Building Capacity for Continuous School Improvement

By Susan Burris
In mid-April Lowell Haagenson and I presented our progress with the Focus and Priority schools of Cohort 2 to the Resource Board of Directors. It was a great opportunity to reflect on what we learned from our work with Cohort 1 and to guide our work as we near the end of the school year with Cohort 2. 

The work of the Regional Centers of Excellence is to meet a State obligation to provide support to schools through a regional delivery system that provides service that is more equitable, effective, and efficient. We’re perfectly positioned in that sweet spot where the schools, MDE and other regional support services come together to create meaningful change.

The Statewide System of Support (SSOS) School Advocates on staff at Resource work together with the district implementation teams to positively impact the school leadership teams, the professional learning teams, teachers/staff and eventually it impacts the students and their families. 

Creating sustainable, meaningful change involves improving the infrastructure of the school and implementing evidence-based instructional strategies. We have tools, processes and frameworks that we use to help the schools increase student achievement and work toward reducing the achievement gap. 

We have reviewed statistics from Cohort 1 that show how effective our work has been as measured by the focus rating:
  • 74% of Priority schools that worked closely with the SSOS demonstrated better student growth in 2014 than in 2011.
  • 83% of Priority schools that worked closely with the SSOS are better at closing achievement gaps than they were in 2011
  • 93% of Focus schools that worked closely with the Resource SSOS team are better at closing achievement gaps than they were in 2011. 
  • 31% of schools working closely with improved so much that they are now being recognized for strong performance by receiving the Celebration Eligible or Reward designation. 
  • 75% of all schools initially designated as Priority or Focus improved to the point where they are no longer designated as low-performing. 
SSOS Schools on map for 2015-16The designation of schools that happened in October of last year brought us 25 new public schools. Eight of them are priority and 17 are focus schools. We also have 12 charter schools that add a new dimension to our work. The geography of the schools changed as well. With Cohort 1 we were spread from northern to southern Minnesota. With Cohort 2 we have a much larger concentration of schools in the metro and the southwest/central part of the state. 

As of the writing of this article the budgets have not yet been approved at the state level. Our hope is that we can continue to expand our opportunities, shift our staffing and plan for the future. Here are a few of our highest priorities for 2015-16:
  • Engage Systems Level Leadership
  • Charter School Dynamics, learn and link Authorizers
  • Add Equity Conversations
  • Increase Data Driven Decision-Making
If you have any questions about the Regional Center for Excellence, please contact Susan Burris, sburris@mnce.org. If you have any questions about the Resource Statewide System of Support team, please contact Lowell Haagenson, lhaagenson@mnce.org or call (320) 255-3236.