Short list of ideas for rethinking education in our schools
Below are our Community Planning Group’s short list of ideas in five categories, in this order: Teaching and Learning, Finance, Governance, Community Partnerships, and Operational Effectiveness.
Teaching & Learning
Transform & Support Professional Learning
- Adopt a Restorative Justice Approach to Student Discipline
- Move away from “zero tolerance” and instead embrace a policy of mediation and discussion-based approaches.
- Implement Culturally Responsive Training for All Staff
- Training program for staff could range from online courses to peer learning group discussions, giving educators the tools and knowledge to more deeply explore issues of race and bias in the classroom with their students. This type of teaching recognizes the importance of students’ cultures, backgrounds, and lived experiences in all aspects of their learning.
- Transform Professional Learning
- Ensure that all professional learning, while educator driven, is in clear alignment with district vision and core goals.
- Implement, with consistency, the district’s aspirational plan for professional learning in alignment with the district’s supervision and evaluation model and in alignment with emerging district vision.
- Build in additional professional development days to teacher contract and/or open school late one day a week for Professional Learning Community.
- Tighten Professional Learning Community structure according to Teaching and Learning vision and needs-based assessment to ensure that consistent process and protocols are used to support teacher learning.
- Authentically Embed Work Study Practices Into Curriculum
- Expanding work study practices to all levels of the MSD curriculum and training all teachers in how to teach these essential skills and dispositions in ways that integrate with core content.
- Dismantle Leveling
- Dismantle policies that uphold leveling across the district and provide educators with comprehensive professional supports around differentiation.
- Ensure High Quality District-wide Competency Frameworks
- Refine/complete a vertically and horizontally cohesive competency framework that aligns to the portrait of a graduate.
- Refine/complete clear learning progressions aligned to competencies that enable students to move on when ready.
- Upon completion of this work, there is a need to align this work with the instruction/assessment strategies.
- Flexible Use of Instructional Time
- Rethink how and when students learn, such as block scheduling (West), move on when ready (MST), and virtual opportunities (VLACs).
- Hire a Dedicated Curriculum Coordinator
- Create central office position to support the work of establishing and maintaining a coherent system around curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
- Implement Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)
- Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a comprehensive framework used to provide targeted support for all learners. It is rooted in supporting the “whole child.” It is necessary to better understand current identification practice and do a meaningful capacity building push across the system, but with a clear focus on all educators in PK-3 (happening currently in pockets across the district).
- Refine MSD Grading Philosophy Statement
- The existing Grading Philosophy Statement falls short of honoring key design principles of competency-based systems. It is recommended that the district update progress in the area of this reform, evaluate success, and continue to push practices further, creating a plan for implementation with fidelity.
- Simplify MSD Course Catalogue
- Reducing the number of courses offered to consolidate classes and use staff more efficiently and/or embed required course competencies to reduce staff [i.e., code courses against multiple competencies].
- Scale Student-Centered Learning Practices
- Support educators with instructional and assessment pedagogies such as Performanced Based Learning, performance assessments, and Portfolio Defenses
- Develop a graduate certificate program for educators in culturally responsive Project Based Learning/work-based learning
- Ensure grades K-4 have a maximum of 20 students per classroom.
- There is a lot of variability between schools and even between individual classrooms at grade level within a school. Rethinking teacher placements from a systems perspective can help reach the goal of under 20 students per class in grades K-4.
Develop & Lead with a Shared Vision
- Set a Vision for High Quality Instruction
- Establish a clear vision for learning in MSD and use it as a screen for all CIA (curriculum instruction assessment) decisions and resultant supports.
- Articulate that MSD educators should leverage a range of student-centered pedagogic approaches (workshop model, project-based, blended learning, extending learning opportunities, etc.) with clear rationale and supports provided for each, all anchored to the vision. The goal is not to “choose one” but to raise awareness around what high quality instruction looks like in each approach, and support educators to know and be able to do each in different contexts, in order to meet different student needs.
- Establish clear assessment strategy aligned with vision and anchored to some clear design principles (i.e., integrative, minimal, deeper, measures skills and mindsets, a range of formative to summative).
- Develop a simple, non-evaluative walk-through tool with clear look-fors to support putting this vision into practice.
Develop New Programming to Address Identified Needs
- Be a Trauma-Sensitive District
- Broaden and deepen existing “bright spot” practices with district-wide staff trainings and supportive practices; relies on deep community partnerships in order to be successful.
- Support a Dual Language Program/Bilingual Education
- Potentially linked to the “Magnet School” idea from the Finance category; this entails scaling and supporting programs that focus on immersive language experiences — dual language programs improve literacy in both English and the foreign language taught, as well as increased critical thinking skills, task switching, and other cognitive functions (University of Minnesota, 2019).
