Schools of Choice
SPS personnel have led the creation of schools of choice within regional and national communities through the start-up of charter schools. By creating choices for parents and students and competition among schools where academic performance was low, SPS personnel help parents and students take a more active role in making important educational decisions. Among these, one choice alternative was provided to students state-wide in Pennsylvania through the formation of a cyber-charter school that serves 3000-4000 students annually.
Private Sector Partners
A state-wide commitment to quality improvement efforts was made in several major economic fields in New Jersey. Initially, the major players in this effort were Xerox, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Sheering-Plough, Bellcore, DuPont, IBM, PSE&G. Soon quality improvement efforts spread to education, environment, government, hospital, and service areas of the economy.
Leaders of SPS led the education sector, and provided coordination for other sectors represented in the Quality New Jersey office through the 1990s. During this time, participating school districts from urban and suburban areas were recognized for student achievement that ranked among the highest in the state and nation.
Comparative Study of Educational Characteristics and Outcomes
SPS leaders have consulted with federal agencies, corporations, universities, and school districts to implement educational improvement projects. SPS leaders worked for one suburban Philadelphia school board that commissioned a study in conjunction with the local Chamber of Commerce to determine how effectively resources were spent to produce current levels of performance quality and current levels of student achievement.
Four major strategies were included in the study:
1. A performance quality audit was conducted of all school district operations in the commissioning school district;
2. A comparison of student performance by school and grade was made with students state-wide and from similar school districts;
3. A survey of district, school, and community stakeholder groups was completed; and
4. An analysis was conducted of performance quality in three other similar school districts covering the same 35 service and performance areas.
The strategies applied to all four school districts produced a comparison of performance quality, operational costs, and student performance results. This comparison helped answer the commissioning board’s overarching question, “Are appropriate results obtained for the money spent?” The findings and report were used to guide district plans for future success.
Education and Economic Opportunity
In another project, SPS worked with a Native Alaskan Tribal Council and Corporation to establish partnerships among nutraceutical manufacturers, federal and state government agencies, and PK-post graduate educational institutions to improve economic and educational opportunities to the Tribe and its children.
Engagement in Educational Clinical Practice
SPS has been invited by LeadershipEnergies to participate in the formation of the first two Regional Networks for the implementation of clinical practice in local school districts. The goal of clinical practice engagement is the development of a professional network of educators that is dedicated to improved performance of all schools, educators, and students.
A regional network includes a university; formation of a university affiliated training center; local school district administrators, principals, and teachers; sponsoring agencies and/or foundations; and a data support center. As the resources of a region increase, the network grows, and additional districts and schools become members.
The work of each network includes the collection and sharing of successful practices and the rapid diffusion of these practices among member districts. Being a member of the regional network also requires the sharing of successes with other networks.
District and School Performance Improvement
SPS consultants are expert resources brought to struggling schools to identify underlying causes of poor performance and design interventions that build commitment and capacity of stakeholders needed to overcome patterns of failure. Solution implementation is preceded by training of superintendents, board members, central office administrators, principals, teachers, other staff members, students, and parents in data analysis, planning, team work, and other areas of adult mastery needed to support changes to practice.
Solution implementation includes aligning curriculum, core content standards, instructional practices, professional development, and monitoring, measuring, and reporting progress with student performance. Along with increasing commitment and capacity of stakeholders, higher expectations drive improved performance among all stakeholder groups and student achievement growth becomes evident. At first, achievement moves closer to the goal of one year of growth in school each year; then it accelerates beyond one year for each year in school. The time needed to accomplish these results has been different in each school, but the turnaround has been evident in all schools by the end of the third year.
SPS uses a comprehensive and systematic approach to develop and implement intervention strategies. SPS examines performance data and conducts discussions and interviews with stakeholders to arrive at a comprehensive diagnosis of a situation. SPS produces a shared understanding of needs and priority interventions among stakeholders, outlines intervention strategies, and measures and reports the results of performance improvement efforts.
Findings produced during these steps are analyzed and used to develop ongoing performance improvement strategies. Staff members in districts and schools working with SPS are persistent and not satisfied with the early stages of student success.