School Improvement Bulletin

October 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

Previous Editions of The Bulletin

This Month

I scanned the Georgia School Keys recently, looking for the word "system" (or "process," "procedure," "structure"). I found eight uses of the concept (pages 9, 14, 29, 32, 33, 39, 48, and 64). So, eight times in our schools' standards is the recognition that having a "system" is a best practice. Effective schools have systems in place.

A system is a set of things working together as parts of an interconnecting whole, or

a set of procedures according to which something is done (an organized scheme or method). Do our schools have systems in place (for curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional learning, etc.)? How do you know if they do? Is it important that they have them? What are the benefits? What keeps them from having them?

Our October Instructional Leadership Academy will delve into this issue (and these questions). Please consider this deeply as we prepare for ILA and as you work with leadership in our schools and districts.

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?

At the September professional learning meeting we worked with school data and you were able to begin to plan how you will help your schools to understand these data. This was tedious work and cannot be completed quickly. Hopefully you have continued working with the data in your Region teams. In the December meeting we will continue working with data.

Please make use of the Georgia Milestones presentations available on Zoho. There is the brief presentation that takes about ten minutes and Melissa Fincher’s entire presentation from our September meeting. This is critical information our schools and teachers need to know. Please share it with leadership teams or faculties. All the documents and PowerPoints from our meetings and the monthly webinars will be posted in Zoho so you can have easy access to them. Each month in the webinars we will review the work we have completed together in our meetings and delve deeper into specific topics. There have been a few “hiccups” as we begin using a new system. Thank you for your patience. The opportunity to meet together through these webinars will certainly help inform our work.

We are busy preparing for the October Instructional Leadership Academy. Our overarching theme for the Instructional Leadership Academies this year is “Building a sustained system of academic success." In this session we will be working with curriculum, instruction, and assessment. After completing this day, the academy participants will be able to identify a curriculum system, recognize the components that are included in explicit instruction, and understand the purpose of formative assessments. In our February session we will work on monitoring and providing feedback to improve instruction and learning. Aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment can have a significant impact on student learning.

As you know, the deferment of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) requiring 10 PLUs for recertification ends as of July 1, 2015. The PSC is in the process of revising their rules for recertification. As information is available we will provide it to you.

Many of you were able to meet Christy Jones, the new professional learning specialist, at our September meeting. Christy comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience. She is a definite asset to the division and the PL team.

from Technical Assistance & Support (Paulette Richmond)


· Please remember to register for each meeting by the deadline, even if you are not planning to attend. This helps us plan for catering and materials.

· We have an open agency contract with the Macon Marriott. In order to receive our meeting space free of charge, we have to use 40% of the hotel rooms based on attendance. For example, if we have 100 people at our SI PL, then we need to use 40 hotel rooms. Please help us meet our contractual commitment by staying at the Macon Marriott if you need lodging.

Save the Dates

· October 2014

o Instructional Leadership Academy

§ October 7 and 8 (Macon Centreplex)

· You should have received the registration and lodging links already.

· Most staff will attend only one date.

· Those that are attending both already know who they are.

o Team Meetings and SILT

§ October 9 (Macon Centreplex)

· December 2014

o School Improvement Professional Learning

§ December 16-17 (Macon Centreplex)


· If you have an active ZohoDocs account, you should have received an invitation and have access to the following folders

o Governance – Decision-Making

o Strategic Direction – Purpose and Plan

o Communications

o Information

o Shared Process, Tools, and Templates

· If you do not have an active ZohoDocs account, you should have received an invitation from to create a Zoho account. Once you create an account, I will add you to the group so that you can view the folders listed in the above.

