points in their improvement efforts. There were a number of common factors used by higher performing school districts, both nationally and internationally, including: 1. Strong stable leadership, especially the superintendent, school board, and senior curriculum staff who share a common vision that sustains change. 2. A clear, well communicated approach to teaching and learning that is uniformly implemented. 3. Well defined professional development that sets the direction, builds skills, and provides coaching. 4. Systematic monitoring plan is used to determine level of implementation and how to deploy support.
69 5. Regular use of data to g auge student progress, modify practice, and target resources. 6. The factors did not include governance, choice, power of unions, funding models, or alignment of district standards with NAEP or international tests. The relationship of the factors is displayed in Figure 2 3. Figure 2 3. Common factors in high performing districts in national and international studies. Additionally, the CGCS/AIR study also identified the common factor of a strong strategic plan with sy stem wide goals that are measurable and used to hold staff accountable. The McKinsey report added three other factors: align policy and law to support the improvement; the context of a system determines how (sequence, timing, roll out) a Strong Leadership Superintendent, Board, Senior Staff Systemat ic Monitoring Plan Improving Results Clear Approach to Teaching and Learning Uniformly Implemented Well Defined Professional Development Regular Use of Data
70 plan is done, not what is done; and that there are performance stages that call for different actions. Districts that are moving from poor to fair or fair to good used a more district directed focus on data gathering, organization, finance, and teaching methods. A district moving from good to great focused more on the teaching profession, such as certification, practices, and career paths. The McKinsey report also made the observation that any school district can make significant gains in six years regardless of where they s tart. Section IV: The Broad Prize for Urban Education Case Studies (2006 2012) The Broad Prize for Urban Education has been recognizing the most improved public school districts in the United States since 2003. Comparing school districts with others in the ir state and, where possible, other districts nationally, Broad uses a complex and comprehensive data analysis to identify finalists for the prize. Data elements include academic performance, graduation rates, college readiness, and other factors. To quali fy as a participating district, the student population must be at least 37,500 with at least 40% of students from minority racial groups and 40% on free/reduced lunch. Districts that are selected as finalists are visited by a team of experts that reviews d istrict documents, interviews a variety of stakeholders, and conducts targeted site visits. The quantitative and qualitative information are reviewed by a panel of experts that makes the final selection. For the purposes of this study, the exemplary practi ces of the districts selected between 2006 and 2012 are presented. They include Boston, New York City, Brownsville (TX), Aldine (TX), G w inette County (GA), Charlotte Mecklenburg, and Miami Dade. These exemplary practices are organized into four categories:
71 strategic planning, curriculum and instruction, high quality teachers and leaders, and budget alignment. Strategic planning While all seven districts had well developed strategic plans, some districts excelled in certain elements of the strategic planning process (The Broad Prize for Urban Education, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012): 1. Create a well articulated vision and mission that establishes high expectations for all students (Brownsville, Gwinette, Charlotte Meck lenburg, and Miami Dade); 2. Align district goals and targets with district department goals and sc hool improvement plans (Boston, New York, Brownsvill e, Aldine, Gwinette); 3. Implement an on going continuous improvement process; using data to monitor progress at district, department, and sch ool levels; and hold all staff accountable for results (New York, Brownsville, Aldine, Gwinette, and Mia mi Dade); 4. Provide additional focus and assistance to lower performing schools (Boston, New York, Charlotte, Miami Dade) ; 5. Use extensive engagement of fam ilies and the community in developing and implementing the plan (Boston, New York, Brownsville, Aldine, Charlotte Mecklenburg, and Mi ami Dade); and 6. Superintendent and school board work collaboratively to align decisions with vision, mission, and core belie fs to improve student achievement (Gwinette and Miami Dade). Curriculum and instruction In order for strategic plans to be actionable, a district must connect vision and goals to specific structures and processes in curriculum and instruction. Seven elemen ts emerged from the research (The Broad Prize for Urban Education, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012): 1. A tightly coupled system of grade and course level standard, with curriculum and pacing guides, coupled to model lesson plans (Boston, New York, B rownsville, and Aldine);
72 2. Use of data from frequent formative and summative assessments to identify student learning gaps and inform school wide decisions (Boston, New York, Brownsville, Aldine, Charlotte Mecklenburg, and Miami Dade); 3. Provide extensive prof essional development in the use of data and research based instructional strategies and provide opportunities for collaboration in professional learning communities (PLCs) and study groups (Boston, New York, Brownsville, Aldine, and Gwinette); 4. Support regu lar use of best practices in classrooms by providing instructional coaches, especially in literacy and mathematics (Boston, New York, Charlotte Mecklenburg, and Miami Dade); 5. Conduct school wide curriculum and instruction reviews with principals, their supe rvisors, and district content experts (Boston, New York, Brownsville, and Miami Dade); 6. Implement a tiered approach to intervention to assist struggling students (Boston, New York, Brownsville, and Aldine), and 7. Provide some level of school flexibility in se lecting appropriate instructional approaches in order to adapt to unique needs and create a greater sense of ownership (New York, Brownsville, Aldine, and Charlotte Mecklenburg). High quality teachers and leaders There is no category more important to impr oving outcomes for students than ensuring that every classroom has a high quality teacher and every school is led by an effective principal with support from a competent and responsive district staff. Two key elements emerged as being most significant in t his category (The Broad Prize for Urban Education, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011): 1. Improve the quality, efficiency, and timing of hiring and placing teachers, especially in the lower performing schools (Boston, Aldine, Charlotte Mecklenburg, and Miami Dade). 2. Improve the preparation of principals and district staff to support teaching and learning (Boston, New York, Brownsville, Aldine, and Charlotte Mecklenburg). Budget a lignment While it may seem somewhat obvious that there needs to be an alignment be tween the various plans and funding, districts sometimes struggle with actualizing this
73 connection given the myriad of sources and required uses. The following districts excelled in at least one of the three key elements in this category (The Broad Prize f or Urban Education, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012): 1. Consolidate and align various funds to connect directly with district strategic plan goals and activities as well as SIP (New York, Aldine, and Gwinette). 2. Use a weighted student funding (WSF) f ormula to implement school based budgeting (New York, Brownsville, and Aldine). 3. Increase fiscal stability, reserves, and bond rating while focusing on strategic goals (Brownsville and Miami Dade). A visual depiction (Figure 2 4 ) of the strategic planning p rocess outlined in Section IV shows how these various components interact.
74 Figure 2 4. Strategic planning process from district winners of the Broad Prize for Urban Education (2006 2012). Sec tion V: Recent Doctoral Dissertation Studies (2008 2012) The f ollowing section summarizes nine cas e studies conducted from 2008 12 as a part of a doctoral dissertation. With the exception of one study, the findings are limited to one school district, limi ting any ability to generalize any findings. However, these were chosen because of their emphasis on the superintendent leadership in implementing district wide reforms. Studies #24 3 4 are not included on the summary Vision Mission Engage Community And Families Goals Targets Continuous Improvement/ Mon itor Using Data Hold Staff Accountable Align Funding High Quality Teachers and Leaders Curriculum and Instruction School Improvement Plans
75 chart ( Table 2 2 ) because the focus o f these studies was more narrow in scope. Synthesizing the nine studies revealed six common strategies used by the superintendents in the studies: 1. Create a cohesive strategic plan focused on a common vision, supported by a theory of action; tightly couplin g of standards, curriculum, and assessment; and delineating degree of flexibility in other areas (Trujillo, 2008; Garcia, 2009; Blanco, 2009; Gifford, 2009; Fisher, 2010; Bealor, 2010; and Hagland, 2009). 2. Develop a strong data driven system to determine th e effectiveness of programs and hold staff accountable for results (Trujillo, 2008; Garcia, 2009; Gifford, 2009; Danielian, 2009; Umekubo, 2012; Bealor, 2010; Hagland, 2009). 3. Build the capacity of staff to understand what good instruction looks like and ho w to reflect it in practice in addition to developing learning communities to increase collaboration (Johnson, 2008; Garcia, 2009; Blanco, 2009; Gifford, 2009; Bravo, 2011). 4. Build a strong linkage between district staff and school leadership by developing trusting relationships (Johnson, 2008; Fisher, 2010; Bravo, 2011; Umekubo, 2012). 5. Align and organize resources to implement the strategic plan (Garcia, 2009; Bealor, 2010; Hagland, 2009). 6. Ensure there is effective public engagement and transparency (Garcia 2009; Bealor, 2010). Figure 2 5 illustrates how the components of strategic planning identified in Section V relates to each other. Summary of Case Studies While a few of the studies represented in this review focused on a single district, most identifi ed common initiatives or practices used in multiple districts. These strategies were synthesized into a comprehensive list to determine the degree of commonality in the case studies #1 23 (#24 34 were not included). ( S ee Table 2 2. ) While there were a numb er of strategies with one or two citations, a consistent pattern emerged, particularly when similar strategies were combined.
76 Figure 2 5 Strategic planning components identified in recent doctora l dissertations Vision Theory of Action Aligned Instructional System (AIS) Data Driven Program Effectiveness and Staff Accountability Public Engagement and Transparency Link District Staff with Schools Align Resources Build S taff Capacity Delineate Degree of School Freedom
77 T able 2 2. Summary of case study strategies Strategy in Evidence Study Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Build Civic Capacity and Trust Vision/Beliefs -All Student s/No Excuses Sense of Urgency Communication and Respect Stable Organization Board/Superintendent Roles Defined District/School Par tnership Strong Superintendent and Senior Leadership Aligned Standards, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessments Common Core Reading and Math Use of Comprehensive Data to Inform Instruction Accountability Systems with Specific School Targets Comprehensive District Reform Strategy Extensive Professional Development Creation of Professional Learning Communities Principal as Instructional Leader Use of Instructio nal Coaches Use of Whole School Design Allocate Resources to Support Improvement Plan Use School Based Budgeting Provide Outside Resources Allow Schools to Decide on Hiring Focus on Hiring High Quality Teachers
78 T able 2 2. Continued Strategy in Evidence Study Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Use Multiple Programs for Problems Focus Assistance on Low Performing Schools Reconstitute Low Performing Schools M odify Union Rules Align evaluation of teachers and principals with the reforms School wide instructional implementation reviews
79 Based on the summation of findings in this rev iew, high performing districts : 1. Build civic capacity and trust. 2. Share a common vision and beliefs that all students can learn at high levels, 3. Have a strong superintendent and senior staff to lea d the reform effort. 4. Have an aligned instructional system including common performance standards, curriculum, materials, recommended instructional methodology, and assessments. This system is built over time beginning with elementary reading and mathemati cs, then branching out to all subjects and all grades. 5. Provide an extensive professional development program tied to the curriculum, using instructional coaches, and creating professional learning communities at each school. 6. Create and use a comprehensiv instructional strengths and needs based on the standards and common assessments with the goal to differentiate instruction, particularly for low performing students. 7. Create an accountability system that holds schools and district staff responsible for specific improvement targets based on realistic stretch goals, with positive and negative consequences. 8. Allocate resources based on need and aligned with key district wide initiatives and pursue additional exter nal resources. 9. Provide additional assistance to low performing schools and, as a last resort, reconstitute them in order to create a highly dedicated professional teaching staff. 10. Provide as much school based decision making in budgeting and hiring staff as possible. These strategies represent different but connected district wide initiatives with action, the elements of the predominant three theories Managed Instruction, P erformance/Empowerment, and Managed Performance/Empowerment are represented in this list.
80 CHAPTER 3 METHODS In C hapter 2, a meta analysis of 23 case studies yielded a list of 10 high yield strategies, or drivers, that have been found to be used in large ur ban school districts with improv ed academic performance (Table 2 2 ). What is often missing is how these drivers work in concert and how local context impacts the implementation of these drivers through a strategic planning process. Onl y two of the studies cited, San Diego and Duval County, delved into this more in depth question that could provide insight for superintendents and others leading school district reform. A qualitative analysis approach using case study methodology, specifically interviews, for data collection and a grounded theory approach and cross case analysi s for data analysis best match the r esearch questions in this study. The study will address four research questions: 1. How were the strategic plans created, what were the major components, and how were they monitored? 2. and implemented in the plan? 3. How did internal and external forces advance, modify, or inhibit the plans? 4. What advice would superintendents give to o ther superintendents embarking on a strategic planning process? Case Study Methodology for Data Collection Case study methodology is used to describe a unique situation with unique circumstances in order to understand how and why actions were taken (Starke 1995). were implemen t
81 When multiple situations (districts) are analyzed together using cross case analysis (also known as comparative case methodology) analytic generalizations can be made. According to Yin (2003), an analytic generalization is not applied to some defined population that has been sampled, but instead to a theory of the phenomenon being studied; a theory that may have much wider applicability than the particular case(s) studied. While using multiple districts increase s the level of confidence of any generalizations using a replication logic, they cannot be generalized to a population or a universe as you w ould when using a sampling logic. Replication logic attempts to collect data from different sources in the hope that external parameters will eventually have no influence and, therefore, broad generalizations can be made. Sampling logic, on the other hand, tries to eliminate every external parameter that could alter the results of the experiment, which is an impossibility when conducting case study research. Case study is an appropriate research strategy when 1) the primary question is how or why 2) events cannot be controlled by the researcher and 3) the focus is recent events. It also involves more variables than data, relies on multiple sources of information, and uses theoretical propositions to guide the collections of data (Yin, 2003). Descriptively, in the cross case analysis, similarities and differences will be specified. The theoretical proposition in this study is that effective strategic planning brings together the key elements and drivers in a school district in order to: 1. Bring coherence and f ocus. 2. Connect a detailed plan with vision to results and accountability.
82 3. Align major systems of academic programs, financia l prioritization, human capital development, and public perception. 4. Maximize positive impact on student achievement. 5. Respond to requi rements of federal and state accountability, as well as local needs. In order to determine how the strategic planning process impacted the above areas, a semi structured interview format was selected to be used with superintendents who were serving or rec ently retired as superintendents in large urban districts in Florida. The Interview Interviewing is one of the most powerful ways to understand people. It has become the modern day version of storytelling in that it conveys the what and how of ves. It has become so pervasive that it is often taken for granted that it can be done well by anyone (Fontana & Frey, 2003). The assumption is that the interview is an accur ate or true picture that can be produced given the right conditions (S c hostak, 200 6). However, there is always an element of ambiguity regardless of how carefully the questions are crafted, asked, or reported. Interviews are not neutral tools for collecting data but are interactions between people resulting in a conversation within a co ntext (Fontana & Frey, 2003). They are interactions with others in their own language on their own terms (Kirk & Miller, 1986). Interviews can range from highly structured where questions are asked using the same exact wording of the questions to more op en ended encounters where the voices of the subjects are recorded with minimal influence from the researcher. These match with the two ends of the spectrum in qualitative research.
83 Highly structured interviews represent the older, more classical positivis t approach where there emerges only one truth from the data. While recognizing that the interviewer impacts the result of the interview, it seeks to limit such impact by maintaining a professional distance. Structured interviews lend themselves to greater reliability because they can more easily be replicated. Open ended questions meant to elicit values, feelings, and thoughts of the interviewee fall in the post modern camp, which in its most extreme expression posits that everything is contextually based ; that it is impo ssible to keep the interviewer neutral, and therefore no common generalizations can be made ( Kirk & Miller 1986; Fontana & Frey 2003 ). The approach for this research was to use a semi structured interview format. Specific questions were as ked to ensure the interviewer has spoken to each area of focus. However, a more casual conversational approach was intentionally chosen to elicit more in depth, honest answers and because, in most cases, I had an existing relationship with the interviewees as a colleagu e. Often in answering a question, a later question was answered. Since the purpose of the study is to determine how strategic perspective, this semi struct ured approach was effective. Schostak (2006) quotes an interviewer that reflects this approach: The interview transformed from its expected course of question followed than other interviews carried out more formally and stilted. (p. 50). While a less formal approach may reduce the reliability, that is the ability to replicate the process, it resulted in more valid respons es. Since objectivity is the
84 simultaneous balancing of as much reliability and validity as possible (Kirk & Miller, 1986), the semi structured interview was appropriate. The semi structured interview adhered to ethical protocols that are both in the litera ture (Schostak, 2006) and required by The University of Florida Institutional Review Board (IRB). These included: 1. Anonymity 2. Confidentiality some information cannot be shared even ano nymously. 3. Negotiation of Access only pertinent parties, such as the dissertation committee, would have access to field notes and transcripts. 4. Right to Say No recognition that interviewee may withhold all or part of the information in response to a ques tion. 5. Independence there is no external veto whether to include finding s beyond that of the researcher. 6. Representation all views will be given a fair hearing when reporting the data. Data Analysis Using Grounded Theory and Cross Case Analysis The class ical foundation for grounded theory using a constant comparative method was outlined by Strauss and Cobin in 1967 and m odified over time (Strauss & Co bin, 1997). The purpose was to create a systematic and structured approach to qualitative research analysi s and to negate the criticisms by quantitative researchers that qualitative research lacked a scientific basis. In grounded theory, the themes are not prescribed in advance, but emerge in the process of constantly comparing data to themes. When the process can no longer yield any different, more in depth themes, the generalization s (theories ) are said to be grounded.
85 axial coding, and selective coding. Open coding establishes initia l categories and sub categories (properties). The properties describe the range along a continuum of responses in the text (transcribed interview) around each category. In axial coding, the second phase, one of the most important core categories is selecte d by the researcher to develop a coding paradigm which is a flow chart representation or diagram. It includes causal conditions for the selected core category, the context and intervening conditions that informed the strategies used and the resulting conse quences. The final phase, selective coding, called for presenting a theory about the various categories in the axial coding model. While this systematic model did provide a consistent methodology of analyzing qualitative data, it was challenged as being ov erly prescriptive for some forms of qualitative research (Creswell, 2005). Glaser (1992) advocated a less structured approach to arrive at a theory, using the constant comparative approach, comparing incident to incident, incident to category, and category to category. The focus of the coding process is to identify the connections. The Glas er model, known as the Emerging Model, presents a series of propositions and hypotheses at the end. A third approach to grounded theory is the Constructivist, which focus es on reporting the process the interviewees are experiencing and typically uses a more open ended question interview to let subjects tell their story (Charmaz, 2000). It ends with questions and thought s rather than diagrams (in Systematic) or theories (in Emerging) (Creswell, 2005).
86 Cross case analysis, also known as comparative case method or analysis, comes from the case study research. All of the processes used in a single case study apply to each of t hose in the multiple case study, but another dimensi on is added to the analysis. In coding, not only is the researcher identifying incident to incident, incident to catego ry, and category to category connections but is also doing so across cases (Schwandt, 2001). While this makes the analysis more complex, it yields greater confidence (within limitations discussed later) in any theories that emerge. Since this study is limited to interviews, it provides a form o f triangulation (Schostak 1990) that increases validity by having several contexts to compare to identify consistent patterns. It also provides a range of responses leading to a continuum of approaches to similar issues. Therefore, using a cross case method, validity is improved and both similar and different approaches can be identified. Procedures G rounded Theory This research study will use the Emerging Model using a tagging system to identify emerging themes focused on the central question: How do superintendents in urban school districts use strategic planning to improve student performance? In th e analysis, processes, actions, and consequences will be identified. Beyond that, underlying concepts and assumptions, often expressed as metaphors, will be exp l ored. Finally, the context of each district will be viewed to determine how relationships and s ocial conflicts were managed, what problem solving approaches were used, and which cultural contradictions emerged (Ryan & Bernard, 200 3 ). S ources of themes that are useful as beginning points to inform the coding process may include: the literature review the characteristics of what is being studied,
87 (Ryan & Bernard, 2003) These will be used in the data analysis process. Selection of Districts and Superintendents Since I have intentionally narrowed the scope of my research to large urban school districts, I used the qualifying demographics used in Broad Prize for Urban School Districts. These include at least 37,500 students in the district, at least 40% of the students id entified as a racial minority, and at least 40% of the students quali fying for free/reduced lunch. The district also has to be categorized as an urban area by the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) (Broad, 2003 ). Only large urban districts in Florida were used for this study for several reasons. Using one state narrows some of the contextual spread associated with variations in state funding, requirements, and accountability. It also allows for less background information having to be share d by the interviewer, since I served as superintendent in a large urban district in Florida duri ng the same time period (2007 12). It can certainly be argued that, during these five years, Florida had some of the fewest financial resources and most top dow n prescriptive accountability systems in the country, creating huge strains on the strategic planning process. Having been a peer also allowed for an instant trust and rapport to be established creating a conversation rather than an interrogation atmospher e. Superintendents, who are in the public eye, are understandably reluctant to be completely forthcoming with someone with whom they are not familiar. The peer relationship also made it possible to secure participation. Very few researchers would be able t o schedule individual 1 hour interviews with nine superintendents in person over a two week period. Every superintendent contacted readily agreed to be
88 interviewed. Finally, there are the practical considerations of time and cost, which were reasonable w hen the scope was limited to Florida superintendents. The other criterion, besides being a large urban Florida school district, was that the superintendent served at least three years between the years 2007 and 20 12. Of the nine superintendents interviewed four had recently retired and had the perspective of someone who had implemented strategic planning over a number of years. Selecting these years also helped me understand the language and culture of the superintendents (Fontana & Frey, 2003), having ser ved as a peer with them during these years. Recency of experience was important because of how quickly the public education landscape can change. Finally, since the purpose of this research is to add to the growing understanding on how to improve urban sch ool districts, and few recent studies used multiple school districts, the hope is that the findings and conclusions will have impact beyond the narrow audience reading this dissertation. The selection criteria yielded nine school districts and superintende nts representing 1.45 million students, which is 54% Determining the Questions Beginning with the background literature and my own experience, an original list of 23 questions were generated. These were combined, eliminated, or modif ied into 10 proposed questions. Three experts reviewed the 10 questions, suggested revisions, and the final nine questions ( Appendix A ) were completed. Assisting in this editing was Dr. Bernard Oliver, Professor at University of Florida, and the chair of m y dissertation committee. Dr. Oliver has extensive experience as a senior district level administrator, in addition to guiding numerous doctoral students with their dissertations. He has also provided in depth technical assistance to six urban high
89 schools in three urban Florida school districts. Next was Dr. Jonathan Supovitz, professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the educational doctorate program. Dr. Supovitz was the lead investigator in the Duval County study (Case #14 in the Literature Review) He has specialized in researching the process and outcomes of large urban district reform. Finally, Mr. John J H Kim, Chief Executive Officer of the District Management Counci l with former experience at McKi nsey and Company assisted in editing the quest ions Mr. Kim and his staff have led districts through the strategic planning process with special emphasis on aligning human capital decisions and financial planning with academic goals. I am indebted to their wise council in assisting; however, the respo nsibilities for the final version are mine alone. In addition to the nine questions that were developed, a parallel set were developed. These were not a part of the standard questions asked of all participants, but were available to me for follow up, p robing, and fuller explanations rmat follows one used by Advanc Ed (formerly SACS/CASI) in their questioning of senior district staff going through a district acc reditation process. These are attached ( Appendix B ). Arranging the Interviews Each of the identified nine superintendents was contacted by phone to explain globally what the study was about, discuss the general range of questions, and to secure their willi ngness to participate. Following the approval from the UFIRB, interviews were scheduled the last two weeks of February 2013. Each participant was then sent a consent form ( Appendix C ) and the list of questions ( Appendix A ). For the five current superintend ents, the interviews were scheduled on e on one in their offices
90 at the district administration building. Three of the retired superintendents were scheduled in their homes and one was at a local restaurant near his home. Conducting the Interviews For each interview, I positioned myself either across from or adjacent to the their time and securing their signature on the consent form which had been sent to them in advan ce. Next, I reiterated the purpose of the study was to determine how strategic planning was used to increase student achievement. Also repeated was the promise that, to the degree possible, no remarks would be attributed to them personally and that the aud io recording being made would only be heard by me and a transcriber. My goal was to make the interview a conversation that was focused around the topic. I had told the superintendents in advance that I was listening to them and not sharing my own experienc e. For the most part, my goal was achieved. Several times there was a lead realized what I was doing and moved on with the interview. The assumptions were confirmed that my prior collegial relationship with the superintendents created immediate trust and rapport, that they knew I understood much of the context in which they constructed and implemen ted their plans, and that they could be honest and direct knowing that I would honor my commitment regarding anonymity. This was particularly true when the participants discussed their relationships with the school board s in their districts. At one point, one superintendent stopped and my confirmation before proceeding with their answer.
