Community Meetings Plant Seeds for Strategic Plan

The Tuesday, Dec. 1, community meeting at Northbrook High School concluded a whirlwind schedule of meetings wrapped around the Thanksgiving holiday.

District parents and staff at the Northbrook meeting on Dec. 1.
The meetings, held on different nights at Spring Woods, Memorial, Stratford and Northbrook high schools, were designed to both deliver findings from Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri’s “Look, Listen, Learn” tour, and to open up dialogue and input for the district’s Strategic Planning Committee.

Dr. Muri, who started as superintendent on July 1, spent a large part of his first 90 days on the job conducting “Look, Listen, Learn” sessions with multiple stakeholder groups, identifying SBISD’s strengths and areas of improvement. While the district’s strengths are overwhelmingly a supportive community and dedicated employees, some significant challenges were also identified.

Dr. Scott Muri posting work at the Stratford meeting on Nov. 30.
The whirlwind community meeting schedule stems from an urgency to tackle those challenges in a new strategic plan, undergirded by a District of Innovation distinction. Authorized by HB 1842, enacted by the Texas Legislature earlier this year, a District of Innovation can have many state requirements waived, allowing more creative solutions to challenges.

A Strategic Planning Committee, composed of some 90 community members, parents, teachers, principals, students and staff, met once in November and will meet again on Dec. 10, then again in January and February of next year. The committee will put together a Local Innovation Plan (LIP), which must be publicly posted for 30 days before approved by both the District Improvement Team (DIT) and the Board of Trustees, presumably in March of 2016.

The district remains committed to its T-2-4 goal – doubling the number of students completing a technical certificate, military training, two-year degree or four-year degree – and will design a strategic plan that works towards that goal.

Challenges from Dr. Muri’s Look, Listen, Learn reports have been lumped into broader themes that include Learning Ecosystems, Extraordinary People and Customized Supports, all undergirded by foundation support.

LOOK, LISTEN, LEARN FINDINGS

Strengths
Supportive Community
Dedicated Employees

Challenges
Student Performance and Instruction
T-2-4
English Language Learners (ELL)
Data and Accountability
Parental Engagement
Leadership
Communication and Collaboration
Organizational Clarity
Talent
Finances and Resources

For more information, please go to www.springbranchisd.com/innovation.
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Completion Gap Widens

As Spring Branch ISD realigns itself through the work of Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) towards its singular goal of doubling the number of students who earn a two-year or four-year degree, a technical certificate or who complete military training, we're often reminded why the work -- and the goal -- are so important. The story below reports on a study's findings that while college enrollment from all income levels is up -- narrowing a gap -- college completion gaps are growing. 

Study: College completion gap between rich, poor widens

By CHRISTINE ARMARIO (Feb. 3, 2015)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The gap in bachelor-degree attainment between the nation's richest and poorest students by age 24 has doubled during the last four decades, according to a report released Tuesday.
<<SNIP>>
"It's really quite amazing how big the differences have become between those from the highest and lowest family incomes," said Laura Perna, a University of Pennsylvania professor and executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy, one of the two organizations that published the study examining college costs and degree attainment.
<<SNIP>>
Among the report's other findings: The percentage of students from all income levels enrolling in college has increased, shrinking the gap in enrollment between rich and poor "somewhat" during the last four decades. There was a 46-point gap between the two groups in 1970, compared with a 36-point gap in 2012.
But completion gaps are growing: While 99 percent of students entering college from the highest-income families — those making $108,650 or more a year — graduate by 24, just 21 percent of students from the lowest-income families finish by that age.
Perna said there are a number of factors contributing to the widening divide, including access to the information and support needed to enter college and graduate; college readiness; and the availability of higher education that meets people's needs, particularly for students who might have children, limited access to transportation and full-time jobs.
Read the full story >>
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To the Moon: T-2-4 Not Unlike 1960s Space Program


We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

- President John F. Kennedy, speaking at Rice University in September 1962.

By Rusty Graham
Senior Writer, Spring Branch ISD

Elliott Witney likes calling T-2-4 a “moonshot” goal, for obvious – and not so obvious – reasons.