· Please contact Cindy Popp if any of the following apply:

o You did not get an invitation

o You cannot accept the invitation

o You cannot create your ZohoDocs account

o You cannot view the ZohoDocs folders


· GaDOE staff, please email your Technology Inventory sheet to Cindy Popp if you have not already done this

School Improvement Funds

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

Checklist for School Improvement Specialists

☐Current School Improvement Plan is based on the data and root cause analyses and reflects the needs of the school

☐Current School Improvement Plan is filed in the Document Upload feature in Indistar (for Priority, Focus and Alert schools). Alert schools have a unique Indistar login. School Improvement Plan file can be labeled SIP2014

☐Evidence of the current Needs Assessment filed in the Document Upload feature in Indistar (for Priority and Focus schools). Needs Assessment file can be labeled NeedsAssessment2014

☐Principal and School Improvement Specialist signed off on the justification of expenses (for Priority, Focus and Alert schools)

☐Questions about allowable expenses for School Improvement Funds have been forwarded to Gary Wenzel or Paulette Richmond

Districts were asked to submit budgets on or before October 30, 2014.

FOR RESA School Improvement Specialists

Ask Celeta Thomas or me about the “Lunch and Learn” October 7 or 8.

from the Leads (Melba Fugitt)

Completing team observations; providing coaching comments; reviewing budgets; assessing and planning indicators; supporting leadership team meetings; collaborating with teachers, principals and districts; observing classroom instruction and reviewing student achievement data, are just a few of the actions that school improvement specialists have been involved with during September. It has been a super busy month and the work has been greatly appreciated by the school leaders and teachers.

Each region has developed a plan for gathering information about the schools and then used that information to provide a focus for the work. Southeast and Southwest Regions have competed team visits to the schools and analyzed data to determine support. Metro 2 Region team has visited each school to introduce three new SISs and now has started visits in the schools to gather and analyze data. Metro 1 Region has teamed with the district instructional coordinators to visit schools. This is a strong partnership that the Metro team has worked to develop since last year. Central Region has completed district meetings and school visits to align professional learning with district work.

Professional Learning for Southeast, Southwest and Central Regions has been organized as Networks. Literacy and Math are planned and will begin by the end of September. Southeast Region has added a Graduation Coach Network this year. Both of the Metro Regions collaborate with their districts for professional learning support. Thank you to all the SISs for your work to plan the content and take care of all the logistics so that the participants in the Networks have a successful experience.

During September the GaDOE Accountability Office released the list of Alert Schools. Leads are working with school improvement specialists to contact the schools and discuss opportunities for support.

The School Improvement Division welcomed seven new school improvement specialists during September. Here are the new team members:

Metro 2 Region:

Dawn Ashmore is the ELA/UDL/Literacy Specialist. She brings experience from elementary and high school settings where she was a classroom teacher and a Reading Recovery/EIP Reading Specialist. She has worked as a Curriculum Specialist and Assistant Principal in both elementary and high school. Most recently, Dawn was the local School Improvement Specialist working with Paulding County High School's SIG Grant.

Paula Herrema, is the PL/Data Specialist. She has been in education both in Atlanta Public Schools and the City Schools of Decatur. Her work has included teaching fourth grade, instructional specialist, elementary and middle school principal and school improvement specialist. She is returning to the work of SIS after “learning middle school” at Inman Middle School.

Sharquinta Tuggle is the Mathematics School Improvement Specialist for Metro 2. She previously was the K-12 Mathematics Coordinator for Rockdale County Public Schools, Secondary Mathematics Teacher on Special Assignment for the Georgia Department of Education, and a secondary mathematics teacher with DeKalb County Public Schools.

Central Region:

Melvina Crawl joined the Central Team as a School Turnaround Specialist. She is working with a SIG Cohort 4 school as the Turnaround Specialist. Melvina has worked at elementary and high school as teacher, counselor and school student support specialist and at the district level as district data support specialist and school improvement grant coordinator. During her teaching career she was recognized as the district Teacher of the Year.

Southwest Region:

Dr. Brooke Ricketts is serving schools in the area of ELA to support the work of instructional support personnel to increase literacy across the content areas. Brooke has experience as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, and at the district level for curriculum, assessment, and federal programs.

