When the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) sought a way to take a new set of standards for improving outcomes for young men of color and translate it into practice, it reached out to SchoolWorks.
The Coalition had developed a series of standards and promising practices pinpointing the challenges experienced by boys of color in school settings, including mitigating the effects of conditions outside of school. It then sought innovative ways to provide professional development to its nationwide network of practitioners on the standards, which focus on core areas ranging from assessment to parent and community partnerships to curriculum, school climate, and leadership. Developing cultural competency is at the heart of the work.
In 2012, the Coalition approached SchoolWorks about developing a review process based on the standards and introducing it in 25 schools in Mississippi as an introduction to its professional development efforts. For SchoolWorks, the challenge was “wrapping our proven protocols around those standards,” says SchoolWorks Chairman Ledyard McFadden. “We’ve been doing comprehensive quality reviews for 14 years. Here we were being asked to look very specifically at one type of student and consider things that are different in educating boys of color that educators should take into consideration.”
SchoolWorks worked with the Coalition to develop a comprehensive self-assessment process for school leaders to reflect on and check progress towards meeting the standards. The self-assessment process includes an online self-evaluation focused on the leadership components of the Coalition’s standards, followed by an on-site visit during which SchoolWorks staff discuss the survey results with each leader to identify areas for professional growth.
To meet these needs, SchoolWorks adapted its assessment and review processes to develop survey instruments and visit protocols aligned with the Coalition’s standards. “We’re not using a prepackaged process,” McFadden says. “In following with our value of applying global knowledge to local solutions, we developed something that’s unique and applying it to their unique situation.”
Currently, SchoolWorks is administering the self-assessment surveys and conducting site visits at 25 Mississippi schools. Coalition officials say the process is helping them assess needs for professional development and prompted reflection among school leaders.
“The self-assessment tool now serves as the basis for self-assessment, reflection, planning, professional development, and accountability around our standards,” says Ron Walker, the Coalition’s executive director. “SchoolWorks melded its research-based methodologies and criteria with our own standards, providing an effective framework that has encouraged school leaders to focus on issues affecting young males of color. The process has deepened our understanding of cultural competency. We have always known its importance but the self-assessment process provides new evidence of its relevance. ”
For SchoolWorks, lessons learned from working with the Coalition are already impacting the company’s work in other settings. “It’s been a great exercise that will improve our other evaluations because it may reveal biases that don’t come to the surface in a normal protocol,” McFadden says. “It’s not just enough to know about curriculum and assessment. It has to be balanced with a commitment to concern for all children.”