School Improvement Bulletin

August 2014


The SI Bulletin: to provide regular, timely information to increase the shared understanding of our team of School Improvement professionals

Our shared purpose: to increase collective leadership capacity to understand what effective schools and districts know and do, and to support the leaders to own their improvement process


Welcome to our first issue of the School Improvement Bulletin. We intend to send this Bulletin out monthly as one way for us to continue to build our shared understanding of the critical work of School Improvement. In each issue, we plan to include just-in-time information from the different units/programs in School Improvement, to insert a blurb from the literature that might be of interest and value to our work, and to remind us all of some shared meeting and event dates that are coming up. Please bear with us as we learn how to improve this regular communication tool.

I am truly looking forward to getting to know you and your work. The past couple months have given me the opportunity to see our leadership team (SILT) start to come together and to witness the quality work of the Leads, of several School Improvement Specialists (you will hear me refer to School Improvement Specialists, and not to distinguish often between RESA and GaDOE Specialists) and of the program managers and specialists and support staff in the Atlanta office. What have I learned so far? That Dr. Lunsford was spot-on as she told me of the great folks who devote their time and effort and talent to the work of School Improvement. I am fortunate, indeed, to be allowed to work alongside such a committed group of professionals!

It is my sincere hope that you found the SI Professional Learning event in July to be helpful and thought-provoking. We intend for us all to engage with each other when we meet face-to-face, encouraging and building each other up in order to give our best to the schools and districts we serve. It is also my hope that you have a productive and constructive start to the coming school year. I am thankful to be on the School Improvement Team!


from Professional Learning (Wanda Oldfield)

Our SI PL opportunities for 2014-15 are intended to cultivate collaborative inquiry and learning in order to enhance both individual and collective performance. Expectations for implementation following any formal professional learning opportunities will be clearly communicated. Collaborative inquiry will be a foundational practice in which we continually engage.

The question for 2014-15 which all of our PL must address is: How do we, as School Improvement professionals and as a team, position ourselves so we can meet our demands of 2014-15 AND prepare for our challenges of 2015-16?

July 21 – 23 provided three days for this year’s initial professional learning. We engaged with colleagues to construct knowledge, acquire skills, refine practice, and examine dispositions around a shared purpose in order to position ourselves to support the collective leadership capacity in the schools and districts we serve. August will include a day for PL in regional teams as we continue to organize in order to meet our demands of 2014-15 AND prepare for our challenges of 2015-16. We will also offer a PL session for new SISs in August.

from School Performance (Paulette Richmond)

From Cindy, Gary and Paulette

We’d like to say thank you so very much for your support and responses to our multiple requests for information during the past year.

We have two wonderful opportunities for your support and feedback.

Support. Undoubtedly, you’ll receive questions related to school improvement 1003(a) funding for 2014-2015 for schools designated as alert, focus and priority. Our goal is to prepare the item for the September 2014 Board meeting. Let’s continue to work with schools to “plan” how they would spend School improvement funds “if” they were to receive funding again for the upcoming year.

Feedback. As we send and request information, whether it’s related to registering for the next school improvement meeting or accessing a document that is located on the Events and Conferences page, we would love your input as to how we can refine how we provide information to you. Oops, that was another request --- we can’t help it. Continuous improvement is our business.

Thank you for all you do. We look forward to hearing from you. Have a great year.

from the Leads (Paula Cleckler)

“There they go! I must hurry, for I am their leader.” Alexandre Ledru-Rollin, 1848

Your SI Leads have been meeting during the summer to discuss slight changes in the regions, the districts/schools our teams will be serving, the service delivery model and the resetting of our school improvement work for the 2014-15 school year. In addition, interviews for SIS vacancies have been and continue to be conducted, and recommendations for new hires made as appropriate.

One of the ideas for resetting our work this year is to expand the concept of region teams assessing school effectiveness on a variety of the indicators/non-negotiables. School Diagnostic Assessments are planned to provide information on Leadership Team Functioning, Collaborative Planning and Classroom Instruction, among other areas. The teams will use tools/resources identified to complete the diagnostic assessments; the results will provide a Blueprint for School Improvement work in each school. The areas of focus for improvement identified in our regions will help define our professional learning needs during the year.

