School Improvement Bulletin

September 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

This Month

As we shared at our July SI PL meeting in Macon, we are working on organization, on refining our "system" in School Improvement. It's painful, and I am making lots of mistakes. Thankfully I work with gracious colleagues!

Paulette was working with her team recently, now called TAS (Technical Assistance and Support), and she was using Chapter 8 of Leverage Leadership. I recommend that you take a look at that chapter as well. It's in the "Execution" part of the book, and the chapter title is "Finding the Time." It has some great thoughts and tools around time, scheduling, and managing tasks...i.e., organization! It's written from a school's perspective, but there is a lot we all can glean from the content in that chapter. Check it out if you haven't already.

Again, concerning organization, one key is for us to work from a shared calendar of regularly occurring events and meetings. You probably have received a draft of 2014-15. There have been some tweaks since that draft calendar, and we now have 2014-16 mapped out. So, check out the 2014-16 calendar in Zoho when it gets loaded up. Know that there will continue to be edits along the way, but the goal is to get things planned in advance so folks can count on these meetings and events.

I look forward to seeing you in a couple weeks at SI PL!

from Professional Learning (Joann Hooper)

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?

Why does so much professional learning, monitoring, and feedback sometimes produce so little change in what schools and school leaders actually do? This is identified as a knowing-doing problem and during September’s professional learning we will identify how we can address this problem in our schools. We will also look at state, region, and school data and prepare for the instructional conversations that can help facilitate the work in schools for 2014-2015.

The professional learning for this year will be centered on us collaboratively learning and working in our teams (region, job a-like, etc.) to improve our performance in schools. The work we do while we are together in our meetings will prepare us to have an immeasurable impact on the leaders and schools we work with on a daily basis. Please come prepared and ready to share and engage with colleagues.

One thing we want to do is share resources and information. A resource that can be helpful when using protocols in your schools is an alphabetical list of these procedures from the School Reform Initiative. There are protocols which can be used in the classroom, meetings, and conversations. Thanks to Emily Thomas for reminding us of these.

On a personal note, I am so excited about the new opportunity I have as the professional learning program manager. I already know this is going to be a wonderful experience. I am very fortunate to work with such dedicated professionals and look forward to our work together.

from Technical Assitance & Support (Paulette Richmond)

  • Meetings:
    • Please help us meet our contract commitment by staying at the Macon Marriott if you need lodging for our Macon meetings.
    • Please use the Macon Marriott lodging links we provide instead of contacting the hotel directly or using Concur.

  • Technology:
    • Computer Safety Tips
      • Do not leave a laptop in the car. It can be stolen, and the temperature changes can ruin the hard drive.
      • Use a computer cable lock when your computer is not in your possession.
      • Lock your computer screen when you walk away from your computer. This keeps the data on your computer private.
    • GaDOE School Improvement staff – please submit your updated technology inventory by September 5, 2014
    • Zoho Docs
        • Please contact Cindy Popp if you did not receive an invitation for Zoho Docs.

      · School Improvement Funds

      o At the August 21, 2014 board meeting the State Board of Education approved the FY15 Title I, Part A, 1003(a) School Improvement Grants (Thank you team 1003(a) for making this happen in August!)

      o SI grants provide financial resources to Local Educational Agencies (LEA) on behalf of the Title I schools identified as Alert, Focus, and Priority. These grant awards support each school’s improvement plan and the implementation of actions required by the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (ESEA).

      o Schools and districts will receive official communication related to these funds around the same time you receive the newsletter.

      o Thank you for working collaboratively with schools to review data, identify practices and resources that increase student achievement and ultimately determine the best use of the school improvement funds.

      o Principals and School Improvement Specialists are expected to sign off on the justification of expenses.

      o Remember we’ll need each School's Improvement Plan and evidence of the Needs Assessment.

      from the Leads (Joel Standifer)

      “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”

      August has proven to be a very busy and exciting month in School Improvement. After developing and adopting our new shared purpose, the Leads have worked extremely hard in filling vacant positions so that schools could receive the support that they needed at the start of the 2014-2015 school year. We feel that we have made some fantastic choices that will make us stronger and a more solid division.

      Regional Teams are getting into the schools, forming new relationships, renewing old relationships and welcoming a number of new principals. The Leads and School Improvement Specialists are visiting schools introducing the teams and explaining the new service delivery model.

      In Metro Region 1, Metro Region 2 and Central Region, all school improvement specialists have been busy meeting and supporting Instructional Coaches and Leadership Teams in solidifying their school improvement plans, flexible learning plans, math support plans, literacy plans and family, community engagement plans.

      Much discussion has taken place in resetting the Indistar Indicators as mentioned last month. The final set of indicators will be on the platform on August 27th. We have found that schools are excited and eager to begin using this powerful tool for the year. As Leads, we are ensuring that all users in our regions are trained in the use of Indistar. In Metro Region 1 and 2, every priority school principal has been trained along with five Associate Superintendents for Atlanta Pubic Schools. Principals and process managers new to Indistar in the other regions will be trained during the fall.

