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Great Lakes East Comprehensive Center

Record of Services

Spring 2008


State Manager: Jayne Sowers

Supporting New Cohorts of Districts in Improvement and Corrective Action. For the third straight year, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) Office of Title I Academic Support with assistance from Great Lakes East hosted two, all-day workshops for districts in Year 1 and Year 3 of improvement. Representatives from seven districts in Year 1 of improvement and four districts in Year 3 of improvement attended the workshops March 18–19 to learn of the requirements and supports they will receive from the Office of Title I Academic Support. The teams consisted of superintendents, central office staff, principals, and teachers.

According to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, districts that have not made adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two years are in Year 1 of improvement. Those in Year 3 of improvement have not met AYP requirements for four years and are considered to be in corrective action. During the March workshops, both Year 1 and Year 3 Indiana districts learned of federal and state requirements based on their improvement status (e.g., setting aside 10 percent of their Title I funds for professional development). They also received individual assistance with the disaggregation of their student data, evaluation of their English/language arts curriculum, and initial development of a district improvement plan.

Based on previous workshop evaluations, three significant additions occurred in this year's workshops: the development and presentation of a theory of action to guide the district work, the creation of district workbooks, and an increase in IDOE cross-divisional collaboration and involvement.

Theory of action. During the past year, IDOE Office of Title I Academic Support developed a theory of action based on the research of high-performing, high-poverty districts. The research review, conducted by Great Lakes East, revealed the following six key principles of high-poverty, high-performing districts, which serve as the theory of action (see Figure 1):

  • A clear vision focused on student achievement.
  • Instructional leadership centered on student and teacher learning.
  • Data that is useful and reliable and that guides and monitors instruction and progress.
  • Curriculum, instruction, and assessment that align with high standards.
  • Professional development that promotes and extends effective curriculum and learning.
  • Parents, families, and communities who are actively involved in supporting children's learning.
  • Figure 1 presents the six critical elements as central to high student achievement.

    Student Achievement

    *Curriculum—Instruction—Assessment often emerge as one overarching principle in the research and, therefore, are considered as one of the six principles.

    At the center of the theory of action is student achievement—the focal point of all work in schools and districts. Surrounding student achievement are the two factors or principles that most affect student learning: (1) the curriculum, instruction, and assessments and (2) the use of data (through formative assessments) to determine and adjust the curriculum and instruction as needed. These two principles were the focus of the district improvement workshops and will serve as the central themes of the districts' improvement plans.

    A district improvement workbook. A second strong addition to this year's workshops was the Districts in Improvement Workbook—one for Year 1 and one for Year 3 districts. The workbooks developed by the Office of Title I Academic Support and Great Lakes East provide research reviews, self-evaluations tools, and numerous activities centered on two of the six key principles: curriculum, instruction, and assessment and data-driven decision making (see Figure 1). Throughout the workshop, teams with facilitators from Great Lakes East focused on the student groups not meeting AYP requirements and developing a district improvement plan to increase the achievement of those specific learners. The workbooks serve as important resources for districts to use with their schools.

    Collaboration within IDOE. The strong participation of additional staff members from IDOE was the third significant addition to the workshops. Staff members from the Office of Special Education and the Office of English Language Learning & Migrant Education participated in workshop planning meetings, gathered and provided student data, received facilitator training, and provided specific information to the teams during the workshops. Together with the Office of Title I Academic Support, the various IDOE offices modeled the importance of working collaboratively for the benefit of all learners.

    Specific to the districts in Year 3 of corrective action was information and resources regarding the specific requirement to design a new English/language arts curriculum (see the Winter 2008 issue of News for the Region). IDOE Office of Title I Academic Support and Great Lakes East will further support the districts with curriculum mapping workshops June 3–5 with Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, national curriculum design expert, as the presenter.

    At the conclusion of the district improvement workshops, remarks from several attendees included their appreciation of the expertise of the facilitators and the presence and support from multiple IDOE offices.