91 As superintendents were answering, I was taking notes as well as recording, using a small digital recording d evice. Interviews lasted about 1 1.5 hours, which is what I had asked for when arranging the sessions. Respondents seemed relaxed, focused on responding to the questions, and eager to share their experiences. The one exception to this was one respondent wh o seemed tired and somewhat pre occupied because he had another appointment following the interview. There were several interruptions or exceptions to the protocol. One current superintendent was interrupted briefly by an emergency, dealt with it within 1 2 minutes, and the interview continued without further interruption. One former superintendent asked if their spouse could sit in and listen since it was in their home and I agreed. The only problem that arose was when on two occasions, the spouse interje cted a reminder to the interviewee. I simply refocused on the participant and continued. Another interview in a home was interrupted twice briefly to introduce me to family members who were coming through. Finally, while not being interrupted, the intervie w in the restaurant was hard to maintain focus with the background noise of the other patrons. While I had expected fewer interruptions in the interviews with retired superintendents than with current ones, the opposite was true. Analyzing the Data Field N otes and Initial Categories As described earlier, notes were taken during the interviews. The notes included content (what the interviewer did), context (the challenges and opportunities unique to their situation), and the process used (how they brought to gether the parts into a synergistic whole). Field notes were edited and added to by listening to the recorded interviews a second time During this process, I was thinking of the three main
92 categories that I would use to create results Chapter 4 in the dis sertation. One option included what (content), where (context), and how (process). Another option was to describe similarities, differences, and why these were present. A third option was to focus more around the big blocks of strategic planning framed in the questions, that is creating the plan (including alignment of academic goals with human and financial resources and accountability), executing the plan (including obstacles and conflicts), and monitoring and modifying the plan (including lessons learned and recommendations for future superintendents). The tentative option selected was the last one in that it both seemed to be the most comprehensive and aligned more closely with the interview questions and responses. Transcribing and Coding The fifteen ho urs of audio tape were transcribed by a n experienced executive assistant creating a Microsoft Word document. It was made clear to them that no content was to be shared with anyone but me. Coding was do ne using a tagging system based on a draft outline, the n was modified through the constant comparative method described earlier. What emerged from an initial outline for Chapter 4 was modified as I compared the main ideas and quotes from the interviews (data) to the th emes of categories. Results in Chapter 4 w ere presented in four thematic areas: 1) the purpose of strategic planning, 2) the process of strategic planning 3) how the academic, fiscal, and human capital plans were aligned in the strategic plan and 4) p itfalls, possibilities, and advice Within th ese four areas topics and subtopics were consolidated and expanded several times to better reflect the response in the interviews. Coding involved going back through the transcripts (data) and labeling (coding) each idea or quote with a letter/number comb ination aligned with a particular theme and
93 subtheme. Then the responses from the nine interviews were organized within this theme/subtheme outline to write that section. Particular attention was paid to similarities and difference among the responses. Att ributing Ideas and Quotes As discussed previously, participants were promised that ideas and quotes they expressed would be anonymous to the degree possible. Therefore, there is no mention of the name or district of the superintendent when discussing ideas or quotes. Designating superintendents by number (e.g., #1 9) was also avoided to limit the ability to attribute all quotes by that superintendent if a reader could determine that one quote There was also an intentional use of the masculine gender to limit possibility of identifying the individual superintendent. While males were in the majority, the interviewees also included a female While these devices certainly limited the possibility of attribution, providing the context of the quote may allow a person with local knowledge to determine the identity of that individual. My effort was to maintain anonymity as much as possible while sti ll remaining true to the thoughts and feelings that were expressed.
94 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS As discussed previously in Chapter 3, the Results of this study came from an analysis of interviews with nine Florida superintendents who served at least three years bet ween 200 7 and 2012. Their districts qualified as large urban school districts using the Broad Prize for Urban Education criteria. In order to safeguard the identity of respondents, no name, numbering, or district identifications were used. Also, while ther e were both male and female superintendents, the masculine gender was used, again to limit the possibility of attribution. e. These all come appointed or elected, all of the nine superintendents in this stu dy are appointed. Constitutionally, they have broad powers and responsibilities and are viewed as the chief executive officer of the organization. school board of that district u nless otherwise identified. School boards in Florida are elected either in geographic areas, at large from the entire district (county), or a combination of the two. Florida school districts have between five and nine board members who serve four year term s. They are responsible for overall governance by setting the direction for the district in collaboration with the superintendent (strategic plan), ensuring sound financial processes and decisions, including approving the budget and major contracts. They a lso develop and approve policies governing student
95 promotion and discipline, human resource transactions, operations, student assignment, transportation, and a number of other areas. Purpose of Strategic Planning Create Clarity, Focus, Alignment, and Trans parency Centered on Student Achievement It was somewhat surprising that superintendents emphasized the importance of understanding the purpose of strategic planning since no question specifically asked about purpose. They saw t he strategic plan a s a covena nt between the superintendent and school board and the community. It creates a clear focus that communicates priorities, demonstrates effective alignment with resources, and transparency for accountable results. As one superintendent t n ot only do I promise to The strategic plan is also a moral document, demonstrating how the vision, mission, and beliefs of the district, such as producing excellence and equity, are actualized in the One superintendent described prioritizing resources based on the plan in this way: F or us the value of the strategic plan is being able to ask those tough to student achievement function and defund that entity or that role. An effective plan also communicates a sense of urgency around improving outcomes for students, especially for those who have not performed well i n the past. It
96 community. If young people are prepared for 21 st Century challenges, then we all benefit. Every superintendent described how important it is to communicate th at a strategic plan is much more than a document, it is a vital process. Quoting Dwight effective plan moves the district from compliance and lists of programs to a dynami c, superintendent agility and the drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent aspirations, success, preparation, and well being are at the heart of strategic planning. It recognizes that, while students are requi red to attend school, they are volunteers when it comes to being motivated to accomplish particular tasks. As one superin While it may seem obvious that strategic plans are narrowly focused on student achievement, often the document is so comprehensive it lacks focus, and is more about the needs of adults and political considerations than about students. As one strategic plans are cumbersome, they tackle too many goals and objectives, and more often than not a chieve few of them. It is something that is simple and focused something people can remember Another superintendent described this proc ess of narrowing the focus as
97 accomplished. A it is important to keep the main thing the main thing and the main thing is student achieve ment echoed his sentiments stating that if you asked anyone in the system what their focus is they would say it is student achievement. Another superintendent described the strategic plan as being similar to a rowing team working t ogether toward winning the n. . aligning the district around the plan, so everyone knows the plan. Everyone knows these things are non negotiables and everyone is constantly be looking for Clarify Roles, Ownership, and Ensure Accountability School b oard and s uperintendent In implementing an effective strategic planning process, no area is more i mportant than clarifying and following the governing role of the school board and the heir roles, it is not until the board/superintendent team outline how the roles are to them One superintendent described the change in the school boards their role with board turnover. For over ten years, only one of his board members had vision, resources, support, and acc ountability to to day matters.
98 The strategic planning process often provides the vehicle to form a common understanding about roles and responsibilities. In three districts that used outsid e facilitators, the superintendents reflected back over the discussions and realized that building the board/superintendent relationship was as important as the plan itself. One described it this way, T o me there was not a one and a two. It was like a one comprehensively. You know, maybe in my mind, it was really the working relationship of the gain common ground. Once a plan is created, it has to be implemented by defining who does wh at, when, and how. Often superintendents described having to remind school board members of the different roles. A superintendent reflected that, I t was important, too, at that point, to reassert, if needed clarifying, the ities in a very respectful way. And I think we did that and that was actually, from my perspective, the most helpful piece of the discussion. Besides clarifying roles and responsibilities, the strategic planning process created a sense of joint ownership b y the school board and superintendent. Instead of it up until about 2007, strategic plans in the nine districts in this study were solely developed by the superintend ent. Board members could now tell the public that this is our plan; these are our goals and targets. As one superintendent described it, The board now had a role beyond trying to run the district and manage the minutia. The board does policy, the superinte ndent runs the district. The
99 Roles and r esponsibilities of c entral office and s chool s taff One of the major impacts of effectively implementing a strategic plan is the change in culture required by the district staff. It requires moving from compliance to performance, from activity to outcomes, from blame to owning the results, from complacency to urgency, from directing to serving, and from divisional silos to cross divisiona l project teams. Whether the superintendent was hired from outside (4 districts) or hired from within (5 districts), ensuring this change of culture is the most important factor in successful plan implementation, once the board/superintendent relationship is successfully established. Probably the biggest change for district staff was being held accountable for outcomes that affected their evaluation, retention, and promotion or demotion. Since the advent of school grades in 2003 in Florida, schools and supe rintendents had been held accountable for outcomes, but this had not necessarily permeated the district. One quo managers to push some of their subordinates that they hap pen to like or have more r superintendent noted, During the time period studied (2007 12), state funding for education in Florida fell approximately 25% in inflation adjusted dollars. Superi ntendents were forced to make drastic cuts in central office staff and some school based ancillary services. They were forced to eliminate staff and functions not adding value to the outcomes in the
100 strategic plan. Suddenly, mid level managers saw they cou ld no longer protect nice, goals. A superintendent described this process as balancing the art and science of management. We had to eliminate some long standing posit ions and staff to create capacity for reaching our goals. We tried to minimize push back on changes by helping staff to fall into other positions or have time to plan their exit or move. The science of management is making the cuts and establishing the str ucture of the organization. The art of management is t he marketing, the salesmanship. . to do. Another way of describing the balance between organizational and individual needs was to be aware of the timing of decis ions and its impact on personnel. It needs Staff have to understand why these changes are taking place. As one capture the hearts To be successful, everyone had to constantly be looking for ways to improve performance in schools. A superintendent described this new relationship. You have to bring your staff along with th e monitoring pie ce . moving from a compliance district staff to an action oriented out come measured staff. [They have to] really believe that a high performing district separate. So if we ing at the district level, then capping the success rate that these schools can have. In addition to working more collaboratively with schools, strategic planning, when effectively implemented, requires breaking down the divisiona l silos of the organization to accomplish the goals. Seven of the superintendents described how they used cross
101 disciplinary project charters or teams to organize and accomplish the work. These involved staff with specific skill sets and clear responsibili ties. Regular, usually weekly or bi weekly, progress monitoring with the superintendent identified any problems that were quickly resolved. Several superintendents noted that it was not difficult for cabinet level staff to recognize their interdependency o n other divisions to meet their targets. However, mid level managers found it more difficult to break the turf mentality and support joint ownership. A specific example of this was described by a superintendent: One of the specific action goals was to incr ease the ELL (English percent. And then the ELL team had to talk to the Title I team. Why? Because most of the kids in ELL were also on free or reduced lunch. So, the Title I director and th e EL L director had to work together . and all of a sudden these people had to. . share responsibility. Improve P ublic Perception and Support There is no question that one of the biggest challenges for urban school districts is turning around a negative support. This requires greater honesty in admitting where there are shortfalls but also building confidence that a cohesive, dynamic, transparent plan is being implemented that will positively impa ct results in areas that are important to the community. One superintendent said it this way: We started to get more community buy in. Transparency became our mantra. We placed goals, objectives, targets, and the title of the person responsible on the Web so the community could track us. Data systems and dashboards not only helped the board, superintendent and senior staff to track progress, but also to keep the public informed.
102 While most of the funding for Florida schools is equalized by a combination of state and local funds, districts are allowed to sponsor referendums for capital needs and, on a limited time basis, operating costs. Six of the nine school districts held bond issue notes during the 2007 12 time period. The perception of the district, part icularly in the areas of academic growth and organizational efficiency, was the key to success in Several districts described how they used the school board to get the community to understand th e progress being made by the district with meager resources. Public data, charts, and graphs. Then they presented the specifics on the budget and encouraged participants t o contact their legislators to improve funding. The board members received positive feedback for their knowledge and fo cus. Their message was help us lobb y the legislature. . Another superintendent emphasized keeping public presentations simple and easily understood in order to effectively improve public perception. Presenting too many details couched in educational jargon can be counterproductive. It is also important that your strategic plan is effectively implemented and showing results. The public is more concerned about the big outcomes and the superintendent/board relationship than the minutia: The outside worl d does not necessarily need to know what your strategic plan is [the details]. Your strategic plan is an organizational document that orients your work. The outside world ought to see the results of that work. If you have a good plan and good implementatio n, then the outcomes are positive. If you have a disconnected plan, then the outside world will see that manifested in lackluster performance and disconnected action
103 between the board and superintendent, which is usually the most visible thing. Figure 4 1 describes the purpose of strategic planning. Figure 4 1. Purpose of strategic planning Purpose of Strategic Planning Central Office and School Staff Superintendent and School Board Create clarity, focus, alignment, and transparency Clarify roles, ownership, and ensure accountability Improve public perception and support
104 Process of Strategic Planning Agree on Process t o be Used with Responsibilities and Timelines (Superintendent and Board) The first step in creating a strategic plan is determining a process to be used. It is important that the superintendent and board jointly agree on this process. A number of decisions need to be made. Who will be involved and at what point? Obviously the superintendent and the school board will, but should it also include some of the students, and businesses be there at the beginning or brought in at a later time for input? What typ e of larger community engagement should be conducted, when, and how? Should there be a facilitator or not? What is the start to finish timeline with benchmark milestones along the way? Is there is an existing plan, and should that be used as a beginning po int or should you start from scratch? Should you consult other need to effectively lead the process based on their knowledge and experience? What is the level of trust, collaboration, and communication of board members with each other and with the superintendent? What level of detail should the board be involved in from a policy and governance role versus the superintendent who is their chief executive and only employee? Each of these should be discussed openly and decided upon before the process begins. The earlier a strategic planning process can be completed after the appointment of a new superintendent, or when a majority of the board changes, the better. Even if it i s to reconfirm a plan that was in existence and believed to be a good plan, it is an
105 important process to ensure everyone is operating from the s ame game plan, knowing there will be disagreements along the way regarding how to implement the plan. Of the ni ne school districts in this study, three used a professional consultant that was paid by the district or by external funds. They represent three of the five largest districts in this study by student enrollment. It is also interesting to note that these ar e the three superintendents who spoke about the positive relationships and role clarity with the school board that resulted from the strategic planning process. In addition to these three, another district used a professional polling service to provide sta tistically reliable feedback to the superintendent and board from the community regarding what goals were a priority. However, two of the superintendents who did not use consultants felt strongly that they were not needed and the superintendent and board c ould shepherd their own process. What was not as clear was whether this was a general view for all districts, or just represented the board/superintendent team and the community in their district. All of the districts had some type of engagement process wi th the community, but there were wide variations as to when, who, and what these interactions entailed. On one end of the spectrum was the district mentioned earlier that had professionally surveyed the community before the process began. On the other end of the spectrum was a district where the superintendent did the bulk of the work. It was then discussed, modified, and approved by the board, then shared with the staff and community. Most districts were somewhere in between where the superintendent (somet imes accompanied by several senior staff members) and the board developed the vision, mission, core beliefs, and goals. Then, there was an intentional effort to receive input
106 from key stakeholders such as principals, teachers, unions, parent organizations, students, businesses, government, civil rights organizations, and other key stakeholders. Many of these constituent groups continued past the creation of the strategic plan to provide for two way communication with the superintendent. In addition, they he ld public meetings presenting their work to date and asking for feedback. Six superintendents cautioned about going to the community too early with open to be about? creat ed minor modifications, one district added a new goal related to student and staff proficiency using electronic tools for learning. For the most part, prior district strategic plans were viewed as too comprehensive and detailed, in an effort to catalog the efforts of every division, department, and learned what we could from the old pl based strategies when designing strategies and action plans, only one superintendent spoke about an intentional process of reviewing other s trategic plans of high performing districts and count r ies at the beginning of their process. He described it this way: So we stole everything that was good to be implemented in our plan, modifying sligh tly to adapt to our community. . we kept referring to the
107 best practice of others; if it was not copyrighted, we adopted it as our own. And we packaged it, rebranded it, and it became part of [our ] culture. Using the Current Status, Develop the Vision, Mission, Core Beliefs, Goals and Targets (S uperintendent and Board) All superintendents began with an assessment of the current status in order to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). One superintendent reiterated the need for an honest self ur deficiencies that are not acceptable and a willingness to own results are two great factors in successful took place in an honest and open way with the superintend ent and the board. While in the community chose to come. They were able to have genuine in depth discussions regarding their purpose (mission), their view of what was po ssible for their district (vision), what they valued highly (core beliefs), and what were the priorities they wanted to accomplish (goals and objectives). One superintendent described how valuable this process was as board members each other to create a cohesive team plan. Another superintendent described it this way: For the purpose of the plan development, we needed to have a meeting of the minds, and not treat this as my turf vs. your turf. This is the collective arrival at the best approach, the framework, and the journey of the system. In the districts that did not use a facilitator, the superintendent met with each individual board member either before or after some initial staff work, then shared the summary of the discussion s for the full board to review and revise. One of these superintendents used board and principal teams to develop mental models of what their
108 certain core belief], we would see this [the effect] in our schools, district, and In keeping with the narrow focus recommended earlier, districts developed between one goal (with four supporting goals) and five goals. The only two exc eptions were one district that wa s still finalizing their goals (they anticipate four) and another district that went directly to a list of priority objectives around the mission of creating equity and excelle nce for every student. With those exception s districts developed objectives for each goal and measureable targets for each objective. The goals centered around academic improvement, safety and positive culture, efficient use of resources, developing human capital, and community and family engagement. Academic targets included improve d graduation rates, improved Florida success in the college level course work, increased number of st udents with a career certification, as well as others. Safety and positive culture were measured by improved student attendance, reduction in conduct referrals and suspensions, and improved climate surveys completed by students, parents, and faculty. E ffic ient use of resources was based on the percent of budget spent on schools vs. district costs, reduced cost of transportation, energy use and other operational areas, positive audits, high credit ratings, and the maintenance of sufficient reserves. Human ca pital development centered on recruitment of teachers in hard to staff areas, opening the school year fully staffed and fully certified, improving the teacher and administrator evaluation process,
109 placing higher performing teachers in lower performing scho ols, retaining a higher percentage of teachers, and increasing the knowledge and skills of all staff. In some cases, professional development, which has been historically challenging in evaluating outcomes, was plac ed in human resources while most district s included it in academic services. Community and family engagement was the most difficult area in which to develop meaningful outcome targets. Some used participation levels in parent/teacher organizations, school advisory committees, or parent academies. Others used responses to surveys or degree of usage of district information such as Web site hits or publication distribution. These tended to measure process or activities opposed to an outcome, but they were measurable. The decision on how much of a str etch target should be established hinged on three issues. One was whether the targets were aspirational or firm evaluation targets. Aspirational targets are designed to push staff out of their comfort zone and to rethink their work. Even if the target is n ot reached, but results improved significantly, the improvement is celebrated. Then you continue to work to achieve the aspirational still attainable. His concern wa The other approach is to view the targets as firm evaluation expectations where improving but not reaching the growth expectation is perceived negatively when evaluating the superintendent and staff. None of the districts had this rigid approach.
110 A second decision point in establishing targets was determining how much different goals and targets needed to improve. One superintendent described how they used a 2 3% yearly growth rate except in those areas where significant improvement was needed, such as black male graduation rate, which might be set at 5 10% growth per year A third challenge in establishing targets was the constant c hanges in the assessments, school grading, and accountability consequences at the state level durin g this time period (2007 12). In a particular year, every district in the state might improve significantly in one of the four content areas on FCAT (reading math, science, and writing), while at other times most districts saw no growth or losses in one or more FCAT tested areas. It helped to view targets, therefore, as progress over multiple years where these year to year changes are minimized. In some distr icts, there was significant discussion between the superintendent and school board in establishing the targets, while other districts left that process up to the superintendent with the board ultimately approving them. One superintendent described the boar strategic plan metrics but eventually tasked the superintendent to develop them. They Strategic Lev el Review and Modification (Superintendent and Board) Each district established formative reviews of the overall plan that were presented to the board by the superintendent and staff. Generally, these were done quarterly or at the end of the semester. Some districts supplied a written report to the board, while others set aside workshop time to discuss progress and learn about mid course corrections. At the end of the school year, the superintendent presented
111 summative results that were thoroughly discussed in a board workshop. Generally, a document was prepared that was shared with the community and was sometimes accompanied by a State of the School System address either at a board meeting or in a public venue. The purpose of this review was two fold. Firs t, the superintendent and board would discuss the need to add, delete, or modify the objectives and/or targets. Since the goals were intended to last five years, they were not changed unless it was time for a five year review. Reasons for changing objectiv es or targets could range from a new concern in the community, a new requirement from the state, realizing a better metric to track progress, or having accomplished an objective earlier than anticipated. Targets were modified more frequently than objective s. For instance, during this time period, the state of Florida went from a Florida defined graduation rate, to the are calculated differently and became more rigorous, it was important to note these changes in the strategic plan. Most districts chose to include all three graduation rates to show progress and how graduation rates differ. Another example is the transition to Version 2.0 of the FCAT and the use of end of cour se exams for some high school courses. These were totally different tests and metrics was to benchmark their standing relative to other districts in the state. For example, if th ey were 15 th out of 67 districts in the state in reading proficiency, their target may indicate moving up to 12 th place or higher. Other districts continued with specific targets and made cross comparisons where possible. How to communicate these changes t o
112 the board and staff was difficult enough, but trying to make these changes clear to the ir school In addition to modifying the objectives and targets in the annual review, the board also uses the progress (or lack thereof) on the strategic plan as a part of the evaluation of the superintendent. Districts varied on how prescriptiv e this process was with the targets for the evaluation, where others viewed it as more of an overall trend based on all of the targets. It was recognized and communicat ed to the entire organization that the targets would benchmark the success not only of the superintendent and the district but also would be used to determine the effectiveness of divisions, departments, schools, and their leaders. Operational Level Plann ing and Review (Superintendent and Staff) Once the general structure of the plan is completed, the superintendent and his staff determine the initiatives and actions necessary to implement the plan. This includes determining the organizational structure, a ssigning responsibilities, allocating resources, providing support, monitoring, and evaluating the entire organization (Figure 4 2) Beyond fulfilling state law and general board policy, it is the responsibility of the superintendent to ensure these operat ional level responsibilities are accomplished. One superintendent described this responsibility: input from the board and other stakeholders, they are depending on you [the superinten dent] to create and execute the specifics.