To our School Improvement Specialists: The beginning quote by Ledru-Rollin seems to appropriately describe the pace, enthusiasm, skills and dedication with which you approach our work. You not only drive the roads, you are driven-- you work tirelessly, driving long hours and distances; you work on your computers at all hours, days, nights and on weekends; you stay away from home many nights and instead of complaining, you have new ideas for us to consider the next day. We as leads must work hard to ensure we keep up. We appreciate each one of you and we are fortunate to work with such outstanding professionals in our five regions. “There they go…!”

from District Effectiveness (Sam Taylor)

The District Effectiveness Team is gearing up to venture into new grounds this upcoming school year. We will work closely with all school districts who were awarded Cohort 4 SIG funds. This opportunity also will allow the District Effectiveness (DE) Team to work collaboratively with Leads and School Improvement Specialists in Atlanta City, Bibb, Dougherty, and Muscogee School Systems. The DE team is working hard to finalize the development of standards of an effective school district. The district standards will have an assessment component similar to the GAPSS review for School Keys. Two school districts have requested district "GAPSS" reviews.

from SIG (Patty Rooks)

Cohort 4 (July 1, 2014-September 30, 2017)

On June 12, 2014, the Georgia SBOE approved the Cohort 4 1003(g) SIG awards for the following schools:

Atlanta Public Schools Frederick Douglass High School

Bibb County Southeast High School

Dougherty County Dougherty County Comprehensive High School

Monroe Comprehensive High School

Muscogee County Fox Elementary School

Jordan Vocational High School

William H. Spencer High School

Individual budget meetings are being held with each of the Cohort 4 LEA SIG Coordinators during the month of August to assist with the Con App budget process.

Cohort 3 (July 1, 2013-September 30, 2016)

On July 18, 2014, the SBOE approved Year 2 funding for the Cohort 3 SIG schools. Those schools are:

Bibb County Hartley Elementary School

Westside High School

Fulton County McClarin High School

Gwinnett County Meadowcreek High School

Quitman County Quitman County High School

Twiggs County Twiggs County High School

Wilkinson County Wilkinson County High School

Cohort 3 schools must obligate all remaining Year 1 funds by September 30, 2014. The Year 2 funds availability period for Cohort 3 schools is July 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015.

Cohort 2 (July 1, 2011-September 30, 2014)

As the obligation period for their Year 3 funds expires September 30, 2014, Cohort 2 schools are in the process of closing out their grants. All Year 3 funds MUST be obligated by September 30th. Assigned Leads will continue to provide support to the schools/LEAs related to the closeout processes/procedures, including any necessary program/budget amendments.

Critical Dates for 1003(g) SIG Schools

July 31st—deadline for submission of the APR Self-Assessment

August 15th—Monthly drawdown by LEA’s due

August 29th—Con App Budgets loaded and approved for Cohort 3 & Cohort 4 schools

September 15th—Monthly drawdown by LEA’s due

September 23rd — revised deadline for submission of 2013-14 Leading & Lagging Indicator Report for Cohort 2 and Cohort 3

September 30th—Cohort 2-all Year 3 funds obligated/encumbered

September 30th—Cohort 3-all Year 1 funds obligated/encumbered

September 30th—All equipment and materials ordered for the 2014-15 school year (Cohorts 3 & 4)

Indistar (Celeste Thomas)

Indistar a New Approach for School Improvement: The Right Data, at the Right Time and Creating the Right Process to Understand and Apply Data. As we start off the new year, please remember when assessing the current level of implementa­tion of an indicator the following must be addressed; (a) the goal is not to simply check off an item but to acquire a deeper understanding of the practice; (b) achieve a high degree of consistent application to the process’ (c) and develop strategic and detailed next steps based on the data. To provide evidence of full implementa­tion, the Leadership Team must ask and answer the subsequent questions:

1. What is the straight-forward, literal meaning and intent of the indicator?

2. Do we know the extent to which the indicator is implemented?

3. What data must be analyzed to deter­mine the level of implementation?

4. What instruments must be created and/or utilized to gather the data?

5. How will the data be available and by whom?

6. What does it look like now and what should it look like in the future? Professional Literature Indistar Handbook for Schools

from Alternative Education (Linda Massenburg)

Alternative Education has been extremely busy the last few months! Last fall, a group of administrators and teachers from the alternative education setting assembled to develop a transition framework called “Transition Forward to Success.” A collection of forms were created that will help to improve collaboration between the traditional school and the alternative education setting to impact student achievement as students enter and exit the alternative setting. The forms will be available starting July 31st for public review and feedback on the Alternative Education Program website. I am asking that alternative schools and programs along with traditional schools and district personnel review the forms and email me feedback by August 20th. The forms will then be submitted to the state board for final recommendations. Training on how to use the forms via webinar will follow during the month of September. This information has been sent to district curriculum directors via the monthly CIA Newsletter and will be sent to alternative administrators next. If you serve an alternative school, please encourage the staff to review the forms and provide feedback. All feedback should be emailed to me by August 20th.