    New Assistance for Schools in Improvement. With a focus on district improvement during the past 2 1/2-year partnership between the Office of Title I Academic Support and Great Lakes East, the attention is now expanding to school improvement. Title I currently provides a number of supports to schools in improvement but is anxious to dedicate more time and resources to its schools. For example, Great Lakes East and the IDOE Office of School Leadership Development will create a leadership institute. The institute has a specific audience: urban, elementary principals and teachers who are committed to implementing a shared instructional leadership model. Cheryl Williams from WestEd, developer of similar national institutes, is assisting the planning team in developing the Indiana model including the vision/mission, curriculum, selection of participants, training of facilitators, and a strong evaluation component. The planning team consists of Lee Ann Kwiatkowski (Office of Title I Academic Support), Bill Gavaghan and Susan Kertes (Office of School Leadership Development), and Jayne Sowers (Great Lakes East). The team is considering a two-year program including a summer program and additional single days of support and reporting during the school year.

    The U.S. Department of Education, in recognition of the individual needs of schools and districts in improvement, recently announced the creation of a system of flexibility of sanctions and supports termed differentiated accountability. "Differentiated accountability means creating a more nuanced system of distinguishing between schools in need of dramatic intervention, and those that are closer to meeting goals" (U.S. Department of Education, 2008, p. 1). The development of Indiana's institute for shared instructional leadership is an example of differentiated accountability. The institute is designed specifically for urban elementary schools whose needs are dramatically different from those of a rural school, which might have only one student group not meeting AYP requirements. The Department of Education announced that it will approve up to 10 states to complete a pilot study of differentiated accountability. State proposals are due May 2, 2008, and Indiana will be one of the states completing an application.


    U.S. Department of Education. (2008). Differentiated accountability: A more nuanced system to better target resources. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved April 29, 2008, from http://www.ed.gov/nclb/accountability/differentiated/factsheet.pdf


    State Manager: Gary Appel

    On January 29, Great Lakes East director and staff members met with Mike Flanagan, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) superintendent; Sally Vaughn, deputy superintendent and chief academic officer; and MaryAlice Galloway, senior advisor; to share the overall work of Great Lakes East and discuss current and possible future work. The meeting was the first of this kind and proved to be very fruitful in sharing the work with the MDE leaders and defining assistance direction for the upcoming years. As described in the following sections, the work in Michigan continues to focus on several major areas: the SSOS, teacher quality, and high schools. Following the meeting, the state manager for Michigan, Gary Appel, attended Governor Granholm's State of the State address as a guest of the governor's office to learn more about the direction of high school in the state.

    Statewide System of Support. As part of the continued effort to help MDE's Office of School Improvement to refine Michigan's SSOS, Great Lakes East and its subcontractors, the American Institutes for Research and RMC Research Corporation, conducted an analysis of Michigan's SSOS to high-priority schools through surveys and interviews in late January and February. Among those surveyed were key system players such as leadership coaches who support principals, principals who participated in the Principals' Fellowship in August 2007 held by Michigan State University, and mentor team members. In late February, a summary and analysis of the data was presented to MDE for use in an upcoming meeting with its partners such as the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) and Michigan State University. In addition, Great Lakes East is working with MAISA to prepare a summary of what other states are doing to support districts with schools in corrective action. MDE will share the summary with its partners to facilitate discussion on how MDE's SSOS can build district capacity to assist their schools.

    Teacher Quality. On February 19, Great Lakes East staff members; Great Lakes East subcontractor, the American Institutes for Research; and Learning Point Associates consultant Amy Colton met with MDE staff to share additional revisions to an individual professional development plan process and template. Great Lakes East is currently helping MDE to explore possible user-friendly electronic formats, tools, and resources that would support users of individual professional development plans. In addition, MDE continues planning and designing focus groups that represent teachers, new teacher mentors, principals, and school improvement facilitators for April and May with assistance from Great Lakes East and its subcontractor, the American Institutes for Research. In late August and September, the focus groups will seek input from the field and potential users regarding the draft of the individual professional development process and template.