113 Figure 4 2. Operational level planning and review Various goals, objectives, and targets became the responsibility of members of ch district with each cabinet member assigning responsibilities, resources, monitoring process, and accountability whether that was in strategic plan such that, if e ach school reached their target, the district overall would reach its target. Departments and schools currently performing significantly low in one Operational Level Planning and Review Program Evaluation/ Strategic Abandonment Professional Development Superintendent and Staff Align with A cademic Plan AIS Standards Curriculum Materials Instruction Assessments Use of Data
114 or more areas were expected to show higher growth than higher performing units. A later section will cover v ariable resources and support based on need. While the traditional organizational structure was used for a number of objectives, all of the districts had moved to varying levels of implementation of project teams or charters. These were established to impl ement new or critical initiatives, actions, or strategies that required cross divisional collaboration to be successful. There was resistance, at first, from middle level managers who were comfortable zation. They now found they were accountable for results that depended on staff in another department. Project management training was conducted with some staff becoming experts at setting up data monitoring, workflow, and reporting processes in order to r educe the amount of time required on managing the projects. Project charter updates were provided more frequently (weekly or bi weekly) than other parts of the strategic plan which were generally on a monthly or quarterly reporting cycle to the superintend ent. As reported previously, district staff being accountable for outcomes rather than completing activities made many of them uncomfortable and anxious. One superintendent described how he pushed staff to move beyond thinking about why they could not reac h a stretch target to how they could. The issue often revolved around key areas of need. One example provided by a superintendent revolved around holding academic se rvices and area superintendents responsible for significant gains in reading
115 performance. They complained that principals still did not have enough in depth knowledge on how to lead an excellent reading initiative, so they wanted to lower the expected grow th target. Instead, the superintendent challenged them to work together to address the deficiency and keep the stretch target. Mid course corrections were necessary to ensure the initiatives and actions designed by the administrative staff were accomplishi ng the objectives in the strategic spoke about the use of real time data to inform this process, there appeared to be a different level of structure and sophistication in des igning and implementing a monitoring system. One superintendent described this challenge: I find that the biggest problem . plans; d weekly monitor the progress. This same superintendent gave an example from his district: W e have specific action plans for our predominantly African American high poverty schools that are measureable, so that I know every day Another superintendent described how monitoring and modification of plans happened in real time with lower performing sc hools. There were monthly meetings with the principal and staff representing all major district departments. The principals were expected to respond to the latest round of formative assessments, providing solutions for areas not showing significant improve ment. One principal from a small school had only two 3 rd grade classrooms. The academic coaches and he had worked with one of the teachers, but it was obvious the needed improvement could not be made soon, if at all. He asked for a strong replacement and t he superintendent agreed:
116 superintendent to have HR move heaven and earth to remove that teacher, take on the union ov er the weekend, and find a great teacher to go there. Weekly one hour meetings with four groups of district staff is how another superintendent monitored progress on the strategic plan. Using Gant charts with key data points, meetings were held with the ca binet, area superintendents who supervised principals, human resources, and budget. This superintendent also emphasized being in schools every day to get an on the ground view regarding how their plan was being executed. Regardless of the structure and the system used to monitor the plan, the purpose was to get valid feedback that indicated where progress was being made, where it was not, and to quickly address the issues. This process also confirmed the sense of urgency in making progress for the benefit o f students and that each part of the district has to be highly effective to accomplish the goals. What was communicated was a counting on you to get this done right and collab orate with your colleagues to resolve Implement a Communication Plan for Internal and External Stakeholders Internal stakeholders, for the purpose of this study, is defined as employees of the school district. The size of the d istrict staffs in this study ranged from approximately 5,000 to 45,000. Creating and implementing a plan to ensure your own employees are informed regarding the strategic plan is no small feat in an organization that large. Superintendents in this study us ed presentations, open meetings, focus groups, Web sites, e mail, social media, and print publications to increase the knowledge of the staff,
11 7 not only regarding the contents of the plan, but how their work contributed to the success. Several superintenden ts emphasized how important it was to constantly talk because . the work we do falls into those goals very Another superintenden t described walking through schools or district offices and coming toward her. She candidates were expected not just to know the goals, they were expected to be able to articulate how they applied to the position they were seeking. Internal stakeholders were important in the communication process not only because they are the most trusted source of information by t he larger community. If teachers, administrators, and support staff seem excited, energized, and can articulate where the school district is heading, it goes a long way toward building community understanding and support. If, on the other hand, there is a prevailing culture of effort will be able to overcome a negative perception with external stakeholders. Keeping the goals and progress being made constantly in front of t he public was the most important strategy to ensure external stakeholders were aware and engaged.
118 The purpose was not to expect the general public to know details of the plan, but instead to know a few critical ideas. Superintendents wanted the community t o have a positive feeling about the leadership (superintendent and board), direction, efficient operation, and progress of the district. Parents and other caregivers wanted to know that their child was safe and accepted, known as an individual, and their w elfare and success was the number one concern of the school. As discussed earlier, superintendents reported starting every public meeting with a brief (5 10 minute) update on the strategic plan. Whether the purpose of the meeting was a general update and a request for input, or for a more focused reason, everything discussed was related to the plan. For instance, when budget presentations were made, the priorities for funding were those activities that would contribute toward success of the goals. Those tha t did not were minimized or not funded. When the meeting was about closing or consolidating schools, the discussion was focused on the increased resources for the success of students if resources were used more efficiently. While focusing the meetings arou nd the strategic plan did not eliminate conflict or criticism, it did communicate that the district had a plan, was using that plan to make decisions, and was transparent in their approach. Another area of focus during the five years of this study was the effort on the part of these nine school districts to increase transparency in the community. As discussed previously, providing information on the strategic plan in easily understood language, including the use of graphs, charts, and visuals, became paramo unt in changing a negative public image. More sophisticated Web sites that were easy to navigate was a
119 main source of information. But districts also increased their ability to use social media to get their message out and answer questions in an honest and prompt manner. During this time period (2007 12), the main line print media was going through a major transformation by reducing staff and moving to an online format. Coinciding with this decline, there was an increase in bloggers writing about school dis trict issues without the minimal scrutiny for fairness and accuracy that newspapers, for the most part, attempted to uphold. This created both an opportunity to go directly to the public with the districts message, but also increased the following of indiv iduals and groups with a specific agenda that was often at odds with the direction of the district. Districts in this study varied widely in how they capitalized on this shift and the importance they gave bloggers and social media. One district that made e xtensive efforts to benefit from this shift used external professional polling services on a regular basis that was paid through a separate non profit foundation. The results were used to provide scientific data regarding decisions made or anticipated as t he district implemented its strategic plan. It also could be used to refute some of the inaccurate information presented on blogs and other sources. Another example that was not as successful was where parents from a particular high school created a blog c riticizing the increasingly district directed academic program led by the superintendent and a senior staff member. The superintendent attributed this effort, along with a dramatic change in board membership, to his contract not being continued. Each of th e steps in the process of strategic planning are important. How they interact is depicted in Figure 4 3.
120 Figure 4 3. Process of strategic planning Agree on process, responsibilities, and timelines Mission Board and Superintendent Core Beliefs Goals Objectives Modify Objectives, Targets, and Operational Plan as needed Superintendent and Staff Board and Superintendent with Stakeholder Input Vision Targets Operational Level Planning and Review Strategic Level Review Board and Su perintendent
121 A lignment of Academic, Fiscal, and H uman Resource Priorities with Strategic Plan Academic Alignment Standards, c urriculum, m aterials, i nstruction, a ssessments, and u se of d ata Some of the most important decisions for a school district are to determine how the curriculum and assessments are a ligned to the standards, and how materials and instruction are aligned to the curriculum and assessments. For over a decade, standards have been set at the state level in Florida, beginning with the Sunshine State Standards, then the Next Generation Sunshi ne State Standards, and finally moving to the Common Core State Standards over the next two years. Along with the standards, high stakes testing was used to determine proficiency of individual students, grade schools from A F based on a formula and, most r school tests. While concerned whether schools were making adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) r equirement, school boards, superintendents, and others in the district became laser focused on school and, more recently, district grades. These were front page news, and districts that were not moving forward or had schools that were not moving forward, f aced state sanctions and the state accountability system, first titled simply A+ and, more recently, Differentiated Accountability. During this same span of years (1 999 201 2 ), school districts began moving away from a school based management theory of action toward a more district directed
122 approach chronicled in Chapter 2 of this study. Districts began setting requirements for curriculum, assessments (some of which we re state required), and instructional materials, at least in the core academic areas of reading, mathematics, science, and writing. It is no coincidence that these are the same subject areas tested by FCAT. However, district directed aligned instructional systems were also a response to lackluster poor performance, particularly with some students (articulated in the NCLB categories) and some schools. As one superintendent described, a prior district using school d fragmentation of curriculum, instructiona l practices, staffing practices . many of them totally illogical. They were b ased around the needs of adults . All of the nine school districts in this study wer e usin g some basic elements of Managed I nstruction and some had moved into some form of earned flexibility as outlined in the Managed/Performance E mpowerment theory of action discussed in Chapter 2 of this study. Because of the need to improve lower performing s chools quickly, they were generally more tightly managed regarding instructional practice and often had more frequent assessment and reflection discussions with district supervisors and state monitors. Higher performing schools were given more freedom and not as closely supervised as long as progress was demonstrated. Even within the aligned system, several districts had a waiver process where schools could request to use different materials or programs than the district had prescribed. One superintendent d escribed his philos I believe in flexibility in schools. I just think that the principal or instructional leaders of
123 that school site should be able to justify the flexibility [based on research and best While curr iculum, core instructional materials, and formative and summative assessments were set at the district level, there was significant input by teachers and principals working collaboratively with district academic services staff to create, select, or modify them. Most districts also used some form of pacing guide where units of instruction were expected to be taught during a defined timeline followed by a district created formative assessment. Over this five year period studied, the districts became more soph isticated at collecting this formative information into data warehouses where it could be viewed in many different ways through query functions. For instance, a teacher could determine quickly not only how her overall classroom performed on a particular it em, but also certain subgroups such as ELL or special education students. This ability to understand and use data was critical to lesson planning and instructional practice and to implement differentiated instruction. While there was some pushback from tea chers regarding instructional alignment, especially pacing guides, the districts attempted to maintain a balance between a top down and bottom up process with feedback from teachers and schools in a collaborative environment. One superintendent described t his balance in his district: between district led and school ly
124 open to good ideas, regardless of their sources, but to pay particular attention to the what The area given most school based flexibility was in the area of instructional practice. However, even in this arena, there was a tension between using research based instructional practices that were advo cated within professional development activities and reinforced with feedback from classroom observations and, on the other hand, encouraging teachers to use their creativity, individuality, and professional judgment in instructional decisions. One superin tendent observed that instructional practice became more non negotiable as accountability expectations increased and how it was met with resistance: I t had resistance at all levels but, you know, we were flying so high in terms of student achievement, nob ody could argue with me. I never fel t about it as being regimented . because I just felt it was what we had to do to be successful. He went on to share that eventually the push to improve student performance to even higher levels led to teacher complai nts which fed parent complaints. The parents created a campaign to move away from district directed change through social media sites and by backing like minded school board candidates. Eventually, the acrimony caught the attention of the media and the sup Professional d evelopment School districts in this study were very intentional in aligning professional development with the academic program and the overall strategic plan. While there were growth opportunities for di strict staff in moving to a results and student focused
125 organization, the bulk of the professional development was focused on principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, and teachers. School leader training began with improving leadership skil ls, understanding the use of data, and understanding what quality teaching looked like. This later topic was a major undertaking as principals and assistant principals were trained to use new research based classroom observation and evaluation systems begi nning no later than the 2011 12 school year. Once these core competencies were developed, professional development for school leaders became more focused on content specific curriculum areas that were state tested: reading, mathematics, science, and writin g. Principals also were led through sessions on understanding the new research based evaluation system that would be used for their evaluation in the 2012 13 school year. School specific data was used to assist principals and assistant principals with issu es that were unique to the leadership of their school. Data at the district and school level was also used extensively to determine professional development needs of teachers. Teachers were expected to increase their skills and knowledge in understanding and using data, using best general and content specific practices in instructional planning and delivery, differentiating instruction, understanding the new Common Core State effort, ensuring a safe, supportive cl assroom environment, and us ing technology for instruction and monitoring. The list seems daunting. As one superintendent described it, For teachers we trained, trained, trained We recognized many teachers did not have a great depth of knowledge on how to teach students certain content, so we used summers, weekends, during the day, onli ne, and learning team meetings.
126 While continuing to use some face to face training, districts moved to a more school based collaboration using professional learning communiti es and instructional coaches. As with any new practice, teachers had to learn how to work together to identify areas of weakness in student achievement and share strategies they had found to be successful. Additionally, teachers moving into a coaching role had to understand how to be a good coach and address the needs of adult learners. While all teachers received extensive training during this five year time period, there was an additional focus on lower performing schools and their unique needs. In severa l districts, teachers and principals had 2 3 weeks of additional time to increase their knowledge and skills over the summer to provide better support for their students. In the same way teachers were being asked to better differentiate instruction for stu dents, especially for those who were struggling, principals and district staff were becoming more adept at matching the needs of individual teachers with specific professional development. With the advent of the new teacher evaluation systems and improved administrator observation and feedback skills, superintendents had more confidence regarding areas identified as weaknesses in teacher evaluation s These specific areas could then be tied to a menu of options to increase competency and the completion could all be tracked in an online management system. The higher level of confidence in teacher evaluations was limited to the qualitative or observation half that had been updated based on current research and much less so on the 50% coming from student test sc ore gains as required by state statute and Race to the Top. One district that was a year ahead of the other districts in this study tied at least two and often three different interventions to each discreet element on the evaluation.
127 These included face to face training, online classes with other teachers, a self study program with specific requirements, or an action research project with colleag ues. Teachers were expected to own their professional growth. As one superintendent put it, level of specificity also created results in a data base needed to be able to evaluate the outcomes of various professional development activities, an area that has traditionally been difficul t to measure. Program e valuation and s trategic a bandonment School districts have historically been more adept at adding new activities or programs to address perceived problems than they have been at eliminating less effective interventions. Programs have advocates that range from board members, district staff, teachers, principals, and parents to non profit or other connected individuals. Also, some programs work well in some schools because of excellent implementation and poorly in others where implementa tion is weak. Until recently, valid and reliable data on the outcomes of various programs has been difficult to determine, especially when multiple programs are used with a particular school, classroom, or student. Determining which program contributed wha t amount t o the growth that was observed wa s a frequent question. Two changes have taken place to reverse this piling on of initiatives. The first is the increased technical tools and professional knowledge that the nine districts invested in over the five years in this study. Sophisticated data warehouses have been developed that merge financial, human resources, and student outcome data that were previously stored in separate systems with limited ability to combine and analyze the data. What was once a la borious task, allowing only two to three complete program
128 evaluations a year, has now become more streamlined. The districts in this study also inv ested in hiring researchers who could apply statistical models current to the field and write research report s that had credibility and were not influenced by program advocates. The second change is the insistence on the part of superintendents that the focus be on results with activities and actions changing as needed to accomplish the goals. Strategic planning required a narrowing of scope and focus in order to programs be eliminated. The extreme budget shortfalls created by the Great Recession also meant that some in itiatives and actions would have to be eliminated. The only question was whether that process would be based on dependable data focusing on strategic goals or by which activity had the strongest political support. One superintendent described this process of strategic abandonment as an and the district shut down a number of programs and redu ced staff that were popular but not producing student achievement gains, for example, using teacher assistants. On the other hand, after a significant capital investment was made, no additional funds were allocated to schools to implement career academies. The superintendent could cite data on per student costs compared to improved graduation rates, career certifications, and other positive outcomes for students as the reason for increasing the number of career academy programs and number of students partic ipating.
129 Another superintendent described the process of modifying or eliminating strategies that are not adding value to outcomes. At times, either the board or someone in the community would ask why they originally advocated a certain strategy but were n ow changing it. His response was: I t was our best thinking at the time, but now we know more . the greatest ideas we ever had as a staff, typically are in the 2 nd or 3 rd generation of thoughts. And so . e. A s discussed earlier, the majority of districts developed highly capable research capacity in their districts to provide independent reports on all major and new programs. Describing a research report on the effectiveness of a program he had championed, one superintendent modeled the requirement of following of the data, even if what he advocated did not work: T he researchers are very independent minded, very objective. They are totally empowered with doing the research, coming up with conclusions, and publi shing them. And my agreement is, once produced, I cannot bury it. Once produced, I send it to the board . getting used to because we are committed to our own failures. But I think it makes us stronger, actually. The win s by far outweigh the losses. Fiscal Alignment As discussed previously, superintendents saw the strategic plan as the guiding force when allocating resources. The decline in revenue provided to Florida school districts from 2007 12 was dramatic, especially given the lower prior per student funding compared to other states. Since Florida has no personal income tax and, therefore, relies on state sales taxes and local property taxes for school funding, school districts in Florida were impacted more than other states. During the Great Recession, tourism, which provides substantial sales tax dollars, dropped dramatically. During the decade preceding this time period, property values had increased substantially in many
130 communities. The state funding formula that equalizes state and local funding became more dependent on local property taxes. When the housing market crashed, overall school revenue fell. As discussed previously, over four years state funding in real dollars fell 25%. Exacerbating the low and declini Class Size Amendment (CSA). The constitutional amendment, which barely passed with 53% support, was implemented in three phases, first being met at the overall district level, then the school level, and by the time this study period began in 2007, was required at the classroom level. It required no more than 18 students in academic classes in grades K 3, 22 students in grades 4 8, and 25 students in grades 9 12. If a single class in the entire district exceeded this number, the district had its state funds reduced as a penalty. The CSA limited the flexibility of school districts to place funding where it was most needed, supporting lower performing students and schools. It also required draconian cuts in every a rea of the district other than academic teachers. Superintendents in this study all began with reducing operating costs in utilities, particularly electrical consumption, consolidating bus routes, reducing clerical and other district support staff, slashin g travel, and postponing traditional refresh cycles on everything from buses to computers and printers. A second round of reductions forced losses in school support personnel such as counselors, media specialists, and assistant principals. The number of no n core academic teachers in art, music, physical education, technology, and career education was also reduced. Some districts reduced the number of periods of instruction from
131 eight to seven or seven to six, thus narrowing the curriculum by reducing electi ves. This was particularly true for students not reaching proficiency in reading or math who were magnet and other choice schools also faced significant cuts placing some dis tricts in jeopardy of violating the spirit, if not the letter, of their desegregation post unitary status agreements. While the first round of reductions were painful, the second round, that more dramatically impacted students, were gut wrenching for super intendents and school boards. Constituents from each of the areas reduced advocated for the cuts to be made At budget presentations by the superintendent and staff to the board, employees, and the general community, the discussion began with the strategic plan. The priorities in the pl an drove what was funded. In several districts, they strove to protect arts, academics, and athletics as outlined in their plans. In most districts, there was a priority placed on higher support and funding for lower performing schools, not only because it was required by the state, but because it was the right thing to do as outlined in the funding amounts to schools to address the needs of ELL and special education st udents. One superintendent shared a conversation he had with a parent regarding
132 One has a cold and one is bleeding out and will soon die. I have to meet the needs of b Another district grouped schools into three tiers, with schools with a higher number of challenges receiving greater funding. Th e superintendent emphasized that funding is equitable, not equal, and is based on n eed. Not only was the budget prioritization intentional with operating funds, but also with state and federal funds, to the degree allowed by law. The timing of the update of the strategic plan has to be done in conjunction with the preparation of the bud get. As initiatives and actions are added, increased, decreased, or eliminated, they have budget implications. Since the tentative budget in Florida school districts has to be approved by the school board at the end of June to start a new fiscal year July 1 st there is a back and forth process between strategic planning and budget preparation completed in a short time period. While most districts begin these discussions at the administrative level in January or February and with the board in March or April, it is not until late April that funding is finally known and not until June that most of the summative assessments are available. Therefore, having good leading indicators a nd experienced senior staff to predict funding and results are critical. One super intendent described how the sessions with the board led with the update on the progress of the strategic plan and available funding. Then he presented how available funds aligned with each goal, objective, and strategy. Human Resource Alignment Since the m ajority of funds, over 80% in the budgets of these nine districts, are allocated to salaries and benefits of staff, the human resource plan must be closely tied to the academic, financial, and overall strategic plan. In determining what a district
133 wants to accomplish with limited resources, decisions about which positions are funded and how they fit together in an organizational structure; who to recruit and how they are placed; how they are evaluated, promoted, demoted, compensated, and recognized; and how long term capacity and succession planning are implemented are all critical to the success of the organization. As one superintendent emphasized, Everything we do is about human capital . successful is the extent to which human ca pital is successful . so I put them [Human Resources] at the center of our recruit . the very best in the world, then I hold them responsible. Once decisions are made regarding staffing which positions for which purpose, the way they are organized must also be guided by the strategic plan and the budget process. With huge district staff reductions, departments and divisions were consolidated and personnel took on more responsibilities. Several districts had intentional processes not only to reduce ineffective programs as discussed earlier, but also to reduce unnecessary and outdated activities in the organization Again, the Decisions surrounding reorganization were very district specific based on perceived issues and available talent. For instance, one district had aligned their academic services division by K 5, 6 8, and 9 12 grade level units. The superintendent decided to change to a K 12 readi ng, K 12 mathematics, etc., to increase articulation across grade levels. Another district went from a grade level school supervision model to a geographic area model with K 12 grade responsibilities. Another district moved to a combined academic support a nd school supervision combined in one division broken into K 5 and 6 12 grade level groups. Two school districts dissolved their district wide
134 professional development department and placed the responsibility in academic services. Another dissolved their c ommunications department with the superintendent taking on that responsibility. What is important in this discussion is not what is the right way to organize staff in a large school district, but that it be done with intentionality, balancing goals, fundin g, and talent. Superintendents were able to articulate how they balanced these three factors in making these organizational changes. Recruiting the right people, placing them in the right places at the right time, and retaining them is the second area of h uman resource planning that must be aligned to the strategic plan. Again, based on the varying needs of the district as outlined in their strategic plans, districts focused on hiring specific individuals. One district had a priority to ensure every staff m ember had a high level of knowledge and skills in the use of technology. While training for existing staff was provided, a major criterion for hiring new staff was to already have these skills. Another district was having a difficult time recruiting minori ty teachers because adjacent districts were perceived as having better amenities for young adults. They created a long term plan to guarantee minority students graduating from their high schools a teaching job if they obtained the necessary degree and cred entials. A third district had an issue with when new hires were offered a job in order to reach their strategic plan goal of a certified, qual ified teacher being placed in e very classroom on the first day of school. A process analysis and adjustment moved up the date of job offers to new hires by two months. As has been discussed earlier, identifying and placing the most qualified teachers in the highest need classrooms was a priority for the majority of the districts in
135 this study. Using a combination of f inancial an d other incentives, creating a team of teachers that go together to a school, and ensuring that principals with a blend of high expectations and high support led that school, improved the level of quality of the teaching staffs and the performan ce of the students. In addition to hiring the right people and placing them in the right positions at the right time, retaining them is also an important part of a district strategic plan. National statistics place the average loss of teachers in urban dis tricts at 30% during the first three years. Several districts had specific goals, targets, and strategies to increase retention, particularly of higher performing new teachers. One district was able to fund, through grants, mentor teachers (with a 12:1 rat io ) who worked with new teachers during their first two years. This intense level of support had increased their retention from 75% to 92% in the first three years. New principals also had a coach assigned to them, outside of the supervision structure, to increase their leadership skills. The evaluation, promotion (or demotion), compensation, and recognition processes must be effectively implemented in order to determine strengths and weaknesses, reward success, and foster professional growth. As discussed previously, Florida school districts were required to develop and implement new teacher evaluation systems by 2012 13 and new principal/assistant principal evaluations by 2013 14. This required extensive training with principals and assistant principals, n ot only to understand how to use the instruments as deigned, but also how to make the process be about continuous improvement, honest feedback, and targeted support as much as it is used to determine reappointment or salary enhancements. There has always b een a degree of distrust of some principals by some teachers, wondering whether a good
136 evaluation was dependent on who took on extra responsibilities, had a closer relationship with the principal, or simply did not express concerns in a critical way. The s uperintendents in this study believed that the new system s increased the objectivity and consistency that will, over time, reduce the type of concerns expressed above. They did not have as much confidence regarding the 50% of the evaluation coming from stu dent test score gains which was required in state statute The lack of reliable assessments for many content areas and grade levels, the inconsistency from district to district, and the high weight these tests had on the overall evaluation were concerns s hared by all of the superintendents in this study. Two school districts were especially proud of the breadth and depth of their implementation of the new teacher evaluation, one using significant funding from national foundations to hire nationally recogni zed consultants and the other ensuring principals received 700 hours of training on its use. Both districts had external experts conduct studies to compare how multiple supervisors perceived the same lesson using the new instrument. They also spent signifi cant time improving the skills of principals in conducting pre and post conferencing sessions with teachers. The report from both superintenden ts was that, while the process wa s very time consuming, teachers reported receiving much more specific feedback and had a plan to improve identified weaknesses. For principals and district staff, the focus on results, as well as observed research based leadership qualities, increased their confidence in the fairness of their evaluations. While creating anxiety as e xpressed earlier, once they understood the new outcome orientation, they had confidence to focus their efforts on these accountable
137 do is how one of the superintendents phra sed it. Two superintendents emphasized that decisions about promotion, demotion, or placement of principals was based on data. got moved r superintendent echoed this sentiment, who to keep, who to move, the type of professional development needed. I replaced 64% of our principals over my first . . superintendent saw it somewhat differen than hammering the school [and principal], the district collaborated with the school to As discussed earlier, the nine school districts in this study spent significant time, effort, and re sources between 2007 and 2012 building the capacity of teachers, principals, and district staff to meet rapidly increasing demands for student performance gains with reduced funding. Doing more with less required a strategic use of technology and associate d training to provide front line staff with actionable data, increasing both the quality and speed of useful information. It also required honest conversations, and a far greater ability to collaborate within schools, within the district staff, and between schools and the district. Again, the districts in this study focused on these issues using the strategic planning process to increase co ownership for results and a flexibility regarding which initiatives and actions to support. One of the districts in th e study emphasized building the capacity of teachers to function as leaders of students, seeing students as volunteers, and engaging them in owning their learning. This same district sought to increase the content knowledge of teachers through professional
138 development, but also encouraged teachers to obtain area (as opposed to educational leadership). During the five years of this study, the district increased from 400 to 1,100 the number of teachers having advanced degrees in their content area. All of the superintendents in this study discussed the need to develop a deep bench of current and future leade rs in key district positions, as well as principal and assistant principal positions. One superintendent discussed the ch allenge of determining how much the district would develop the s kill set of current employees as opposed to look ing outside the district to fill key roles. Another shared honestly that they had not paid enough attention to the large number of principals wh o would be retiring soon and belatedly put appropriate systems in place to identify and prepare a larger number of school based leaders to fill their places. Pitfalls, Possibilities, and Advice Relationship with the School Board No relationship is more imp ortant to the effective creation and implementation of the strategic plan than the one between the superintendent and the school board. As discussed earlier, it is critical that there be a shared vision, mission, and core beliefs actualized through goals a nd targets. This agreement is not a one time event of creating a plan. Planning involves execution, monitoring, accountability, communication, and transparency. All of the superintendents had that type of agreement with their boards at some point, usually early in their tenures. Some still enjoyed that support, some had lost it and either resigned or were terminated, others were in limbo depending on the next election. S ome had retired and were concerned about continuity of the strategic plan with a new sup erintendent, particularly if they came from outside of the district.
