CCE Design Principles
Transforming Schools for Student Success
CCE seeks to create networks of schools that are deeply engaged in the work of continuous improvement. Equity and excellence are fundamental to CCE’s mission. CCE coaches work closely with schools to create and implement practices that lead to high expectations and an intellectually challenging education for every student. The measure of success is achieving high and equitable learning outcomes. High performing schools serve each student fairly and justly and focus on educating the whole child.
The CCE team works in partnership with school communities and districts to implement this vision. Effective coaching provided by an experienced educator makes a strong difference in building the capacity for ongoing improvement. A skilled coach asks questions that probe and help build understanding of the underlying issues and challenges facing a school. Equity-centered coaching and professional development provide school staff members with more tools to create high performing learning communities.
Design Principles for High Performing Schools
The following principles reflect the work schools take on as they seek to achieve high performance results. There are many possible entry points to implementing these principles. CCE can help shape a plan suited to the particular context of a school or district.
- Create A Unifying Vision
A strong vision, centered on teaching and learning and educational equity, is created by administrators, faculty, parents, and students. It should drive major decisions in the school.
- Build Effective School Leadership
Skilled principals, school leaders and community leaders who are committed to school improvement and able to recognize and develop leadership throughout the school community are critical to success. A strong structure of shared leadership ensures that decisions are made by those closest to students.
A key role of leadership is creating the structures that support learning and achievement: flexible schedules, governance and leadership bodies, effective teacher teams, and professional development.
- Establish a Strong Professional Collaborative Culture
Teachers who collaborate around a shared vision for high student achievement will grow in the profession and increasingly implement the most effective instructional strategies for student achievement. An outgrowth of a strong professional culture is a reflective and inclusive community for staff, students and families.
- Ensure that Every Student Receives Personal Attention and Support
Successful schools work to create nurturing environments where staff attend to the learning needs of all students. Structures such as advisory groups and small learning communities, interdisciplinary classes that allow for smaller class sizes, and having teachers move up to the next grade with a class (looping), are examples of strategies to implement this principle.
- Develop Curriculum and Instruction that Lead to Purposeful Learning
Effective schools make learning purposeful and challenging. They ensure that curriculum is standards-based. Students’ work should have value beyond school, and be connected to important areas of knowledge. When students are fully engaged and supported, they learn. The goal is to prepare students for a college career and beyond, developing life-long learners who are independent thinkers and problem-solvers, capable of contributing to creating an equitable and just society and world.
- Adopt an Assessment System that Demonstrates Student Competence in Multiple Ways
Schools need to develop an approach to assessment that is classroom-based and focused on providing useful feedback to teachers and students. Such assessment is not separate from curriculum and instruction—it is a powerful form of learning. It happens throughout a learning experience (ongoing and formative), and as a final assessment of competence (summative). Begin by developing competencies of what students should know and be able to do, that communicate high expectations to all students, and are made public.
- Utilize Data-based Inquiry and Decision Making as the Driver of School Improvement
Successful schools regularly collect and analyze multiple sources of data in order to answer school-wide questions and concerns and help the school set goals and priorities for change, with a particular focus on equity and excellence.
- Engage Families and Communities in Partnerships
Schools have a better chance of achieving and sustaining gains if they engage families and the wider community in supporting their work. Including parents and community members in the school’s decision-making body, identifying multiple avenues for family involvement, focusing on effective communication, and creating a welcoming environment for families and partners are some of the key strategies
- Ensure Accountability
Schools must hold themselves accountable to high standards for strong results. Such accountability occurs through the establishment of an internal process by which schools regularly assess their progress using benchmarks and data, as well as an external process by which schools receive feedback from external reviewers.
External Practices Critical to Supporting High Performing Schools
CCE works with community, district, and union partners to create the external conditions optimal for developing excellent and equitable schools.
- Build a Network of Schools
Participation in a network in which schools are engaged in professional, collaborative relationships greatly strengthens each school’s efforts to improve learning and teaching.
- Create District and Teacher Union Partnerships
Schools have a greater chance of deepening and sustaining student learning if the districts and teacher unions engage in ongoing partnerships to create the conditions and to provide the support for successful reform to occur in schools. Essentially, the goal is to create the condition of Autonomy with Accountability.
- Engage in Collaborative Central Office Redesign to Support Innovation
District central offices need to be reshaped to provide service to schools, rather than monitor them. This includes collaborating with the district to implement autonomy for schools, and building the district capacity to better support whole school change.
- Foster Community Engagement and Advocacy
Networks of schools increase their efficacy when they engage the wider community in supporting their work. This process includes organizing local political, community, school committee, teacher union, family, and business support for the reform effort; publicizing the advantages, progress, and achievements of the reform initiative; and working in partnership with like-minded organizations to tackle state-wide policy issues to support school transformation.
Steps to Implementation
The design principles and external practices listed above have grown out of CCE’s experience working to support schools in improving their practice. The following steps, applied by CCE coaches and school leaders working in partnership, suggest the path by which the principles are implemented in a school and supported externally.
- Establish Autonomy over Resources
Schools with autonomy over their resources can leverage those resources to focus on teaching and learning and tailor their plans to best meet the needs of their students. These areas of autonomy are critical and inter-related: staffing, budget, curriculum and assessment, governance, schedule, and professional development.
- Take a Comprehensive Approach and Build on Small, Measurable Successes
For change to be successful it must be systemic and include a spectrum of activities. Within larger goals, well-defined smaller steps that lead to quick successes help to ensure ongoing success, measure progress, and build greater capacity.
- Stay Focused on Equity and Excellence
A strong focus on the long-term vision of excellence for all students across all subgroups increases the ability of each change to improve teaching and learning.
- Draw on the Advocacy of Partners to Create Optimal Conditions
The external conditions created by districts, unions and communities are critical in supporting high performing schools. They can be cultivated through the advocacy of networks.