In the winter of 2015, SchoolWorks partnered with Chelsea Public Schools to conduct School Quality Reviews (SQRs) at five of the district’s schools. These visits were formative in nature – they aimed to support ongoing improvement efforts at these schools, but were not part of a formal accountability system.
Each SQR was 2 ½ days and focused on six of Massachusetts’ Essential Conditions for School Effectiveness:
- Effective School Leadership
- Aligned Curriculum
- Effective Instruction
- Student Assessment
- Tiered Instruction and Adequate Learning Time
- Students’ Social, Emotional, and Health Needs
During the first two days of each visit, the site visit team collected evidence – via focus groups, classroom observations, and document review – to identify the school’s strengths and/or areas for growth related to each of these six focus areas. At the end of each visit’s second day, the team shared its findings with school leaders. Then, on the third day of each visit, the team facilitated a prioritization session at which school leaders identified a priority focus area for their ongoing improvement efforts and developed an action plan aligned to that focus area. In order to help the district identify trends across the five schools, SchoolWorks will also be developing a trends report examining common strengths and challenges that emerged from the SQRs.
One distinctive aspect of this project was the composition of each site visit team. Each team consisted of four individuals with varying degrees of experience in the district: two SchoolWorks employees (one of whom participated on all five of the visits), one District School Assistance Center (DSAC) representative who has worked with Chelsea Public Schools, and one representative of Chelsea Public Schools (usually a principal or assistant principal from another Chelsea school). This particular team composition reflected two of SchoolWorks’ core values – “Collaboration and Learning” and “Consistency with a Dash of Creativity” — and provided several important benefits to the project. The chart below highlights these benefits:
|Aspect of Team Composition||Benefit|
|A representative of Chelsea Public Schools on each visit.||· Provided teams with valuable context about school and district.· Built capacity of that representative to reflect on strengths and areas for growth in own school.|
|A DSAC representative was included on each team.||· Provides team with valuable context about school and district.· Provides schools with ongoing support following their visits.|
|Two Schoolwork staff on each visit, including one who served on all five of the teams.||· Provides “fresh perspective” and expertise based on SQRs conducted nationwide.· Ensures consistency across school visits.|
Although it is too soon to precisely measure the long term impact of the SQRs on the five schools visited, the feedback we have collected from school principals via surveys immediately following our visits has been positive. All respondents have agreed or strongly agreed that our teams established strong collaborative relationships while on site, that our teams’ findings were useful, and that their overall experience with SchoolWorks was a positive one. The inclusion of DSAC and Chelsea Public Schools staff on our teams can help us ensure that the positive impact of our visits will last well after the visits themselves are complete.