139 Another area of critical importance is the agreement of the superintendent and governance and th that gets translated into daily action. Several superintendents provided examples of school board members attempting to micro manage the district. The common theme where problems arise with board members is when wanting to please everyone becomes more important than increasing student achievement. Sometimes they may be running for another office, so they become hypercritical to receive media coverage. At other times, it means advocating for jobs for friends and family or contracts for firms they either think are good or may be contributing to their campaigns. In one case, after the superintendent left, board members were determining which students should be moved from one teacher to another a nd which should be placed on school athletic teams or chosen as the captain. These are all administrative decisions and, in some While inappropriate board actions created distractions, superin tendents still maintained focus on the strategic plan: Success has man y pare nts, failures are orphans. . d a pl an if everything is great. . with different entities you need to deal with that can be reduced down to mpedim ents, but sometimes noise. . the two entities that can derail the plan are the school board and the union. The board can actually be a powerful force in deviati ng from its own plan. Sometimes conflicts develop between superintendents and board members over leadership style. One superintendent wa s terminated because some new board
140 members thought he was too autocratic and not sensitive to the impact of his decisions on students and teachers, even though results on the strategic plan had been laudable. or student achievement up or down. ssful] or do you want happy On the other end of the spectrum, another superintendent was concerned that he was perceived as not being decisive enough compared to the previous superintend ent. He was concerned that his collaborative style was not ap preciated and that an upcoming election could change his board support from mostly positive to mostly negative based on this style issue. These public squabbles between the superintendent and board members tend to undermine the confidence of the community in their ability to successfully improve outcomes for students. To help reduce such exchanges, one board/superintendent were blindsided by an unexpected criticism in the media, at a workshop, or in a meeting. If there was a conflict (which will inevitably arise), there was a discussion in advance As discussed previously, when the board/superintendent team is cooperating and playing their appropriate roles, the superintendent can focus on executing the strategic plan and board members can build support with the community. One superintendent who enjoyed such a positive relationship described how board members built
141 relationships with city and county governments, business groups, non profits, and as outlined in the strategic plan and enlist the assistance of these groups to improve even further. Such positive connections and perceptions were critical to the success of referendums that many districts in this study attempted during this time period. Relationship with Unions No area of this study had a wider range of opinions than the relationship of the superintendent and the board with the unions. Of the six who expressed an opinion, two superintendents felt that their relationship was so negative, that the union was a major impediment in implementing their strategic plan. Two others had a professional w orking relationship with the unions but were also cognizant that sometimes they had different goals. One superintendent described how an extended history of collaboration with the union had changed to a more traditional bargaining stance during the five ye ars of this study. Finally, one district had maintained a collaborative relationship over an extended period of time before and after the time period of this study bargaining laws. While technically a right to work state like the rest of the south, the union has sole representation of teachers and other unionized employees regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions. Employees do not have to belong to the union, but are represented by them regardless of their membership. Historically, districts had step increases built into salary scales that tended to favor teachers with extended longevity. During these five years (2007 12), all of the districts in this study either remo ved the automatic feature of step increases or made them dependent on the
142 Relationships that had been strained before became openly antagonistic as superintendents and boards either offered no financial increase or offered one time non recurring bonuses to address the financial shortfalls discussed earlier. During this same time, staff layoffs and limiting the increases in the cost of insurance premiums were also a part of the overall equation to limit total human capital co sts. Many of these decisions required negotiation with the unions. In addition to the wages, benefits, and working condition negotiations, school districts and unions also had to agree on a new evaluation system that requires Florida Department of Educatio n approval but also had to decide whether to apply for Race to the Top funding. At times, even when the union was prepared to move forward on these two issues, they were used as bargaining chips to secure more favorable wage and benefit proposals. Two supe One cited the example of a year where districts lost 2% of their revenue per student and limited to such as professional conferences for senior staff. Pressure on board members also increased the recommend ation of the superintendent. Time for professional development and learning communities also raised conflict as to what should be paid extra and how much. There were also disagreements over how much of allocated planning time should be at the discretion of the individual teacher versus being required to meet with their grade level or subject area team to review data and collaboratively plan lessons.
143 While recognizing the necessity to work collaboratively with unions, several superintendents described their different roles: T he unio ns exist to protect the workers . so every move you make in terms of improvements has to be filtered through how it impacts the how is this going to impact students. And in there, somewher The challenge, then, is to move forward with implementing the strategic plan, especially as the district pushes for better efficiency. As on e superintendent described it: It is not necessarily in their best intere st for you to follow your organizational stability, and effectiveness, you have to root out waste. But because thei r job is not to create an efficient system. Their job is to protect membership and to protect the union itself. . The interesting thing is union try to influence? Board members. . b oard members depend on the unions for re strategic plan for the system. And you try to navigate it, creating a balance which sometimes can be tough to manage. Even districts that had managed to work co llaboratively in the past found relationship with unions strained. Because of the limited salary increases, union leaders were criticized as being weak by veteran teachers that made up their boards. One district switched from collaboration to confrontation because of this pressure. The superintendent described how the union previously had a seat at the table in major decisions beyond what was legally required and that relationship was now fractured. Through all of this turmoil, one district managed to maint ain a collaborative relationship, leading the way for other districts in the new teacher evaluation system and on moving forward with Race to the Top implementation. The union is a part of every major decision and the superintendent meets regularly with bu ilding representatives to
144 determine which major problems need to be addressed. The superintendent expressed the relationship as a give and take process: everything. . we know how to disagree We disagree in a productive way . [something] Relationship with the Community The community can be a strong force to further the strategic plan or be an impe diment. Comprised of business leaders, parents, non profit organizations, and ci ty and county governments, the community was largely seen as a positive contributor to change by the superintendents in this study. While led by the school system, the job of i Superintendents cited a wide range of contributions ranging from serving on advisory committees, being mentors and tutors for students, planning for out of school activities, coordinating social services with schools, and helping homeless students. While it took substantial time for the board and the superintendent to engage the community, they felt it was worthwhile because it resulted in improved perception and support. All of the districts that successfully passed a referendum had built a message of success on strategic plan goals and presented a common message from the board, superintendent, teachers, and parents. One superintendent described how the positive experience of students and parents had built sufficient support to head off an effort to move him out at the beginning of his tenure. He went on to describe how the consolidation of two schools with a new facility was positively received due to support from key members of the community
145 Two other superintendents described how the support of key business leaders was used to assist the superintendent when the school board was wavering on making some tough decisions that were essential to further progress. Using a review pr ocess by a high to sa safeguards and sustains the course as far as i that me you like,. . While technically vendors, several districts described how thei r willingness to work with textbook publishers, professional development providers, and technology companies to pilot various products and services had benefited the district with significant in kind support. The support ranged from paying for instructiona l division staff who would be on going trainers, to helping develop a technology plan, to pursuing grant funds together based on their joint experience. Relationship with the State As described earlier, Florida is one of the most top down driven states in setting funding, standards, assessments, instructional materials, and accountability with consequences. Some positive aspects of the systematic approach is a more consistent nding is true. The result is a consistent per pupil funding modified by student need, cost of
146 re all the same, Another benefit is a consistent system (across districts) of standards and d of adjusting the state system when NCLB was passed in 2002, Florida kept its req uirements for proficiency at a high level. This first round of accountability, termed A+, established and sanctions and heavy oversight for those who were not Later this system wa s modified to a Differentiated Accountability model that was eventually approved for a waiver for NCLB by the U. S. Department of Education. During the five years of this study, there was a close relationship between the legislature, the State Board of Edu cation (SBOE) appointed by the governor, and the FLDOE led by a commissioner appointed by the SBOE. While this alignment maintain ed a consistent message, there was often a deaf ear to superintendents who had to understand and respond to these policies, pro cedures, assessments, and accountability systems that frequently changed, thereby bringing a great deal of chaos to any long term planning process. One superintendent expressed the frustration with the legislature: Some of this legislation is productive . some of it is not productive. And pr oblems. The relationship of superintendents with the school board, unions, the community, and the state created both pitfalls and possibilities in effectively implementing the strategic plan. Someone on the outside, particularly coming from a
147 business back varying degrees of success, navigated these difficult waters and stayed focused on implementing their plans. They credited this singular focus on their plans with providing a rudder to keep the district on a positive course despite trying circumstances. Advice to Other Superintendents Throughout this dissertation, from the background literature in Chapter 2 to the results chronicled in Chapter 4, the voice of superintendents has been featured to provide insight, context, and wisdom to the strategic planning process. The last question in the interview was open tendent The most frequent response to this question was start with the beliefs n. Another described it as with the board. Concerned that superintendents might succumb to undue pressure, a third was more blunt, If I became superintendent again, I w I expect, and that I intend to be the boss beca committee. The second most frequent recommendation is to understand your community an planning process, advised one superintendent. Doing so will improve the plan and will
148 also build credibility. He went on to emphasize how important it was to understand the realities of challenges faced by teachers and principals. Another recommended getting significant input from teachers, principals, the community (including business lea ders), advisory committees, and the union. Be attuned to the issues in the community, ls . know how to spea k their l anguage and go to them . Finally, a superintendent emphasized knowing where your students are and where the adults in the school district are and who you can impact: O ne set of data is brought to you by the students. The y show up every year and they bring their talents, their fears, their aspirations, their dreams, their deficiencies, their lack of readiness for learning . poverty, disability, ELL, they bring it all . and you have no con trol over that by the way. What you have control over leadership effectiveness, teacher effectiveness, support systems, and partnerships maximize your influence over these. The third area of advice is how to engage district staff in recognizing the imp ortance of the strategic planning process and their role in its implementation. One described this as being sure staff see the plan as non negotiable, instead of this too shall pass, or a plan on the shelf. Ongoing monitoring, reporting, and modification of the plan not only ensures its success, but is also a constant reminder to staff that decisions are made with the plan as the North Star to guide the district. However, it is ure the culture will take true commitment to the common vision and goals. Next, it is important to communicate the strategic plan to internal and external stakeholders. As di
149 about progress. Tell the Keep a balance between short term gains in critical areas, such as improving graduation rates, with long term goals like improving the readiness of students in early learning programs. This balance wi ll be reflected in the curriculum, staffing, and strive for benefited from either long tenures of superintendents or had internal candidates replace superintendents when they retired. He saw this as critical for continuity and success and Finally, while striving for a long tenure, a superintendent has to be willing to be fired if a board moves away from a focus on improving achievement for all students. One superintendent described this dilemma: Everybody wants performance, everybody wants to deliver on graduation rates, lower dropout rate, and they want increased participation in advanced academ ics. They want good test scores. . The fact is they e never going to be able to implement your strategic plan. educate all of the students. A
150 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS IMPLICATIONS, AND RECOMMENDAT IONS FOR FUTHER STUDY The problem addressed in this study is that too many students, especially students with disabilities, student s needin g English Language Learner services, students from low income families, and racial/ethnic minority students, are not graduating ready for college, careers, and citizenship. They are concentrated in large urban school districts that, for the most part, have not significantly improved student performance. The purpose of this study is to determine how superintendents implemented strategic planning to improve student achievement. In order to accomplish this purpose, four major research questions were addressed: 1. How were the strategic plans created, what were the major components, and how were they monitored? 2. and implemented in the plan? 3. How did internal and external forces advance, m odify, or inhibit the plans? 4. What advice would superintendents give to other superintendents embarking on a strategic planning process? The methodology of this study was to use a case study approach, specifically semi structured interviewing of nine superi ntendents in large urban school districts in Florida. The superintendents had served at least three years during the time period of 2007 2012. Data analysis was conducted using the emerging model of grounded theory along with cross case analysis. Results w ere reported in four thematic areas: 1) the purpose of strategic planning; 2) the process of strategic planning; 3) the alignment of academic, fiscal, and human resources plans; and 4) pitfalls, possibilities, and advice.
151 Limitations of the study centered around time, place, and interviewees. The time period of 2007 2012 was unique in that the top down approach to accountability by the state and federal departments of education increased significantly while funding dropped by 25% because of the Great Recess ion. The place was significant because Florida experienced the accountability increase and loss of funds more than any other state. Finally, limiting the interviewees to superintendents created an important but limited perspective regarding implementing st rategic planning. Studies that were from different time periods, states other than Florida, and a broader group of stakeholders may have yielded different results. Discussion of Findings Many of the findings in the Results in Chapter 4 align with the Liter ature Review in Chapter 2 of this study. Even where they align, the issues, discussion, and examples provided a broader, richer understanding of the implementation of effective strategies discussed in Chapter 2. One might think prior research concerning strategic planning in large urban school districts. In other cases, the findings in Chapter 4 expand or modify the literature described in Chapter 2. While not diametrically opposed to earlier research, they are diff erent enough to be reported as new or unique contributions to the larger topic of district led reform and specifically the role of strategic pla nning as led by superintendents.
152 Supports the Existing Literature Districts c ritical for s uccess Superintend ents in this study understood how the organization and activities of the district support or inhibit the success of students and schools, especially those that are not performing well. Districts were able to marshal the resources and require accountability for results beyond what a single school could do on its own. Fullan (2002) can play a significant role in closing achievement gaps between schools. Schlechty (2001 ) and Supovitz (2006) discuss how only school boards and superintendents are able to create policy, leverage resources, and engage the community district wide to improve schools. Resnick and Glennan (2002) saw the school district as the only entity that co uld take powerful teaching and learning to scale. In discussing the purpose of strategic planning at the district level, superintendents in this study recognized the moral commitment to the success of every student in every school and implemented strategic plans accordingly High leverage s trategies u sed At the end of Chapter 2, a summary of the findings of 23 case studies was presented in Table 2.2 and articulated in 10 key strategies used in higher performing or improving districts. The findings in Chapte r 4 supported the use of all of those strategies in the strategic planning process. These strategies include: 1. Build civic capacity and trust. 2. Share a common vision and beliefs that all students can learn at high levels, have a sense of urgency, and adopt 3. Have a strong superintendent and senior staff to lead the reform effort.
153 4. Have an aligned instructional system including common performance standards, curriculum, materials, recommended instructional methodology, and assessments. This system is built over time beginning with elementary reading and mathematics, then branching out to all subjects and all grades. 5. Provide an extensive professional development program tied to the curriculum, using instructional coaches, and creating pr ofessional learning communities at each school. 6. instructional strengths and needs based on the standards and common assessments with the goal to differentiate instruction, particu larly for low performing students. 7. Create an accountability system that holds schools and district staff responsible for specific improvement targets based on realistic stretch goals, with positive and negative consequences. 8. Allocate resources based on n eed and aligned with key district wide initiatives and pursue additional external resources. 9. Provide additional assistance to low performing schools and, as a last resort, reconstitute them in order to create a highly dedicated professional teaching staff 10. Provide as much school based decision making in budgeting and hiring staff as possible. Superintendent position is t enuous In Chapter 1, where the problem st atement is presented, the short, and often tumultuous nature of superintendents is new superintendent brings their own philosophy, programs, and senior staff. At first, it seems promising and hopeful as there is a new energy and the appearance of progress (Hess, 1999). Soon conflicts arise and the super intendent, who was once touted as the miracle worker or lone ranger, becomes the scapegoat of everything wrong with the district (McLeod & Yee, 2003). Hill, et al. (2000) likens superintendent tenures to the movie High Noon where Gary Cooper saves the tow n from the bad guys only to be asked to leave to avoid further trouble.
154 The superintendents in this study recognized the tenuous nature of their superintendency. On the one hand, they had to be bold, courageous, and strong to implement decisions that were often unpopular, at least with one constituency group. On the other hand, they had to work collaboratively with board members, unions, and community stakeholders to demonstrate that the school system could not do the work alone. Even superintendents who we re appointed on a unanimous vote were unsure if after having served several years, they would continue to receive support after the next school board election. Roles of b oard and s uperintendent In the historical case studies (Section 1) of Chapter 2, the roles and responsibilities of the superintendent and board are delineated. The school board should set policy supporting improved academic achievement and leave the day to day operation of the school district to the superintendent (Snipes, et al., 2002). T he superintendent should provide leadership in creating a sense of urgency and implementing district wide initiatives contained in the strategic plan (Skrla, et al., 2000). Throughout the strategic planning process, it is important to develop a high level of trust between the superintendent, the school board, and the community (Ragland, et al., 1999). Superintendents in this study described how important it was, early in the strategic planning process, to recognize the different roles and responsibilities o f the superintendent and board. While at times they had to respectfully remind board members of their role, at least there was intellectual assent to their importance. The strategic planning process supported this role delineation by clearly marking where the line was between governance (the board) and management (superintendent).
155 Strategic planning s upports t heory In Chapter 2, the theoretical foundation of strategic planning in systems theory, change theory, and complexity theory are discussed. All three theoretical foundations were affirmed in the findings in Chapter 4. Systems theory posits that systems, in this case the school district, exist within larger systems and have subsystems. What happens in one part of the system affects other parts (Senge, 19 90; Stroller, et al. 2006). Strategic planning recognizes this interconnectedness, using vertical and horizontal alignment to minimize the possibility of change becoming isolated, confusing, and ultimately ineffective (Duffy, 2004). Superintendents descri be d how strategic planning takes place within a context of community expectations and is dramatically impacted by decisions at the state and federal level. They also recognized the need to horizontally align across divisions and vertically with schools in order to accomplish the vision and goals in the strategic plan. and modified by Lippitt, et al. (1958). Lippit described three stages of assessment, planning, and implementa tion. Various authors (Kantor, Stein, & Jick, 1992; Kotter, 1996; Pearson, 2005) developed more stages that fit this basic pattern. Strategic planning, as described by superintendents in this study, recognized the sequential nature of the process, moving f rom needs analysis to vision, mission, goals, objectives, targets, and operational plan implementation. Complexity theory describes organizations as open ended, organic systems that are dynamic, complex, self organizing, and imbedded in multiple contexts ( Wheatley, 1994). Sanders (1998) emphasizes the need for deep insights into the present context and foresight into paradigm changes when planning strategically. Superintendents in
156 this study described the challenge in convincing internal and external stakeh olders regarding the need to prepare young people for a world that is complex, globally connected, and changing rapidly in technology and communications. This requires a different type of preparation than has been typically provided. Superintendents were k eenly aware of anticipating social and economic changes and positioning their districts nearer the leading edge of change. Superintendents also recognized how their plans, especially at the initiatives and actions level, had to be dynamic and flexible to a djust to current challenges and results. Extends or Modifie s the Literature Strategic planning most important While the literature review in Chapter 2 identified 10 key strategies to implement and recognized the importance of aligning and integrating these elements into a coherent plan (Hill, 1998), basing these in a strategic plan was not emphasized. Schlechty (2001) and Fullan (200 2 ) created a list that represents many of the steps in strategic planning but did not discuss how these steps work together an d in which order. The summary of the Broad Prize for Urban Education (Broad, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) did highlight strategic planning as one of four key components of success along with curriculum and instruction, high quality teachers an d leaders, and fiscal alignment. While these other three subsystems are the same ones that emerged from this study, they are only effective if aligned in a single strategic plan. Superintendents in this study discussed one primary goal, improving student a chievement, and one primary process, strategic planning. It provided focus, vertical and horizontal alignment, and transparency. The strategic plan was also critical in communicating the vision, goals, and successes, both internally and externally. Without
157 the strategic plan, superintendents said they could not have survived the Great Recession and still made academic progress. Board and superintendent agreement on strategic plan There was evidence of a similarity in the Literature in Chapter 2 and the Resu lts in Chapter 4 with regard to roles and responsibilities of the board and superintendent. However, there was not much emphasis on their agreement on the vision, mission, goals, objectives, and targets in the strategic planning process. When it was discus sed in Chapter 2, it was usually identified as a negative pitfall to avoid. Hill, et al. (2000) described the demise of many reform efforts being caused by the board not understanding the refor m agenda and reversing course when unexpected challenges occurr ed. In contrast, superintendents described a process of joint creation and ownership of the strategic plan, even though there were different roles and responsibilities for the board and superintendent. Understanding the purpose of strategic planning suppor ting the theoretical propositions The most surprising result in the interviews with superintendents was the insistence that the board and staff understood the purpose of strategic planning. While there was not a direct question regarding purpose in the int erview, it was discussed so often in the responses that it emerged as one of four major themes in the results. Their responses supported the theoretical proposition (p. 83) that effective strategic planning: 1. Brings coherence and focus. 2. Connects vision to a ctions. 3. Aligns major systems of academic programs, financial prioritization, human capital development, and public perception. 4. Maximizes positive impact on student achievement.
158 5. Reponds to requirements of federal and state accountability, as well as local n eeds. Increases collaboration, accountability, and service orientation of district staff Superintendents described how the strategic planning process require d collaboration between dep artments in the central office and between departments and sc hools. Dist rict staff were accountable for results, not activity completion, creating a sense of urgency and anxiety previously experienced by superintendents, principals and many teachers. Since drastic reductions in district staff were taking place during the time period of this study, central staff understood that their job depended on progress i n their part of the strategic plan and the quality of service to schools. Most districts established cross function project charters or teams to implement the most importa nt initiatives and actions that were more closely monitored. Ownership and mutual accountability were increased as a result. The Literature review revealed the problems with central staffs that superintendents inherit, describing them as weak (Anderson, 20 03), bloated, recalcitrant (Hill et al., 2000), and bureaucracies (McLeod & Yee, 2003). Superintendents agreed that some of these negative characteristics had been the norm in their districts but were changing due to the district wide ownership of results in the strategic plan. Strategic abandonment While there was substantial support for aligning academic plans and fiscal resources in Chapter 2 (Hess, 1999; Murphy, 1992; Fuhrman, 1993; Fullan, 1993; Cawelti & Protheroe, 2001), that is, deciding what to fu nd, less attention was paid to what not to fund. Several case studies, notably the in depth studies on San Diego and Duval County, as well as some of the Broad Prize analysis, did allude to prioritizing
159 resources and in some cases not funding prior activit ies. However, these were not as strong and direct as the strategic abandonment process instituted by the superintendents in this study. In part, the Great Recession and the implementation of the Florida Class Size Amendment forced a more rigorous reduction process than had ever been contemplated. As discussed previously, every activity or position was evaluated based on the contribution to results on the strategic plan. Districts in this study implemented formal periodic reviews by impartial in house and ex ternal researchers to guide strategic abandonment decisions. Conclusions For urban schools, it is both the worst of times and the best of times. The worst of times because too many schools, teachers, and students are being left behind despite the renewed i nterest on the part of local, state, and federal education agencies and other stakeholders The data regarding the gap between the need for educational attainment for economic self sufficiency and the results many urban schools are producing are alarming Words like failure, crisis, inadequate, hopeless, discouraging, broken, intractable, and pervasive are often used to describe the current condition of urban schools. There is a real sense that time is running out for public school s in America to make drama tic improvements or face the breakup of what some detractors see as an obsolete monopoly; U nfulfilled promises, and the long record of failure in the most troubled schools fuel the perception that the task of improving public education is simply too big, too complex, and too intractable for the United States, the most powerful, xi).
