Andy True 2015-01-20 02:41:51
Kingsport City Schools On October 27, 2014, Kingsport City Schools was awarded the District SCORE Prize by the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE). This award recognized Kingsport as the top system in Tennessee regarding student achievement and leadership in developing exemplary student learning. Along with Maryville City and Williamson County Schools, Kingsport had been selected as a SCORE Prize finalist through a blind and impartial review of a broad range of educational data, which was followed by a site visit by a team of educational leaders. The visits purpose was to identify the practices that had propelled the District Prize finalists to success. 2014 marked the second consecutive year in which Kingsport City Schools had been identified as a SCORE District Prize finalist. Kingsport City Schools (KCS) has long been recognized as an innovative and progressive school system that is highly supported by the local community having a population of just over 50,000. With 7,100 students attending 12 schools, KCS places an emphasis on developing high quality educational programs that ensure college and career readiness for all students. With the vision of being “Student Focused … World Class,” administrators, teachers and staff work together in data-driven collaborative professional learning communities to support exemplary learning for all students through a guaranteed and viable curriculum, while emphasizing a commitment to truly engaging families and the community. Fulfilling this vision is especially critical in a district with an economically disadvantaged rate of over 53%, and a population of students with disabilities of over 21%, the third highest rate of any school system in Tennessee. STRATEGIC PLAN A key to the district’s ability to achieve and maintain such success and widespread community support starts in the way it develops and refines its Strategic Plan. By embracing a philosophy that emphasizes data-driven analysis and decision making, a systematic process that involves a broad range of district stakeholders is utilized to set and measure both short and long-term progress toward system goals. Through this yearly process, the district has focused and refined its work on delivering world-class curriculum and instruction, providing committed and innovative educators, engaging families and the community, and furnishing safe, appropriate and well-maintained facilities while ensuring business operations effectively support teaching and learning. Through systematic visioning, several key themes have emerged that guide the work of Kingsport City Schools. The district believes in the importance of leadership and its role in student success. Research demonstrates that student success is most benefitted by a distributed leadership model. As a result, the system has implemented an intentional approach that empowers all educators to assume leadership roles in ways that advance the district’s mission. Another theme is collaboration. A collaborative approach is utilized resulting in a synergy that drives personal and organizational learning. This begins with the development and revision of system goals and extending through the hiring process, curriculum development, the creation and analysis of formative assessments, and throughout instructional delivery. Kingsport City Schools also incorporates educational entrepreneurship and innovation as it seeks new ways to individualize student learning. This work begins by creating an environment that challenges the highest achieving students to take ownership of their learning in ways that are relevant and engaging. Raising expectations for these students creates an “educational vacuum” for other learners which then raises their expectations for performance. This “educational vacuum” increases the effectiveness of the extra time and resources expended for those students who struggle by helping them understand that they can perform at higher levels than they had earlier believed. Thus, the dynamics of the learning process generates an energy flow that capitalizes on a collaborative environment. Finally, the district understands that its business and operational components must complement the instructional program. Educators must feel engaged and empowered by being included in the decision-making process. The same is true for external stakeholders that include parents, business and industry partners, community and faith-based organizations, and the City of Kingsport. Effective communication is prioritized through this process with an emphasis on two-way, inclusive information sharing. Technology also plays an important role in both the instructional and operational aspects of system performance to make the work and learning processes more effective and efficient. At its core, the district includes cycles of learning into its processes so that as conditions change, refinements are incorporated in a timely manner. The result of such work has been reflected in incredible growth and achievement for the district’s students. The district’s Composite ACT score of 22. 0 places it among the state’s elite, along with an overall TVAAS score of 5 and straight A’s in Achievement on the 2014 TDOE Report Card. In identifying the innovative educational practices that drive and sustain such high levels of student achievement, SCORE recognized four key areas of emphasis that tightly align with the work taking place in Kingsport. EMBRACING HIGH STANDARDS KCS has historically prioritized a rigorous curriculum and instructional plan that reflects the system’s philosophy and world class expectations. A vertical K-12 academic vision supports students in the successful completion of high-level coursework. By supporting students in an individually focused way, large percentages of Kingsport students have succeeded in offerings such as middle school pre- AP science, advanced middle school math (40% of KCS students pass Algebra in middle school, with approximately 20% taking