Dr. Debbie Rodriguez is serving in the Leadership Role to support the work of principals and leadership teams to improve student performance. Debbie has experience as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent.

Southeast Region:

SE Region is happy to welcome Jo Johnson to our team. Jo is now a Turnaround SIS serving Hartley ES and Central HS in Bibb County. Jo most recently served as the District SIG Coordinator in Laurens County. Prior to the Laurens County position, Jo served as the K-12 Teaching and Learning Coordinator, Secondary Teaching and Learning Coordinator, and prior to that, the Professional Learning Coordinator, all in Barrow County.

Upcoming dates:

First Quarter Monitoring – end of September – first of November

Assess all indicators – October 30

Plan Family Engagement Indicator (Non-SIG schools) – October 1

We as Leads are thankful each day for the great group of School Improvement Specialists with whom we work. Know how much you are appreciated!

from District Effectiveness (Sam Taylor)

· Sam Taylor along with Barbara Lunsford and Patty Rooks made a presentation on the district standards at the national conference for the Center on School Turnaround in San Francisco, California.

· The DE Team recently met with Cambridge Education group to learn about their experiences with other districts and states as it relates to quality district reviews (GAPSS at the district level). They reviewed our draft district standards and provided valuable input. As a result of this collaboration, the stated purpose of the district review is in revision.

· Under the leadership/coaching of Deborah McLendon, extensive curriculum, instruction, and assessment planning and work is underway in Dougherty County School System (DCSS). Bobby Smith, Terri Gaspierik, and Iris Moran are coaching DCSS leaders through a new district strategic planning process. Diana Forbes is coaching the DCSS HR staff through substantial revisions to their current recruitment, hiring, and retention practices. DE staff, along with Bari Geeslin, meet quarterly with Superintendent Mosely and his core team to update current work.

· DE staff are beginning their consulting work with district SIG Coordinators in Bibb, Muscogee, Dougherty, and APS. DE staff will dovetail their SIG work with the Leads’ SIG work at the local school level.

from SIG (Patty Rooks)

October is the month in which Cohort 2 will close out their grant, which includes their final draw of SIG funds and the completion of the grant closeout procedures. Additionally, Cohort 3 will make their final draw of FY 14 (Year 1) funds. As a reminder, the fiscal deadlines for Cohorts 2, 3 and 4 are listed below.

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

As the obligation period for their Year 3 funds expires September 30, 2014, all Year 3 funds MUST be obligated by September 30th, and all Year 3 funds must be expended by October 31, 2014. Likewise, all closeout procedures must be completed by October 31st.

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 FY14 (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 are expected to 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 are expected to order all equipment, supplies and materials to be purchased with the FY15 (Year 1 funds) by September 30, 2014.

LEA Monitoring of SIG Schools

As noted last month, this year LEAs will be responsible for submitting four (4) LEA Monitoring Reports in Indistar 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. Further, in the event that an indicator is either not progressing at an expected rate or not evident, an interim LEA monitoring of those indicators will be required and will be submitted in Indistar, as well.

District Effectiveness to support Cohort 4 LEAs

Realizing the critical role of the district in the success of the SIG school, both during the implementation of the grant and beyond, beginning this year District Effectiveness will provide support to Cohort 4 LEAs. Each of the Cohort 4 LEAs have been assigned a District Effectiveness liaison, who will work closely with the Lead to provide assistance to the SIG Coordinator with the LEA monitoring process, and leverage targeted support to the LEA as indicated by the results of both the LEA and SEA monitoring.

2014-2015 Reward Incentive Plan

As the US ED SIG Guidance related to rewards and incentives has not changed for the 2014-15 school year, last year’s requirements will remain in effect. Notification to SIG Coordinators will be forwarded October 1st. This year’s plan is to be submitted for review/approval to their Lead no later than November 14th.

