Click on a commitment or strategy for detailed information.
Excellent schools are simply not possible without excellent leadership teams. Research is clear on this issue. Research is also clear on the following fact – school leadership teams create excellent schools by focusing on student learning and creating a framework of collaboration and shared decision making with teachers and staff.
Our leadership teams have unfortunately had limited access to professional development opportunities over the last decade – particularly in the area of instructional leadership. This must change and our school leadership teams need our support.
Moving forward, all school leaders will be provided the training and guidance needed to develop strong instructional leadership competencies. With this strengthened skill set, our administrators will play a critical role in improving teacher effectiveness and, hence, student achievement across the district by supporting a culture of instructional excellence in every school. The following strategies are designed to support this goal:
To empower them as instructional leaders, principals will be provided targeted training so they can become more knowledgeable in the curriculum taught in their classrooms and, hence, more empowered to monitor instruction and provide feedback and coaching to their staff. Regular campus visits focused on student learning and instructional practices will be conducted by school support staff. These visits will be guided by a "campus visit framework" that clearly outlines observations of instructional practices and provides feedback, recommendations and support for needed improvements.
Naturally, all of these efforts will be tailored to the needs of each campus. Our newly established Office of School Leadership exists to serve and support our schools. We wholeheartedly believe that when our principals have the needed competencies to be instructional leaders of their campuses and are empowered by a support structure of constructive feedback and partnership, we will see positive outcomes in student achievement.
It is often said that when you have a strong school leader in place, great teachers will come and stay. That's precisely why it is critically important that our school leadership teams are provided the professional development needed to assess and develop teaching talent on their campus. To this end, the Office of School Leadership, in collaboration with the district's Human Resources office, will establish clear performance measures to monitor, assess and improve teacher effectiveness across our schools. Principals will also be evaluated on their ability to coach and develop effective teachers.
Not only will training be provided to principals on how to effectively use our teacher appraisal instrument, but school leaders will also receive training on effective coaching and how to deliver feedback in a consistent manner. Feedback mechanisms will be imbedded throughout all campus evaluation processes so that growth and development remain the focus.
Both administrators and teachers can often feel isolated in their work. As such, Collaborative Leadership Teams – both campus-based and districtwide – will be implemented to provide an important support structure for schools, administrators and teachers. Working together, the members of a Collaborative Leadership Team will develop action plans focused on curriculum alignment and instructional improvement. They will analyze data to understand what is working on their campus and what isn't and make adjustments to their improvement strategies as needed.
Collaborative Leadership Teams will also be tasked with developing the capacity of campus teachers through targeted professional development sessions and effective two-way communications, helping all staff understand the school's strategic focus and needed areas of improvement. The use of Collaborative Leadership Teams has shown good results in school improvement efforts nationwide and we are excited about bringing this practice to our local school communities.
A focus on operational excellence can enable an organization to achieve significant and measurable performance improvements. Operational excellence, though, is not simply about doing the same things better. It often requires doing things differently and with a relentless focus on the customer, which for us is our students, families, and school-based staff.
When any organization begins its journey toward operational excellence, it must ask tough questions like, "Do we have the systems, processes, and technologies in place to improve how we operate?" and "Are our organizational structures and systems reinforcing each other or working at cross-purposes?" These are exactly the types of questions we have been asking ourselves for the past 10 months, and unfortunately, the answer to most of these questions has been "not yet" or "not entirely."
Of course, those are not the answers we wanted, but they are reflective of where we find ourselves as we start our journey to transform the district. Since Dr. Watson joined in July 2014, he has been transparent about the many challenges facing the district, including weak systems and processes that ultimately impact student data.
We know that significant improvements need to be made in how data flows across the organization and how it is used to drive student achievement. To this end, the district has already undertaken a deep evaluation of our student data system, and recommended improvements are already underway. However, there is still much work to do, and this strategic plan lays out our commitment to doing that work and doing it well.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, "Technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, and we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences and content as well as resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic and meaningful ways." To make this global connectivity a reality, we will work to design, acquire and maintain a stronger technology infrastructure – a best-in-class infrastructure – that spans the district and supports our commitment to developing students who are 21st century learners.
A first step toward this end is the development of a strong foundation for our technology infrastructure, which includes documented processes, policies and procedures for all areas of technology operations, purchasing and maintenance. Naturally, this includes a clear technology blueprint for the district, completely aligned with Every Child 2020, ensuring that when advanced technology is brought into the district, it aligns with and supports the district's strategic imperatives.
Early work in this area will include a focus on "high up time" for our network – allowing students and employees to consistently, quickly and securely connect to the Internet. We will also work to ensure that our wireless network connects consistently and at a high speed in all district facilities.
In addition to new technologies, existing infrastructure must be put into a lifecycle management plan to eliminate outdated equipment that is no longer supported. Lastly, efforts will also include professional development and training for administrators and teachers so they understand the tools and resources available to them and how to incorporate them in improved practices in schools and classrooms.
In Year 1 of our strategic plan, we will establish a data governance model that includes a skills matrix for data roles and data responsibilities across all offices, departments and school campuses. We will also develop standardized data governance policies, procedures and processes, which will include greatly improved data integrity and security measures.
This work is part of the district's foundation-building efforts, and 100 percent compliance is our goal. Trustworthy data that can drive improved student achievement is our goal. We will accept nothing less.
Providing first-class customer service is a great way to build stronger engagement – both externally and internally. Students, parents and community members are the customers of the district as a whole. And school staff – principals, teachers and support staff – are the customers of the district's central administration.