- Universal Pre-K and/or Increase Paid Pre-K Seats
- Since New Hampshire does not offer universal pre-k as a state, MSD needs to think creatively about alternative options to ensure high quality pre-k access for local children. One option is to work with the city to create a city-wide universal pre-k initiative. For example, in Philadelphia, the city placed a small tax on sodas to fund pre-k. Another option is to increase paid pre-k seats by investing more in existing pre-k programs.
Rethink the Budgetary Status Quo
- Map Teacher Placement to Enrollment & Student Need
- Adjust staffing levels based on enrollment and student needs consistently across the district to be more equitably distributed.
- Targeted Capacity Building in Special Education Identification Practices (SPED)
- We recommend a targeted set of professional development for educators in PK-3 around special education identification to help manage % of district learners in SPED; this recommendation would need to work in tandem with a Teaching & Learning recommendation around a Multi-tiered System of Support district-wide to ensure that whether identified or not, there is a system of supports for every learner.
Rethink School Programming & Usage
- Consider magnet schools
- Provide greater choice and specialization within MSD high schools, as a way toward stabilizing enrollment and attracting charter, home school and possibly suburban families back into the district.
- Expand Successful Revenue-Generating Programming (i.e. MST CTE half-day)
- Remove barriers to successful programming that also generate revenue. Specifically, we recommend increasing the capacity of MST’s CTE program to increase enrollment from sending towns by creating additional space at Memorial High School.
- Utilize MSD Facilities for Mixed-Use
- Use facilities for mixed use as an income stream opportunity after hours; and in cases of lower utilization, potentially during school hours with a focus on safety, security, and ensuring school as primary use is not altered. Select uses could include community programming, higher ed programming, pre-k/daycare, etc.
Rethink Funding Model
- Implement Student Based Budgeting
- Explore allowing funding to “follow the student” to schools as an equity strategy, by reviewing school-level resource utilization and linking it to academic and financial planning more concretely
- Implement Student Based Budgeting
Build a Better BOSC Culture
- Formally Adopt a Kids First Governance Policy
- Ensure alignment of BOSC policies with MSD’s future-facing vision, and create specific and aligned metrics and outcomes for each school year.
- Support More Effective BOSC Working Culture (Coach, Norms, Etc)
- BOSC needs to actually be a policy board, not a management board and clearly establish how that manifests itself through coaching.
- Invest in high quality, repeating coach for board to level set on role, structure and decorum.
- Reset BOSC norms and have clear mechanisms for holding each other accountable for the norms.
- Set an expectation for that the role of board leadership is to rise above the fray and maintain decorum and disciplined focus on the vision.
- Strengthen Ties Between BOSC & Schools (i.e. Routine Classroom Visits)
- Promote greater understanding and build deeper relationships between board members and MSD students, educators, and staff through a series of regularly scheduled classroom visits and interactions beyond the standard walk through (implement a program of routine engagement).
- Transparently Evaluate Supt & BOSC Leadership
- Anchor job performance to clear metrics of success that are public.
Rethink BOSC Structure
- Elect Student to BOSC with Voting Rights
- Give the BOSC student representatives voting rights (except for issues regarding personnel or other HR matters).
- Increase BOSC Meeting Efficiency
- To support time management and greater efficiency, shift the BOSC meeting structure to 1 meeting/month for business (“committee of the whole” structure) and 1 meeting/month that contains public comment.
- Eliminate BOSC interviews of all director and principal candidates; make this the responsibility of the Superintendent as this is a management function, not a policy function.
- Formally ensure that the BOSC is using a consent agenda.
- Simplify BOSC Committees
- Utilize either the full board or just one committee for approval of grants, rather than engaging various subcommittees plus the full board, and increase the contract/grant approval limit and allow central office to handle grants below this larger limit.
- Merge/consolidate standing committees and move to “on demand” structure (committees are created as needed for specific reasons and dissolve after final report).
- *City Charter: Consider Shifts to Less Politicized Structure for Electing the BOSC
- Consider merging wards or dividing the city into larger districts; or moving to at-large entirely (the aim is to lower the number of BOSC members).
- *City Charter: Stagger BOSC Elections & Lengthen Terms
- Increase term length of BOSC members to 3-4 years, and stagger elections to ensure that the full BOSC is not up for election at one time.
- *City Charter: Mayor Should Not be Chair of BOSC
- This entails removing the mayoral role completely from their ex-officio position as BOSC chair.
Strengthen & Systemize Community Partnerships
- Centralize Community Partnerships by Hiring a Director of Community Partnerships
- We recommend that MSD directly coordinates and liaises community partnerships on behalf of schools; alternatively, a third party organization could play this function in collaboration with the school district (most regularly a foundation chartered to play this role and receive resources).
