School & District Management Opinion

School Improvement RFP of the Week (2)

By Marc Dean Millot — February 12, 2008 3 min read
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A Comprehensive School Reform RFP “by any other name” Would Smell as SweetFrom the February 11 issue of K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets Report

Announcement: Small Learning Community Training and Consulting Services Due February 19, Tuscon Unified School District, AZ

Their Description:

Implementation of Small Learning Communities (SLC) in Catalina High School....

1. Transformational Educational Practices.... Converting a large urban, culturally diverse high school into a system of Personalized Learning Communities needs to be a customized process.... Catalina Magnet High School is an underperforming school with a significant refugee population, approximately 1/3 of its students on Individualized Educational Plans, and another 1/3 designated ELL.... The context of this request is that most of this work will be propelled by students’ poor literacy performance.... Professional learning communities must be utilized for staff and students....

Required focus:

• SLC Best Practices
• Instructional Program Coherence that include rigor and relevance
• Development of student proficiencies
• Development of practices that bring students to higher levels of achievement
• Development of a comprehensive implementation plan

2. Re-engineering A Traditional High School.... Transforming a traditionally focused staff ... and... high school into small learning community... will require a blueprint for change and pathways... to reach excellence in the school....

4. Developing Interdisciplinary Units.... with each team as they deepen their understanding by developing engaging and teachable units, differentiating the units, developing learning plans, developing formative, summative and authentic assessments....

Training #1 will include SLC Best Practices, developing an Implementation Plan... a plan for professional development and a focus on instructional coherence...

Training #2 will include the first steps for developing interdisciplinary, project-based teaching and learning...

Training #3 will focuses on... facilitation with each team as they deepen their understanding by developing teachable units, differentiating the units, deepening learning plans, developing ... assessments for their units and a presentation to other teachers....

All SLC Grant Goals will be met through the trainings.... Each of the trainings will be followed by two days of coaching

Offeror will provide costs that include prep time, materials, travel, on-site delivery, phone contact with the Catalina High School Principal and with the team, and a binder for all participants for each training....

Offeror should also provide separately, a listing of all additional services and costs, in case TUSD is provided additional funding and/or has the need for additional professional consulting and/or training....

My Thoughts: There isn’t a surplus of Comprehensive School Reform RFPs out there. The federal SLC Grant program offers some relatively rare opportunities through states and districts.

Given the warning “traditionally focused staff and high school,” no provider is likely to have much hope of success without a well-developed model for whole school reform. Post-hoc teacher buy-in is a particular implementation challenge here.

My advice: If it is at all possible to scout out the school, do so. Moreover, a process-oriented model based on the ongoing review of student needs like that of Accelerated Schools or ATLAS might have a reasonable chance for success. The CES Small School Project is another possibility. Aside from the fact that they are not high school focused, Middle Start and Turning Points offer similarly attractive features. The Talent Development High School model also comes to mind.

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