The AEP Standards are being revised! The standards will be aligned to the School Keys and will rely heavily on best practices for alternative schools from the National Alternative Education Association. The revised standards are expected to be completed by the fall of 2014 along with indicators for implementation.

Please Save the Date! I will be speaking at the FY 2015 Data Collections Conference on Data Reporting and Non-Traditional Education. This session will focus on new data reporting processes for alternative education at the district level along with a look at how to use the data to identify and address recidivism.

from the Literature

Thomas Guskey on Planning Professional Development Backwards

In this article in Educational Leadership, Thomas Guskey (University of Kentucky/ Lexington) casts a skeptical eye on professional development in many schools. Too often, he says, we “fall prey to clever consultants and adept entrepreneurs more concerned with what sells than with what works to improve student learning. Seduced by dynamic presentations and jazzy technology, desperate school leaders jump onto education bandwagons, committing scarce resources to strategies and programs based more on wishes and promises than on solid evidence of effectiveness.”

In the past, Guskey has suggested that professional development activities should be evaluated by looking at evidence in these key areas:

- How did participants react?

- Did participants acquire new knowledge and skills?

- Did the school or district support the initiative?

- Did participants put their new knowledge and skills to work in classrooms?

- Did student learning improve?

“Because each level builds on those that came before,” he says, “success at one level is necessary for success at each higher level, and no level should be neglected in the evaluation process.”

But when it comes to planning professional development, Guskey believes the sequence should be reversed, planning backwards from desired student learning outcomes. Here are his main points in each area:

Desired student learning outcomes and how they will be measured – Trouble spots and areas for improvement can be spotted in standardized test scores, subgroup data, interim assessments, classroom assessments, discipline data, classroom observations, focus groups, and interviews. Guskey notes that teachers tend to prefer evidence from classroom assessments and insights from homework completion and behavior reports. Administrators tend to prefer standardized test scores and district assessments. The compromise: multiple measures!

New practices to be implemented – The key question is: What instructional approaches will produce the desired student learning? What is the evidence for various possible approaches? “We need to be willing to challenge consultants who preface their statements with the phrase, ‘Research says…” by asking, ‘What research?’,” says Guskey. “And we should expect detailed answers with specific citations that we can verify.” Be skeptical of references to blogs, newspaper articles, Google searches, or Twitter and Facebook, he advises. “Look specifically for publications that are refereed, meaning that experts in the field have reviewed the articles and judged them as sufficiently rigorous to yield trustworthy results.”

Organizational support – “Many valuable improvement efforts fail miserably because of a lack of active participation and clear support from school leaders,” says Guskey. “Others prove ineffective because schools have not provided the resources required for implementation.” Teachers need time, funding, materials, and technology to make new programs work. They also need ongoing feedback on how things are going, which means frequent observations of classrooms, interim assessments, and rapid feedback.

Educator knowledge and skills – What will teachers need to know and be able to do to reach the student-learning goals? This will drive the what and why of professional development, says Guskey: “Participants must develop sufficient depth in their knowledge of new practices so that they can adjust these practices to fit the nuances of their particular context while maintaining program fidelity. At the same time, they must understand the rationale behind the change.”

Optimal professional learning activities – After attending to the first four steps, it’s time to design PD. Will the most effective strategy be a seminar or workshop? Action-research projects? Organized study groups? PLC work? There’s a wide range of choices, and what’s effective in one context may not be in another. “What works always depends on where, when, and with whom,” says Guskey. “But if we begin with the end in mind and plan backward, we can take many of those context-specific elements into consideration, making success much more likely.”

Upcoming Meetings & Events

Region Team Meetings

Friday, Aug. 15th, 8am

Region Locations

RESA Webinar

Friday, Aug. 15th, 9am

This is an online event.

School Improvement Leadership Team Meeting (SILT)

Wednesday, Aug. 27th, 9am

205 Jesse Hill Junior Drive Southeast

Atlanta, GA

School Improvement Department Meetings

Thursday, Aug. 28th, 9am

205 Jesse Hill Junior Drive Southeast

Atlanta, GA

Leads, School Performance, District Effectiveness, and Professional Learning

Your School Improvement Leadership Team


Paula Cleckler

Melba Fugitt

Bari Geeslin

Joel Standifer

Lyn Wenzel

Patty Rooks

RESA Director Representative:


Program Managers:

Wanda Oldfield

Paulette Richmond

Sam Taylor