As part of the monitoring process to guide low-performing Massachusetts schools out of turnaround, SchoolWorks had developed close relationships within Lynn Public Schools. After the district successfully moved its two lowest-performing schools out of turnaround, its leaders approached SchoolWorks to conduct monitoring site visits to improve seven additional schools that were one level of performance away from turnaround status.
After conducting monitoring site visits to the seven schools with district leaders, SchoolWorks and Lynn district officials quickly identified a need to improve instructional leadership and knowledge. “The district needed to identify what high-quality instruction in Lynn looks like and build capacity across the district,” says SchoolWorks Director of Project Management Kate Wheeler.
Prioritizing the importance of instructional leadership, Lynn Public Schools approached SchoolWorks about providing support to the principals of the seven schools. SchoolWorks worked with district officials to develop a plan for leadership coaching, which began in January 2014. Six coaches work with the seven Level 3 schools’ principals on a weekly basis, spending a full day on site each week.
SchoolWorks coaches and school leaders collaboratively developed individual action plans and goals for each building leader, with support tailored to each principal’s needs. For example, in some schools, coaches helped principals lead leadership team and professional learning community meetings, while in others, they shadowed and provided feedback on classroom observations and teacher feedback, or helped them develop strategies to delegate tasks to focus more of their time on instructional improvement.
To help develop a common understanding of high-quality instruction, SchoolWorks has also helped Lynn create a learning community made up of the seven principals and district leaders. Coaches and school and district leaders conduct learning walks together at high-performing schools, with the goal of “building capacity at the district level, not just at the seven schools, by giving the leaders an idea of what’s possible and what high-quality instruction looks like,” Wheeler says.
SchoolWorks’ deep relationship with Lynn schools led to successful matches between coaches and principals. “We had a strong understanding of who our coaches and principals were, in large part because we knew the district so well,” says Wheeler, who had been involved in previous work in Lynn.
Lynn leadership has prioritized leadership support, investing in the coaching model and ensuring it was treated as a priority. “The district has been very committed to working with us, and it’s very much been a partnership,” says. Janelle Bradshaw, the SchoolWorks project manager now leading coaching services in Lynn. “We have a sustainable change model, but the district worked with us to make sure it was just what they needed.”
SchoolWorks is also taking what its coaches and Lynn’s leadership are learning from the process, documenting outcomes and building metrics for these kinds of supports, which will help continue to build capacity in Lynn and elsewhere.
“As a district committed to meaningful change, we have appreciated how SchoolWorks was able to take its deep knowledge of our district and work with us to provide collaborative, personalized support,” says Superintendent Catherine Latham. “Their commitment to instructional improvement has helped us build a deeper understanding of high-quality instruction that will help all of our schools and our students.”