Standard 3: Teaching and Assessing for Learning
The system’s curriculum, instructional design, and assessment practices guide and ensure teacher effectiveness and student learning across all grades and courses.
Overall System Rating: 3.08
Standard 3 Narrative
Richland Two’s curriculum, instructional design, and assessment practices serve as a guide to ensure teacher effectiveness and student learning across all grades and courses.
Embedded throughout Richland Two is a strong culture of innovation that is purposefully designed to serve the unique and diverse population of our district. A variety of philosophies and approaches exist throughout Richland Two as each school’s leadership team plans how to best meet the needs of their students (2.3). Therefore, our schools use a variety of approaches and philosophies to most effectively meet the needs of their students. Within the context of the district’s priorities, schools have the autonomy to identify their most important instructional focus areas and how they plan to address them. This system-wide approach is important to ensure consistency and to value the uniqueness of each school.
Areas of Strength
As part of the district’s self-assessment, the Teaching & Learning Department met with stakeholders to identify specific strengths for Standard 3. Based on their feedback, Indicators 3.1, 3.5 and 3.8 were continuously cited as strengths.
For Indicator 3.1, Richland Two‘s curriculum provides equitable and challenging learning experiences that ensure all students have sufficient opportunities to develop learning, thinking and life skills that lead to success at the next level. Richland Two operates as a genuinely collaborative learning organization structured to support improved instruction and student learning at all levels. Richland Two’s Learning Framework provides a model to show relationships among the essential components of the district’s student-centered, standards-based learning system. The framework emphasizes the importance of each learner’s attainment of the characteristics found in the Profile of a South Carolina Graduate, including collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication. Effective teaching occurs when the strengths and needs of learners are identified. This identification enables the teacher to adjust teaching and assessment within the design of the context for learning. The system offers many equitable and challenging learning opportunities for students within our forty-one schools, thirty-seven themed magnet programs/centers, a child development center, an alternative program, an institute of innovation, and an adult education program. The district is also known across the state as a long-standing district of Choice. Although students are assigned to schools based on their residential address, they may apply to a magnet school, to a school with a magnet program, or to another school within the district through the Expanded Choice program. This program offers parents and students residing in Richland Two the opportunity to request permission to attend a school other than their residentially assigned school.
For Indicator 3.5, Richland Two systematically operates as a collaborative learning organization through structures that support improved instruction and student learning at all levels. The district shares a common purpose through our Four Squares and our three areas of focus identified during the district’s strategic planning process: Culture and Environment, Talent, and Achievement. Key Leader meetings, Instructional Content Specialists collaborations, the Richland County Association of Educational Office Professionals (RCAEOP) organizational meetings, and faculty meetings provide opportunities for collaboration among administrators, certified staff, non-certified staff, and other personnel. Also, novice teacher programs such as the New To Two Induction Program are provided to guide new teachers through Richland Two’s Learning Framework. Eight instructional coaches (full and part-time) for first and second year teachers work closely with district content specialists to support our newest colleagues. A system of support has been created whereby new teachers come together in late July for a week-long comprehensive orientation to the district. New teachers attend a three-day systems workshop with Teaching & Learning staff, followed by two days in their respective schools preparing for the new year. Coaches then meet with the teachers on a monthly basis and visit their classrooms to provide coaching, modeling, and other supportive services. Also, a dedicated group of National Board Certified teachers mentor new teachers by providing job-embedded support.
Additional support is provided through a variety of initiatives. Professional Learning Communities (PLC) are utilized to focus on school initiatives to help improve instruction and student learning at the school level. R2 Innovates, the district’s innovation incubator, provides innovation teams with the design training, mentoring, seed funding and support that they need to make their dreams a reality. Richland Two remains dedicated to supporting improved instructional opportunities by providing a variety of protected time structures. At the elementary and middle levels, schools have early dismissal days which are used for collaborative planning and professional development among faculty. High schools have late start for Professional Early Planning (PEP) sessions on Wednesdays of each week. These protected time structures provide multiple opportunities for rich instructional conversations.
Recently, Richland Two was one of six districts in the state invited to join the SC Department of Education’s Teacher Leader Design Team facilitated by the Office of School Leadership. This collaborative group has been tasked with designing an effective model for teacher leadership in the state.
Indicator 3.8, “The system and all of its schools engage families in meaningful ways in their children’s education and keep them informed of their children’s learning progress,” is another strength identified by stakeholders. Richland Two takes great pride in engaging families from our youngest pre-K children to our high school students. A number of methods are utilized to reach out and engage parents including electronic communications and R2TV, our dedicated cable television channel and the Richland Two App. We utilize Parent Portal as a means of offering daily instructional and attendance updates. Teachers are given early dismissal days to host parent conferences, and we also use the traditional methods such as Open Houses, Back to School Nights, District Parent University, and Welcome to the School receptions. Recently, Richland Two hired an experienced principal as the Director of Parent and Family Education who oversees the implementation of a comprehensive parent education and support system. In collaboration with district and school-level administrators, she is developing district-level parental engagement activities and serves as a resource to parents.
