Over the past few years, State Education Agencies (SEA) and Local Education Agencies (LEA) have been tasked with creating Covid 19 recovery plans. These plans were a way to recognize interruptions with academic progress and mental health for our students and think through how to best support them. During this time, Education Elements partnered with the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) to ensure districts across the state have the essential information and resources to holistically assist students. This involved not only creating cohesive Academic Recovery Plans, but also initiating action and progress monitoring support to ensure plans become actions and actions become progress.
Below are three key actions happening across South Carolina that can help you in making your team's plans come to life:
Key Move 1: Clearly Establish Goals and Strategies
The initial work of our partnership involved built-in structured support for revisions to SCDE’s Academic Recovery Plans. This work focused on ensuring districts landed on the right goals and strategies. We collaborated with district teams to use both a student/learner-centered and an instructional problem of practice approach to elevate the areas that needed to be strategically addressed with urgency.
When designing your school and district improvement plans, leveraging both approaches will give you a more colorful picture of your district's story, allowing you to unearth your primary areas of opportunity to make improvements. Once you have defined what to measure, you can purposefully shift to the how, focusing more on the instructional design and the necessary enabling systems to support the established goals and strategies.
Key Move 2: Alignment
Ensuring strong alignment between goals, essential practices, and strategies is critical in charting a path to success in planning and implementation. The partnership placed us shoulder-to-shoulder with SCDE, which offered targeted feedback on strategic alignment in addition to reviewing all district plans in the state. As you begin to think more expansively about the "how" of school improvement, some simple questions help to chisel away at this strategic alignment process:
What are those overarching strategies connecting you to reaching your goals?
How does your approach to instructional design (methods, time, curriculum) support your goals and strategies?
What are the enabling systems (coaching cycles, content team structures, instructional practices) that uphold your strategy?
What day-to-day actions and tasks propel the work forward?
Key Move 3: Build and Create Systems to Monitor Progress
One of the most critical considerations in our work with SCDE is around progress monitoring systems — ensuring what's measured gets done with fidelity and effectively to ensure that the plan has its intended impact. We are currently providing ongoing Executive Coaching to District Leaders, building their leadership capacity to support the teams they lead with a heavy emphasis on strategies for progress monitoring. As you build these systems, you should first ensure that you have built-in structured and consistent time to evaluate progress. It is helpful to use formal protocols (retrospectives) to reflect on both performance (data) and process, incorporating measures around implementation fidelity and effectiveness. The ultimate goal of this work is to produce long-term and sustainable change.
Key Components to Deliver Measurable Results in Your District
SCDE has done a great job of ensuring that district academic recovery plans are action-oriented, aligned, and clear even in the face of many changing conditions. This can feel like an arduous task, but maintaining a level of constancy around these three elements is instrumental in providing direction and a path toward plans that motivate massive action, offer clarity and alignment, and deliver measurable results to your school or district.
Much work is still to be done as we continue to recover from the learning loss of the Covid-19 pandemic. We believe these learnings from our work in South Carolina will assist other districts in cultivating strong and effective plans. We are excited to see this progress in South Carolina and look forward to supporting districts and schools as they ensure their plans turn into action.