Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Welcome to the iZone Blog!

Innovation Zone Newsletter

Innovation and change are essential components of every educator’s work in order to ensure growth in a rapidly changing world. The Innovation Zone (iZone) was created to meet the needs of the information age and give students the skills required for success, which include critical thinking, creativity and flexibility to adapt to change.
The Manchester School District iZone explores this question: “What will education look like in five years?” The iZone schools have a unique opportunity to dramatically change academic outcomes for the eight schools-- (Bakersville, Beech Street School, Gossler Park, McDonough, Parker-Varney, Wilson, Middle School at Parkside, and Southside Middle School--) and provide educators, students and families with an innovative way of teaching and learning. This effort will result higher levels of achievement.

The Innovation Zone takes a first-hand look at ways to explore the method, tools, and behaviors that build increasing academic success for all students, including technology integration and student-centered learning principles. The iZone schools operate with greater flexibility to implement innovative strategies to improve student achievement.

The NH Department of Education has identified 7 Turnaround Principles that guide all iZone initiatives:
  1. Provide strong leadership
  2. Ensure that teachers are effective and able to improve instruction
  3. Redesign the school day
  4. Strengthen the school’s instructional program
  5. Use data to inform instruction
  6. Establish a school environment that improves school safety and discipline
  7. Provide ongoing mechanisms for family and community engagement
Provide Strong Leadership

The Innovation Zone Principal Leaders (iLeaders) are bringing the Innovation Schools together on common challenges, and share new ideas. Successes that are shared can quickly become success across schools. Effective principals anchor their work on learning and continuous improvement. According to Mike Schmoker in his book Results: The Key to Continuous School Improvement, the foundation for improvement revolve around three concepts: analysis of data; meaningful teamwork; and clear, measurable goals.

iLeaders, along with the NH DOE data coaches, analyze student data, identify improvement areas, and create action plans. Each school has developed School Student Learning Objectives, and Team Learning Objectives.

Manchester School District is the first school district in New Hampshire to implement the School Administrative Management (SAM) system. SAM is a professional development process to focus on instructional leadership that the iLeaders have embraced. iLeaders are experiencing what the SAM process is designed to do: spend principal time on instructional leadership. In two months, the iLeaders have increased their focus on what’s really important -- shaping and realizing the school wide vision for improving teaching and learning, which ultimately will improve student and staff performance. 

A team of mentors from Public Consulting Group (PCG) guides iLeaders in professional development, tools and resources to meet the individual goals of the iLeaders.

iLeaders have been accepted to the Harvard School of Education for School Turnaround Leaders where principals will develop a theory of action for successfully improving underperforming schools. They will learn how to use an accelerated timeline to create learning environments that support high levels of achievement for all students.

iLeaders along with Harvard faculty and expert practitioners will analyze elements critical to the iZone school’s turnaround plan.

By the end of the program the iLeaders will understand how to:

  • Transform school culture
  • Identify and achieve early success
  • Measure your results
  • Understand how to best align school-level efforts with district and state goals
  • Implement your new theory of action

The Innovation Zone teacher leaders (iTeachers) have been on their leading edge of participating in Professional Learning Communities to enhance student and staff performance in many areas: (micro-feedback, personalized learning, blended learning, Manchester Academic Standards, technology, assessment, climate and culture).

Innovation begins with and ends with groups of dedicated professionals that continuously collaborate to bring about changes that will transform the landscape of education for iZone Schools.

Strengthening the School’s Instructional Program-

One of the initiatives that has been implemented in some of the iZone schools is the Micro-feedback Formative Assessment (MFA) process, which involves students and teachers in using formative feedback and assessment, action research and professional learning communities that lead to increase student learner engagement. Within a short amount of time, this process changed the way teachers looked at data, provided extra time for struggling students and enrichment for students. The biggest change was teachers using live data to change their instruction to enhance student performance.

Promise Neighborhoods-The iZone and the three Community Schools (Bakersville, Beech St., and Gossler) have been working closely with Manchester Health Department and Greater Manchester Mental Health Department to implement an action plan based on a Neighborhood Survey funded by the Promise Neighborhood Grant. The purpose of the Promise Neighborhoods’ Grant is for community stakeholders to work interdependently to offer our children and families wrap-around-service to enhance their health and well being.