When Randolph Public Schools was identified as one of the state’s lowest-performing school districts, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education required the district to create an accelerated improvement plan. ESE also provided Randolph and other targeted school districts with a plan manager to support district leadership in creating and implementing the plan in ways that would immediately impact student learning.
“Students can’t wait for incremental change,” says former SchoolWorks Director of District and School Improvement Services Anne Lane, who served as Randolph’s plan manager and supported others doing similar work in underperforming districts across Massachusetts. “The state has a theory of action that says if a district can define a narrow set of strategic objectives to accelerate student learning, execute well-defined initiatives with a relentless focus on implementation, and systematically monitor the impact of those initiatives to inform mid-course corrections, then outcomes for students will be dramatically transformed.”
As plan manager, Lane helped Randolph’s district leadership create the state-mandated accelerated improvement plan, and then provided support and monitored its implementation using the process developed by the state department. Randolph’s plan was effective, Lane says, because the SchoolWorks-district collaboration ensured that every component “had a direct through line to improving core instruction,” she says.
“Often the district or school response to addressing low performance is to focus on the ‘cusp’ students to quickly raise scores,” Lane adds. “We felt it was important to first focus on strengthening core instruction to meet the needs of all learners.”
Randolph was identified as one of Massachusetts’ underperforming districts in part because it lacked effective evaluation systems for teachers and administrators. Lane worked with district leadership to develop a high-quality supervision and evaluation process that would support the accelerated plan, including a requirement that principals conduct at least five classroom observations weekly with written formative feedback to teachers.
After developing the evaluation system, school leaders needed to be trained on how to give effective feedback before they could put the process in place. SchoolWorks provided professional development to help calibrate principals’ collective understanding of new expectations and strengthen their ability to provide specific and timely feedback to teachers. SchoolWorks staff then conducted co-observations with principals to support them and ensure fidelity of implementation. “We really focused on building principals’ capacity and supporting then to lead the work from the outset,” Lane says.
Lane introduced a new professional learning community for the district’s four elementary principals, meeting monthly with the school leaders and providing support as they worked collaboratively on implementing a workshop model in their schools.
Along with her work in Randolph, Lane supports other plan managers working with underperforming districts across the state, holding regular meetings in which managers share learnings from across districts and receive professional development as needed.
In its first year, Randolph saw improvement in student performance at the elementary level, the level at which were the district’s lowest performing schools and the focus of SchoolWorks’s initial efforts.
“Anne has done an amazing job of supporting Randolph Public Schools in creating and implementing the accelerated plan,” says Superintendent Oscar Santos. “Her insights, energy, and support are invaluable to our work.”