In addition, our ESOL program is considered a strength and an area of continuous growth and improvement.
RSD2 supports its approximately 1,750 English Learners and their families through the ESOL program. Students needing development in the English language receive daily services by ESOL teachers appropriate to their level of development. The district has purchased level appropriate curriculum and resources for these classes.
We offer English Learners after school tutoring and summer programs to further their language development. We communicate with their parents in the language that they best understand through the support of two Hispanic Family Liaisons, an in-district network of translators, local interpretation services and print resources. Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Arabic are our largest language groups spoken by families. RSD2 schools with the largest English Learner populations offer events specifically designed to support our parents and ELs.
In addition to the ESOL program, other initiatives support our ELs and families. A district-wide “Si, Se Puede!” initiative offers Spanish for Educator classes, training for front office staffs, a program for high school upperclassmen to receive interpreter-translator training, connections to college, spring celebrations of student success, and summer festivals that connect families with school, district and local resources. “Si, Se Puede!” was selected in early 2016 to participate in a United States Department of Education, National Board and ASCD initiative, the “Teach to Lead” Conference, and then further selected for a Leadership Summit in the fall of 2016 to solidify its goals and expand the reach of its mission.
Our district’s “Skills for Life and Work” program is offered for parents seeking to learn English, earn their GEDs, seek job/technology skills, and connect to local and state resources. Hundreds of parents are connected to this innovative program each year. Through this program, a group of parent ambassadors is being developed who will serve in a train-the-trainer model to deepen connections in our Spanish speaking community.
Actions to Sustain Areas of Strength
Richland Two will sustain the identified areas of strength. A dedicated focus on innovation will enable continuous improvement to build capacity and sustainability. Our PLCs and instructional cohorts will continue to flourish and increase instructional capacity. Time structures will continue to protect rich instructional conversations. Finally, Richland Two will continue to devote significant staff and services so that families remain highly engaged in meaningful ways in their children’s education as well as striving to ensure that parents are informed of their children’s learning progress. Through the Office of Parent and Family Education, we will continue to expand this supportive framework and enhance with expanded services as they become available.
Areas in Need of Improvement
After completing the self-assessment, stakeholders identified no weaknesses in this area, with all indicators rated as either 3 or 4. Therefore, it is not appropriate to describe any indicator as a weakness as our district is always focused on continuous improvement for all indicators. Instead, stakeholders chose to identify two areas in which the district is currently addressing and that show a need for continued focus: Indicators 3.2 and 3.7.
Actions to Improve Areas of Need
Richland Two believes in the continuous improvement process. We will continue to address identified areas of focus.
The Richland Two Learning Framework components consists of Professional Learning, Continuous Quality Improvement, and Leadership and Support. The components of the Learning Framework are aligned to the Four Squares: Learning, Character, Community, and Joy. Each component addresses the system’s direction to improve our areas of need for Indicator 3.2 and 3.7.
During the 2015–2016 school year, meetings were held with a committee of elementary, middle, and high school principals along with key stakeholders to identify areas of focus around student achievement. From these meetings, an Achievement Committee was established. Through extensive collaboration and research, the committee recommended to explore district benchmark assessments. Thus, a Benchmark Think Tank team was established to investigate formative assessment sourcing and implementation strategies. As a result, the allocation of funds for benchmark assessments has been included in the 2017–2018 budget request to pilot with identified Professional Application Schools and any other schools choosing to opt in.
Another outcome of the district Achievement Committee’s work was the establishment of Data Era 5 as a district strategy. Data Era 5 focuses the district on using a variety of valid data as a strategy for improvement of student achievement (3.2). In collaboration with school leadership teams during 2016–2017, targeted areas of instructional focus and strategies to strengthen teaching and learning have been identified for each site. The establishment of these strategies will ensure the alignment of instructional focus areas and the systematic use of data.
Indicator 3.7 related to recruiting, employing, developing, and retaining new teachers entering our district is of specific importance. We continue to provide strong support and resources for our teachers including those who are new to our district. Our commitment to mentoring, coaching, and induction programs supports instructional improvement consistent with district values and beliefs.
The district will continue to promote and grow programs such as Leading Up, R2 Innovates, Teachers of Promise, Administrator Development Series, and the Assistant Principal Academy, which are essential to improve on a culture of collective responsibility in regard to recruiting, developing, and retaining teacher talent.
A strong professional development series is planned as a result of this continuous improvement process. A Summer Instructional Leadership Institute is planned for June 13–14, 2017, for district and school administrative staff who will come together for a two-day workshop that focuses on developing talents in instructional leadership. As a follow-up during the academic year, a series of professional learning will be aimed at the continuous improvement of the district’s leadership. Also, monthly principal meetings will focus on interpreting data, identifying trends, and other data analyses so that all principals continue to be data-informed. Coaching will be provided to ensure that all administrators are fully supported with progress monitored by the district’s assistant superintendents. With the establishment of these activities, the district will be uniquely positioned to monitor and adjust curriculum, instruction, and assessment systematically along with professional practices based on the systematic use of data.