As school districts actively pursue the goals of their strategic vision, they tend to look outward for a spark of innovation. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the amount of “new” a system can take. It is common, within a single district, there can be multiple initiatives happening at once. Over-indexing new initiatives can lead to information overload, miscommunication, and burnt-out educators. That is why the most impactful approach is often to look inward to seek alignment on existing innovations.
During the 2021-2022 school year, the Enlarged City School District of Middletown in Middletown, NY, partnered with Education Elements to build a comprehensive future-focused strategic plan. A part of the instructional plan is aPersonalized Learning Refresh Fellowship. This unique approach enabled the district to revisit a previously successful initiative. Through this model, educators could collaborate, share resources, and test new strategies to drive scholar ownership, one of the district’s priorities outlined inthe district’s strategic plan.
As the Fellowship progressed, an opportunity for alignment emerged. Middletown educators leveraged Charlotte Danielson’s ‘Framework for Teaching’ to enhance their professional practice. Through Danielson, Middletown aimed to enhance current expertise and design and deliver the most impactful learning experiences for scholars. This alignment began as a question: what if Education Elements’ Core Four of Personalized Learning was used as the vehicle for teachers to leverage high-impact learning, educator voice and best instructional practices that they sought to develop through this well-established teaching framework? These two valuable district priorities could work in concert instead of as separate teacher responsibilities.
To answer this question, Education Elements met with district leaders for capacity-building sessions. After establishing foundational knowledge of personalized learning, it was time to put the instructional leaders and TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment) to work. Together, they superimposed the elements of personalized learning on top of their district-wide evaluation framework. The result was a crosswalk tool for teachers to connect evaluation domains with targeted, personalized learning resources and strategies. With this tool school leaders felt an increased sense of confidence because they could coach and develop their teachers with one clear and aligned strategy.
This simple calibration tool builds teacher confidence and establishes a very-welcomed alignment. Some feedback we received from teachers and district leaders included:
“I feel that all we discussed was relevant to the direction we want our teachers and scholars to go.”
“Thank you for your work in creating alignment between the Core 4 and Danielson Framework. Appreciate your guidance.’
“I used this tool while working with my intern as they prepared for their observation and this was eye opening!”
“Sometimes it is easy to get tunnel vision with feedback. This tool provided a fresh perspective!”
“These tools help teachers see how it is all connected!”
It is easy for districts to feel immense pressure to consistently discover the “next great thing” that will impact their scholars. In those moments, the first step should be to look at existing initiatives in new and refreshed ways because the spark of innovation often starts from within.