    High Schools. The area of high school in Michigan consists of multiple initiatives. Great Lakes East has been assisting MDE in several of them, including high school redesign and a recent alternative high schools effort. Great Lakes East also remains particularly focused on MDE's efforts to address the needs of its two student populations—those with disabilities and ELLs.

    High School Redesign. As part of its recent initiative, Reaching and Teaching for Learning, the OSE/EIS office hopes to develop 15 model high schools that practitioners across the state can learn from as they pursue high school redesign. The goal of the initiative is improved learning results for students who are hard to reach and/or hard to teach. The Reaching and Teaching for Learning initiative will assist school teams to reorganize processes and practices, focusing on Michigan School Improvement Framework strands of school and community relations, data management, teaching for learning, leadership, and personnel and professional learning. Great Lakes East collaborated with MDE's Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services (OSE/EIS) and the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals at the Summit on Model High Schools held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, April 16–18. More than 500 participants from districts across the state participated in this conference focused on reaching and teaching struggling learners. Great Lakes East will continue to assist with this ongoing project as specific technical assistance needs are identified.

    Great Lakes East continues working with MDE to facilitate a high school core team. The goal of the high school core team is to support all students meeting the state's rigorous high school graduation standards (Michigan Merit Curriculum) with particular attention to the academic achievement of student subgroups. To increase cross-office collaboration, the team consists of representatives from the various MDE offices as well as representatives from Great Lakes East, intermediate school districts, and other professional educational organizations in Michigan. The group held its first meeting on March 17 to share current high school work across offices and begin formulating the work of the cross-office core team around high school redesign. The group will continue to meet on a monthly basis through December 2008.

    Alternative High Schools. MDE Deputy Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer Sally Vaughn had asked for the assistance of Great Lakes East to form and facilitate a statewide alternative education work group to increase state capacity to assist districts and schools to improve achievement for all students in Michigan. The group was formed to examine existing barriers that negatively impact alternative education student achievement in Michigan and assess how MDE can assist students in alternative schools and programs in meeting the rigorous requirements of the Michigan Merit Curriculum. The group included representatives from MDE's Offices of School Improvement, Adult Education, Career and Technical Education, Professional Preparation, Early Childhood and Family Services, Administrative Law and Federal Relations, Special Education, and Technology. The first meeting was held on January 31, 2008, when the group members had the opportunity to identify issues and concerns. Deputy Superintendent Vaughn, Senior Advisor MaryAlice Galloway, and Great Lakes East Senior Program Associate Bersheril Bailey listened to the concerns and made plans to meet with MDE staff across offices to discuss possible solutions. The group will meet again to discuss recommendations and solutions to address the issues and concerns identified.

    ELLs. Great Lakes East and its subcontractor, CAL, are working closely with the Michigan Department of Education, Office of School Improvement and MDE's statewide ELL Advisory Committee on planning a technical assistance conference for more than 200 of Michigan's district and intermediate school district ELL directors on May 9. The purpose of the conference is to provide professional development for ELL directors and implement the ELL strategic plan. As part of the agenda, representatives from the recently established National Center on Response to Intervention (RTI) will discuss with the directors the implications of RTI for ELL instruction. Prior to the conference, Great Lakes East is planning to cofacilitate a meeting of the statewide ELL Advisory Committee on May 8. During the meeting, Great Lakes East will assist MDE in exploring ways to utilize Michigan's intermediate school districts to create ELL regional leadership and establish a conversation with representatives from the National Center on Response to Intervention. As part of the implementation of the state's five-year English Language Learner Strategic Plan, MDE has planned to pilot regional action research teams with assistance from Great Lakes East. A follow-up regional meeting with intermediate school district ELL leaders will be held in the Detroit area later in May and will provide more information about participation in action research teams. In addition, Great Lakes East is assisting MDE in preparing a training packet and presentation for ELL administrators based on information in a newly approved ELL Directors' manual and other state resource information.

    Special Education. In early February, with support from Great Lakes East and its subcontractor, RMC Research Corporation, MDE's Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services (OSE/EIS) Disproportionality Advisory Committee met to review the progress and slippage of school districts' efforts during the 2007–08 school year regarding disproportionate representation of minority students in special education across the school districts. The Advisory Committee explored strategies for involving families to address issues related to disproportionality and provided ideas for content to include in a one-page fact sheet on disproportionality that OSE/EIS is planning to release for families.