      Activities undertaken by each region during this month will go a long way in increasing collective leadership capacity to understand what effective schools and districts know and do, and to support the leaders to own their improvement process.

      Finally, to our School Improvement Specialists, the leads would like to express our appreciation for all the hard, dedicated work. We realize that you work late at night and on weekends to prepare to support each school. Even though we as leads very seldom acknowledge it, we are extremely proud to be associated with professionals of your caliber.

      from District Effectiveness (Sam Taylor)

      • Interim Bibb County Superintendent Steve Smith has requested that the DE and GAPSS Teams, along with Middle Georgia RESA, complete 12 additional GAPSS in Bibb County this fall. These GAPSS reviews are in addition to the 10 GAPSS the DE Team and Middle Georgia RESA did last February. Once again the individual GAPSS results will be provided to the schools but the results will also be combined to give the Superintendent and the Board of Education an overview of school performance on the School Keys with possible district implications.

      • The District Standards are nearing completion and will be piloted in two districts this fall and winter. A supporting District Review process is also under development and will piloted this fall and winter in Dougherty and Murray County.

      • Seven schools in four districts (APS, Bibb, Dougherty, and Muscogee) received SIG IV funding and support. DE team members will be working with the district staff in providing support for these SIG schools.

      • Special Education staff, DE staff, and SIG staff have been designing a more effective way to interact and serve districts with Active Engagement requirements, DE support, Priority school requirements, and fidelity to SIG. This more effective GaDOE support model is under development with a new prototype being used in APS, Dougherty, Muscogee, and Bibb Counties.

      from SIG (Patty Rooks)

      From a fiscal perspective, September is a critical month for 1003(g) SIG LEAs/schools. As the grant does not allow for the carryover of funds from one fiscal year to the next, it is imperative that all FY14 funds be encumbered by September 30th, and expended no later than October 31st.

      Additionally, in order to ensure that the students and staff of the Cohort 3 and Cohort 4 schools have maximum access to the resources provided by the grant, all equipment, materials and supplies to be purchased with FY15 SIG funds are expected to be ordered no later than September 30th.

      Listed below are the fiscal deadlines for Cohorts 2, 3 and 4. Many thanks to the Leads and SISs assigned to the SIG LEAs/schools for the support and assistance you are providing to ensure that these deadlines are met.

      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, and all Year 3 funds must be expended by October 31, 2014. Assigned Leads will continue to provide support to the schools/LEAs related to the closeout processes/procedures, including any necessary program/budget amendments.

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

      Bibb County Matilda Hartley Elementary School

      Westside High School

      Fulton County Frank 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, and expend the funds by October 31, 2014. The Year 2 funds availability period for Cohort 3 schools is July 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015.

      Additionally, Cohort 3 schools must order all equipment, supplies and materials to be purchased with the FY15 (Year 2 funds) by September 30, 2014.

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

      Atlanta Public Schools Frederick Douglass High School

      Bibb County Southwest Magnet High School and Law Academy

      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

      Cohort 4 schools must order all equipment, supplies and materials to be purchased with the FY15 (Year 1 funds) by September 30, 2014.

      LEA Monitoring of SIG Schools

      This year LEAs will be responsible for submitting four (4) LEA Monitoring Reports for each of their SIG schools. The format and content of the monitoring report has been revised to allow the SIG Coordinator, in collaboration with key leaders at the district level, to assess the level of progress of the LEA/school in implementing the SIG indicators. The electronic LEA Monitoring Report forms can be accessed from the District Dashboard and are to be completed and submitted within Indistar by September 30th, November 30th, January 30th, and April 30th.

      Critical Dates for 1003(g) SIG Schools

      August 29th—FY15 Con App Budgets loaded and approved for Cohort 3 & Cohort 4 schools

      September 15th—FY 14 (Cohorts 2 &3)/FY15 (Cohorts 3&4)—Monthly drawdown by SIG LEA’s due, for all expenses encumbered to date

      September 23rd — Revised deadline for submission of 2013-14 Leading & Lagging Indicator Report for Cohort 2 (Year 3 data) and Cohort 3 (Preliminary & Year 1 data)

      September 23rd—Deadline for submission of 2014-15 Leading & Lagging Indicator Report—Metric 5: Number of Minutes and Types of Increased Learning Time Offered (Cohort 3-Year 2 data/Cohort 4-Preliminary & Year 1 data)

      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)

      September 30th—LEA Quarterly Monitoring Report due (completed and submitted in Indistar)

      October 15th—FY14 (Cohorts 2&3 if needed)/FY15 (Cohorts 3&4)—Monthly drawdown by SIG LEA’s due, for all expenses encumbered to date

      October 31st—Cohort 2 & 3—FY14 Completion report due—all expenses liquidated

      Indistar (Celeta Thomas)

      As we embark on another school year, schools will use the Indistar platform as a continuous improvement process tool to a) self-evaluate, b) plan and c) monitor the plan. Leadership Teams should be discussing indicators and characteristics of effective planning to increase professional performance. This month schools will collectively engage in evaluating their work and self-reflecting on best practices. As we support schools in the planning process, we must guide, inform, coach and assist them with goal setting and data driven decision making.

