School District 65 Board members and senior administrators celebrate the approval of the five-year strategic plan.                                                                                                              RoundTable photo

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On March 23, the District 65 School Board unanimously approved a strategic plan that will guide the District in its work for the next five years. The Board also unanimously approved a set of outcome measures that will be used to monitor progress and measure success.

The mood was festive in the Board room that was packed with more than 100 people when the final vote was taken. The vote was a formality, as Board members had participated in preparing the plan and reviewed drafts of the plan and the measures of success in prior meetings.

Superintendent Paul Goren was joined in his presentation of the plan by 10 “fantastic” students who rose from the audience one at a time and summarized one aspect of the plan. A chorus of about 25 students then joined in a song whose chorus, “Every day, every child, whatever it takes” is part of the District’s new mission statement.

Dr. Goren said, “As we think about the strategic plan and all the work we do to form our children’s success as they go down the journey to be high-school ready, as they go down the journey to be college ready, career ready and, if I may, life ready, that high school, college, career and life readiness is a driving force of what we do and that’s embedded in the spirit of the strategic plan. It’s embedded in all the work that we do as a Board of Education and administration.”

Dr. Goren said the plan was the culmination of six months hard work that incorporated the voices of 2,000 faculty, staff, parents, students and community members. “The development of the plan is our commitment to serving the needs of every child, every day, whatever it takes,” he said. “The response of our community and their commitment to work together in the development of the plan has been remarkable.” He thanked everyone who participated in developing the plan.

One student said, “The strategic plan emphasizes five important areas that will help our District to accomplish its plan and its mission to inspire creativity and to prepare each student to achieve academically, grow personally, and positively to a global society.”

Another said, “My school will get better every year. It will be a place filled with new ideas. Teachers will work together to support my needs and the needs of my classmates so we can be successful in high school and in whatever we choose to do in life.”

Other students said school “will be more engaging and challenging,” that students “will have the best teachers and staff members,” that “teachers will have time to work together and learn from each other,” that the District will be “a better partner with families and community organizations,” and that schools will embrace differences and provide supports to all students.

The 53-page strategic plan builds on and strengthens the District’s existing foundations. It contains five goals to improve high quality teaching and learning, to build a thriving workforce, to enhance family and community engagement, to provide a safe and supportive school climate, and to maintain financial sustainability.

As an example, the goal for high quality teaching and learning is “Prepare students to be on track to high school, college, career and life readiness in an environment of innovation and continuous improvement through high quality teaching that addresses the needs of each learner.”

The plans lays out four to six strategies to achieve each goal; it includes “milestones,” or action steps to implement each strategy, and it includes specific “measures of success,” sometimes referred to as “leading indicators” to track whether each goal is being met.”

The Board also approved overarching outcome measures for the plan that Peter Godard, chief officer of research, accountability and data, outlined at the meeting. The outcome measures include increasing the percent of students on pace with early literacy skills; increasing the percent of students who meet college and career readiness benchmarks in reading and math on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test; decreasing the percentage of students in the bottom quartile in reading and math on MAP; increasing the percent of students who make expected gains on MAP (including those who are and who are not on track to college readiness); and increasing the percent of students who feel they are academically challenged in school, using the 5 Essentials Survey of students.

The District will track college readiness by race and ethnicity, household income and disability, and for students who were formerly identified as English-language learners.

Mr. Godard said administrators planned to recommend targets for these outcome measures in June.

Board member Katie Bailey said, “I think the measures are going to guide the plan and are going to guide us through the next three to five years.” She said it was great that they measure early literacy skills, that they continue to look at the achievement gap, and that they would use student surveys to assess whether students felt they were being challenged.

Candance Chow, Board member and the Board’s liaison to the strategic planning process, said the outcome measures combined with the measures of success contained in the strategic plan, including those for social and emotional learning, will provide “a more holistic view of what achievement is and what it means to succeed in our schools.” She added, “When you look at the full picture, it will really enable us to address the needs of all our kids and look at that as we move forward.

“It will galvanize our 1,000 employees, our community as well as ourselves as we really focus on these key measures as indicators of how well we’re doing.”