In other words, the district exists to serve our students, parents and community members. Central administration exists to serve our schools so they can, in turn, better serve their customers. While this seems straightforward, a focus on "championing customer needs" has not been a priority for many school districts, including Spring ISD.
As such, it's critical that, moving forward, a "championing customer needs" culture is developed and nurtured here in Spring.
- Expectation that employees are always courteous and responsive to stakeholder requests;
- Expectation that employees always act in a positive and professional manner; and
- Expectation that employees always consider the needs of stakeholders when making decisions
To support these efforts, the district will provide customer service training to every employee in the district in a manner that is personalized to his or her individual roles. Additionally, the district will launch a yearly stakeholder survey which includes a customer service component.
Many in the fields of education, psychology and human development are familiar with the writings of the psychologist Abraham Maslow, in particular his theory of the Hierarchy of Needs – often represented as a pyramid, with the basic needs (e.g., food, clothing, safety, love and esteem) followed by higher-level needs such as knowledge, understanding, and self-actualization. An individual can only truly focus on the higherlevel, growth-oriented needs once their basic needs are met. Simply put, a child who does not feel safe and secure in their learning environment will have difficulty focusing on their studies and excelling in school. This concept also applies to adults in their working environments.
What this means for us as a district is that we must work – and work hard – to ensure safe and secure learning environments for our students and for staff. This work should include improved safety and security practices in all our schools, effective programs for our at-risk student populations, a common character education framework for the entire district, and the expansion of mentoring programs, among other things.
As we implement our strategic plan, it's essential that every employee understands that safety and security is everyone's job, and that only through people working together can we truly create school environments where learning and student growth are optimized.
The following strategies will be put into place as we strive to ensure safe and secure learning and work environments for our students and for every member of the Spring ISD team:
While the safety and security of our students and staff has always been of paramount importance to the district, there is still room for improvement, room to grow and develop and to utilize new methods to achieve better results. As the district moves into the next stage of its development, looking to the future, several initiatives will be undertaken to ensure that Spring ISD students, teachers, administrators and staff can keep their focus on learning.
The Spring ISD Police Department will be utilizing crime data to effectively address patterns and trends of unwanted activity that impact learning in our schools. The district will be expanding the implementation of Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) programs into its campuses to help raise awareness and support positive school cultures. In addition, the district's Gang Suppression Unit will continue to work diligently with local law enforcement agencies to suppress and counteract gang activity on and around our schools on a day-to-day basis. A special emphasis will be placed on efforts to provide "safe passage" for students coming to and from school, with help from district crossing guards, bus drivers, and traffic enforcement personnel.
Just as the district intends to increase the use of technology in the classroom, our safety practices are getting an update as well, and we'll be reviewing and continuing to implement state-of-the-art technology for access control, enhanced intruder alarms, and the strategic use of closed-circuit television camera systems (CCTV) – while also ensuring that every school in Spring ISD has an emergency operational plan in place.
Our Police Department will be undertaking efforts to enhance customer service through highly trained staff and the effective use of technology. Meanwhile, a progressive truancy intervention program will be working to help identify students who are at risk of dropping out of school, and doing everything possible to give them the support they need.
While Spring ISD has always placed importance on raising up students of good character, these efforts have often been uneven and inconsistent. Our goal for this period of growth is to build on our strengths while learning from our weaknesses. One of our biggest undertakings in this area will be to establish a unified character education program across the district. With different campuses doing different things, implementation levels vary, with no common program, expectations or systematic monitoring of progress and results. Therefore, the district has decided to move forward with a program called Capturing Kids Hearts, which will provide the unified character education curriculum that has been lacking across all our campuses. Planning is already in progress for the first stages of implementation and staff training.
Another aspect of fostering responsible citizenship is in how we as a district approach discipline, which is why the goal has been set to establish a unified, restorative discipline model across the district. As with character education programs, we have found that discipline models are inconsistent from school to school. This must change. We need a unified approach, one that treats all students consistently and provides greater clarity and effectiveness for staff and students alike, always remembering that the goal of our disciplinary programs is to minimize distractions that keep learning from happening, so that teachers and students can focus on what's important.
Spring ISD believes in the value and positive impact mentor programs have on students. According to the National Mentoring Partnership, mentor programs have a significant impact on the dropout rate and attendance rate among high school students. Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip school and 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs (Herrera, DuBoise and Grossman, 2013). Students who have a positive adult role model are more likely to stay in school, graduate from high school, and make better and healthier lifestyle choices.
Currently, we empower high school students through the Superintendent's Student Advisory Group, providing leadership opportunities for high school students through their work with the superintendent on pertinent educational topics. Teachers, meanwhile, are empowered through the Advisory Committee on Education (ACE), composed of elected teacher, administrative, business and community representatives who gather together to advise the district on topics such as the instructional calendar, instructional programs, and staff development. ACE is an avenue to providing mentoring opportunities to teachers who serve in leadership roles in their schools.
On the horizon, Spring ISD is launching a signature mentor program entitled Spring Forward: Supporting Our Students. The mission of this important initiative is to empower teenage and pre-teenage students to make positive life choices that will enable them to maximize their personal and academic potential. Members of our local community, business partners, chambers of commerce, faith-based organizations, and other interested adults will serve as mentors to our students, and will receive extensive training to enable them to serve as a support for the students whose lives they will make an impact on.
- % of schools and departments meeting district technology standards
- % of students who feel safe when they are at school
- Reduction of in- and out-of-school suspensions
- % of highly effective principals retained each year
- Develop processes and systems that use accurate data to inform decisions and/or improve student performance