Friday, October 11, 2013

Strategic Plan Status Report

On September 24, 2013, the Board of Education approved the District Strategic Plan Year 3.  In order to understand the goals associated with the District Strategic Plan Year 3, it is important to gain a historical perspective by looking in the "rearview mirror".  Upon my arrival in the district, the Board of Education charged me with the responsibility of formulating a District Strategic Plan.  This plan was the result of a community-wide Needs Assessment that has been disseminated to all school community members and neighboring institutions/organizations.  After formal approval of the District Strategic Plan by the Board of Education, I presented the plan and related goals to our individual school communities, as well as local organizations and community leaders.  Our district has accomplished quite a bit since the inception of this plan.  I have broken down our accomplishments/progress within each strategic theme.

Strategic Theme #1:  Equity in Programs and Opportunities
- The Board of Education established the position of Academic Achievement Officer to support and monitor the delivery of instructional programs, evaluate academic programs, analyze assessment data, as well as continuously review reform initiatives and other district wide responsibilities to ensure equal access  for all students and promote their successes.  Last year, the Academic Achievement Officer worked with VDV teachers on the analysis and utilization of student achievement data in a meaningful way to drive instructional decisions in the classroom.  As a result, year-over-year student achievement increased in all grade levels for ELA and Mathematics.  In particular, Grade 4 students (compared to how they performed in Grade 3) increased by 8% in ELA and 6% in Mathematics.  Grade 5 students (compared to how they performed in Grade 4) increased by 8% in ELA and 12% in Mathematics.  It is interesting to note that there were 14 perfect NJASK Mathematics scores (compared to 8 from last year).
- The District surveyed students and collected statistical data on their participation and interest in academic courses (Advanced Placement, Honors, and Applied classes), athletic programs, clubs and extra-curricular activities.  This data was analyzed for trends and patterns related to educational preparedness with selected variables (Student ID, Gender, Ethnicity, Residence, Grade Level, Credits Completed, and Cumulative GPA).  The information was presented at the June 19, 2012 Board of Education meeting.
- The District launched a comprehensive mentoring program for identified disaffected students in partnership with former Somerville educator and administrator, Hal Vereen.  The program includes a pre/post assessment tool for district mentors, referral procedures and a targeted selection process for students.
- The District partnered with Middle Earth to provide an incentive-laden mentoring program entitled Journeys.  Through the program, Middle Earth counselors provide one-on-one and small group activities with students during lunchtime.
- The District added a Multiple Disabilities classroom at SMS to educate our students moving up from VDV, thereby reducing the costs associated with out of district placements.
- The SHS administration added a waive-in procedure for Honors/AP classes.
- The District added a new SHS course entitled Big History.  The course was developed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and studies the history of the Universe from the Big Bang to the present.
- The District added several new clubs and athletic programs at SHS (Rotary Interact Club, Table Tennis Club, Genesis Club, Freshmen Girls Basketball and Ice Hockey).
- The District added a new Robotics Club at SMS (set to launch in 2013-2014) to generate student interest in science and engineering.
- The District selected a Common Core aligned, evidenced based Mathematics program that is designed to meet the needs of all learners across the academic spectrum (from Tier 3 through Gifted & Talented).
- The District increased services for English Language Learners at SHS due to an increasing need of support.
- The District partnered with United Way to create a student participating, Tax Preparation Program for low-income families.

Strategic Theme #2:  College and Career
- The District added additional college related workshops for SHS families and opened previous workshops up to all grade levels (Paying for College, College Financial Aid, Inside Admissions Secrets, College:  Plan Early and be Prepared, College Athletics, and College Bound Basics).  These included presentations from the Educational Funding Consultants Association (EFC), Lincoln Financial Services, AthleticVision, and the SHS Guidance Counselors.
- The District also added additional resources for non-college bound students such as informational sessions on technical institutes for career choices (Electrical, Plumbing, Automotive, Culinary, Art and specialized certificate training programs), presentations from branches of the military, the Youth Employment Services (YES) Program, Career Development Workshops (DeVry University), information from the Division of Vocational and Rehabilitative Services (DVR), and training in various fields from RVCC.
- The District adopted Naviance Succeed, a comprehensive website to assist students with making decisions about courses, colleges, and careers.  This resource is now used to track and analyze data about college and career plans.
- The District created a booklet entitled the College Planning Packet.  This booklet can be found on the high school homepage under Guidance and Counseling Services, College Planning.
- The SHS administration formulated and disseminated an annual college preparedness survey that was distributed to previous graduates.  This survey will continue to be used to assist the district in improving our level of student college preparedness.
- The District completed an analysis of applications to colleges/universities applied and the acceptance rate of SHS graduates from 2007 - 2011.  The data was sorted by numerous variables (School applied/accepted, will or will not attend, employment/military, and 2- or 4- year school).  The data was also utilized in a longitudinal study of SAT/ACT scores and acceptance rates for the past 4 years.  A comparison was then made to examine the connection between decile ranking, college, tier, and SAT/ACT scores.  This study has assisted guidance counselors in making more informed recommendations for each individual child and was presented at the April 24, 2012 Board of Education meeting.
- The SHS administration hosted a focus group with the senior class of 2013 to gather data on guidance services and college and career preparation and held a Senior Parent Night in September.
- The District formed a concurrent enrollment program where students can take RVCC courses on SHS campus in order to earn associating college credit.
- The District launched an Academy of Liberal Arts program in cooperation with Raritan Valley Community College.  Students have the opportunity to graduate high school with a High School Diploma and an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts.
- The District added Advanced Placement Offerings (AP Human Geography and AP Human Psychology).
- The District created a Guidance Exploration Lab for SHS students.

