Syracuse City School District Transformation Plan
The Syracuse City School District Transformation Plan stays true to the district’s core values of excellence, accountability, student-centered learning, equity and efficiency.
Realizing that we have talented students, a dedicated and hard-working staff, a committed community and parents who want the best for their children, we have embarked on a mission to transform education in Syracuse. There are four high impact levers that are necessary in order to be successful in this transformation: Curriculum and Instruction, High Quality Teaching and Leadership, Innovation and District Structure and Standards of Service and Systems of Support.
As a part of this mission, task forces have been created. Each is comprised of teachers and administrators, Central Office leadership, parents, representatives from Syracuse’s Higher Education community, business leaders and community members. The task forces are being facilitated by educational consultants Collier Educational Consultants, Mass Insight Education, Insight Education and Battelle for Kids.
These task forces have been working diligently to ensure that the district continues on the road to becoming the most-improved urban school district in America. What follows is an update on their work.
Strategic Compensation Task Force
The Strategic Compensation Task Force is working to accelerate student achievement by incentivizing the high performance of teachers through the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) federal grant program. TIF has been an integral component of the district’s efforts to focus on educator effectiveness.
Strategic compensation is the alignment of district strategy, classroom instruction and compensation systems. Some refer to this as pay for performance because teacher compensation is tied to meeting a number of requirements in different areas. A carefully designed strategic compensation program offers opportunities to reward exceptional teaching, to discover and replicate the instructional practices leading to exemplary student gains and to compensate educators for performance excellence.
Early in the 2011-12 school year, the task force began the process of developing a comprehensive, strategic compensation system – aligned with effective practices as well as with district goals and values.
The task force is working in three stages: learn, design, execute. The work is currently in the “learn’’ stage. Task force members have taken online classes on strategic compensation offered by Battelle for kids; reviewed national research; read blogs and articles; looked at TIF requirements; discussed the use of multiple measures, student learning objectives, portfolios, perceptual tools and types of measurements; and looked at strategic compensation models from around the country.
Teachers and principals will soon be asked to participate in a survey pertaining to strategic compensation conducted by Battelle for Kids.
Innovation Zone Task Force
The Innovation Zone Task Force is a dynamic group of educators and community members who are collaborating to re-think the “way we do school’’ in the Fowler Quadrant, soon to be known as the “Innovation Zone.’’
Teachers and leaders from Fowler High School and six of its elementary/middle feeder schools are actively engaged in learning about how other school districts across the United States have created flexible working conditions and site-based autonomies to ensure that every child can learn and achieve, no matter what challenges they may face outside of school. The group has generated ideas about how to reallocate time and resources, personalize instruction and create a professional school culture of collaboration and shared responsibility for the success of all students.
Representatives from local government and organizations such as La Liga, Syracuse University, and the Near Westside Initiative are also contributing ideas and seeking opportunities for collaboration in IZone schools.
Facilitators from Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group are basing the work of the Innovation Task Force on extensive research that analyzes and documents how schools in high-poverty areas have become high-achieving competitors with the best public schools in the country.
Research confirms that there are no “magic bullets’’ for turning around our most struggling schools; rather, all the adults in every building must work together with a focus on improving all aspects of the school experience for each and every child.
Teacher and Principal Evaluation Systems
The work on developing teacher and principal evaluation systems is of extreme importance and immense proportion. We are under mandates at both the State and Federal level to complete these frameworks and there are significant financial implications tied to each. These mandates did not allow for the proper time needed to develop a customized framework.
We have chosen the Danielson model for teacher evaluation and the Reeves model for building leader evaluation for the 2011-12 school year. Each was chosen with input from the Syracuse Teacher’s Association and the Syracuse Association of Administrators and Supervisors. It is important to remember these were chosen as a “stop-gap,’’ not a long-term solution.
While neither of the models is perfect they each provide us with a framework and a foundation to build upon. When the task forces have completed their work we will submit to the New York State Education Department an amended MOA with two evaluation systems that represent what this community thinks great teaching and leadership looks like. These evaluation systems will include the valuable and necessary input of our local stakeholders.
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Task Force
The CIA Task Force has been reviewing and prioritizing the recommendations put forth as a result of the SCSD curriculum and instruction external review. This is being done to maximize efficiency and take full advantage of the recommendations. The group is also providing input into the development of a curriculum management plan to address all recommended improvements in the district’s curriculum instruction and assessment systems. The task force is reviewing drafts of curriculum and assessment revisions and providing feedback for improvement.
The task force, which includes teachers, principals, parents, central office staff and our higher education partners, is creating a rubric for quality criteria of curriculum units, drafting qualifications for curriculum and assessment writing applicants and providing input to that will help the district establish parameters for best practices in teaching and learning.
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- CTE Blue Ribbon Task Force’s Final Report