    The larger Disproportionality Core Team—including representatives from Great Lakes East and its subcontractors, the American Institutes for Research and RMC Research Corporation—has also met and reviewed the progress of the disproportionality work. The team discussed findings from the recently completed focused monitoring with two sets of districts and shared learning and challenges of the process. It also addressed unresolved data issues and outlined a more collaborative process for disproportionality data calculations and verification with Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. In addition, this meeting marked the culmination of the first two years of the Disproportionality Core Team. Looking ahead, MDE has asked Great Lakes East for assistance in exploring the appropriateness of integration of the cultural proficiency framework into the disproportionality technical assistance initiative as well as into other OSE initiatives. Currently, Great Lakes East is working on this request by gathering and reviewing the research on application of cultural proficiency in general education.


    State Manager: Mark Mitchell

    Data Support Systems and the Ohio Improvement Process. As described in the previous Great Lakes East e-newsletters, Great Lakes East has contributed resources and expertise to the design and content of three Ohio tools: Ohio Data Primer, Professional Development Data Modules, and the Decision Framework.

    The purpose of the Ohio Data Primer is to engage teachers in thinking about and using data in ways that yield useful information about teaching and learning. Great Lakes East has been working for more than a year on the content and functionality of the primer. During this time, the Data Driven Decisions for Academic Achievement (D3A2) Professional Development Committee, along with Ohio Department of Education (ODE) staff, has provided invaluable ideas and suggestions on the design and function of the primer. On March 5, Mark Mitchell, Ohio state manager, presented the fourth and final module of the Ohio Data Primer, "Where Can We Improve?" This final module builds upon Module 3 ("Are We Leaving Anyone Behind?"), which focuses on individual students and their performance over time on state achievement tests, but moves beyond state achievement tests to include district, school, and classroom assessments as well as quizzes and other tests. Through the interactive Ohio Data Primer practice pages, teachers and principals will become familiar with inquiry into student performance trends and the instruments being used to assess student learning. The Professional Development Data Modules now include a guide for facilitators. Hamilton County Educational Service Center and its Technology for Learning Director Lynn Ochs, who also serves on the D3A2 professional development committee, are working to complete these modules in May 2008.

    The Decision Framework is a tool designed to be used by district leadership teams and driven by essential questions organized around four levels: student performance, instructional management, leadership and school climate, and resource management. To the extent possible, these questions are answered by data. At the end of the process, districts should identify two critical needs for improvement focused on reading and mathematics and one critical need focused on leadership and school climate. These two needs become district improvement goals. This process identifies the causes of problems and the needs of the district and illuminates potential strategies for achieving the district's goals. Such a constellation of data tools and professional development has been designed to help educators at all levels of the system make better choices for students. The Decision Framework is moving from proof-of-concept to a functioning Web-based tool under the technical expertise of Bob Reece at the Center for Special Needs Population at The Ohio State University.

    SSOS Redesign. There has been a concerted effort in Ohio to develop a common language of school improvement, increase understanding of school improvement processes, and provide universal access to data tools aligned with the Ohio Improvement Process (See Figure 1 for a visual of this improvement process). The Ohio Improvement Process is being used by ODE to communicate within the department, but especially with regional service providers, about who is involved and the focus of each stage of the improvement process. A Web-based version of this graphic, which connects these stages of the improvement process to supporting tools and resources, is under development. Some of the tools and resources described are critical pieces of this common structure along with commonly understood processes, such as the development of a focused improvement planning process that all districts must follow (Stage 2).

