Happy September, and welcome back!  At the Lower Hudson RSE-TASC we are excited about the new school year and the initiatives in which we will be collaborating with you.  To set the stage, we wanted to look back at the accomplishments of last year and share some plans for the upcoming year.

Looking Back:  2017-2018

First of all, thank you to the more than 350 educators who responded to our end-of-year survey, telling us whether our regional trainings had hit the mark last year.  Here’s who responded:

  • Educators from 48 of the 53 public school districts in our region, ten of the 25 non district programs and nine preschools
  • 172 teachers or classroom staff; 99 related service providers; 63 administrators; and 26 family and community members

Here’s what you told us:

  • 100% of respondents rated the workshops they had attended as relevant to their work; in fact, 92% gave the trainings a 4 or 5 star rating. On a scale of 1 to 5, the average rating for all trainings was 4.7.
  • 80% of respondents reported changing a practice or system as a direct result of the training, and most importantly,
  • 87% of those who changed a practice, reported that student outcomes had improved as a result!

Here are just a few examples of how you said practices changed and students benefited:

  • My CSE meetings ran smoother and I gained a better understanding of Part 200.
    ⇒ Students became active participants in the annual review process.
  • As a whole school, we worked to bring explicit instruction to our classrooms, for example, posting “I Can” statements before beginning lessons.
    ⇒ My students interacted with each other in a more positive and productive way. “I Can” statements helped the students know what was expected of them and gave them a way to measure their learning by reflecting on the statement at the end of the lesson as well.
  • I gave my ELL students more support before asking them to try something on their own… I looked for specific skills I wanted my students to master and spent more time explicitly teaching those skills and modeling, conducting shared writing/reading, and then giving them prompt corrective feedback.
    ⇒ They were able to make connections between different lessons because I gave them the language and explanation; e.g., they made connections in text to the explicit instruction word study I had done in previous days.
  • I have implemented new classroom management strategies and used a variety of tools to support students.
    ⇒ I have seen an increase in positive behavior and positive interactions among my students right after implementing specific strategies I learned.
  • We developed a more comprehensive CDOS plan and a better school-based enterprise process.
    ⇒ More students graduated with a diploma and CDOS credential this year than before!

We also heard from districts and schools that had received more intensive support from RSE-TASC specialists, 17 of which presented at our Student Outcomes Conference (SOCon) last spring. For those who missed it, please see our Bright Spots section on page 4 to revisit the inspiring outcomes achieved by those schools.

What did you tell us was most effective in supporting you in improving practice?  We consistently heard that the most important thing we did was to create structured opportunities for educators to come together to share student bright spots, and to learn from each other about the practices and systems put in place to achieve those bright spots, as well as help each other identify solutions to implementation challenges.

Looking Forward: 

NICs & PDSA Cycles

Using the feedback you gave us above as well as what we are learning from the field of implementation science, we are strengthening and adding initiatives.  In particular, we have been learning about Networked Improvement Communities (NICs) from the book, Learning to Improve:  How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better (Bryk et al., 2016) and about the Plan-Do-Study-Act improvement cycle from the OSEP-funded State Implementation & Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices Center (SISEP) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. (See above.)

Here’s why Byrk et al. began developing and testing the effectiveness of NICs years ago.  They noted that, in the field of education, individual educators were developing considerable knowledge through their daily work but no mechanisms existed to test, refine, and transform practitioner expertise into a professional knowledge base (Byrk, 2016, Preface p. x).  They decided to bring educators and organizational teams together with experts in a “colleagueship of expertise” on an on-going basis to address a specific problem, asking:

  • What is the specific problem I am now trying to solve?
  • What change might I introduce and why?
  • And, how will I know whether the change is actually an improvement?

Bryk et al. believed in the value of social learning but wanted to take it one step further through scientific discipline.  NICs provide a structure where change ideas are “tested and refined based on evidence from what actually happened, both intended and otherwise” (p. 9).

NICs improve in their own functioning and in addressing the identified problem through the use of the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) improvement cycle, a process described by SISEP as allowing for rapid development and improvement of programs and practices.  Simply put, PDSA involves four components:

  • Plan—decide what to do
  • Do—do with fidelity
  • Study—look at the results
  • Act—make adjustments based on analysis of results

NICs engage in multiple on-going PDSA cycles, which can be as short as a day and as long as a year.

This year, the Lower Hudson RSE-TASC will be initiating a new NIC focused on disproportionality and, in particular, the disproportionate suspension of black and African-American males.  We will be engaging teams from districts that are focusing on this problem in learning practices that increase cultural responsiveness, engagement of black males, and equity, and which they will then plan and implement, studying the effectiveness of those practices and then acting to modify, improve and/or sustain based on findings in the data.  At the end of the year, these district teams will have expertise and be ready to share their practices for reducing disproportionate suspensions.

In addition, we’ll be sustaining and improving our pre-existing “networked improvement communities” and hope you’ll consider joining one.  There is an
on-going collegial support network for you, whether your school or district is focusing on improving post-school outcomes (e.g., Transition Specialist Network and Transition Consortia), school-wide behavioral and social-emotional supports (e.g., PBIS Team Implementation Guidance), CSE/CPSE systems (e.g., CSE Roundtable and CPSE Colloquium), or IEP development (e.g., Student-Directed IEPs). See our calendar on page 3 and join us!

Reference:

Bryk, AS, Gomez, LM, Grunow, A & LeMahieu, PG. (2016). Learning to improve:  How America’s schools can bet better at getting better.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard Education Press.