160 Few districts have made dramatic improvement in students meeting college ready standards, much less having done so across economic, racial, ethnic, and gender categories. While there are certainly high performing, high poverty, high minority schools, there are no high performing, high poverty, high minority large urban school districts. Urban s chools are being asked to bring all students up to a level of academic attainment previously reserved for a select group of about 20% of the students. The literature is clear that few schools will be able to sustain such lofty goals over time with their ow Rather than being regarded as hopelessly unfixable, urban public schools, particularly those w ho serve poor children, mus t be see n for what they are: the last and most enduring remnant of the social safety net for poor children in the United States. Until a genuine, superior alternative for all children is available, public education with a ll of its faults and weaknesses rem ains the only system we have (p. 7) Whether it is city officials, business representatives, civic, religious, or civil rights groups, there is a growing consensus in many communities that, as the public schools go s o goes the city E ducation has become t he key engine to attract and retain high wage jobs in our global information based economy. While these organizations are still willing to be critical when school districts fail to be focused and effective, they are also willing to provide support for impr ovement. This change in civic support is critical, for without it the sustainability for positive change is impossible. Even though urban districts are not performing at the same level as their suburban peers, urban districts have made greater gains in com parison over the last several years. Urban districts have also been more willing to question traditional
161 policies, procedures, and structures, opting for a more innovative, entrepreneurial, outcomes based approach. While still not definitive, the research regarding the policies and practices large urban school districts can implement to effect dramatic change is promising. As important as state level and school level reform are, it is only school districts that have sufficient political, social, and econom ic clout to bring large numbers of urban schools up to high levels of performance. The review of the literature the case studies and the results of this study presented here share a great de a l of consistency, enough so to provide guidance to school distr icts committed to seeing all students reach their dreams and aspirations. Although no urban school district has arrived, there are district that have made more dramatic gains in graduation rates, college and career readiness, and academic performance while narrowing gaps based on race/ethnicity, family income, disability, and ELL status. They share common attributes and practices. It begins with a set of beliefs that we have a moral obligation to educate all of our children to the same level we want for our own children; that all students can learn at high levels if given adequate time, instruction and support; and that school and school district actions have a significant impact. These beliefs must be shared by the s chool b oard, s uperintendent, senior staff principals, teachers, and the community at large and articulated in a strategic plan beginning with a vision, mission, and theory of action. Next goals, objectives, and targets must be developed to actualize the beliefs and theory of action with a unifi ed set of strategies and initiatives based on the needs and assets of the school district T hen the plan must be implemented with commitment, enthusiasm, and fidelity building civic capacity for change, school capacity for high
162 quality teaching and learn ing in every class every day, and a system of mutual accountability. The process used to create and implement the strategic plan is important. If there are a significant number of new board members and a new superintendent, a facilitated process is advisab ission, core beliefs, goals, objectives and targets are set by the board and superintendent, it is important to receive broad feedback from int ernal and external stakeholders, especially teachers and principals. Next, the superintendent and senior staff develop initiatives and actions with appropriate resources assigned to senior staff, and a monitoring and accountability system using timely and appropriate data. Semi annual to annual updates to the board and community should include easily understood graphs and charts regarding progress and changes to be made where there is insufficient progress. In creating the strategic plan, it is important to include and align more specific plans for academic programs, budgeting, and human resource capacity. Academic programs should be selected or discarded based on the data regarding their contribution toward reaching strategic plan goals and targets. A cost/benefit analysis reveals what choices should be made. Next the budget must reflect the priorities in the plan by funding and defunding initiati ves and actions as articulated above. Finally, the human resources plan must reflect who the district needs to hire, with what skills and attributes, for which positions, on what timetable and to
163 further develop the technical, relational, and leadership skills of existing staff. Again, these should reflect the priorities outlined in the strategic plan. The relationship of the superintendent with the school board, district staff, the union, the community, and state and federal representatives is critical to successfully implementing the strategic plan to improve outcomes for students. The most important relationship is the one with the school board. There has to be a common agreement over the direction as articulated in the strategic plan. It should be jointly developed; then the superintendent is tasked with imp lementing the plan, while the board approves policies, adopts budgets, and holds the superintendent accountable. Most of the districts were able to maintain these roles over the five year span of this study. Others began that w ay; t hen, as complaints about the pressure of the accountability system increased, and funding decreased, the bonds were fractured. The conversation became whether the superintendent would remain, and conflicts within the board and with the superintendent became very public. Superinte ndents spent significant time garnering board support for initiatives and, at times, used external business community pressure to build such support. It is interesting to note that this key relationship between the board and superintendent is not highlight ed in most of the case studies in Chapter 2, the exceptions being the extended studies on San Diego and Duval County (Section II ). Un ions were variously perceived as a helpful partner, a group to be dealt with respectfully while holding the line on key iss ues, or a totally contrarian group with only their members interest at heart. When raises were not forthcoming because of the Great Recession, the relationship with superintendents became more confrontational and less collaborative.
164 Often the union lobbie d school board members to side with them on cont r act issues creating a school board split with some members supporting the superintendent ommendation and others supporting the union The leadership styles of the superintendent and the u nion preside nt, as well as the historical relationship in that district affected how they interacted during this difficult time. It is important for superintendents and union presidents to focus on what they can agree upon rather than their differences. Each has a ro le and, in at least three of the districts in this study, it was demonstrated that those roles can be played in a more collaborative fashion. District staff s were also critical to the success of the district and it was necessary to move from a compliance t o a performance culture. This was accomplished by insisting that all activities, funding, and staffing connect to the strategic plan. If it could not be demonstrated that they were contributing to the plan, they were defunded and staff were moved or let go Project charters were used to cross divisional lines for the most important initiatives. Staff s were expected to know the goals of the strategic plan and tie their goals and evaluation to the appropriate part(s) of the plan. The greater accountability te nded to create fear initially, but efforts to create buy in and celebrate successes overcame them in most districts. A balance between top down, district directed instructional systems must be balanced by a bottom up process that values the opinions and e xperiences of practitioners, especially teachers and principals. They should be represented in creating and modifying curriculum, instructional materials, professional development, and assessments.
165 The relationship with the community and state and federal personnel were the community was not a part of the daily operation s of the strategic plan, the ir expectation for better results were ever present. Parents and the business community were helpful and supportive as long as there was progress and the board and superintendent relationship was positive. As activities and programs had to be reduced with lower funding, they saw that the strategic plan was used to prioritize which functions were funded even if they disagreed with the decisions Communication in easily understood language, using multiple forms of media, kept the community aware and engaged. Finally, superintendents gave advice to other superintendents beginning the strategic planning process. First, ensure you and the school board are together on your plan. Next, create a sense of urgency, shared responsibility, teamwork, and accountability with district staff. To the extent possible, seek a collaborative relationship regularly communicate the key elements and progress to internal and external stakeholders. Pay particular attention to the input of teachers and principals because they are the f rontline staff who connect with students. Be flexible in your choice of strategies but hold fast to your core values, especially in assisting students and schools that have not performed well in the past. Finally, be strong. Being an urban superintendent is one of the tough est jobs in the world, but the rewards of positively impacting so many young people makes it worthwhile. Implications for P ractice
166 While implications for practice have been discussed throughout this study, it is helpful to highlight some of the most concre te, specific recommendations for superintendents and others implementing a strategic planning process: 1. or when there is a major change in board membership. 2. Use a facilita tor, especially at the beginning of the process to guide the needs analysis and the creation of the vision, mission, and goals. 3. Communicate early and often, especially reiterating the vision, goals, and results. 4. Monitor the implementation of the plan, adju sting the initiatives and actions, staff and resource allocations based on formative data. 5. Be r igorous in reviewing programs and initiatives based on results and abandoning those not showing a significant return on investment. 6. Require collaboration and ac countability from all staff, balancing support and high expectations for results. 7. Balance district and school level decision making through a clearly articulated Theory of Action. 8. Balance short term and long term goals. 9. Strive for a long tenure but be wil ling to be fired for holding to core values. Suggestion s for Further Study R ecent research on large urban district reform has identified key elements that promote positive change. Hopefully, this study, and others similar in design, will provide better gui dance on how to put complex systems in place using strategic planning given the history, context, challenges, and resources of a given district. However, further study is needed in the following areas: 1. Expand the study with similar questions and purpose, i ncluding perspectives from other states and a broader representation of stakeholders. 2. Add a quantitative element on student achievement correlated with the level of strategic plan implementation.
167 3. Investigate how to improve the relationship between the supe rintendent, school board, and unions. 4. Investigate how the advantage of long of superintendent tenures should be balanced with the need for new ideas and innovation. 5. Investigate how to increase civic engagement to support distric t plans and impact state pol icy. Some of these areas may lend themselves to a more quantitative analysis with experimental and control groups as was done in the CGCS/AIR study. T he record to date suggests it is just as important to look at the gestalt of various initiatives toward a unified whole as guided by strategic planning T he case study method may be limited in its scientific rigor, but it may yield more useful results as districts strive to help all students perform at high levels and reach their dreams.
168 APPENDIX A QUESTIONS FOR INTERVIEWEES 1. How would you describe the strategic plan for your school distric t including its key components? 2. Tell me about the p rocess used to create the plan? 3. How do you monitor the effectiveness of your plan? 4. What is the connection between the major academic components (standards, curriculum, materials, instruction, professional development and assessment) in your plan? 5. How is your plan reflected in the resourc e allocations in your budget? 6. How does your human resources p lan tie to your strategic pla n? 7. What internal and external factors were most important in advancing or inhibiting 8. What modifications were made to the plan during implement ation and why? 9. What advice would you give a superintendent of a large diverse district prior to leadin g a strategic planning process?
169 APPENDIX B FOLLO W One or more may be used as appropriate. Number corresponds with question numbers. 1. A. Is the plan based on a vision or a theory of action? B. Does it contain a few h igh priority goals centered around student achievement? C. Do goals have specific initiations, actions, or programs with timelines and persons(s) responsible for the execution? 2. A. Does it represent a broad cross section of constitu ents: teache rs, parents, administrators, school board, businesses, non profits, unions, etc.? B. Are there opportunities for the larger community to provide input on the vision and goals? C. Is there a written strategy for communication and ownership of the plan? D. Are there formal and informal processes to assess these? 3. A. Is there a process of continuous improvement where key activities are measure d for degree and quality of implementation and formative results? B. Is there a process of collecting and using perceptual feedback from those implementing the plan? 4. A. Is there a theory of action that describes how these elements work together? B. Does the plan articulate which of these is determined at the district, zone, school, or cl assroom level? C. What is required and what is optional? with a particular type of school? E. What is the connection of the strategic plan and school improvement plans? 5. A. Is there an analysis of the current budget that connects it to the costs of the most important goals? B. When budget reductions are necessary, are the key goals in the plan funded first? C. Is there an on going realignment of resourc es based on the effectiveness of the initiatives in accomplishing the goals? D. Are resources differentiated based on the needs of schools (e.g. turnaround)? 6. A. How many of the district employees does this impact? B. How are the superintendent and senior staff held accountable for the result? C. How deep in the organization is accountability tied to the plan?
170 D. To what degree do outcomes affect evaluation, compensation, and professional development plans for individuals and departm ents? 7. A. What community state, or national factors were present both positive and negative? B. Were these forces powerful enough to cause a loss of focus? C. What was the relationship of the superintendent and the school board in creating an d implementing the plan? D. Were the contextual issues similar to or different from other large districts during this time? 8. A. Were changes made due to data analysis and strategic abandonment or addition? B. Were changes made due to political pressure? C. Were changes made due to state policy or revenue changes? 9. A. What have they learned from this experience? B. What would they do the same and what would they do differently?
171 APPENDIX C PERMISSION LETTERS FOR INTERVIEWS Department of Educat ion P.O. Box 117 University of Florida Gainesville, FL 32611 Dear Educator: I am a doctoral student at the University of Florida. As a part of my dissertation, I am conducting an interview, the purpose of which is to learn how effective implementation of strategic plans improves student achievement in large urban districts. I am asking you to participate in this interview because you have been identified as a highly successful superintendent who served at least two years between 2007 and 2012 in one or mo re large school districts in Florida. Interviewees will be asked to participate in an interview lasting no longer than 90 minutes. The schedule of the questions is enclosed with this letter. You will not have to answer any question you do not wish to answe r. Your interview will be conducted by phone or at your office after I have received a copy of this signed consent form from you in the mail. With your permission, I would like to audiotape this interview. Only I will have access to the tape which I will p ersonally transcribe using appropriate software or will have a confidential assistant do so without any personal identifiers. The tape will then e erased. Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law and your identity will not be r evealed in the final manuscript. There are no anticipated risks, compensation or other direct benefits to you as a participant in this interview. You are free to withdraw your consent to participate and may discontinue your participate in the interview at any time without consequence. If you have any questions about this research protocol, please contact me at (904) 662 4226 or my dissertation chair, Dr. Bernard Oliver at (352) 273 4358. Questions or concerns about your rights as a research participant ma y be directed to the IRB02 office, University of Flori da, Box 1122550; (352) 392 0433. Please sign and return this copy of the enclosed letter in the envelope. A second copy is provided for your records. By signing this letter, you give me permission to r eport your responses anonymously in the final manuscript to be submitted to my dissertation chair as part of my dissertation. Thank you, Ed Pratt Dannals
172 I have read the procedure described above for the strategic plan interview assignment. I volunta rily agree to participate in the interview and have received a copy of this description. ________________________________________ Signature of Participant Date Y ES/NO
173 APPENDIX D SUMMARIES OF CASE STUDIES Section I: Historical Cases 1999 2006 Following are 12 case studies conducted between 1999 and 2006. Case #1 A case study of 11 large urban districts was conducted to determine their civic capacity and the accumu lation and use of their civic capacity which is civic mobilization. better job than others to convert words to deeds and good intentions to effective and durability of the educational reform coalition in place during the period of 1993 94 and compared it to the degree of implementation of systemic reforms. Findings included t hat all 11 systems had some groups (among business leaders, parents, teachers, school board, and superintendent) highly involved and no city had all groups highly involved. Highest levels of civic mobilization were in Pittsburg, Boston, and Los Angeles. In the middle were Baltimore, Houston, Detroit, and Washington, DC; lowest were Atlanta, Denver, St. Louis, and San Francisco. Notably absent was the involvement of school boards in having a significant role in shaping reform policy. Other than hiring and f iring the superintendent, the board members seemed more focused on constituent service than policy formation or management oversight. Also, while every district described the role of parents as critical, only Pittsburg had a systemic approach to parent eng agement in shaping the reform agenda. The biggest differences between cities were in the level of teacher and
174 instrument used to assess the degree of implemented reform, f ound a positive correlation (r= 80; p<.003) with high civic mobilization and high degree of reform implementation. Case #2 In a second study, Thompson (2003) identified eight high performing school districts based on the majority of students and schools me eting high standards. Using a case study approach, he identified eight critical success factors that were in evidence in at least one of the high performing districts: 1. Standards based Instruction Aurora Public Schools, Colorado 2. Belief system that all stu Charlotte Mecklenburg, North Carolina 3. Respectful relationships Edmonds, Washington 4. System accountability for school success Houston, Texas 5. Intensive professional development District 2, New York City and San Diego, California 6. Distribution of resources focused on supporting powerful instructional practices Plainfield, New Jersey 7. Data systems for improvement and accountability Chula Vista, California 8. Two way communication Aurora Public Schools, Co lorado Case #3 The purpose of this study (Hill, et al., 2000) was to determine the impact of reform and the perception in the community regarding the reform's potential impact. Boston, Memphis, New York City District 2, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Seat tle were selected for the study from nominations by knowledgeable educators and strong district leadership (superintendent and top staff) as well as community support. Using interviews of representative stakeholders, review of documents pertaining to
175 reform, budgets, evaluations, and newspaper and journal articles, the researchers sought to explore four questions: 1. What did different constituent groups think the district reform agenda included and the degree to which the reforms had been broadly communicated? 2. How did the reforms intend to impact teaching and learning? 3. What obstacles political financial, and practical were encountered? 4. Would the reform continue if the superintendent left? (p. 28) Results indicated a significant difference between the planned reform and the real impact based on problems with implementation. While most district s implemented a few portions of their reform agenda elements well, in each city some elements were implemented poorly or not at all. The authors identified five categories of problems with full implementation based on the results of this study: 1. Loss of Sup erintendent and poor succession 2. Loss of support of the Board 3. Teacher resistance 4. Loss of funding 5. Delays, half measures, and competing initiatives (p. 38) The most serious problem is when opponents of reform mobilize and dilute the support of the Board. Some times this is a result of the Board never truly understanding is supposed to oversee is fatal to an initiative that must be carried out over a long time (as all must) or encounters unexpected ch al., 2000, p. 40). providing them limited information, hoping positive results of the reform will create political support with the community and the Board. Another reason for the lack of Board understanding is that they may have avoided the difficult discussions associated with ownership of the strategic direction of the school district.
176 many boards are mired in trivial micro management pursuits and spend time worrying whether the buns are hot in the cafeteria on student achievement and related education issues, they might begin to attract more members who have a substantive While some resistance to reform comes from parents, it is teacher opposition that is most significant. T heir opposition comes from a lack of willingness to change, lack of confidence in the Superintendent, or too many non aligned, competing initiatives. Dissident teachers (whether in a union or not) often organize to vote out Board members who support reform s leading to derailing the reforms or the firing of the Superintendent (Hill, et al., 2000). The authors determined which of 10 different reform ) for change. While similar in some elements from previously presented lists, there are also some differences: 1. Student performance standards 2. School control of funds 3. School performance agreements with specific targets for the year aligned with resources 4. Hir ing staff at the school level 5. Use of whole school designs 6. Reconstituting schools 7. Extra spending on initiatives to improve teacher skills and knowledge 8. Use of outside vendors for professional development 9. Efforts to attract teachers from new sources 10. New unio n or work rules Findings included that all size districts used standards and outside experts for professional development while none of them had any significant change in union
177 agreements or work rules. The elements that were least developed in the six dis tricts al., 2000, p. 51), that is, the ones allowing school freedom of action. Also noted was the tendency for districts to implement what the superintendent knew how to do based on their previous experience or where community support already existed. Only New York City District #2 had high positive effect on instruction and school performance while Memphis, San Antonio, and Case #4 In this study ( Cawelti & Protheroe 2001), six school districts were identified by contacting state education agencies and regional educational laboratories, data on state web sites, and a review of the literature. All had succeeded in making large gains i n closing the achievement gap. Four districts had a high percent of low income students and two were large urban districts. The districts in the study were Houston; Sacramento; Brazelport, Texas; Twin Falls, Idaho; El Paso, Texas; and Barbour County, West Virginia. The researchers visited each school district and interviewed central office staff, principals, and teachers regarding the perceived changes that contributed the most to higher student achievement. They also reviewed district documents and assessm ent results. Findings of the study indicated a number of common reforms had been implemented in the six districts: 1. Established clear standards and measures to determine progress toward meeting the standards; 2. ncept that all students can learn a reality with staff members doing whatever it takes to make sure all students achieve; 3. Staff work ed in teams to analyze data to plan and implement improvement strategies; 4. Targeted, research based staff development was use d extensively;
178 5. Extensive efforts were made to align curriculum with the content of high stakes test; 6. Superintendent and key community leaders were important in creating and sustaining support for reform efforts; 7. Focused resources on reform agenda; 8. Held pe ople accountable for results and constantly refined action strategies to improve results; 9. Used a rigorous core curriculum, particularly in literacy and mathematics; 10. Implemented assistance teams to help low performing schools; and 11. Provide d opportunities for schools to determine budget at the school level. Case #5 In a study by the Dana Center at the University of Texas, Austin, 10 medium and large school districts in Texas were studied (Ragland, Asera, & Johnson, 1999). The purpose of the study was to deter mine what initiatives the superintendent, the district staff, and the School Board were implementing that led to high student achievement. The districts Amarillo, Beaumont, Brazelport, Houston, Laredo, Los Fresnos Consolidated, Mission Consolidated, Pharr San Juan Amarillo, Weslaco, and Ysleta Independent were selected based on having at least a third of their schools Recognized or Exemplary on the 1997 98 Texas assessment system. Study methods included interviews with the superintendent, district staff, an d principals; observations of School Board and staff meetings; and analysis of district documents and data. Findings included three important similarities in the districts: 1. A sense of urgency the Superintendent and staff communicated a sense of urgent ex pectation that all students needed to reach high levels of academic success, used data to measure non negotiable goals and targets with no excuses, developed a high level of trust between the Superintendent and the Board and with the community. 2. A sense o f shared responsibility the Superintendent championed all in the district and community supporting academic achievement goals; used challenging but realistic school improvement plans; balanced accountability and flexibility; and kept data public and tran sparent.
179 3. A sense of efficac y provided resources, knowledge, and support; built confidence at the school and district level that the reform goals could be realized; and built a partnership with schools and district staff. Case #6 A follow up study condu cted by the Dana Institute a year later (Skr l a, Scheurich, & Johnson, 2000) involving four Texas districts (Aldine, Brazelport, San Benito, and Witchita Falls) intended to develop greater depth of understanding of findings of the 1999 study regarding the district operations that led to success. Criteria for selection was 1. over 5,000 students in the district; 2. over 1/3 of the school Recognized or Distinguished (at least 2 at this level) on the Texas assessment system; 3. low exclusion rates of LEP and special e ducation students on the state testing; and 4. low dropout and 9 th grade retention rates. Methodology for the research used a case study method that included one or two visits to each district; over 200 interviews of superintendents, principals, teachers, pa rents, district staff and bu siness leaders; shadowing of principals and district staff ; and analysis of field notes. Findings included in the essential elements in reform efforts included strong incentives to change like the state accountability system; ma king data and assistance to low performing schools public; strong ethical and moral leadership on district wide initiatives, especially by the Superintendent; use of improved instructional strategies using common standards, curriculum and assessments; and perhaps most importantly, changing the belief systems to demonstrate every day that poor and minority students had the capacity to learn at high levels. They also practiced the positive change especially in the areas of teaching and learning. The authors did not explore
180 how this practice supported or conflicted with earlier findings that a reduction of programmatic overload and a focus on a few key strategies was most effective. Case #7 In this study, published by the Council of Great City Schools (Snipes, Doolittle, & Herlihy, 2002), the purpose was to determine the district role in creating and maintaining academic achievement, focusing on the context of each district, changes in disaggregated student achievement, and the policies, programs, and strategies that impacted changes in teaching and learning in the classroom. Criteria for selecting districts for the study included (1) narrowing the achievement gap while still having h igher overall gains, (2) improving faster than other districts in the state, and (3) a geographically representative sample of the country. Districts in the study included Houston, Charlotte Distr ict. The study was conducted using case study methodology to establish possible explanati ons for the four study district s success, while comparable districts that did not have large gains were studied to eliminate possible explanations and to better under stand others. The difference between the successful and unsuccessful districts went beyond merely identifying the achievement gap, with the successful districts recognizing the need to work on the lack of instructional coherence (curriculum, instruction, a nd professional development), and the unsuccessful districts reflecting an over reliance on site base d management and low expectations for student performance. The authors first established the preconditions necessary for reform to be effective. 1. Stable org anization over time; 2. Agreement on major reform strategies;
181 3. School Board united on setting policy to support student achievement and leaving the day to day operations to the Superintendent; 4. Ability to assess the instructional weaknesses and determine approp riate strategies to address them; 5. Ability to market the reform to the community; 6. District staff redirected to serve and support schools; and 7. Willingness to seek other financial resources. Once the preconditions we re met, the strategies shared by the succe ssful districts included to 1. Establish specific student achievement goals with timelines; 2. Align standards, curriculum, and instruction; 3. Expect schools to implement district curriculum in every class; 4. Hold Superintendent, district staff, principals, and teac hers accountable for specific targets; 5. Provide extra help for low performing schools; 6. Use data to identify help needed at the school, class, and individual student level; 7. Start with elementary, then work on secondary grades; and 8. Use intensive reading and m athematics instruction with secondary (grades 6 12) students. Each of these strategies was important, but it was the synergy of using them together that was essential. Rather than adding a few programs here and there, they approached their work systemical ly. They also differed in how they implemented the reform agenda. The case study district leaders pursued their reform agendas with an intensity that distinguished them from many urban superintendents and school boards. They devoted many hours to building a new vision of what was possible in their schools, crafting and selling a strategy to improve student achievement, and changing the culture of their districts and schools. Once the plan was developed, the superintendents relentlessly pushed for its implem entation, followed up when efforts were stalled, rewarded with increased stature and responsibility those who bought into the plan and pushed out those who opposed the approach. Much of their efforts focused on ensuring plans at the district level actually led to changes in the daily life of schools, a link that is too often not made. (Snipes, et al., 2002, p. 42)
182 In addition to preconditions and common reform elements, findings of the study included common barriers to overcome. 1. Schools doubted district st aff could be reoriented to a service focus. 2. Demoted or fired employees attempted to get Board members to intervene on their behalf. 3. Substantial investment was required to create data mechanisms and provide principal and teacher training. 4. Experienced teache rs were resistant, so model classrooms at each school were used to model more prescriptive instructional approaches. 5. Issue of reform being more district led top down rather than local school initiated. 6. Some did not like the focus on low performing students and schools rather than those who are high performing. 7. Demands of change created stress. Case #8 To g n eri and Anderson (2003) further explored how districts could move beyond ools. Their study of effective districts sought to answer five questions: 1. What created the change? 2. What strategies were used? 3. How did professional development change? 4. How did the relationships of key staff and stakeholders support or inhibit the reform eff orts? 5. What kind of leadership was present to implement and sustain the change? Their initial criteria for selecting high performing districts were that the district had to: 1. Show increased achievement in mathematics and reading for three or more years; 2. Demo nstrate these improvement were across grade levels, races, and ethnicities; 3. Have a poverty rate of 25% or more free/reduced lunch students; and 4. Be known for its high quality of professional development. Using standardized test scores from 1998 2000, the n umber of districts was narrowed from 50 to 14. Further criteria reduced the study to five districts:
183 1. Aldine, Texas 2. Chula Vista Elementary School District, California 3. Kent County, Maryland 4. Minneapolis, Minnesota 5. Providence, Rhode Island All of the district s had grown in size, increased poverty, and increased the percentage of minority students over the last decade. Using a case study approach, the methodology called for two visits to each district (except Providence which received one). Six data elements we re collected and analyzed including interviews; focus groups; school visits; observations of meetings and professional development; various documents such as strategic plans, budgets, achievement data, and curriculum; and field notes. While all of the dist ricts had demonstrated achievement gains in elementary mathematics and reading, only Aldine and Kent were in the top tier in their state. Findings of the study showed seven common elements in the five school districts: 1. Acknowledged poor performance and sta ted a desire to change; 2. Implemented an aligned system wide instructional plan focusing on student achievement based on common standards, curriculum, research based instruction, professional development, and assessment, using distributed leadership and focu sing resources on the plan; 3. Created a common vision that included increased achievement for all students through improved instruction in a safe and supportive environment while involving parents and the community; 4. Used data to make decisions; 5. Used extensiv e networks of instructional experts to support teachers in using the new strategies; 6. Changes the roles of leaders to focus more on instruction; and 7. Committed to long term support of the reforms to ensure sustainability.