      Monthly Focus: Assist schools with self- assessments and planning task (please see the how to guide: ).

      Important Due Date:

      *All Indicators Assessed October 30, 2014

      from Alternative Education (Linda Massenburg)

      It’s time to update the Alternative Education Program Standards. If you are interested in serving on a committee to update the current standards please email me at The committee will be responsible for engaging in the following work:

      • Ensuring that the current standards are aligned to the revised School Keys
      • Creating research based indicators that support the standards
      • Develop a crosswalk that shows the clear alignment of the School Keys and Alternative Education Program Standards
      • Development of a rollout plan

      This committee is open to alternative education staff as well as traditional school staff members and district leaders. Committee work is slated for September.

      Save the Date

      The annual Georgia Alternative Education conference will be held October 16th-17th at Callaway Gardens. Information on the conference will be posted to the Alternative Education Website in the upcoming weeks.

      from the Literature

      An interesting study:

      An interesting blurb:

      Good Teaching Is Built, Not Born

      In this article in Parade, Elizabeth Green shares some of the main points of her new book, Building a Better Teacher (Norton, 2014). It’s a myth that teaching is an innate talent, she says: “Researchers have found that the most effective teachers can be extroverts – or they can just as easily be introverts. Some are humorous, but others are serious. Some are as flexible as rubber; others are as rigid as a ruler. It’s not personality that makes a teacher great, but a specialized body of knowledge that must be learned – and that often goes against what comes naturally.” Here are five teacher actions that she believes have the greatest impact on student learning:

      They use students’ mistakes to improve instruction. Researchers have found that teachers who are best at spotting why a third grader would think that 307 – 168 = 261 are the most successful at improving students’ math performance. “The best teachers put themselves in their students’ shoes,” says Green, “and grapple with how they arrived at the wrong answer in order to set them right.”

      They are precise in their instructions. Green approvingly cites Doug Lemov’s observation that saying “Shhhh” to a noisy class is ambiguous. “Are you asking the kids not to talk, or are you asking the kids to talk more quietly?” asks Lemov. Best practice is to eradicate ambiguity, respond to misbehavior with specificity, and describe the desired behavior rather than the problem. To get distracted students back to work, a teacher might say, “We’re following along in our books.”

      They encourage deeper thinking. Researchers who observe classrooms internationally have noticed that there are more “explain how and why” questions in higher-performing countries like Japan, Singapore, and Finland – questions that get students thinking at a higher level – for example, How did you find the area of this triangle? Why is the area 17? In American classrooms, there are more “name/identify” questions: What kind of triangles have we studied? What is the length of this shape? One study found that in the U.S., students helped initiate the solution to a problem in only 9 percent of lessons, compared to 40 percent in Japan. “By asking questions that pushed students to think on their own, Japanese teachers taught them more,” says Green.

      They cold-call. Calling on students whose hands are not raised gets much more mileage from each question, increasing the chance that all students will be thinking through the answer. It’s also effective to ask the question first, pause, and then call on a student.

      They show more than tell. Telling students to read a passage again or make a weak essay better is not very helpful. It’s most effective to show students the invisible mental steps that go into effective performance – making your thinking visible. “By taking students through each mental leap, one at a time, teachers can help them see the exact processes they’ll need to complete to be a better reader, write a better essay, or make a better argument,” says Green.

      “Building a Better Teacher” by Elizabeth Green in Parade, August 3, 2014 (p. 6-9),

      Upcoming Meetings & Events

      New School Improvement Specialist Meeting

      Thursday, Sep. 11th, 8-10am

      200 Coliseum Dr

      Macon, GA

      RESA and GaDOE SISs beginning after June 30, 2014

      School Improvement Professional Learning

      Thursday, Sep. 11th, 10am to Friday, Sep. 12th, 3:30pm

      200 Coliseum Dr

      Macon, GA

      Professional Learning Follow-Up Webinar for RESA and GaDOE SISs

      Friday, Sep. 19th, 12am

      This is an online event.

      Additional information will be provided at the September SI PL event

      RESA Webinar

      Friday, Sep. 19th, 12am

      This is an online event.

      Additional information will be provided at the September SI PL event

      Region Team Meetings

      Friday, Sep. 19th, 12am

      At Region Locations

      Time announced by Region Lead (additional information will be provided at the September SI PL event)

      Previous Editions of The Bulletin

      Your School Improvement Leadership Team


      Paula Cleckler

      Melba Fugitt

      Bari Geeslin

      Joel Standifer

      Lyn Wenzel

      Patty Rooks

      RESA Director Representatives:

      Carolyn Williams/Rachel Spates/Peggy Stovall

      Program Managers:

      Joann Hooper

      Paulette Richmond

      Sam Taylor