Critical Dates for 1003(g) SIG Schools

Ø 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)

Ø 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)

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

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

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

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

Ø 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

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

Ø November 14th—Deadline for Submission of 2014-2015 Reward Incentive Plan

Indistar (Celeta Thomas)

What's Happening Now - Currently a team of trainers are facilitating Regional Indistar Trainings for new leaders. The training serve as an overview and expectations for school base leaders that are using the platform. So far 400 plus school base leaders have been trained across the state of Georgia. According to the data, 700 leaders registered for the trainings so we are at a half-way point of meeting our goal. In addition, Gradfirst coaches were trained in Macon this month so they have come on board as well.

Coming Soon-Indistar Due Dates for Schools- This time is approaching for required reports and artifacts for schools. As we support the schools please remind them of the due dates listed in the Guidance documents for Focus and Priority, SIG schools listed under the Docs and Links tab in the platform.

Global Learning Exchange - The North Central Comprehensive Center and South Dakota Department of Education have produced a wonderful video about SD LEAD (South Dakota’s Indistar) with great interviews of people in their schools, including schools serving Native American students. Please take a look and share. You can find the video at See the top, center of the page for the link. Also note that the Indistar website has been redesigned.

Coaching - The Coach’s role in an indicator-based, continuous improvement process is always to:

· Build the capacity of the district or school team to function within a culture of candor

· Help teams accurately determine the level of implementation of effective practices and provide sound evidence

· Strive toward universal and consistent practice.

Coaching "Look Fors" - Leadership teams are entering their meeting minutes and agendas in the platform

Teams have reviewed Leadership Team video listed on the Indistar Webpage

Teams are aware of the due dates listed in the guidance documents

from Alternative Education (Linda Massenburg)

Point to Ponder

About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. The risk for depression increases as a child gets older. According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44 (NIH, 2013).

Save the Date

October 30, 2014 at 1pm, GaDOE’s Alternative Education Department along with community adolescent therapist Dr. Sarah Vinson, Dr. Chad Jones, and our own Dr. Christina Kennedy from Hillside Conant School in Atlanta will address mental health issues that concern our students in a webinar entitled Mental Health and Alternative Education. The webinar will cover the following topics: mental health warning signs, basic classroom strategies that work, and community resources. This webinar is open to alternative education staff as well as district and traditional school personnel. If the schools or districts that you serve have specific questions concerning the topics, please feel free to email them to me by October 7th to be addressed during the webinar. The link to access the webinar will be emailed during the week of October 20th.

from the Literature

The Difference Between Compliant and Engaged Students

In this article in Educational Leadership, author/consultants Robyn Jackson and Allison Zmuda draw a distinction between compliant and engaged students. “The compliant, dutiful learner is easy to manage, does what’s expected, and participates when there’s little risk of being wrong,” say Jackson and Zmuda. They follow directions, complete assignments, and get good grades, but their hearts aren’t in it.

Engaged students, on the other hand, follow their own train of thought, focus on the learning, and share their thoughts without being prompted, sometimes without consideration of their classmates. “Straightforward questions bore them, but questions that are personally relevant or that require teasing out ambiguity fascinate them,” say Jackson and Zmuda. “These learners take risks; they’re not afraid to try something new. Engaged learners can be needy. They’re often annoyed by interruptions, they question everything, and they’ll follow an idea even if it takes them outside the parameters of the assignment.”

“Compliance may make for a smoothly run classroom,” they continue, “but it doesn’t help students expend the effort they need to meet the demands of challenging standards or take what they’ve learned and apply it to their lives.” But how do we get real classroom engagement? Jackson and Zmuda suggest four strategies:

Provide clarity. “When you’re in the weeds of daily instruction,” they say, “you may lose sight of the larger purpose. It’s vital you make sure that every assignment, question, and conversation is connected to a clear learning goal.” Ask yourself, what am I asking students to do? How do all these pieces fit together? What’s the point of learning this? How can students track their progress over time? Students should ponder big-picture essential questions about the unit. Rather than just having students memorize various energy sources – nuclear, coal, oil, solar, and wind – get them thinking about a bigger question such as, How can the United States become more energy independent? Then give students clear structures to answer the questions you pose.