Geometry in 8th grade) and high school Advanced Placement coursework. In 2014-15, Dobyns-Bennett High School offered 22 AP courses and set record highs in student participation and AP exams taken, with the total increasing over 28% since 2013-14. Administrators and staff are also encouraged to investigate and develop innovative practices that support the district’s vision and goals. KCS has created, refined, and copyrighted an “Innovation Rubric” to guide and affirm its commitment to educational entrepreneurship and excellence. By identifying ten criteria that can drive breakthrough change in results products, or processes, the district has been able to minimize the potential for “islands of excellence,” instead emphasizing systematic organizational success in identifying key strategic opportunities. Such a mindset has assisted in the development of the district’s systemwide STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Math) and Technology Visions, which has led to the full implementation of the current KCS “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) program and a 1-to-1 student technology device program being piloted during the Spring 2015 semester. CULTIVATING STRONG LEADERS Providing leadership opportunities at all levels is a key component that drives the success of Kingsport City Schools. Two key programs provide professional growth opportunities and support both teachers and administrators across the district. The Teacher Leader Program gives subject area teachers an opportunity to develop as leaders while supporting all educators through curriculum development and professional learning. Those interested in exploring school and district-level leadership opportunities may pursue the Associate Principal Program, which includes job-embedded training and experience in school administration. Both of these programs strive to support the KCS philosophy that all educators, regardless of position, have leadership strengths and abilities to be identified, nurtured and developed. District employees outside the school setting are also provided opportunities to grow in a leadership capacity while supporting student learning. The system’s central office has been renamed the “Administrative Support Center,” emphasizing the role of all employees in supporting school-based activities. Staff members are grouped in crossdepartmental teams to develop a learning-focused partnership with individual schools, fostering a culture of servant leadership while supporting continual improvement. ENSURING EXCELLENT TEACHERS Historically, KCS has placed a high priority on recruiting, hiring, retaining and developing highquality teachers and staff. The district emphasizes job-embedded professional development that positively impacts student learning. The implementation of instructional rounds has proven to be an effective way to identify “problems of practice” and develop collaborative, research-based solutions. This also includes staff members working collaboratively with other district schools to develop and implement high-impact, school-level plans to address specific goals and outcomes. Through the formation of true Professional Learning Communities, administrators and staff have been able to create an integrated plan that supports and sustains high levels of student achievement. The district also works to ensure teaching excellence by strongly including the voice of the teacher in district policy decisions. Two major system initiatives have been developed through the work of an employee task force process, including a teacherled effort to implement a strategic compensation plan beginning in 2014 and a move to provide self-insured benefits for employees in 2015. Being driven and developed by teachers, these measures reflect the distributed ownership philosophy of the district and serve to ensure higher levels of stakeholder ownership and commitment to key district initiatives, such as improved compensation and benefit models. USING DATA TO ENHANCE STUDENT LEARNING The availability and use of data to guide instructional decisions is a cornerstone of the district’s commitment to being student focused. Data trajectories are utilized by all schools to Plan and track student growth, and are reviewed regularly by administrators and staff through the systematic quarterly data conference process. Using the trajectory model, key educational strategies are identified that will support individual students in closing educational gaps. Strategy impact is monitored and refined based on student growth, measured through items such as common assessments and diagnostics. KCS students also take an active role in their growth process by analyzing their own data to set personal academic goals. By working collaboratively with their teachers, students review key information that allows them to set individualized academic targets to drive higher levels of personal achievement. This shared ownership of the data has proven to both increase the role of the student voice in the learning process, as well as facilitate a more universal understanding of data and its role in enhancing student learning. “Kingsport City Schools is honored to have been named the winner of the 2014 Tennessee SCORE Prize,” said KCS Superintendent Lyle Ailshie. “Being the winner of the most prestigious award given each year to a Tennessee school system validates the great work being done in classrooms, on school buses, in school cafeterias, and all other locations where exemplary educators take advantage of opportunities to positively impact a student. There are great things taking place each day in classrooms throughout Kingsport where teachers and students work collaboratively in the learning process. Educators of all types (all employees are educators regardless of their specific area of responsibility) contribute to student success and play vital roles in the accomplishment of the system’s vision of being student focused and world class.”
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