In June of 2016, a truly inspirational story of turnaround partnership began at Children of Promise School Preparatory Academy, Inglewood, California.
Prior to 2016, students at the school (COPPA, as it is affectionally called) were on average, 3-4 years behind the curve, with just 2% of students assessed as proficient in English Language Arts (ELA), and 6% proficient in mathematics on standardized tests.
After 23 years in the field as a teacher, school leader and Chief Academic Officer, Jackie Jefferson joined the school. Her arrival coincided with the selection of Jo Cheadle from Class Measures as the school’s improvement partner. In two short years, the pair worked hand in hand, along with a team of carefully selected team consultants, to deliver an impressive school turnaround program that is bringing about the transformation COPPA.
In many respects, Jackie considered COPPA a “blank slate”. With no true institutional curriculum in place, a lack of clear sequence to learning, very little accurate data to benchmark or monitor, significantly limited capacity to embed evolving best practices, and none of the rigour required to develop a high performing teaching team, it was evident that significant change was required. Jo advised Jackie that the most effective way to document the changes needed and at the same time win the buy-in of all staff, would be to conduct a Collaborative School Quality Review (CSQR).
The main objective for the CSQR process is for all stakeholders to fully appreciate the school’s current strengths and areas for growth, with the outcome of a collaboratively created, unambiguous, useful, dynamic and transparent strategy plan for the transformation of student outcomes (a tool that will guide transformation work, rather than serve to meet compliance requirements). The selected CSQR team created the rubric in advance of the review.
The Collaborative School Quality Review has been designed to analyze school level information framed by five over-arching domains as follows:
Domain 1: Culture for Learning
Domain 2: Quality of Learning, Teaching and Assessment
Domain 3: Curriculum
Domain 4: Leadership and Accountability
Domain 5: Partnership with Families and the Community
To support the implementation of the strategic action plan post CSQR, Jo and the turnaround team supported Jackie in an aggressive recruitment drive:
- A math specialist, who would not only help to double math proficiency numbers in just 24 months, but who would transform the students’ lives through number.
- Two reading specialists who began immediate implementation of the Daily 5 literacy framework and created a reading room with barcode scanners to assign books based on students’ Lexile levels.
- English language learner specialists who focused solely on improving outcomes for COPPA’s large Latino and Nigerian populations.
- Enrichment specialists who would develop STEAM projects based on students’ areas of interest to nurture and leverage their passions.
- A Professional Learning Community (PLC) specialist – who would provide the tools and support needed to develop a high performing teaching team.
- A data/assessment specialist who would ensure the team could accurately benchmark, measure and monitor their progress, and use data to revise and refine the instructional program.
The partnership objective with these hires was to support the transformation of classroom practice leading to a rapid change in the quality of student learning. Supports were intended to enable the turnaround team to gather authentic and secure evidence of student academic and personal success, leading to increased scores in interim assessments and SBAC tests.
With these specialists in place and Class Measures’ work with the school to develop a supportive system for measuring teacher progress and effectiveness, Jackie and her team were able to define a common language to talk about change, and the measurement tools to track the impact of change processes. The COPPA Professional Growth Plan was immediately seen by teachers as a way to not only document their growth, but also ensure that they received the support they needed to improve their professional practice.
With new people and new practices in place, leaders and teachers were now able to begin focusing in earnest on the assessment data available to them.
“When we first started looking at assessments, we simply didn’t know what the students knew. Or what they didn’t know. The only way we could change this, was to focus relentlessly on data to drive a shift in teaching and learning. Jo Cheadle allocated a data specialist to the support team who initially began leading us through our math assessment data to demonstrate progress and tell our story. It was a great way to get cultural buy-in as it helped us see the end (our goal) before we began. We know that our test scores wouldn’t improve dramatically overnight, but we now have a linear process to follow that drives us forward as we continuously revise and refine our instructional program to ensure we get the upward movement needed.”
- Jackie Jefferson
COPPA now operates three-weekly instructional cycles (in a PLC format) to review and revise:
- Teaching and learning,
- Assessment, and
- Results from a variety of assessments.
Class Measures consultant, Amber Leage, worked with teaching teams to develop the PLC know-how and professional habits to maximize meeting time. Jackie explains that the PLC structure helps each teacher keep a ‘pulse’ on his or her class, and truly understand how individuals learn. Teachers and students review their work together and this in turn means intervention is frequent and tailored. COPPA now also runs an intensive Saturday School program five weeks prior to standardised tests to help the students prepare.
“We now have a learning continuum to ensure the students have the pre-requisite skills to achieve. All the while, teachers are recording vital data in our student management system so we can easily evidence our progress. Whilst our public report card has improved – now 12% of our students are proficient in math and 20% in ELA – it’s our private report card that tells a more important story… it tells our story of growth.”
Jo Cheadle’s support helped Jackie to see the value of not only tracking students’ progress, but also to recognize the benefits of regular measures of teaching quality that had no connection to formal evaluation processes. Teachers are facilitated to observe each other frequently in the classroom and are encouraged to have the crucial, critical conversations that drive high performing teams. Like all good mentors, Jackie firmly believes that coaching, monitoring and visioning are as important for her teaching team as they are for students. Each member of the team is given inspirational reads for educators (including What Great Principals Do Differently: Eighteen Things That Matter Most, by Todd Whitaker) and are equipped with the tools they need to be accountable in their roles. Scheduled sub-days give the teachers the time they need to work on the learning projects they’re passionate about and master their craft.
With Jo Cheadle’s support, in just two years, Jackie and her team embedded an institutional curriculum, systems, processes, leaders, teaching and learning programs, instructional cycles, tailored interventions, and evolving best practices to give the students at COPPA the best possible chance to make the most of their studies.
But the story doesn’t end here: Jackie is passionate about driving the instructional program forward and knows that in order to continue to make the progress she has envisioned for COPPA, collaboration between parents, students, and teachers is vital to close the learning loop. The original scope of work included this vital change mechanism and it has become a central focus to COPPA’s change story, as Jackie explains:
“We work hard to ensure communication is open, honest and free-flowing here at COPPA – and data is our common language. We’re using tried and tested teaching and learning strategies that are proven to work, and we’re demonstrating the progress the students are making by telling the story through our data to everyone that has skin in the game”.
If you’re working on a school turnaround program and can see the value of using data to benchmark your progress, motivate your team, and tell your inspirational story – get in touch with Class Measures to discuss how our data specialists can accelerate your improvement.
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Jo Cheadle is now Vice President of Business Development for District and School Transformation at Class Measures, Inc. Working closely with school leaders across the US to implement school improvement solutions, she specializes in using data to identify and embed the blend of strategic change required to harness the potential of leaders, managers, and teaching staff in order to optimize the potential in every classroom.
Jacqueline Jefferson describes working with Jo:
“Jo is a true pleasure to work with. She’s honest, open, and an awesome thought partner. She was instrumental in using our data to develop ownership and buy-in to our school turnaround program. She supported us in using data to tell our story – which has proved a key success for our school. She develops collaborative working relationships with all those she works with and her professional expertise is an asset to any leadership team.”