Offer a relevant context. Jackson and Zmuda describe a teacher’s frustration when she introduces a new unit on perimeter and area and students ask, Why do we need to know this? Why is it so important to be able to do this? and Why will we ever need to know this in life? “Our students need to know that the work they’re being asked to do is relevant and important to them – right now,” say Jackson and Zmuda, and quote a workshop participant saying, “Someday is not a day of the week.”

The challenge is to make curriculum relevant, meaningful, and designed for an audience beyond the teacher. “Once they understand area and perimeter,” they say, “students have a much greater understanding of space, and they can use what they learn to make all kinds of decisions about space – from installing carpet or a pool, to figuring out how many books they can reasonably stuff in their lockers, to determining how many props can comfortably fit on the stage for the spring play.”

Create a supportive classroom culture. Students get discouraged and disengaged when their work is criticized and given low grades. Can students access the material, understand the discussion, and meet the challenges you’re giving them? Have likely misconceptions been anticipated, have students been introduced to difficult vocabulary, is there a scaffold for handling new concepts, and is individual support available to help them revise their work when it isn’t up to par?

Provide an appropriate level of challenge. Students may be able to complete assignments that can be easily Googled or “Khanified”, but they don’t respect them and there’s little value-added. “We have to train them for the world they’ll inherit,” say Jackson and Zmuda, “and in that world it’s unlikely that employers will pay them to solve a non-problem.” Teachers need to give assignments that ask students to frame ideas, questions, or predictions; to figure out a real problem; and to risk failure to get to the final product. “Offer experiences that enable them to play with ideas; solve complex, real-world problems; and dig deeper” – for example, interviewing a personal hero, figuring out a way to cover themselves so they won’t get poison ivy next summer, and designing headphones that won’t cause long-term hearing problems.

“4 (Secret) Keys to Student Engagement” by Robyn Jackson and Allison Zmuda in Educational Leadership, September 2014 (Vol. 72, #1, p. 18-24),; the authors can be reached at and

Upcoming Events

Instructional Leadership Academy I

Tuesday, Oct. 7th, 9:30am-3:30pm

200 Coliseum Dr

Macon, GA

Instructional Leadership Academy II

Wednesday, Oct. 8th, 9:30am-3:30pm

200 Coliseum Dr

Macon, GA

Atlanta Office Team Meetings

Thursday, Oct. 9th, 8-11am

200 Coliseum Dr

Macon, GA

School Improvement Leadership Team (SILT)

Thursday, Oct. 9th, 11:30am-4pm

200 Coliseum Dr

Macon, GA

Region Team Meetings

Friday, Oct. 17th, 12am


Time and location determined by Region Lead

RESA and Region Webinar

Friday, Oct. 17th, 10am

This is an online event.

School Improvement Leadership Team (SILT)

Wednesday, Oct. 29th, 9:30am-4pm

200 Coliseum Dr

Macon, GA

Atlanta Office Team Meetings

Thursday, Oct. 30th, 9:30am-4pm

200 Coliseum Dr

Macon, GA

Content Job-Alike Meetings (If Applicable)

Thursday, Oct. 30th, 12am


If Content Area Job-Alikes are held in October, they will be on October 30. The time and location is determined by the Content Area Point Person.

Your School Improvement Leadership Team (SILT)


Paula Cleckler

Melba Fugitt

Bari Geeslin

Joel Standifer

Lyn Wenzel

Patty Rooks

RESA Director Representative:

Carolyn Williams/Rachel Spates/Peggy Stovall

Program Managers:

Joann Hooper

Paulette Richmond

Sam Taylor