184 Case #9 In this case study, Masse ll and Goertz (2002) conducted a three year study of 23 high performing school districts in eight states. They found that districts increased the knowledge and skills of the professionals; aligned the instruction with standards, assessment, and professiona l development; and used data to make decisions. Their professional development was long term in nature with coaching support and school based collaboration. Principals tended to support the coaching model more than teachers who tended to view the coaches a s an extension of the administration. When implemented well, they found that professional learning communities were universally successful. Case #10 In a study focused on the school district as a learning laboratory, Stein and veloping teacher skills wa s the most important element in school improvement. However, th ey found that school districts we re not adept in implementing high quality professional development to support district wide reforms. In most distr icts, professional d evelopment wa s short in duration, not coordinated, not focused on key elements of instructional practice, and provide d few opportunities for collegial interactions with colleagues. To be effective, they argue d that professional development must be focused on content, be continuous, and be connected to the daily experience of teachers. They cite d New York City District #2 as an example of a district implementing an aligned, focused professional development program, especially in their Balanced Literacy progr am. District #2 was able to honor differences while still building common practice.
185 Case #11 In a study focused on the Chicago school system, Shipps (2003) chronicled the mayoral takeover and the appointment of a non traditional superintendent. In 1995, a Republican legislature and governor gave Democratic Mayor Daley control of the Chicago Public Schools in response to pressure by the business community. This action recentralized much of the authority for running the schools that had been decentralized to the control of community groups in 1988. It also revoked some union protections on employment. Daley appointed Paul Vallas, a former state legislative assistant and city budget director, to run the school district using business principles. Vallas cut the size of district operations and outsourced many functions, allowing him to balance a budget that had been $150M in debt. Vallas was able to negotiate a new four year contract with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which supported his reforms until teachers were dismissed from reconstituted schools. Community groups that had major control of schools from 1988 1995 felt overlooked in the new mayor controlled arrangement. This was particularly true of the African American community. While short on educational any positive news to establish credibility for their reforms. While overall achievement rates went up, scores of poor and minority students did not significantly cha nge. There was great dissatisfaction regarding the impact of the new promotional criteria using Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) because it had a larger impact on low performing students. Scores on the ITBS were also used to place schools on probation or s anction. Cut off scores started with requiring 15% of the students to score at the national norm and eventually moved to 20%.
186 In the 1996 97 school year, about one fifth (109 out of 550) of schools were sanctioned and 70 out of 550 schools were sanctioned in 1997 98. In spite of high turnover among principals and teachers, few student performance gains were made, especially at the high school level. Chicago depended almost completely on its accountability system without any systematic effort to improve the knowledge and skills of teachers and principals on how to help low income students improve their academic of the Chicago initiative was the lack of educational expertise 31). Case #12 This study of the Boston Public Schools by Cuban and Usban (2003) paralleled the same time period as the Chicago reform. In response to wide spread dissatisfaction with the racial strife over desegregation and poo r student performance, the voters replaced the elected school committee with a mayor appointed system. In 1993, Tom Menino was elected mayor and in 1995 Menino appointed as superintendent Tom Payzant, a nationally known educator who had been the Assistant Secretary of Education and the Superintendent in San Diego. Payzant had the support of the mayor, In contrast to the previous elected school committee that had been more concerned with helping friends, re elect ion, and using the office to pursue other offices, the appointed school committee focused on setting policy and not micro managing daily operations. The appointed committee was also less susceptible to pressure from the hey did not need their support for re election. However, some complained that the appointed committee was not as sensitive to
187 community and neighborhood concerns as the previously elected committee. The significant efforts at community development, minimized some of the concerns. Boston benefited from community wide efforts to support education. Business and Annenburg Foundation funds supported the creation of the Boston Plan for Excellence. City and sch ool cooperation extended from after school programs to health, recreation, and social services with schools serving as an arm of the city. The main strategy for improving instruction in Boston was to increase the knowledge and skills of principals and teac hers using math and literacy coaches. The efforts showed positive gains in elementary and middle schools, with fewer gains in high schools. At the time of the study, Boston Public Schools was aligning the district learning standards with the state curricul um frameworks and providing more monitoring of instructional issues in schools. According to Cuban and Usdan (2003), the main reform was that it seemed to depend very heavily on Mayor Menino and Superintendent Payzant continuing in t heir positions. Section II: In depth Case Studies of San Diego and Duval County (FL) (1998 2005) Case #13: San Diego in depth s tudy An in depth series of studies of the San Diego City Schools (SDCS) edited by Hightower, Knapp, Marsh, and McLaughlin (2002) documented changes between 1998 and 2001. A second extensive series of studies (Hess, e t al., 2005) extended the time period into 2005. In 1998, on a 3 2 vote, the school board hired Alan Bersin, a former federal district attorney, as Superintendent. Ber sin brought in Anthony Alvarado as Chancellor of Instruction, splitting the traditional superintendent role into management
188 (Bersin) and instruction (Alvarado). At the time of their entry, San Diego had experienced extensive turmoil with a recent teacher s trike (1996), significant achievement gaps of 30 50 percentage points based on race and income, and a dissatisfied business community (Hess, 2005; Hightower, 2002). The district was active, and system (Hess, 2005). Other problems included a culture of complacency and low expectations, little quality instruction, and numerous district and union rule s that conspired to have the best teachers in higher performing schools. Lower performing schools had mostly first or second year teachers or veterans who were waiting to retire (Oday, 2005). Bersin and Alvarado intentionally upset the system by conducting an instructional needs analysis and instituting an extensive professional development City District 2. i coach, and support this new practice (Hess, 2005). They aligned the policies, organization al structures, and resources, while dismantling the bureaucracy and changing roles and responsibilities to make the district a learning organization. It was designed to overcome the disjointed, incoherent system where district work was not focused on data and student learning. Bersin and Alvarado established that there were (Hightower, 2002, p. 83).
189 emic p. 81). Alvarado followed with his explanation: There has to be a boom in larg be a political boom, but it has to be an organizational boom. After you go boom, you need to adjust how you pace and organize so there becomes a regularity and that people know what to expect. (Cuban & Usdan, 2003, p. 81) Early in their tenure, Bersin and Alvarado dissolved the area superintendent role, replacing them with highly trained principals who became Instructional Leaders (IL) of Literacy Framework, principles of learning, and classroom walk throughs to monitor progress. They also established a literacy coach at each school whose work with the principal was crucial. As a further step, Bersin and Alvarado aligned resources to focus on low performing students and schools, spending $62M in 2000 01 and approximately $96M in 2001 02. Bersin and Alvarado brought in instructional experts from New Zealand, Pittsburg, and New York City District 2, as well as known change experts Michael Ful lan and Richard Elmore to provide technical assistance (Hightower, 2005). The biggest controversies were the use of Title I funds ($19M) to support the reforms with schools having less input on the use of Title I funds and the demotion of 15 principals in 1999. For some, the demotions provoked a climate of fear rather than creating a learning community. Also criticized were the focus on elementary grades rather than secondary, e of the reforms (Hightower, et al., 2002), and the high cost of outside consultants (Williams, 2005).
190 The Blueprint for Success, adopted by the School Board in March 2000, focused on providing extensive professional development of teachers and principals, intervention for low performing students by providing extra assistance, and retention for students not making sufficient progress (Hess 2005). According to Hannaway and Stanislawski (2005), the San Diego effort differed from most urban reforms in that it was designed to have direct and immediate impact on classroo m practice by taking on the professional development of teachers and principals u sing a non incremental approach rincipals of 89% between 1999 and 2005 (Hannawa y & Stanislawski, 2005, p. 55). Building on the common language, philosophy, and instructional practice of Phase I, Bersin sought to institutionalize the efforts in 2003 when Alvarado left. Phase II included r enaming some initiatives (the Institute for Learning became the Instructional Improvement Office) and providing more school based decision making on budget (Hannaway, 2005). Throughout the change process, principals were seen as they key agents to create a nd sustain change (Schnur & Gerson, 2005). They moved initially from fear and compliance to a focus on mutual growth and discussion on why strategies they had learned worked and brainstorming ways to more effectively implement the changes. The Educational Leadership Development Academy was charged with the responsibility to train current and prospective principals. While generally credited with fulfilling its core
191 mission, some have noted a need to focus more on the process and the human side of change, as well as spending time on operational issues like master schedules or school opening procedures (Hightower, 2005; Schnur & Gerson, 2005). Most of the principals felt the training and support was beneficial for them in their role as instructional leaders. Th ey had monthly day long training sessions learning how to conduct classroom walk throughs and provide effective feedback to teachers. They also voluntarily participated A second grou p key to the San Diego reforms was the school based coaches. Literacy coaches were trained for each school to model and coach the district literacy program, which included a three hour literacy block (Williams, 2005). Initially trained together once a week they were later grouped according to knowledge and experience Newer teachers liked the support, while veteran teachers were suspicious, saying the role was not clearly defined, the coaches were gone too much, and they should work directly with students rather than teachers (Hightower, 2005). Many teachers resented what they perceived as a belief that teachers did not know what they were doing, and especially what they sa 37). Teacher assistants were eliminated to pay for the literacy coaches and Bersin and Alvarado wanted to appoint them. The teachers union, San Diego Education Association (S D E A), was upset a t having been left out of the decision making process and grieved the literacy coach selection process saying the shared decision making process at the school level should choose the coaches. They compromised with a district screening and a site based sele ction (Williams, 2005).
192 A number of other confli cts arose between Bersin and SDE A. One was the number of meetings needed for professional development. An arbitrator eventually ruled they had to be limited in number. A second area was in teacher assignment, which Bersin wanted to make instead of the seniority system currently in place. Bersin also wanted to differentiate pay and incentives to entice teachers to work in high poverty, low performing schools which had a higher percent of inexperienced teachers. Having pointment from the beginning, S D E A continued to argue for the primacy of the contract over the requirements of the reform (Williams, 2005). In addition to the conflicts with SD E A, Bersin had to constantly relate to a school board al its merits. Board members lined up behind either the busi ness community on one side or S D E A o n the other side. Each saw the other as having too much influence on the seen as uncompromising and abrasive, further polarized the board. The business community wanted the board to operate like a corporate board and focus on strategic policy and goals while some on the board saw keeping their constituents pleased as their major function. Bersin supporters pointed to his ability to bring in substantial state, federal, a nd foundation funds; his ability to attract positive national attention to the reforms; and his focus on low performing students and schools. They saw him as a saw him as he presented his reforms more than what the reforms contained and thought he could
193 have been more effective if he had involved professional educators and the community more i n the early stag es of the reform. Complaints from teachers and principals hurt the implementation by undermining the support in the community. Usdan observed that the long of Case #14: Duval County (FL) i n d epth s tudy Parallel to the same time period as the San Diego studies (1998 2005), an extensive study was conducted by Jonathan Supovitz and presented in The Case for District Based Reform (Supovitz, 200 6). Chronicling the dramatic progress Duval County made in reading, writing, mathematics, and science at the elementary level, Supovitz set out to determine the key strategies used by Superintendent John Fryer as well as how those strategies could inform t he practice in other large urban districts. Unlike many other studies which began after the positive results had been achieved, years studied. Supovitz originally came to Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) as the principle investigator for the Center for Policy Research and Education (CPRE) which was school reform (CSR) model which had been c reated by The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). Fryer, who had a strong record of leade rship in the Air Force as a two star general and as commandant of the National War College came to the job of Superintendent without a background in K 12 education. Prior to starting as superintendent, Fryer read broadly on school reform He was drawn to the work of Mark Tucker and Judy Cotting from NCEE and met with them to discuss the
194 ideas in Standards for Our Schools (2002). Fryer brought an abili ty to think strategically, learn quickly, communicate clearly, and implement a comprehensive plan for improving tasks (p. 33), Fryer balanced a unifying vision of what high quality instruction looked like with some degree of loca l flexibility (Supovitz, 2006 ). The difficulty of creating this balance had been noted earlier in the work of David and Shields (2001, p. iii) studying standards based systemic reforms in seven large school districts. Another problem with implementation of the CRS programs was that they did not have lasting impact because of their inability to change the formal educational institutions (Domanico, Finn, Invest, Kanstoroom, & Russo, 2000) or provide enou gh consistent support to create long term fundamental change (Berends, et al, 2002). Understanding the need for a structured, comprehensive approach to instructional impleme nted key elements district wide These were articulated in the five goals in the ( Supovitz, p. 41). These included academic performance, safe schools, high performance mana gement, learning communities, and accountability. While not preferred the ir approach. This preference without mandate philosophy became apparent when a community group advocate d the use of Direct Instruction as the core reading program for all Title 1 elementary schools. Fryer allowed schools to make a choice of reading programs but made it clear that the principals were accountable for results and that the Framework would still be the guiding structure for improvement (p. 54).
195 Supovitz provided an in depth analysis of the four components needed for districts to lead in improving teaching and learning: 1. A vision that communicates expectations for what teaching and learning shoul d look like, 2. Creating commitment and building capacity to implement the vision, 3. Using data to monitor implementation and inform practice, and 4. Create a leaning organization that reflects on practice to refine the vision and routes the reform in the DNA of t he organization (p. 5). Through extensive surveys and interviews, Supovitz concluded that DCPS had strong implementation of the first three components but the learning community portion of the fourth component was not very well understood or implemented. In articulating the vision, Fryer laid out the goal of preparing all students to be college ready wit hout the need for remediation. To reach this goal, seven key elements would be implemented: 1. 2. Clear standards that describe that performance, 3. A focus on student work that represents mastery of the standard, 4. Instruction focused on understanding fewer topics in depth, 5. Use instructional time and resources more effectively, 6. Variety of types and frequency of assessment s, and 7. School based professional development using a continuous improvement model in learning communities (p. 30). To create capacity, Duval used what Supovitz described as a blend of gardening and engineering. In gardening, leaders must convince staff th at the reforms are needed and the benefits that will accrue if implemented wit h a high degree of commitment. It requires leaders to attend to the psychological stages of concern articulated by Hall and Hord (1987) in the concerns based adoption model (CBAM ). Methods used by DCPS leaders included creating a sense of urgency, showing the elements and results in
196 schools similar to theirs, and encouraging visits between schools. Together they increased understanding, enthusiasm, and an openness to change (p. 78 ). Leading as engineering involves equipping teachers, principals, and district staff with the knowledge and skills needed to implement the teaching strategies promoted in the innovation. A multi layered system of professional development included direc t training of teachers, support from school and district coaches, and principals who were trained how to observe new classroom instruction and provide targeted support (p. 87). be term capacity standpoint. However, it also became a political one as more board members and others in the community questioned the need for a continuing relationship with NCEE. The issue of whether to buy professional development services and materials externally or create them internally was played out in the areas of literacy and leadership training. In both cases, a significant effort was begun internally only to change gears and purchase these from NCEE. 1. To provide information to teachers and students in improve tea ching and learning 2. To provide information for accountability 3. To monitor programs and decide what changes, if any, are needed 4. To support a learning organization that increases in capacity and makes better decisions across the entire district (p. 13). At th e classroom and school level, DCPS developed a number of tools for assessment and analysis, as well as training, to give a broad view of student formative and summative performance in an easily understood format. This process was
197 evolutionary and developme ntal, slowly improving both the usefulness and increasing the use of data to help indiv idual students. This same data was used to determine which teachers, schools, and programs were making more progress for purposes of accountability and program modificat ions. At the macro level, DCPS developed two ways of determining progress on the key initiatives in the frameworks. The Snapshot system helped the district determine degree of implementation of key areas like literacy, mathematics, use of data, school safe ty, and learning communities. Trained administrators and coaches would observe and interview in a stratified random sample of schools and classrooms using rubrics that were developed by the district. The snapshot system served two purposes. It gave a curre nt view as to the quality of implementation of key strategies district wide and also helped build a common understanding of how to view practice among key instructional leaders at the schools and district level. Finally, DCPS developed extensive ways of co llecting and displaying data on progress on the give goals, most notably a mission control room at the district office that was used internally for planning and externally with business and civic groups (Supovitz, 2006) In addition, twice a year each scho ol would self assess using an Implementation Rubric that would be followed by a team review by their supervisors and content area experts. All of this data was used to determine, at a district level, where more emphasis needed to be placed to reach full im plementation of the major initiatives. While professional learning communities were not developed as fully as intended, the implementation of the other key elements discussed above had begun to turn DCPS into a learning organization with sustainability bey ond any program or even
198 any superintendent. Since the focus of DCPS was to put the ideas and systems in place across the district, rather than depend solely on the personality and individual leadersh ip of the superintendent, i t made DCPS an example of powe rful leadership that had the potential to expand and sustain its success (p. 236). Section II I : Recent National and International Organization Studies (2010 20 11 ) The following studies were conducted between 2006 and 2012 by highly credible national organi zations. Case #15 : Council of Great City Schools/American Institute of Research (AIR) The Council of Great City Schools (CGCS) is a member organization composed of 67 of the largest city school districts in America. Its mission is to promote the cause of u rban schools through legislation, research, media relations, and networking to collaboratively address challenges in providing the best possible education for urban youth. The American Institute of Research (AIR) is one of the largest and most respected or ganizations conducting research in behavioral and social science. They have worked extensively with national, state, and local education organizations to identify effective policies and practices. In Fall 2011, the Council of Great City Schools and the Ame rican Institute of Research collaborated in releasing Pieces of the Puzzle: Factors in the Improvement of Urban School Districts on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). To date, it is the most comprehensive study of improving urban school districts in America. Based on a rigorous and extensive analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results for districts that are a part of the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) and general national NAEP results, the study conc luded that the
199 urban districts were improving at a statistically significant (<.05) faster rate in 4 th and 8th grade mathematics and reading than the rest of the nation (p. 21). The study also identified which of the 11 districts that participated in the T UDA during the years 2003 09 were increasing student performance at a faster rate, and identified what they were doing that other districts that were not improving were not doing (p.17). Districts that were increasing performance were Boston and Atlanta. W hile Charlotte Mecklenburg did not improve significantly, it consistently outperformed other districts after adjusting for percent of students on free/reduced lunch, from racial minorities, or identified as English Language Learners (ELL). Cleveland was us ed as the non example because their student performance on TUDA either remained the same or fell during this time period (p. 26). Several conclusions were drawn by the researchers. What did not seem to matter were governance (mayoral controlled vs. traditi onal school board), choice (charters, vouchers, etc.), degree of power of labor unions, funding models, or degree of alignment of district and state standards with the rigorous standards of NAEP (p. 26 27). These might be somewhat surprising since much of the policy discussion and battles often revolve around these issues. Only changes that directly impacted instruction were significant (p. 26) and these were most powerful when implemented systemically district wide rather than one school at a time (p. 27). preserve a suite of strategies simultaneously and lock them together in a way that is Six key areas of improvement were found consistently in the three higher performing district s (Boston, Atlanta, and Charlotte) and not found in Cleveland:
200 1. Strong leadership (superintendent, school board, and district curriculum) that establishes a compelling vision that unifies and sustains improvements. 2. System wide goals that are measurable and are used to hold staff accountable. 3. A clear, well communicated approach to teaching and learning that is uniformly implemented across the district. 4. A well defined plan of professional development that sets direction, builds skills, and provides coaching su pport in priority areas. 5. A systematic monitoring plan that determines the degree to which district initiatives are supported and implemented to determine how to deploy support. 6. Regularly uses data and assessment of student progress to gauge student progres s, modify practice, and target resources (p. 26). While each district had its own history and context in implementing reforms, they shared the ability to assess their current status honestly, to identify capacity to address them, and when to change approa ches or actions (p. 29). They had strong strategic standing energetic leadership teams and achievement was continually improvin g or stalled. Case #16: Mourshed, M., Chijoke, C., & Barber, M. : improved school systems keep getting better ( 2010). Executive s ummary. This study written by Mourshed, Chijoke, and Barber for the McKinsey & Company, a world wide busin ess consulting group, identified 20 school systems that had achieved significant and sustained gains in student achievement based on national and international assessments. These school systems represented a wide variety of starting points from which to ma ke progress. Based on over 200 interviews covering over 600 interventions, eight reform
201 1. Regardless where it starts, any system can mak e significant gains in six years or less. 2. Focus on improving how instruction is delivered and less on structure and resources. 3. Different performance stages (poor to excellent) require a unique set of interventions (e.g.) a. Fair to good focused on data gather ing, organization, finances, and teaching methods. b. Good to great focused on the teaching profession like certification, practices, and career paths. 4. The context of a system determines more how (sequence, timing, roll out) an intervention is done than what is done. 5. Six interventions occur at every performance stage a. Improve instructional skills of teachers and managerial skills of principals b. Assessing students c. Improving data systems d. Align policy and law to support improvements e. Modify standards and curriculum f. Align evaluation and compensation of teachers and principals with the reforms 6. Systems beginning at poor or fair need a more top down approach to instruction while those starting from good or great decentralize these decisions in exchange for mutual account ability with collaborative practice. 7. Leaders take advantage of a crisis to accelerate the reforms. 8. Leadership continuity is critical with longer tenures and effective succession planning (p. 3 4). Section IV: The Broad Prize for Urban Education Case Studi es (2006 20 12) The Broad Prize for Urban Education has been recognizing the most improved public school districts in the United States since 2003. Comparing school districts with others in their state and, where possible, other districts nationally, Broad uses a complex and comprehensive data analysis to identify finalists for the prize. Data elements include academic performance, graduation rates, college readiness, and other factors. To qualify as a participating district, the student population must be at least 37,500 with at least 40% of students from minority racial groups and 40% on free/reduced lunch.
