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School Support and Improvement icon About the School Support and Improvement Alliance

The school support and improvement research alliance focuses on supporting states to identify and implement evidence-based interventions for school improvement. The research alliance’s work is driven by ESSA, which requires states to adopt evidence-based strategies to improve their lowest-performing schools. Our alliance member states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have identified working with districts to improve the academic performance in their states’ chronically low-performing schools as a priority.

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The REL Mid-Atlantic: School Support and Improvement Alliance

Competencies and Strategies of Effective School Turnaround Leaders Infographic Competencies and Strategies of Effective School Turnaround Leaders Infographic (112 KB)
The REL developed an infographic about the research-based strategies turnaround leaders can use in order to support a comprehensive turnaround initiative.

REL Mid-Atlantic is supporting the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), which has been struggling with student engagement and attendance since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in initiating and conducting a Networked Improvement Community (NIC). NICs are a means for schools across the state to come together to share solutions and strategies. REL Mid-Atlantic will help PDE build a NIC focused on issues such as reaching disengaged students and families, measuring attendance and engagement during hybrid or virtual learning, and using data to understand why students are struggling.

The REL Mid-Atlantic is helping the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) develop a research-based family engagement framework that aligns expectations across federal programs and is adapted to Delaware's context. DDOE will consider the evidence base that supports family engagement efforts and identify practices that will be meaningful for schools in Delaware. With a research-based framework and increased knowledge of research-based practices in family engagement, DDOE expects districts to be able to adopt and implement research-based family engagement practices.

This coaching project will build on pervious work that enhanced the capacity of the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement (OLDSI) to support the schools identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) through progress monitoring. The coaching goals are to embed progress monitoring within the everyday work of MSDE's support systems using the tools developed in the earlier project, establish deeper collaboration between OLDSI and the local districts in which the CSI schools are located, and determine the consistency of what and how progress of school improvement is being measured across MSDE and the local school system.

This project will build the capacity of the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) to analyze and use data on student mobility, defined for this project as changes or gaps in students’ school enrollment within the district. At the end of the project, SDP staff will be able to independently calculate mobility metrics using the district’s data on student enrollment and will create a plan for using student mobility data in research activities and for tracking and supporting school performance.

This project will build the School District of Philadelphia's (SDP) capacity to employ sophisticated, but easy-to-use, machine learning algorithms (MLAs) to predict the probability that each student will remain in their assigned schools and classrooms. This project will provide SDP with predictions about which students will remain in their assigned schools and classrooms and which will leave during the early fall term. Several statistical methods will be used to generate the predictions. The resulting report will shed light on which prediction method produced the most accurate forecasts, and whether any method outperformed SDP's current forecasts. The results will inform choices for SDP and other districts coping with high, yet erratic attrition.

REL Mid-Atlantic supported the Office for Leadership Development and School Improvement at the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) in identifying and sharing research and practices for high school turnaround. MSDE identified 21 high schools as Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) schools under its Every Student Succeeds Act accountability system because of low graduation rates. MSDE found there was a gap in resources, information, knowledge, and experience for staff in turning around high schools. REL Mid-Atlantic staff developed and delivered a two-session virtual workshop to the leaders of the 21 CSI high schools and the district and state staff who support them. Check out the two sessions on Addressing Chronic Absenteeism and Turnaround Leadership.

This coaching project was part of a series of intensive supports Maryland is providing or making available to schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement (CSI) under their ESSA plan. REL Mid-Atlantic worked with Maryland and CSI schools to identify indicators and measures to monitor the progress of these schools’ improvement efforts. Maryland, districts, and schools can use information on progress monitoring to adjust implementation or change plans as data indicate are necessary.

The REL conducted a workshop for schools in Maryland that built capacity for analyzing the root causes of school needs to determine action steps and areas for improvement. Participants of this workshop developed a deeper understanding of how root cause analysis supports successful needs assessment and action planning. The root cause analysis is part of Maryland’s larger continuous improvement process for conducting school improvement efforts, which includes a data collection and needs assessment, root cause analysis, action planning, and monitoring for progress toward goals.

Competencies and Strategies of Effective School Turnaround Leaders Infographic Competencies and Strategies of Effective School Turnaround Leaders Infographic (112 KB)
The REL developed an infographic about the research-based strategies turnaround leaders can use in order to support a comprehensive turnaround initiative.

The REL worked with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to design a survey to provide feedback to the MSDE on the professional development and other support services they provide to schools and districts in need of improvement. The information will be used by MSDE for continuous improvement and planning to help support accelerated and enduring school improvement.

This workshop built on and continued a series of workshops REL Mid-Atlantic developed for the 72 schools in Maryland identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement or Targeted Support and Improvement under the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. By attending this workshop, participants learned why and how to implement effective distributed leadership practices to support rapid school improvement.

This workshop was the second in a series for school and district leaders of schools identified as needing comprehensive support and improvement (CSI). The goal of this workshop was to build school leaders’ capacities to organize resources at the school and facilitate conversations with district leaders to align district’s operational support with the Four Domains to support the necessary school improvement steps.

The REL worked with the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) to develop a tool that they can use with multiple districts to ensure districts are well positioned to support improvement in their lowest performing schools. A REL coach facilitated the development of a customized district needs assessment process for the DDOE to use in districts that include the state's lowest-performing schools. The customized process was based on a needs assessment framework developed by the Center on School Turnaround.

The REL helped York City School District officials better understand current research on teacher looping and implications for implementation, including developing a plan for a descriptive analysis of the variation in experiences with looping for various subgroups of students.

In this workshop, staff from the REL worked with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and Maryland school and district leaders on the Four Domains conceptual framework development by the Center on School Turnaround. The aim of the workshop was to provide participants with a common knowledge base and language related to leading school improvement as the state begins to work with and support schools newly identified for improvement.

During the workshop, the REL provided state, district, and school leaders in Pennsylvania with promising strategies for reducing chronic absenteeism. The workshop offered practical guidance from school- or district-based practitioners with experience implementing interventions identified in the evidence review.

In this workshop, staff from the REL Mid-Atlantic worked with the Delaware Department of Education (DEDOE) staff and district leaders to communicate findings from research and practice about successfully supporting school turnaround. The aim of this workshop was to build state and local leaders' capacity to effectively turn around low-performing schools.

Research Alliance Facilitator: Natalie Lacireno-Paquet, PhD
Name Title Organizational affiliation Organization location
Tiara Booker-Dwyer Assistant State Superintendent for College and Career Readiness Maryland Department of Education Maryland
Rosemary Hughes Special Advisor to the Secretary on School Improvement Pennsylvania Department of Education Pennsylvania
Edmund Mitzel Executive Director, Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement Maryland State Department of Education Maryland
Eric Niebrzydowski School Improvement Lead, Office of School Support Delaware Department of Education Delaware
Portia Slaughter State Lead K-12 Continuous LEA/School Improvement, Executive Director Office Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 (IU13) Pennsylvania
Morrall Thompson Coordinator of Systemic Improvement, Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement Maryland State Department of Education Maryland
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Goals

  • To provide training, coaching, and technical support that focuses on effective strategies for rapid school improvement and school.
  • To develop a longer-term research agenda to conduct rigorous studies that identify turnaround strategies and evidence-based interventions that are effective in the member states.

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