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The Center’s CA Insights – 2017-18:
Key State and District Supports
Managing the change process in schools — moving from “business as usual” to site-wide buy-in of new standards — requires complex shifts in pedagogy and mindset. Leaders understand that schools cannot be expected to do it alone. But how do educators feel about the support they receive? The KEY STATE AND DISTRICT SUPPORTS domain explores how district leaders, principals, and teacher leaders perceive supports from all levels of the system.
A minority of principals and teacher leaders report regularly using state-developed resources — such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Library, ELA/ELD Framework Vignettes or the NGSS Venn Diagram — to support standards implementation.
“[It’s difficult to find] the time to access them [state resources], to become familiar with them, [so] you use them when you need to use them… It is all there, [and] the Digital Library has wonderful things in there. But having the time to implement them strategically is what’s hard.”
“The ELA and math frameworks have been helpful, especially with the examples they provide inside. You can compare those to your lesson or utilize some of those examples, that’s been helpful. Other resources on their website, [like] the Digital Library, [those are] hit and miss.”
“We’d be a two [out of four], but it’s only when somebody finds it [a state resource] and shares it. It’s not because it’s been broadcast or, ‘Here you go.’ It is, ‘Look what I found.”
“It would be really nice if the state could decide they were going to stick with a resource platform for more than two or three years… It takes a while for people to get into those resources, on those resources, committed to those resources. Just about the time people have faith in what’s on there, [there] pops up another thing too. We go in, we try them out. Even though they say they’re vetted resources, we’re leery sometimes, so we go in and try them out.”
“The state has very clear student writing samples [that indicate,] ‘Teachers, that is what we’re shooting for. That should be your guide.’ You don’t find that unless you know it is there and actually read the standards because it is in the appendices. I feel bad for the state because I think they have provided more than you think and we don’t know how to access and get it, and as a consequence, are probably missing out. Those performance standards and the rubrics and models are impressive.”
“The ELA document is 183 pages long. There is a lot of stuff there. Our teachers probably haven’t read it. Unless we force them, they don’t go through those resources.”
Principals, teacher leaders, and district leaders offered different perspectives on the level of support districts provide for standards implementation.
“Principals will go back to their sites and work with their admin team and their leadership teams to execute professional development at the site level. The superintendent and myself have gone to staff meetings to watch this professional development unfold, or be implemented. Then we’ll walk through classrooms to see evidence of that professional development. We are not telling them what the professional development needs to look like or how it needs to rollout, but given these goals, what is your team going to do?”
“I think we’re a two. I think we’re a squeaky wheels get the grease kind of module with principals. Our departments are very siloed. The central office in those departments hold on very tight to a lot of the centralized support, like teachers on special assignment.”
“I would say that they are more of a three [out of four], but I would rather have them be a two. I’d rather have them listen to me more, rather than having them just on their own what targeted support they want to give us.”
“The school district invited us to go in for a writer’s and reader’s workshop, but there was no training given. It took us a long time and then they said, ‘Here is a stack of books from Lucy Calkins. Go read it.’ It was not a training. It was like, ‘Here are the books. Go figure it out yourself.’ With the math, yes they do offer some support with the training but not everybody is required to go. Only if you want to go, and most people don’t want to go.”
Districts see teacher leaders as the top support for improving standards-aligned instruction in California.
“The coaches [teacher leaders] are in place. They’re out at the sites. They work very closely with their administrators. They’re in staff meetings. They meet with teachers. They are regularly coming together so they’re aligning their work.”
“From the high school point of view, there are network leads…at the county office. There is a great math lead, a great history lead, a great science lead. They run regular monthly meetings. Generally, anybody is invited. I know when I called the county and said I needed to hire somebody to come out and do some strategic staff development, they said, ‘Sure. We’ve got that covered.’”
“Right now, we have the ability to be meeting with and talking to principals, sharing information with principals on a weekly basis… We see each other all the time, so we’re always talking. It’s very informal here… [and we also do] cross-site meetings. There is an opportunity for [the principals] to cross-pollinate between schools and share information and discuss things that are of importance. I think when you’ve got folks coming together frequently, it’s more likely you’re going to be aligned.”