Strategic Theme #3:  Technology
- The District upgraded computer labs, purchased Smart Boards, iPads, and other computing devices.
- The District upgraded its network backbone and wireless capabilities in each building.
- The District installed a private fiber network, including a Voice Over IP system.  In addition to approximate savings of $35,000 per year, the upgrade also provided for a shared service with the Borough of Somerville, which has allowed the Borough to save money as well.
- The District established the positions of Technology Help Desk and Director of 21st Century Education.  The Help Desk provides teachers with immediate solutions to device operation issues in the classrooms.  The Director of 21st Century Education provides job-embedded support for teachers in the integration of technology into their lessons, which includes concepts of Inquiry Based Learning (IBL), Challenge Based Learning (CBL), and Problem Based Learning (PBL).
- The District established a student operated TV Station and video production facility at SHS.
- The District launched a new district website platform that includes staff websites, blogs, and other resources.
- The District launched a one-to-one Chromebook initiative at SMS.

While the above progress may seem exceptional, community perception of our progress in each strategic theme was extremely important to the development of Year 3 Goals.  To this end, the District created a community survey to assess progress on each of the goals (Strategic Themes).  This survey was disseminated on July 16, 2013 and available for completion until September 6, 2013.  It was also posted on the district and school websites.  The results, including all anecdotal comments/thoughts, were shared with the Board of Education.  The statistical breakdown can be seen below.

As a component of the strategic planning process, the Board of Education completed a context mapping exercise, reflected on the community survey results and discussed district administrator perspectives to establish the Year 3 Goals.

These goals can be seen below:

Strategic Theme:  Equity in Programs and Opportunities
Goal #1:  To develop and implement curricula revisions necessary to provide equal opportunities for all students in ELA & Mathematics and to increase proficiency levels on State assessments.

- Form a cohort of teachers representing all grade levels to create ELA and Mathematics roadmaps that reflect the Common Core standards and the rigor needed for the state's new PARCC (The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments.
- Lesson plans will reflect differentiation of instruction to accommodate for all levels of learners.
- All ELA and Mathematics teachers will implement the maps into their daily practice for the 2013-2014 school year.
- Alter the SMS schedule to allocate more ELA instructional time and to offer time in the school day to assist Title I struggling learners.
- Implement new mathematics program (K-5) that reflects the Common Core and challenges students accordingly.  Teachers will utilize this program as their primary resource while implementing the Mathematics roadmap.

Strategic Theme:  College and Career
Goal #2:  To develop Individual Student Learning Plans (ISLPs) for eighth grade students to explore additional guidance services as they prepare to enter high school.

- Establish a College & Career Center at SHS.
- Develop a job description and scope of assignment for a college and career counselor.  Interview and hire college and career counselor.
- Middle school counselors will formulate Individual Student Learning Plans with 8th grade students.
- Host college informational sessions presented by former students and college representatives.
- Explore opportunities to send SHS counselors to meet with college admission counselors regarding the college selection process.

Strategic Theme:  Technology
Goal #3:  To effectively educate the parent community members on data usage and analysis.

- Host an informational meeting at VDV for parents and community members to gain an understanding of the standards-based report card.
- Host an informational meeting at VDV and SMS for parents and community members to gain an understanding of the data currently being compiled and how data is used to differentiate instruction.
- Create parental instructional video podcasts on data analysis to be posted on Mr. Teehan's blog.

Other noteworthy areas of exploration, outside of the Year 3 Goals include the following:
- The formation of a Multiple Disabilities classroom with a Life Skills component at SHS.  This program will eliminate the cost associated with out of district placements for the students and provide for a more comprehensive PreK-12 continuum for our disabled students.
- The formation of transitional services to assist 11th and 12th grade classified students.  Services will include post-secondary preparation such as job searches, interviews, life coaching and placements.

I believe that we are facing the largest paradigm shift that has ever occurred in education.  I am optimistic about the changes and confident that the Ville will be victorious!  While the rules of engagement may have changed, our focus remains the same, reaching EVERY child!  I am cognizant that these are challenging times with uncharted terrain (Common Core, AchieveNJ, PARCC, etc).  It is for this reason that I felt compelled to formulate a united vision of purpose.  To this purpose I designed a single sheet of paper that would drive our educational decisions and focus... thus the conception of a District Dashboard.

The District Dashboard (as seen below) reflects our areas of concentration (in the form of gauges), a pathway of road signs with each strategic theme and a focus on the end result of each Board Goal for Year 3.

(A PDF version of the District Dashboard is available through the district website)

During the July Leadership Academy meeting, district administrators went through a process of formulating Widely Important Goals (WIGs) in each school.  These goals are in direct accordance with the District Dashboard above and emulate the concepts of a recent book study on The Four Disciplines of Execution.  Now established, these goals have become the heart and mission of each of our schools.   Each month, as superintendent, I conduct a purpose-driven walkthrough of each building alongside of the principal.  These walkthroughs focus on the accomplishment of the building WIG and improving classroom instruction.

As we embark on this new venture, we are looking for your help!  In the upcoming days, each of our buildings will disseminate a survey.  Please provide candid feedback so that we can continue to assess how we are doing.  While we are happy with the results from our community assessment of the Strategic Themes, we realize that we can do better.  In this effort, we need your help!

Also, feel free to attend one of my luncheons, post on my blog or follow me on Twitter (@SchoolSup).  Each of our school principals hosts a monthly meeting that is designed to solicit community input as well.

This year, our district theme is ALL IN!  Tevin Igahlo, Somerville 6th grade student, and guest speaker, Gian Paul Gonzalez emphasized the importance of being ALL IN.  As your district leader, I am committed to being ALL IN for the education of our students!  While there may be potholes along the way, I am confident that when we look in the rear view mirror at the conclusion of this year, we will be thrilled (once again) about what we accomplished during our journey together.

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