Superintendent's Blog

Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller's Blog
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When Old Meets New
Posted 9/13/2018 at 1:51:13 PM by James Harless [staff member]
With a new strategic plan, what is the future of the different best practices in the district? The answer to the question lies in the importance of this plan to our schools. The new strategic plan will bring alignment to our academics and also align our entire budget to these resources. Throughout the organization, all resources and work will align to the important work as identified by the community, teachers, staff and students on this plan.

As we prepare to officially launch the plan in October, it is important to remember why our schools engaged in this process. It is simple: The board wished to answer the question, “What is the future that we want for our Bexley City Schools?”  Doing so came at the perfect time. The last strategic plan took place more than 10-years-ago and the educational landscape has changed significantly during that time. In order continue as a successful district we must acknowledge and respond to changes with strategic vision and planning.

In embarking on a new strategic plan, it was important to us that all stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in developing the answer that best represents what we want from our schools. In doing so, we launched an extensive community-based process. Throughout the process we gathered input from the community, teachers and staff and students. Specifically, the following data sources were used:

      • Technology Integration Surveys November ‘17
      • Public Opinion Survey (Fallon Research January ‘18)
      • Teacher surveys regarding curriculum and instruction (Fall ‘17)
      • Formal and informal meetings with students, staff, parents, and community members
      • Board of Education Interviews
      • Focus Groups – over 300 individuals invited to participate in one of nine focus groups 
         (students, staff, parents, community)
      • Over 3000 online surveys distributed to students, staff, parents, and community members
      • External data gathering via the review of similar districts as well as local and national trends

In working through the community process and as our schools aligned more with a common philosophy, it is important to provide alignment with opportunities for students across schools and grade levels.  Along the way, we answered the question, “What does this information mean for the different best practices at each school? Will they go away?”

Focusing Best Practices with our Vision
Bexley City Schools personnel will continue aspects of the different best practices that continue to align with our new vision and mission. The workshop structure at Montrose is a solid structure that allows teachers to meet the individual needs of students, and we will not only keep that structure at Montrose but continue to expand it across all schools and grade levels.  

The work at Montrose is evidence and researched based. 

Maryland aligned to the Effective Schools research of the 1970s.  This research led to a framework for school improvement that promoted quality and equity to lead to high student achievement (Taylor, 1990).  Maryland teachers were supported in this work by two outside consultants.  We will expand this support to all elementary teachers particularly focusing on the development of units of study for our new science curriculum, which is currently being developed.  

Cassingham Elementary became an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school.  The Middle School aligned to the IB Middle Years Programme.   These IB programs include an inquiry-led, transdisciplinary framework that “challenges students to think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning as they explore local and global issues and opportunities in real-life contexts” (International Baccalaureate, 2018). 

We believe so much in an inquiry-based approach to learning that this past summer we supported teachers in learning more about teaching for creativity at the Columbus Museum of Art, problem-based learning with the PAST Foundation, and this year a number of teachers and administrators will participate in professional learning with Harvard’s Project Zero, which focuses on developing the thinking skills of students.  Moving forward we will support the philosophies of IB for students and teachers at all five schools.  

Finally, the High School previously aligned to Advanced Placement courses, from College Board.  Advanced Placement is not a best practice but a set of courses.  We expanded our AP offerings this year to include three additional courses.

Alignment and Opportunities for All Students
In short, if a philosophy, structure, or instructional strategy is a best practice, we believe that EACH student in our schools should benefit from it.  Therefore, while we will no longer align different schools with different practices, we will expand what is beneficial from those practices to all schools.  This decision is based upon the feedback gathered during the strategic planning process.  Our new plan focuses on equity of opportunity for EACH student.  To maintain separate best practices would not be in line with the data that our stakeholders have provided.  

Any time that a new plan is developed, something of the past must change.  One of the greatest challenges in education is the propensity to add to teachers’ and administrators’ responsibilities but never to remove anything.  We cannot implement our new vision and mission if we are unwilling to let some of the old structures go.  As I have indicated above, we will always keep what is effective, but after 15 years of implementing separate best practices, it is time to allocate our time and financial resources to the new strategies that will benefit our students.  We cannot afford to stress our staff or our financial resources to continue work that we have mastered.  

Our strategic plan is our new Bexley Blueprint for engaging, equipping, and empowering each student.  The only way to be responsible to the learning of each student, both today and tomorrow, is to align our strategies, professional development, and support for our students. And that is our commitment to our students, our staff, and our community.

In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. – Abraham Maslow

Becoming is better than being. – Carol Dweck

We are stepping forward to that we can become what our students need us to be.



References
Harvard Graduate School of Education. (2016). Project Zero.  Date retrieved September 12, 2018. http://www.pz.harvard.edu/

International Baccalaureate. (2018). Middle years programme. Date retrieved September 12, 2018. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/

International Baccalaureate. (2018). Primary years programme. Date retrieved September 12, 2018. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/primary-years-programme/

Taylor, B.O., & National Center for Effective Schools Research and Development, M.W. (1990). Case studies in effective schools’ research. 


*For the 2018-19 academic year, Cassingham will continue to be identified with IB as a partner school; however, we will not continue to pay the fee for participation beginning in 2019-20.  The Middle School, with input from the staff, elected to no longer identify as an IB school this year.  


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