202 Districts that are selected as finalists are visited by a team of experts that reviews district documents, interviews a variety of stakeholders, and co nducts targeted site visits. The quantitative and qualitative information are reviewed by a panel of experts that makes the final selection. For the purposes of this study, the exemplary practices of the districts selected between 2006 and 2012 are present ed. Case #17: Boston, 2006 Curriculum and academic goals The district focused on moving students to proficiency on high standards and eliminating achievement gaps. A tightly coupled system of grade and course level performance standards, pacing guides, for mative and summative assessments, school wide curriculum/instruction implementation reviews, and alignment of district goals and targets with school improvement plans was implemented (p. 3). Staff selection, leadership, and capacity building Boston i mprove d quality, efficiency, and timing of hiring teachers along with stronger support system for new teachers have improved the breadth and depth of the instructional talent pool. Principals were prepared through a series of development opportunities including year long residencies, targeted professional development, and a stronger connection with the Deputy Superintendents (p. 4). Instructional programs, practices, and arrangements Instructional programs we re selected and implemented using a district wide model that engage d teachers in reflective practice study groups with coaching support. Focus areas were a more inclusive special education model, a more aligned English as a Second Language (ESL) program, high school academies, pre k, and smaller learning
203 commu ni ties. The district also mandated extensive time for language arts and mathematics in K 5 with double blocking in these subjects in grades 6 and 9 (p. 5). Monitoring: Compilation, analysis, and use of data An electronic system wa s used district wide to co llect, analyze, and interpret data, with easy to use tools linking student demographics and performance (grades and district and state assessments results) to state standards and graduation status. Teachers use d this system to identify individual student n eeds and develop unique instructional str ategies, and district staff used it to provide more frequent, targeted assistance to low performing schools (p. 6). Recognition, intervention, and adjustments Schools that were under performing we re led through an i ntensive analysis to create an improvement plan in order to close achievement gaps. Likewise, struggling students we re provided before or after school help and/or required to attend summer school. High performing int ermediate grade students (4 6) we re pr ovided an accelerated curriculum and high performin g middle school students (6 8) we re invited to attend one of three Exam Schools (p. 7). Influential factors There wa s a strong collaboration with city services since the mayor appoints the superintendent a nd the school board, and the school district is considered a city department. The Boston Plan for Excellence, a local education fund, provided literacy professional developm ent, supported innovative practice, and assisted in identifying more effective dist rict policies and practices. Family and c ommunity engagement efforts were also expanded (p. 8).
204 Human resource processes have been changed to provide more pertinent information in the hands of principals as well as becoming more market driven based on scho ol needs. Teacher contracts have been changed to eliminate involuntary transfers, thus increasing instructional time (p. 8). Case #18: 2007 New York City, Department of Education (NYCDOE) Teaching and learning tion was to e nsure uniform core practices were established in every school then releasing autonomy for certain programmatic decisions to meet student needs. A core curriculum in literacy (balanced literacy) and math was implemented in 2002 03 in nearly 800 schools with about 200 schools exempted based on past performance. Curriculum guides and instructional coaches were provided to assist teachers and guide implementation (p. 3). Schools use d general guidelines of effective strategies and data on their stud ents to create lessons to meet individual student needs in meeting the state standards. A t iered approach to intervention wa s used to assist struggling students with the intent to address problems early in the regular classroom rather than requiring specia l education services (p. 4). A comprehensive system of assessments and analysis tools were developed between 2003 06 in order to identify student learning gaps, inform school wide decisions regarding programs, and for accountability purposes. Extensive sch ool quality reviews were conducted to determine the level of use of the data to improve teaching and learning (p. 4). NYCDOE established the Leadership Academy between 2003 06 to increase the ability of school based leaders to support high quality instruct ion. An asp iring principal
205 program provided a 14 month internship followed by a year of coaching once principals are placed in schools. Principals we re supported by school and district instructional coaches. Local Instructional Superintendents (LIS) conduc t ed walk throughs and provide d feedback to principals as part of the evaluation process (p. 5). District leadership When Mayor Blumberg gained control of the NYC schools, he consolidated 32 highly independent community districts into 10 regions under the d irection of Chancellor Joel Klein. The model s to move more to a support and accountability model for autonomous schools. Chronically failing schools were closed and both charter and small schools were established. Students who we re not pr ofici ent in grades 3, 5, and 7 we re retained, requiring schools to determine how to assist students in reaching proficiency by these key grades (p. 6). NYCDOE is a department of the city government which assists in aligning services for students. The mayor, cha ncellor, and a deputy mayor for education and community development shape the vision and key initiatives while an appointed board of 13 (8 by the mayor) approves department policies (p. 7). Schools and regions (10) have clearly articulated goals and target s to increase student proficienc y on state tests. Five strands we re used to establish school comprehensive education plans (CEP) used for principal evaluation. In 2007 08, school progress reports with designated letter grades were used to compare schools w ith similar challenges (p. 7). Operations and support systems NYCDOE moved progressively toward consolidation of various funding streams into one, increased school based budgeting such that 80% is under local control, and
206 developed a weighted student fundi ng formula designed to address the needs of students. Principals received training on how to allocate resources to improve targeted academic goals and their school budgets we re published and easily accessible for purposes of transparency (p. 8). Case #19: Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) Teaching and learning The curriculum in Brownsville wa s based on the state standards, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and provide d teachers with a scope and sequence as well as pacing guides, obje ctives, materials, lesson strategies, and assessments for each six week unit. All grade levels and subjects we re required to use state adopted textbooks. Despite this level of district led structure, teachers, schoo ls and area superintendents had flexibili ty in modifying the prescribed curriculum and selecting supplemental materials. Yearly reviews of the curriculum with school level input from teachers and principals increase d ownership. Teacher committees we re also used to review new curriculum and recomm end instructional materials (p. 4). Since Brownsville had a high percentage of students with limited English skills, both transition programs (Spanish with ESL) or dual l anguage (Spanish and English), we re offered to parents. Most BISD elementary teachers we re certified in biling ual education and new teachers we re trained on four ELL modules to promote rapid gains in English proficien cy. A variety of interventions we re offered to all students on Saturday and during the summer, taught by teachers with demons trated success in those areas (p. 5). District wide benc hmark assessments tied to TAKS we re given twice a year in core academic subjects in grades 3 12. These, along with additional school w ide and
207 classroom assessments, we re used to guide instruction, ret each using flexible grouping so student s achieved mastery, and push proficient students to advanced levels. Exte nsive professional development wa s provided to teachers throughout the year on data analysis and interpretation tied to instructional decision m aking using teacher collaboration meetings (p. 5). s to provide instructional leadership. They attend ed the same training as teachers conduct ed regular classroom walk throughs and prov ide d teachers with feedback and support. Assistant principals, department heads, instructional deans, and district level content experts also assist ed teachers with a belief in shared responsibility (p. 6). District leadership BISD had a clear mission for student learning, strategic goals, necessary supports, and accountability for results for all staff. Ongoing continuous improvement planning processes include d teachers, principals, parents, community, district staff, a nd the school board. BISD offered a w ide range of learning opportunities to prepare students for post secondary education and citizenship. Most of the staff c ame from the schoo l district and retention rates we re high. Par ents were considered partners and we re provided infor mation and educatio n so they could more effectively assist their children (p. 7). District goals for student achievement we re tightly aligned with campus improvement plans. A District Educational Improvement Committee (DEIC), a bro ad based advisory group, reviewed data and m ade recommendations to the school board on the district improvement plan Extensive use of school base d decision making teams included budget, purchasing, curriculum, data analysis, and hiring. As a result of these
208 efforts, there wa s a sense of shared owne rship of the district plan on the part of parents and the community (p. 8). Teachers m et w ith principals and principals m et with assistant superintendents at the beginning of the year to set goals and identify needed support. Classroom and school walk thro ughs monitor ed progress on the goals. Differential supports we re provided to teachers and schools based on their progress (p. 8). Operations and support systems Fiscal resources we re managed well as indicated by a high percentage of funding going to teachi ng and learning, the securing of additional funding through grants, superior ratings from the state for financial performance, and an excellent bond rating. The budgeting process wa s transparen t, included principal input, align ed wit h district initiatives, accounted for school and student needs, and include d significant school based autonomy. Organizational structures and management BISD was named safest school district in Texas for the 2006 07 sc hool year. It provided a range of services for special educat ion, gi fted, and ELL students. There was a commitment to providing a balanced education, the arts, sports, and other enrichment activities (p. 9). Support for teaching and learning BISD provided extensive professional developmen t opportunities for staff th at we re imbedded within schools to support school and district im provement plans. Some of these we re mandated for all schools, while others use d set aside time for school based or cluster issues (p. 9).
209 Case #20: 2009 Aldine Independent School District (AI SD) Curriculum, instruction, assessment, and data management AISD had an aligned instructional system connecting curriculum, instruction, instructional resources, and s tudent achievement data. There wa s a scope and sequence built around six week units in e very course at every grade wi th sample lesson plans that had been vetted. Teachers had easy access to this information through TRIAND, an integrated electronic curriculum and assessment tool. Lesson p lans we r e submitted through TRIAND and reviewed by princ ipals for alignment each week. Teacher teams review ed assessments regularly during common planning to focus and improve lessons as well as determine which student(s) need ed reteaching of a skill or concept. Benchmark assessments given twice a year were developed by teachers with guidance from district curriculum staff. Same day turnaround made assessment data available that was disaggregated by teacher, grade level, student sub groups, school, and district. Dat a from TRIAND wa s also used in determining s needs for special education or ELL services and for crafting individual professional development plans for teachers. Monitoring progress on strategic plan goals Using extensive community input, the school board and superintendent develop ed one key objective within each of three areas of focus: student achievement, student behavior, and communi ty relations. Each objective had measurable goals with one and three year performance targets, as well as action steps with person(s) responsible and allocat ed resources.
210 School action plans support ed the three strategic plan objectives. Quarterly reviews with scorecards at the district, regional, and sc hool level documented progress, held leaders accountable, and ensured quick solutions to emerging problems. Aligning budget and student achievement Schools we re provided extensive budget autonomy as long as they connect ed funds to priorities in their schoo l improvement plan. Principals we re trained extensively on assessing needs, evaluating school programs, and involving stakeholders in budget decisions. The central office h eld principals accountable for their decisions and also used data to determine where resources need ed to be repurposed to address district wide concerns. Recruiting and supporting high quality teachers and leaders Aldin e had developed close ties with 32 of the top teacher preparation programs in the country. As early as their sopho more year, district recruiters we re contacting promising candidates and providing information about the relocation process. Job fairs and tuition for candidates in hard to staff areas also increase d the talent pool. Principals mostly c a m e from within the district and we re selected and prepared through sessions that increase d their knowledge and skills, in addition to t argeted coaching by area superintendents. As a result of these efforts, over 90% of principals and over 85% of teachers have been retained over the last five years. Case #21: 2010 Gwinett County Public Schools Rigorous curriculum and instruction Gwinett de veloped its own curriculum, Academic Knowledge Skills (AKS), to align with, but be more rigorous than, state standards. Quality Plus Teaching Strategies (13 research based instructional strategies) were implemented to teach the curriculum
211 and raise expecta tions for all students to be post secondary ready. Gwinett areas of standardized tests, SAT scores, graduation rates, and AP pass rates. Central office support for instr uctional effectiveness There wa s a strong culture in s to teach or support teachers. Central office staff we re recognized as supporters and knowledgeable problem solvers who we re readily available to assist and build capacit y with school leaders. Superintendent and board relationship Albert Wilbanks, currently the longest serving urban school superintendent, was appointed in 1996. He is known as someone who knows how to engage the staff and community to look forward, strive for higher performance, and meet current chall enges. The school board, which wa s comprised of five members, each with at least six years of service, wa s committed to aligning decisions with the ed collab oratively with the superintendent to improve achievement of students. Operational Management Plans ensure d district staff we re responsible and s through measureable benchmarks. School plans we re aligned to district plans. Performance evaluations we re based on data. Schools develop ed plans and prepare d budgets but we re held accountable for reaching the same high standards. Principals that met the standards we re provided more flexibility and autonomy.
212 Budget is aligned to planning Funds at the district level we re tied to the strategic plan and at the school level to the school improvement plan. Anticipating the recent revenue shortfalls, the distric t was able to maintain programs for students and avoid teacher layoffs. Programs designed to increase student achievement had to pass a rigorous program review to determine the cost benefit ratio in order to continue. Case #22: 2011 Charlotte Mecklenburg S chools (CMS) Strengthening and energizing teachers and leaders CMS ha d invested in strengthening the instructional leadership of its principals as it moved from a tightly managed instruction to more of a performance empowerment theory of action Teachers a nd principals felt more empowered and energized to use their creativity to improve student performance. Based on school results, 112 of the 178 schools qualified lowest performing sch ools, CMS instituted a strategic staffing model where h ighly effective principals brought a group of staff with them to form a high performing team Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools added talent to help lower performing schools. Strategic plan, data, and accountability CMS 5). Initiatives in the goals we re managed through cross functional project charters that ide ntified actions, resources, timel ines, progress benchmarks, and person (s) responsible. All educators we re trained to use Da tawise, an on line portal that wa s used to track student and teacher performance and to inform instructional decisions.
213 Resources are strategically allocated CMS ha d schools with widely ranging needs based on the income level of their neighborhoods. Higher need schools receive d more teachers, coaches, professional development, monitoring, and bonuses, which add ed up to $6,000 more per student than other schools. Twenty five schools had undergone strategic staffing changes (mentioned earlier) to improve lower perf orming schools. All principals we re expected to place their best teachers with their lowest performing students. Parent support Parent University wa s used to as educational progress. More than 50 courses we re taught in English and Spanish and we re often held in community and faith based locations. The community support ed and funded this effort. Case #23: 2012 Mia mi Dade County Public Schools Data driven performance culture Miami Dad e not only effectively collect ed data but excel ed at using the data to empower students, teachers, and administrators to improve student performance. Teachers and administrators we re tr ained on how to access their user friendly data warehouse to run prepared or their own customized reports to pinpoint individual and we re used extensively by all staff to set goals, identify strategies, and determine succe ss. At challenged schools, these conversations we re held with the principal, superintendent, and senior staff to discuss progress, challenges, and solutions, and to take immediate action on critical issues (p. 3).
214 Continuous improvement Miami Date learned from successful corporations how to focus on results, accountability, and efficiency centered around a clear vision and high expectations. As a result, employees owned results and generated innovative ideas to continuously improve. The superintendent also built an excellent relationship with the school board that support ed his strategic initiatives (p. 3). Financial allocation and accountability In 2008, Miami existent and bond ratings had plummeted. Cost cutting and revenue enhancing strategies instituted by Superintendent While district staff was reduced, a concerted effort was made to reduce negative impact on students and programs (p. 4). Strategic planning A broad range of stakeholders were asked to identify district strengths and areas needing improvement through surveys and focus groups. Focused around student achievement, four pillars were created. Extensive research was used to ide ntify strategies to meet the goals. The plan was visionary, well articulated, and effectively monitored by the superintendent and school board. Initiatives we re regularly evaluated we re made accordingly (p. 4). Section V: Recent Doctoral Dissertation Studies (2008 20 12) Following are nine cas e studies conducted from 2008 12 as a part of a doctoral dissertation. With the exception of one study, the findings are limited to one school di strict, limiting any ability to generalize any findings. However, these were chosen
215 because of their emphasis on the superintendent leadership in implementing district wide reforms. Studies #24 3 4 are not included on the summary chart (Exhibit #1, p. 74) because the focus of these studies was more narrow in scope. Case #24: Johnson, P. (2008). Exploring r elationships and i nteractions b etween d istrict l eadership and s chool t eams. Universi ty of California San Diego. This case study is of a K 8 district in C alifornia in its second year of not achieving Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The leadership teams in the schools had been provided professional development prior to a survey that included five schools and district leaders. The purpose of the study was to determine the linkages between school and district leaders in order to build capacity (social, human, and intellectual) needed for school reform. School leadership teams were included, recognizing that the principal cannot be the only connecting point betw een schools and the district staff. Findings included the importance of a shared understanding regarding what constitutes good instruction, a trusting relationship between schools and the central office to provide appropriate support and creating a collect ive knowledge base. Case #25: Trujillo, T. (2008). Political and o rganizational d ilemmas of c entralized i nstructional management: Rethinking the c oherence m odel for u rban d istrict r eform. UCLA. This study examines one California high poverty, high minority to meeting state determined performance targets. Like many districts under pressure to improve, a tightly coupled prescribed curriculum, aligned with standards, assessments, and professional development was implemented. Using theoretic al constructs of the politics of education, instructional change, and organizational change, various tensions were identified. Questions to be addressed were: 1. What processes were used to implement the aligned system?
216 2. Did these processes develop instruction al coherence, produce deep change, and account for adult learning? 3. What instructional outcomes were impacted? Findings included : 1. Despite strong commitment from the district, political pressures undermined the desired changes. 2. The centralized instructiona l system was most successful in the alignment of curriculum with standards. 3. It only impacted teaching and learning at the surface level with little deep and lasting change. Case #26: Garcia, E. (2009). An u rban s s trategies for s ystemic r ef orm: A c ase s tudy Univers ity of Southern California. strategies the House Model, the researcher sought to determine which strategies were selected by the superintendent and how the super useful set of ideas and implications to inform superintendent preparation programs and early years success. Study methods included intervie wing the superintendent and document reviews. Findings were that the superintendent used many of the 10 House strategies in response to the unique context. The driving goals were : 1. C reate a focused, cohesive plan 2. A lign resources with the plan 3. D evelop learni ng communities to address diverse needs 4. E nsure effective public engagement and transparency 5. C reate strong accountability mechanisms and program effectiveness Case #27: Blanco, J. (2009). A c ase s tudy in r eform: Implementation s trategies of an u rban s chool s uperintendent Univers ity of Southern California. This strategy is similar to the previous one in that it evaluates the reform strategies of one urban superintendent who was trained by the Urban School
217 Leadership Institute. The purpose of the research w a s to provide findings that would help USLF refine its preparation program. The researcher sought to determine which of the USFL House key strategies (10 in all) were utilized and how both the superintendent s background and the unique strengths and challen ges of the district influenced those choices. Using interview and document reviews, the study found that superintendent preparation and leadership skills, along with the district context, influenced which and how the House strategies were impacted. The foc us strategies included: 1) strategic planning, 2) building capacity, 3) creating a common vision, 4) identifying a Theory of Action, and 5) focusing on data driven results. Case #28: Gifford, B. (2009). r eform is l ike c leaning o ut y our g c ase s tudy of o ne s chool d i nfluence on s tudent a chievement Colorado State University. Using interviews of district staff, principals, and teachers in a small urban Colorado school district, this study sought to answer three questions: 1. How does th e district support schools? 2. the type of support to schools? 3. How do theories of action of the district impact teaching and learning at the school and classroom level? The results i ndicated: 1. There is a strong agreement around moral purpose and an alignment of 2. There is clarity regarding how the Theory of Action provides a framework for schools 3. Building capacity is a critical priority for everyone in the organization 4. There is an emerging understanding about how autonomy is defined
218 Case #29: Danielian, H. (2009). District l evel p ractices in d ata d riven d ecision m aking Univers ity of Southern California. No Child Left Behind was intended to expose lower performing subgroups in order to motivate educators to close achievement gaps, by creating a culture of inquiry. as to determine what conditions at the district level affect the degree to which data driven decision making (DDDM) wa s used district wide. The researcher interview ed represen tative district leaders including the superintendent, assistant superintendents, assessment directors, and technology directors known for their knowledge of using DDDM. Six themes emerged to categorize the use of DDDM: 1. 2. Determining the processes of DDDM 3. Selecting which types of data to use 4. Creating a di strict wide culture of data use 5. Building structures and practices to support data use 6. Identifying challenges to DDDM in order to overcome them Case #30: Fisher, V. (2010). School i mprovement from the c entral o ffice: A v iew of the f ive y ear s chool s ystem s trategic p lanning p rocess in s elected West Virginia c ounties University o f West Virginia. Using case study methodology with four school districts in West Virginia, the author identified what theoretical frameworks were used to understand and interpret the decision making process. He found that all four districts used similar processes to build consensus and make decisions. Four theories that emerged were: 1. S ystems theory as the overarching process 2. D istributed leadership to describe shared leadership roles
219 3. S tasis theory (the use of structured, sequential questions) as a model for interaction, knowledge building, and problem solving 4. S ocial decision scheme ( a way of identifying individual and group preferences, patterns of influence, and collective responses) to determine the characteristics of their consensual decision making Case # 31: Bravo, R. (2011). The p ersistence of h ierarchy: How o ne s chool d t op a dministrators w orked to g uide a c ulture c hange t oward c ollaborative l eadership UCLA. The author interviewed the superintendent, cabinet, and half of the 25 principals in one district to determine the perceptions regarding a district led effort to increase collaborative leade rship. The study was conducted seven months into a Facilitative Leadership tr aining that included all school based and district administrators. While all participants interviewed supported the idea of greater collaboration in decision making, three areas of concern emerged: 1. The perception was that the superintendent and district ad ministration were sending mixed signals to principals which limited collaboration. 2. There was a concern regarding the lack of time to meet to use more collaboration. 3. Many administrators continued to view their roles as hierarchal. Case #32: Umekubo, L. (20 12). District s chool l eadership for organization learning: Finding the balance Universi ty of California San Diego. This study was conducted in a high achieving district with a high number of students on free/reduced lunch and identified for English Langua ge Learner services. The purpose was to determine which actions taken by the district supported or restrained instructional initiatives at the school level. Data was collected through surveys, semi structured interviews, focus groups, and document analysis Using social network theory, the author sought to identify the quality of relationships between principals and central office staff and whether they led to increased social and intellectual capital, and organization learning. The author also
220 identified w hat structures and processes were used to provide principals flexibility as long as there was accountability for results. Findings were provided in two areas: 1. There were high levels of trust across the district that led to a degree of autonomy, and 2. A balan ce had been created by focusing on results rather than programs. Case # 33: Bealer, D. (2010). Promoting student achievement: A case study of change actions employed by an urban school superintendent. Univers ity of Southern California. In this case study o f one urban superintendent, a primary question and three sub questions were asked. 1. Which of 10 specific reform strategies were used to improve student achievement? a. How did the quality and implementation of the strategies align to the strengths and weakne sses of the district? b. What additional strategies were used? c. How did the choice and implementation of the reform strategies Results indicate d chievement created the environment to support systemic improvement. Start up strategies used by the new superintendent included: 1. Communication plans emphasizing transpar ency. 2. Built relationship with the school board that defined governance roles. 3. Reorganized district organization around academics, operations, and assessment. Conclusions were that superintendents take the lead in system wide reform around three areas: 1. Mai ntain focus on increasing student achievement. 2. Increase capacity for using performance data for decision making. 3.
221 Case #34: Hagland, D. (2009). System change and the system leader: A case study of superintendent action to improve student achievement in a large urban school district. Univers ity of Southern California. This study is very similar to the previous study by Bealer in that it focuses on the mentation of 10 specific reform strategies. Sub questions included: 1. reform strategies? 2. How did the superintendent determine which specific actions should be taken? 3. How were these actions affected by the unique characteristics of the Results indicated that superintendents implement plans that: 1. Align district goals to all activities in the district. 2. Provide clear connections with conseq uences between district vision and actions, thus creating coherence and building district capacity. Three key strategies were identified for superintendents to effectively lead a change process: 1. Ensure equity of resources to schools and students, 2. Ensure e ffective hiring, developing, and retention strategies are utilized, and 3. Ensure an effective, on going strategic planning process guides the work. Summary While a few of the studies represented in this review focused on a single district, most identified c ommon initiatives or practices used in multiple districts. These strategies were synthesized into a comprehensive list to determine the degree of commonality in the case studies #1 23 (#24 34 were not included). ( S ee Table # 2 2 ) While there were a number of strategies with one or two citations, a consistent pattern emerged, particularly when similar strategies were combined.
222 Based on the summation of findings in this review, high performing districts : 1. Build civic capacity and trust. 2. Share a common vision and beliefs that all students can learn at high levels, have a 3. Have a strong superintendent and senior staff to lead the reform effort. 4. Have an aligned instructional system including common performance standards, curriculum, materials, recommended instructional methodology, and assessments. This system is built over time beginning with elementary reading and mathematics, then branching out to all subjects and all grades. 5. Provide an extensive profession al development program tied to the curriculum, using instructional coaches, and creating professional learning communities at each school. 6. instructional strengths and needs based on the standards and common assessments with the goal to differentiate instruction, particularly for low performing students. 7. Create an accountability system that holds schools and district staff responsible for specific improvement targets based on reali stic stretch goals, with positive and negative consequences. 8. Allocate resources based on need and aligned with key district wide initiatives and pursue additional external resources. 9. Provide additional assistance to low performing schools and, as a last resort, reconstitute them in order to create a highly dedicated professional teaching staff. 10. Provide as much school based decision making in budgeting and hiring staff as possible.