    Ohio Improvement Process

    SPDG District Improvement Process. As described in the Winter 2008 e-newsletter, the focused improvement planning process is under pilot by the first cohort of 16 districts under Ohio's State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG). This grant will provide an opportunity to evaluate data tools and processes as they are used in the field and to fine-tune the training and professional development required to adequately prepare district leadership teams, building leadership teams, and regional facilitators to use these tools and processes. These tools and processes are designed to improve instructional practice and the performance of all students, including those identified as students with disabilities, on a districtwide basis. The SPDG district leadership teams along with regional facilitators from each of the 16 ESC regions in Ohio came together for training February 11–12, February 19, and March 13–14. The February training sessions focused on leadership development and the use of district and state data as part of the Decision Framework (needs assessment) process. Between the February sessions and the March conference, regional facilitators worked with their district leadership teams to address essential questions organized by levels of the Decision Framework. SPDG districts were to come to the March training with identified critical needs in student performance and leadership and school climate as well as likely causes of these problem areas. During the March 13–14 training session, district leadership teams were given time with their regional facilitators to develop district improvement goals from their critical needs and several research-based strategies from causes that emerged from working through the Decision Framework. This work is the foundation of their focused improvement plan.

    By July 1, each SPDG district will have a completed district improvement plan (focused goals linked to performance indicators, several research-based strategies linked to progress indicators, and action steps tied to a budget). Each of these plans will be sent to the Leadership and Learning Center (formerly the Center for Performance Assessment) for evaluation and feedback.

    Building SSOS Capacity. The SPDG district improvement process is being implemented in a select number of districts that have failed AYP for students with disabilities as well as for other subgroups. ODE has addressed the scalability of this improvement process to other districts through universal accessibility of these tools and processes and the creation of a uniform approach to improvement that enables the consistent use of tools and processes by all state-supported regional providers. This approach builds the capacity of SSOSs to support districts using an improvement approach rather than multiple approaches based upon preference.

    One of the structures that ODE has put in place to guide this capacity-building effort is the creation of a state-level design team. Regional leaders of state support teams and SPDG regional facilitator teams representing each of Ohio's 16 regions comprise this state-level design team. Their roles are as follows:

    • Advisors provide direction and recommendations to ODE.
    • Developers assist Great Lakes East and ODE in designing training materials and resources.
    • Trainers deliver professional development to regional facilitators, including state support teams.
    • Mentors advise state support teams and ESC staff as they work with districts.

    This represents the next phase of the SSOS work. State support teams and education service centers gathered March 11–13 for initial orientation and training regarding the leadership framework, data use and the Decision Framework, and Stage 2 improvement planning process. This orientation and training mirrored that provided to the SPDG group in February.

    Emerging Work

    Statewide Systems of Support Evaluation. The end goal of building multitiered systems of support that have the capacity to provide high-quality assistance to districts focused on the school improvement process and data tools is increased student achievement for all students. As these structures and processes for supporting regional service providers become reality, it will be important to evaluate the impact that these supports have on leading indicators of evidence-based district behaviors and practices that support greater student achievement. The other aspect of SSOS evaluation is the extent to which these structures and processes are building the necessary capacity to support districts in their regions.

    Ohio High School Balanced Assessment System. Great Lakes East staff helped facilitate state meetings as part of the REL Midwest Forum in March focused on next-generation assessments. The focus of the state meetings was high school assessment system work in Ohio. In the Ohio meeting, ODE staff, including Stan Heffner, associate superintendent for Curriculum and Assessment; David Burns, director, Secondary Education and Workforce Development; and Judy Feil, director of Assessment, were present along with a group from the Rhode Island Department of Education sharing their model of high school assessment.

    Currently, the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) is given to 10th graders and is designed to ensure a base level of competency for graduation. However, Ohio recognizes the need to pilot and implement assessment systems that assess 21st century skills, which help determine college readiness and promote a challenging high school curriculum. With the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant, Ohio intends to pilot two or three different assessment methodologies at the high school level with selected districts. ODE has done significant research across 50 states regarding high school assessment approaches and international models. Some of the assessment methodologies under consideration include end-of-course exams like an Algebra II exam and Cambridge exams, a collection of evidence approach from the Stanford University/Envision Schools, and augmented college placement assessments (like ACT). Great Lakes East has offered its support in terms of its ability to bring together the needed expertise and resources to help Ohio pilot and implement a high school assessment system in the upcoming year.


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