Designing Data Structures to Build a Culture of Improvement at Youngstown City Schools

This April, the KickUp team attended the Carnegie Foundation’s Summit on Improvement in Education—an event that brings together stakeholders in education passionate about using improvement science for continuous improvement.

During the event, we co-presented a poster with our partners at Youngstown City School District about the work the Ohio district has been doing to implement their new Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework, a set of instructional practices designed to improve equitable outcomes across their network of schools.

Read on below to learn more about this work.

A Need for Systemic Improvement

Youngstown City School District (YCSD) had been labeled a “failing” school district for over a decade while 96% of teachers were rated as “Skilled” or “Accomplished”—the highest ratings under the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System. This highlighted a persistent and fundamental disconnect between student performance and teacher evaluation. It was clear that to make a real change in student performance, YCSD had to focus on shifting instructional practice.

A New Framework for Equitable Support

YCSD needed to not only improve student outcomes also ensure equitable support across a system of fourteen schools. To do so, YCSD adopted a new Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) instructional framework to drive student learning towards independence. Backed by strong evidence-based research, GRR is a framework that can be applied almost universally across content.

Gathering and Using Implementation Data

While the strategic goals of the three year improvement plan reflect student outcomes such as yearly graduation rate, attendance rates, and standardized test scores, YCSD recognized the need for incremental data to illustrate and predict both student outcomes, educator needs, and implementation success. A crucial lever at YCSD is using non-evaluative walkthrough data. YCSD believes that a learning cycle in which teachers are given quality feedback on their teaching on a frequent basis will shape instruction, inform ongoing supports, and improve student learning.

FOCUS: Building Inter-Rater Reliability

In February 2018, YCSD noticed variability in the observer scores. In response, they led a workshop for observers within building teams, using recorded classroom observations and modeling to synchronize on the rubric.

YCSD spent the following month focused on observing a single section of the walkthrough form and improving the “bite-sized action step” feedback shared with each educator to ensure it was actionable. Instructional coaches built in time with building principals to review walkthrough data and align instructor supports. As a result, the district now has more reliable data and established a culture of team buy-in across district leadership.

Artifact: an example of two bite-sized action steps, pre- and post-workshop

Results: comparing scores across roles

FOCUS: Teacher Quality Reviews

During Teacher Quality reviews, YCSD compares principal ratings of teachers to value-added and NWEA growth data.  

This was a critical reflection point for principals.  While observation walkthrough data was helping to shape instruction, good planning translate to results for students.  The triangulation and reflection on these data elements allowed leaders to determine the feedback teachers needed to see the most growth in students.

Results

Overall Results: 2017-18 School Year

• 83% teacher proficiency with GRR instructional framework by end of year
• 11% increase in graduation rate
• 55% reduction of out-of-school suspensions
• 33% reduction of in-school suspensions

A Focus on Equity

Reading

• Reduced African American Achievement Gap from 54.6% to 4%
• Reduced Hispanic Achievement Gap from 50.5% to 9%
• Reduced ESL Achievement Gap from 57.6% to 11%
• Reduced Students with Disabilities Achievement Gap from 64.7% to 7%

Math
• Reduced African American Achievement Gap from 48.3% to 18%
• Reduced Hispanic Achievement Gap from 39.3% to 18%
• Reduced ESL Achievement Gap from 45.5% to 20%
• Reduced Students with Disabilities Achievement Gap from 55.3% to 12%

Lessons Learned

After a year of implementation, Deputy Chief of Data Greg Kibler offered the following three reflections:

Having a rubric is not enough
This was a critical reflection point for principals.  While observation walkthrough data was helping to shape instruction, good planning translate to results for students.  The triangulation and reflection on these data elements allowed leaders to determine the feedback teachers needed to see the most growth in students.

We needed to empower those who had the data to use it.
Our data review process evolved from directive to collaborative by creating colleague cohorts meeting together to solve common problems seen in their data.

We needed to triangulate data to get a fuller, more actionable view.
During Teacher Quality Reviews, we linked teacher implementation data and observations with student data to determine how effective teachers are and what supports they needed.

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Want more stories that inspire? Read about how Belton School District is using KickUp to monitor their improvement plan throughout their schools.

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