- Hiring a director at the central office will promote greater effectiveness, efficiency, and equity.
- Establish Community Information Hubs for More Inclusive, Accessible District Communications
- Create more avenues and methods of communication between the district and families by ensuring district communications are also shared where families/students frequently congregate.
- Organize Community Partners as a Means to Support Implementation of Plan (Advocacy and Accountability)
- More formally organize a broad set of community partners (business, nonprofits) to support the refinement of the plan; possibly support elements of it directly through engagement and investment; and to advocate for it and serve as a means of accountability to ensure that there is implementation of the plan and high quality outcomes associated with it.
- Socialize Community Assets through a Community Connection Committee
- Establish a community connection committee with local non-profits/agencies to promote services and events.
- In partnership with the committee, launch a website or app that helps families and teachers navigate youth-serving organizations.
- Host a district-wide event annually with community partners and invite teachers, students, and families to come learn about available assets and opportunities.
- Align Partners to Ensure Every Student Has Access to High-Quality extended learning opportunities (ELOs), Including Transportation
- Student access to high quality ELOs, both in and after school, is highly inequitable in the district. Community partnerships should be aligned across the district to help support every child receiving access to these opportunities – including the transportation that makes them possible.
Leverage Community Partnerships to Support All Learners
- Better Wraparound Supports (Through Community Schools, Braided Funding, and Data Sharing)
- Scale community schools or elements of the community schools model.
- Leverage “hub and spoke” model to provide true wraparound supports, through braided funding efforts and data sharing.
- Create and sign an interagency data sharing agreement.
- Create Manchester Foundation and Alumni Funding Streams
- Creating a separate foundation, independent of the district, with a community-led board of directors that have sole authority over funds.
- This could also entail better integration of alumni funding streams with existing school funds.
- Scale Postsecondary Coaching/Mentorship Partnership
- The objective would be a dedicated support for every high school student in the district through a range of high quality organizations (Bottom Line, Gear Up, etc.) in Manchester that focus and bring real expertise and proven success supporting adolescents in understanding and making choices for improved postsecondary outcomes.
- Scale ABC Early Warning Indicators Model
- Targeted tracking of a student’s attendance, behavior, and course completion (ABC) are among the strongest correlates to an on-time graduation. The district currently is embarking upon a series of encouraging test pilots to track this data to intervene in earlier and more targeted ways with students who are at-risk for falling off track. This idea supports the scale of the early warning indicator system beyond the existing pilot as well as targeted and increased focus on attendance (through attendance officers and community partners) to support more kids in school.
Tentative Category: Build and lead a 21st century organization
- Be a Learning Organization
- Approach problems and failures from a learning perspective that encourages supportive risk-taking – be explicit about how this concretely manifests itself in how the organization is structured, functions, and how data/evidence are used to drive process & decisions.
- Build a 21st century system (payroll, HR, LMS, etc)
- Understand the full capacity of each system and how they can work together in order to identify key gaps and areas for improvement.
- Develop a Needs-Based Org Chart
- Develop an org chart reflective of the needs to realize the vision, in particular:
- Expand the IT department.
- Expand the Student Services department.
- Hire “middle-tier” staff below the executive team to support the work.
- Have a clearer definition of roles & responsibilities – define competencies for each role that are clear & transparent and ensure that evaluation/support system maps to those competencies.
- Develop an org chart reflective of the needs to realize the vision, in particular:
Support and grow our organization
- Address Culture of Distrust Head On
- Revisit process of feedback to ensure that educators have voice, supports and self and peer assessment is seen as developmental.
- Focus on building a more celebratory culture throughout the district; celebrate the work of kids and educators to shift a narrative. Support a storytelling campaign that focuses on documenting and promoting positive stories of students, educators and staff achievement/learning.
- Establish regular listening sessions with superintendent are available for all constituents to listen to issues and build relationships. We might recommend one for stakeholders and a separate regular session for educators in different school buildings (take the conversation to them).
- Create Deeper Opportunities for Teacher Leadership
- Set up and support a teacher-driven PLC strategy that provides teacher leaders with clear opportunities to lead this work (for compensation) and more cost-effective talent to make the work sustainable.
- Dedicated Principal Coaching for Successful Autonomy
- More intentionally define what principals vs central office have control over.
- Provide leadership coaching for principals.
- Establish Systemic Approach to Equity
- Coordinate multiple coherent streams of Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI) work across the system (including current and recently funded grants from NMEF & Barr Foundations) with a dedicated coordination function (such as hiring a Director of DEI position and/or creating a DEI taskforce) and an annual report on progress.