223 APPENDIX E REDACTED SAMPLE INTERVIEW I NTERVIEW #[ ] : [Superintenden t] February [ ] 2013 PD : [Superintendent] on February [ ]. As I told you in advance, [superintendent], this is about the strategic planning process, which is not only just what your plan looks like and the elements and how it was built and so forth, but the process, and particularly from the perspective of the superintendent I th ink is unique in terms of how that process is used to improve student achievement and the critical role that the superintendent plays in the how a s the what. So, if you will first of all describe your plan. What are some of the key elements, key components to it? What does it look like? [Supt.] : It was very clear for me when I had my first workshop on strategic planning and development with the boa rd that we needed to look at the previous plan, learn from it, and then throw it away and start anew. And I think, consistent with what we find across many organizations, both public and private, strategic plans are cumbersome, they tackle too many goals a nd objectives, and more often than not achieve few of begun this conversation by recognizing that we need to be very [ ] about the plan, and we decided that we would d evelop a plan with a [ ] goal, student achievement. [ ]. That goal rests [ ] and the [ ] all leading to increasing achievement are #1, organizational efficiency and that you have everything from the support systems, managerial issues, budget and f inance, you have it. Second, human capital, development support. Third, community engagement and support. And, fourth, you
224 talking about PD: Talking about social, emotional, behavioral support. [Supt.] : Correct. And in addition to the support provided to schools by organizations. This is [ ] and [ ] and our college partnerships for dual enrollment can all come in. PD: Okay. [Supt.] : The process that took us there was achieved, as I said, through board workshop, but staff really, through preliminary polling and conversations with stakeholders in the community, got to the point of producing this strategic plan reflective of both local input as well as best practices acro ss the nation. In some cases, we actually pulled stuff from international [ ] that presented [ ] performance, academic performance. So we stole everything that was good to be implemented in our plan, modifying slightly to adapt to our community. PD: So you looked at who was doing well, nationally and internationally, looked at their plans. [Supt.] : Correct. And we adapted and adopted the very best into our own. You know, it was funny, because in our conversations, leading to the adoption of the strateg ic plan, we kept referring to as best practice of others, if it was not copyrighted, we adopted as our own. And we packaged it, rebranded it, and it became part of mine and [the PD: You talked about an engagement process with the staf f and the community. Was that formalized, were there announced meetings, we really want your input on where the direction of the district would go, how did that..
225 [Supt.] : Formal and informal. PD: Okay. Gotcha. [Supt.] : at all levels. So we had communit y town hall meetings, we had conversations with organized labor, sought their input, had conversations with the local business community, both at [the] Chamber of Commerce as well as [ ] the economic development arm of the county. I, myself as superinten dent, I have [ ] seek their input. This a [ ] meeting. So I expose them to the process, parents and students. So I think getting ideas from them, and helping them simul taneously. You cannot have just sort of an open ended conversation. Helping them provide input within specific areas that are central to our core function. PD: So you had already come up with the [ ] and so they knew that was the structure in which to pr ovide input. [Supt.] : Correct. Correct. PD: Okay. Gotcha. [Supt.] : And by the way, the input that we got was specific usually to the [ ] that represented their interest. It helped focus the conversation. We found that approaching strategic plans by sim ply going out there and asking, you know, what do you think we thing and the main thin g is student achievement and force everything to be around that.
226 PD: Okay. Anything else about how the plan was created? What was the relationship with you and the board, how much ownership did they take, leadership, did you have consultants working wit h you? A little bit more about the process. [Supt.] : We had one consultant toward the end that was actually somebody who we brought in, brought [ ] invited them to come in to help frame the conv ersation from an outside perspective, so that it would not be just superintendent and staff speaking to the board or the board speaking to superintendent and staff. PD: Now this was you, senior staff, and the board? [Supt.] : Me, senior staff, and the boa rd. Correct. And we did it in a very public environment, but we took it out of the board auditorium where we hold board meetings because of the.. PD: You wanted it casual. [Supt.] : Yea, and this was not board and staff, you know, from a position of power or authority, or even superintendent/cabinet versus support staff. So we went to an environment where even the way we sat was very collaborative, very, a very level playing field across the board for all. The conversation was facilitated. We brought in [ ] [ ] facilitated a conversation. So everybody felt empowered. PD: Good: [Supt.] : But we started with the understanding that we were going to be concise and narrow the playing field in terms of the specific objective, the goal for our school system, and then how organizationally we would arrange the conversation around the [ ] as I described. That facilitated the process a great deal.
227 PD: And it was also clear that this was a team plan. While they had a different role than you did in terms of impl ementation, you came away with a sense of collaborative ownership on the board/superintendent team. [Supt.] : Right. PD: Okay. [Supt.] : And actually part of the facilitated conversation up front was to clarify those roles. PD: Okay. [Supt.] : In that fo r the purpose of plan and development, we need to have a meeting of the minds, and treat this not as my turf versus your turf. This is the collective arriving at the best approach, the framework, and the journey for the system. PD: Okay. [Supt.] : Part of the conversation also included, so what is, once we agree on a plan, to say that, so [ ] was very important in clarifying, you know, to the extent that there was a good to have a reminder, the roles and responsibilities of the board versus the superintendent and staff. Right? PD: Right. [Supt.] : And even the role and responsibility of organized labor versus staff and the board, and even the private sector versus staff and the board. The role of lobbyists you have a p lan, how do you tackle it? [ ] ? W ho does what? And I think it was
228 important too, at that point, to reassert, if needed clarifying, the distinct roles and responsibilities in a very respectful way. And I think we did that and that was actually, from my perspective, the most helpful piece o f the discussion. PD: The roles and responsibilities? [Supt.] : Sure, sure. PD: Which often gets confusing. [Supt.] : It often gets confusing, and the outcome, as you know, is discord between board members and board and staff, as a result of this unclea r separation of one single voice on the plan. So what do we hope to achieve by when, what metrics are we going to look at, and what respective role shall we have a s we each push towards that one goal? PD: How was this communicated? Once you framed the larger picture, how was that then presented to the community? Obviously you have a [ ] community here, a very [ ] school system. The degree to which they might un derstand at least some of the key at large. [Supt.] : Number one, we took a great deal of pride in having [ ] and we advertised that widely. [ ] after the planning session and wor kshop, there was actual translation through actual board policy, and this was an item that was presented to the board. That gets quite a bit of media coverage, [ ] But then we marketed it using all media, social media, through all communication with sta ff, principals, to communicating into their buildings. I communicated to our Chamber [ ] every one of our stakeholders, and we actually built the communications plan to achieve that.
229 PD: Goes with [inaudible]. [Supt.] : But, I tell you, the strategic p lan is most relevant to us on the inside. The outside ought to see the benefits of you having a clear, strong strategic plan. The outside world does not necessarily need to know what your strategic plan is. You r strategic plan is an organizational document that orients your work. PD: Right. [Supt.] : The outside world ought to see the result of fruit of that. If you have a good plan and good implementation and good fidelity, then the outcomes are positive. If you have a disconnected plan, then the outside world will only see that as a manifestation of lackluster results, disconnected action between board and superintendent, which is usually the most visible thing. And we were more concerned about people really internalizing it and showing it vertically and horizontally in the district, more so than folks outside of the district understanding what our strategic plan is. They out to understand, however, what we value, what we value. PD: So if they could say the number one goal of the district is this, then th at would be a success from the communication standpoint. [Supt.] : Correct. Student achievement. So when I say what the value is so when it comes time for budget adoption, and we have a practice in this district actually coined by us, which is a value is a [ ] process. Each year with the budget process we actually [ ] departments, functions, personnel, if they do not have a connection to student achievement. And, for us, the value of the strategic plan is being able to ask those tough questions. So the
230 directly, indire ctly, through a support level. [ ] ? Through an advocacy level. But it has to have a connection. If it does not have a connection, we abandon that function and we [ ] or that role. PD: Talk some about the process of monitoring, both the process part of it. You had certain activities planned in order to accomplish certain goals. But also formative outcomes, obviously you have probably yearly summative, but as you are going throughout the year. [Supt.] : Yea. Just like student achievement, you know, you h ave a formative and a summative process. The summative is sort of much easier than a formative, actually, driven. So, at the end of the year, in each one of those four [ ] the [ ] in terms of finances, were we able to maintain our reserves, did we improve our credit rating? And, I am giving you examples. Did, were we able to pass a bond referendum to fund [ ] ? [ ] ? Were we able to provide [ ] to the students? Those are all very co ncrete specific. Were we able to negotiate contracts with value know whe ther or not you hit those. [ ] ? In terms of student achievement, did we meet our graduation targets? Did we reduce the n umber of low performing schools? Did we increase student participation AP, IP, Dual Enrollment programs? Easy to target. So it was very clear as to what the metrics were to evaluate, in a summative fashion, the implementation of the strategic plan. At the formative level, it is actually more interesting [ ] because depending on the vision, you have different ways of assessing and there
231 to what the pulse of the system is through a battery of baseline interim assessments, etc. [ ] the ultimate target. In other instances, a little tougher. So, on the community and support [subgoal] a litt le tougher to gauge. [ ] ? The issue of parental engagement is somewhat subjective. Now, we have the benefit, the value of [ ] And we measure that. So many parents are engaged, attend meetings, so many [ ] etc. But, in some get an interim gauge of progress if you do not have objective PD: Does that make that kind of a work in progress and/or is that something where the summative are pretty clear? Most of them are dictated either by the state or by obvious things in the community. [Supt.] : PD: summative wise? [Supt.] : Right. I would something as simpl e as a complex. A number of [ ] programs that will open in one year. We value [ ]. So, we continue to expand [ ] We control that data. Student enrollment in non traditional programs, we control that data. So some of the data, yes, cognition what it is because the state does produce that data. But I say the vast majority of the data is actually produced locally. But there are some areas that
232 co ntrol. So it makes it difficult. PD: Talk some about, specifically on the academic program, the connection of the standards, curriculum, instruction, assessments, professional development. To what degree are those developed at the district level and, if so, is that with teacher input? To what degree of those are left in the hands of schools or some of your areas or clusters? How tightly and loosely coupled are those? [Supt.] : Yea. So that goes to the heart of one of the reasons why we [ ] is consistenc y, district wide consistency. PD: So pretty tightly coupled, including professional development and instruction. [Supt.] : like a 12 s FCAT data becomes the first input. t achievement. [ ] ? Becomes our first input for, right after that, I will actually address one issue that y ou did not mention, a sector from professional development, because professional development is the process of opt imizing your human capital. Right ? PD: Right. [Supt.] : my responsibility in some areas to actually improve the human capital that I have? Or, should it have the [ ] but the [ ] does not have the skill, should I be in the position of saying, [ ] [ ] betwee n
233 to actually perfect. I will let go of you and I recruit better talent. Okay. PD: Right. Those would be my next questions. [inaudible] makes sense. Go ahead. [Su pt.] : Yea. So we use previous year FCAT data in addition to other assessment data that we have locally as the primer for decisions on professional development needs, professional personnel deployment, human capital assignment, at all levels, whether talking about teachers, principals, assistant principals, counselors, downtown stuff. [ ] So when you go to a principals meeting and you say by a show of hands, who has been appointed principal over the past [ ] years the [inaudible], hands go up. An d we use data to make those determinations. So right here at this table, I meet with the [ ] and they bring me their recommendations for promotion, for example, and I have [ ] We look at performance for the individual in question for the previous fou r years. And of being recommended to become a principal, the [ ] has his or her areas of responsibility in the previous schools over the past four years and the perfo rmance in those schools. [ ] match for this school, okay, considering the challenge. Why do I say that? Because you look at FCAT data, you look at the first baseline assessment, by first baseline [ ] new principals, assistant superintendents, etc. Then you have the interim assessments, and it is not uncommon for us to make tweaks all throughout the year. At this board meeting next [ ]
234 cases that people put on the table. So, the process is data driv en. We observe the data. We have a process called [ ] that allows us [ ] to meet with all the principals, particularly [ ]. And it affords us an opportunity to look at the data, make data driven decisions as far as professional development. So, if we school, but we scale it out regionally and district in reading or writing or geometry or algebra, biology. We make decisions right there at the table to invest resources in professional dev elopment in these key areas. Or, as I said earlier, we may make decisions right at the table to pull out teachers and involuntarily transfer them and put them in a [ ] in an area where they will cause least harm until they finish the [ ] and then, depe on a plan to actually lead to termination. [ ] And the way we started doing that was, one advantage of Senate Bill 736, we modified the way we hired teachers and the way we renewed contracts giving more and mor e, including a greater number of teachers in contracts that were no more than 12 month entitlement. But, on the back end, we also performance pay with [ ] else is actually doing performance pay with [ ] PD: Which [ ] funds? [Supt.] : The [ ] Remember the process that was PD: I remember we were a part of it. It was a variety, a [ ] We had [ ] We had several sources.
235 [Supt.] : We put [ ] million out to teachers. Teachers can get [ ] in one year on top of question. PD: around supporting so [Supt.] : To the point earlier, principals have very little latitude, very little. Well certain principals. There are [ ] principals that have very little latitude out of [ ], have very little la titude over pacing, sequencing, budgetary decisions at their schools. The other ones have a great deal of latitude because, in my book, with increased performance, you get autonomy. [ ] ? Now when we first appoint the principal into a low performing envi ronment, their lack of autonomy really translates into a great deal of support. You get a lot of stuff done for you. You know, you have all kinds of coaches, you have a lot the one thing you will see across the district in [ ] is consistency. Pretty much, you can walk into any school, I can walk as any form as there may be into a school and know exactly from my expectation what should be taught at that point. Now that does not stifle middle there, within certain deviation, you should have an expectation. PD: e a learning calendar, you have assessments built on that calendar, so, therefore, the expectation is that people are generally moving in that same timeline.
236 [Supt.] : Right. But I should see in a week or so. In that [ ] setting meeting, when we are look ing at the data, and we did [ ] at the beginning of the year after the FCAT data came in, we started the school year so the principals come together. [ ] And then, after im assessments, then for high schools only to deal with second 800 points, we have the final [ ] And in [ ] the principal sits there with the [ ] next to him, [ ] is at the table, [ ] [ ] ll their task is identify risks, opportunities, the gaps, and then strategy, self and tell us what the problem is, you probably lose your job. Simple as that. You need to bring us strategies. If you do a good job, i f we believe the strategy, then the people at the table wind up in a position of actually making an investment in you. You, as the strategic plan, so they know exactly which areas to tap into. [ ] ? And I need your help in this area, human capital, so I can start documenting this teacher. But this is a small school, and I only have two third grade teachers. And for me to document this teacher o produce, elevate student achievement in third grade, effective teacher? This is a meeting on Friday afternoon. Monday morning you will have a new sponsibility as superintendent to have HR move heaven and earth to remove that teacher, take on the union over the weekend, remove that teacher, and find a great teacher, and incentives for the great teacher to go there. It happens all the time. We wil l ha ve [ ] involuntary transfers in one year, out of [ ] schools, which is you know a nightmare for the union.
237 PD: You had talked some about the connection with budget and also HR. Anything else in those two areas about the alignment of basically resource s around your plan? [Supt.] : opportunity, you need to provide unequal investment. [ ] ? So, the way we target, not as much general fund, but the way we target obviously the federal programs, Title I, II, III, IDEA, I think actually we do a better job than most. We really have a seamless way of bringing general fund and these federal investments together and invest on the basis of need, an actual data driven PD: So you have [Supt.] : Now [ ] the schools on the basis of need. [ ] ? [ ] for convenience, [ ] By the way, we also [ ] tea chers, [ ] teachers. [ ] [ ] but we know who they are. And, PD: media. [Supt.] : The schools, not the teachers, Even though if you were to pull what the state published recently in terms of highly effective, etc., all the way down, we had, [ ] I everybody was basically highly effective. PD : Okay. Talk about some of the internal and external factors, either that supported, enhanced your plan, or that got in the way of you implementing your plan. [Supt.] : Well, you know, success has made parents, failure are orphans, [ ] So, you need a plan if everything was great. [ ] ? If everything is great, what do you
238 [ ] you need to deal with that can be reduced down to the issue of ownership. I wo PD: [Supt.] : It cannot derail the plan. [ ]. PD: [ ] [Supt.] : [ ]. PD: Right. [Supt.] : onstant conflict. [ ] So you have to negotiate that. The interesting Board members. [ ] ? Board members depend on the unions for re election. And, between those two navigate it, creating a balance which sometimes can be tough to manage. [ ]. PD: So, they would be interested in being involved if need be in elections should board members try to micr omanage, say fall off your track, etc? [Supt.] : [ ]. PD: [ ] ? [Supt.] : [ ]. PD: [ ] ? [Supt.] : [ ]. PD: Okay
239 [Supt.] : [ ] So this safeguards and [ ] as far as implementation of the strategic plan. There are the possibilities for influ ence or deviation, but you have to offset those with the balance from [ ] groups and, most importantly, the sophistication of the [ ] PD: ongoing process with your academi c achievement, [ ] often, if at all. But, underneath there are the strategies that change based on their effectiveness, program effectiveness, strategic abandonment, etc. Anything else about driven. [Supt.] : Yea. Let me tell you the cycle and this is sort of a modified continuous so current condition, and current condi ones academic performance, so where are we today in terms of student performance. [ ] ? And everything that that entails. So critical instance in school, attendance. [ ] ? Students leaving, coming in retention, transient data for student mobility, interim assessments. All that is there. Second financial stability. So are we getting our property tax collections, are they coming in as expected, are there state issues that are going to impact the financ ial stability as we know it. now. What is the impact? So that is being monitored? Third is, how is the public seeing us. For me, that is very important, by the way. And that is not something we can [ ] PD: So d o you, [Supt.] : So I [ ] PD: Y ou [ ].
240 [Supt.] : [ ] And the last is not only what are people saying about us, but what are people thinking about us in terms of [ ] What are people actually saying and doing about us? So the power of the media, how they speak about us, is important. Those four things are inputs that we monitor all the time. And, by the way, student achievement is our [ ] but I did not at all discount the impact that financial stability will have on us. Or the impact that publ being said and done about us in Tallahassee or the local media [ ] will have on our ability to deliver our student achievement. And, so, there are, the gap analysis that we do will always identify criti cal needs. The critical need is followed by a solution. [ ] ? An action. That action is implemented. We plan, [ ] time [ ] the plan. When we [ ] Okay? You implement. You analyze. The analysis is a determination of whether or not the solution we came up with worked. And this is again, you know, the latest improvement model, whether it worked or not. If it worked, then we sc ale up, we accelerate implementation. So, if we tried something in a cohort of [ ] ent it to the [ ] mean, it starts here but then it loops, it continues to go a different problem, and each year, you know, you have one loop. PD: al continuous improvement. [Supt.] : It is a functional continuous improvement. PD:
241 [Supt.] : No, it is actually, it is actually done. It is actually done. It helps that I have a research team that I value, that everything we do is submitted to research, and a report [ ] totally without my influence. And, let me tell you, the analysis comes. Sometimes the study shows that what I thought would have great impact, even though there was national research endorsing the approac h, bombed. And I have to . PD: [Supt.] : They can. And, actually, I just got one. I tried an [ ] ce that students benefitted from it any more than they had benefitted from a more traditional approach. I have to listen to that, [ ] future. So, I always look at what d oes the national research [ ] [ ] ? Can we learn from that and implement something? [ ] ewed. You just lost your funding. You just got [ ] PD: Right. So how much time do you give something? [Supt.] : It depends. PD: [ ] implementation. Did we implement it the way we said we were gonna do? [Supt.] : Fidelities and [inaudible]. PD: that, or whe n do you know when to pull the plug would be another way of saying it. [Supt.] : So the researchers actually tell us that.
242 PD: Okay, good. [Supt.] : The researchers tell. And maybe it would helpful, I can give you one of these [ ] PD: Well, and independent. [Supt.] : the researchers are very independent mind ed very o bjective, they are totally empowered with doing the research, coming up with conclusions, and publishing them. And my agreement is, once produced, I cannot bury it. Once produced, I send it to the it of getting used to because you are committed to your own failures. But, I think that makes us stronger, actually. The wins are, by far outweigh the losses. And, it helps me do away with something quickly, tinue to do it? Now, I use this strategically as well. I can ask the researchers say, look at this, look at this, you know, look at these different areas. PD: You can help decide what they research. [Supt.] : What they will, I often encourage them to look one strategic that we used, [ ] telling them, that every rollout of something new comes with an internal research arm. PD: [Supt.] : PD:
243 [Supt.] : Part of that loop. PD: What data do we need to collect, and what time do we have the assets and [Supt.] : [Phone ringing] Female: Yes, sir. [Supt.] : Get from [ ] the la st research study on the [ ] implementation. Female: Sure. You got it. [Supt.] : n, PD: [inaudible] [Supt.] : They will adapt. PD: So what strategic planning? How does that fit into the overall accomplishment of academic achievement gains ? [Supt.] : First piece of advice I would give is, number one, know your system, know your data, know your needs. And by know your data, I really mean not just knowing your achievement data, know your data. Know where the kids are, but know also where the adults are. [ ] ? PD: Is that a community scan or is the community, is that broadly what their belief systems, how much are they willing to be supportive, etc.? Is that [Supt.] :
244 PD: Okay. [Supt.] : [ ] I have. PD : Gotcha. Okay. [Supt.] : and will set between the staff you have, the [ ] you have, and the nee d and challenge. So one set of data is brought to you by the students. [ ] ? They show up every year, and they all bring their talents, their fears, their aspirations, their dreams, their deficiencies, their lack of readiness for learning. [ ] ? Their ow n proficiency, which may poverty, disability, the way. And what you do have control is, what do you have here to match that, to address that. And, so when I say my first bit of advice is be daring in your analysis of y is actually very intimidating, because you [ ] principals? Your [ ] central office staff, or your [ ] have that data, once you kno w where they fall, what do you do? Who do you assign a [ ] teacher to? [ ] ? Who do you assign a [ ] thing. [Female entered room.] [Supt.] : Thank you. Female: This is the last one and this was back in [ ] [Supt.] : Thank you.
245 Female: all you needed? [Supt.] : ]. Great. June, and then February [ ] [inaudible] of [ ], and remediation learning with n example. See [ ] indicates that the reading program had a beneficial effect on achievement only for fourth grade participants. Well, we implement it district great. [ ] ? Well the mathematics program did not have an impact at any grade level. So, it takes courage to say, I think we tried it, and [ ] supe rintendent know your data, know your inputs, know your data, and be cognizant of the fact that, if you have a strategic plan and you have a specific goal that you need r deficiencies, and you do not s o sufficiently over the factors you control to ensure success towards the goal, knowing that you have zero control over these inputs here, you probably w ill fail. And, by the way, [ ve started [ ] and that one element is the most critical one. Everybody wants performance, [ ] everybody wants to deliver on high graduation rates, lower dropouts, and they want increased participation in advanced academics. They want good [ ] score gonna be able to implement your strategic plan. So ownership of the data over which you have absolute control is critical. A lot of people, by the way, spend a lot of time
246 social status of the kindergarten kid on the first day of school. You know, he comes as he is. But I do have 100% control over the inputs on my side leader effectiveness, teacher effectiveness, support systems, partnerships with external [ ] I have co ntrol of that. So my big, big advice know your data, know your pressure points, and maximize your, maximize your influence over those. PD: Okay. Good advice. [Supt.] : PD: Well, [inaudible] [ ] Thank you, I appreciate it. [Supt.] : No problem.
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256 BIOGRAPHICAL SKET CH William Edward Dannals began his career in Duval County Public Schools as a middle school mathematics teacher, then served as an assistant principal and principal at six schools. He was a regional superintendent supervising 33 schools before becoming Chief Academic Officer and finally Superintendent from 2007 2012. His entire 36 year career was in Duval County. During his tenure as Superintendent, the district experienced significant growth in student achievement, graduation rates, and percent of students taking college level courses, qualifying as college ready, and completing career / technical certificates. Truanc y, major conduct violations, suspension rates and the number of lower performing schools were drastically reduced. Community partne rships became highly effective at providing wrap around services Since his retirement at the end of 2012, Ed has been completing his dissertation and consulting with large urban school districts. He currently serves as a Senior Advisor with the District M anagement Council, partnering with public school district leaders to improve student outcome, operational efficiency, and resource allocation. Ed earned his B.A. in Urban History from Georgia State Univ ersity and his M.Ed. in Student Services Administratio n from the University of North Florida.