The obvious: T-2-4 is a stretch goal that challenges everyone in the system to perform with a singular focus – to double the number of students completing a technical certificate, military training, two-year degree or four-year degree. Much like the challenge put forth by Kennedy in 1962, that the United States would put a man on the moon before the end of that decade, T-2-4 will “organize and measure the best of our energies and skills … .”

But as Witney, the district’s executive director of strategic leadership and innovation, told trustees earlier this month, going to the moon is today unremarkable. Forty-five years after Neil Armstrong took his “giant leap for mankind,” moonshots are not routine but the goal has been reached and exceeded many times over. We got there. We know it can be done, and we get better at it each time we go.

Getting there the first time was the real challenge. And the real work of how to get to T-2-4 was started in November of last year, after five Cross Functional Teams (CFT) were chartered by the board of trustees a month earlier. The CFTs are a way to organize the work of central office departments.

Successful large organizations share certain characteristics, said Superintendent Duncan Klussmann. They’re aligned to their missions, they’re focused and they’re disciplined. Apple, for example, is a $168 billion company and can put all of its products on a single tabletop.

Likewise, Spring Branch ISD and its 4,500 employees and 46 campuses needs alignment to reach its singular goal of doubling the number of students completing a technical certificate, military training, two-year degree or four-year degree.

The CFTs – Driving Results, To and Through Higher Education, Leadership Pipeline, Teacher Development and Evaluation, and T-2-4 Culture – represent T-2-4’s critical measures rather than divisions or functions, Witney said. Led by senior administrators and composed of leaders from functions across the district (hence the “cross functional” moniker), the CFTs are charged with using a study team process to design, implement, monitor and evaluate both urgent and foundational activities to reimagine  -- and reinvent, where necessary – the system toward T-2-4.

Teams solicited input from teachers and students along the way, Duncan said. “(The CFTs) are a way for the central office to implement programs that address the critical measures and the goal,” he said.

Teams met at least once a week throughout the 2014 spring semester, first defining problems then working on solutions to those problems. Those solutions will become work plans that align processes within the system to T-2-4.

“It’s been a year of hard work and hard thinking,” Witney said, “but it’s just the beginning,” adding that “we think we know our system better than we thought possible.”

Case in point: the Driving Results team, led by David Sablatura and Lance Stallworth, found that there was no district-wide system for strategic planning. “We found we had a large, disparate system,” said Sablatura. “We couldn’t drive results because the systems weren’t connected.”

Once the problem was established and defined, the team set out to analyze data and seek solutions – in this case, a circular timeline helped see where key functions were out of alignment. For example, student testing occurs largely in the spring, with results released in late May, early June, or even later in the summer. Yet principals’ summative evaluations were coming before the test results were in.

“(Testing results) were coming at the wrong time … not even allowing for a proper conversation between the superintendent and principals,” said Sablatura. He said that the previous school year’s data should all be in place by September, making it a better time to get in front of principals. “The principals on our committee liked it,” he said. “They’ll know what’s expected of them. The objectives are clear.”

Or Jennifer Blaine’s Teacher Development and Evaluation team, which collected “tons of data” through teacher focus groups and surveys, she said, and found that the district’s teacher evaluation process was flawed.

“Teachers feel like (the evaluation system) is punitive and not designed to help them grow professionally,” said Blaine. Other problems emerged, including evaluation standards and teacher development. She said the team confirmed data analysis with teacher comments and is putting together an action plan that will help teachers get better at their craft.

“(Teachers) love to help other teachers,” Blaine said, “and they don’t want to do evaluations. They want to help coach colleagues.” (Sablatura’s Driving Results team is also working on ways to share best practices. “There’s a need to put systems in place where staff can seek answers from colleagues,” he said.)

Blaine said that several teachers told her that they had no idea that (the CFT) was putting so much thought into the process.

“We have heard everything that (teachers) have said,” said Blaine. “We’re doing our due diligence to making this an evaluative process.”

Work has resumed this fall, with CFTs ramping up their meeting schedules and continuing into the next phases of their work. The teams have defined problems, analyzed the data and found solutions, and now will work turning those solutions into work plans, all of it aligned with T-2-4. Some of the plans can be implemented at the staff level; others will require policy changes at the board level before implementation.

Like NASA’s mission throughout the 1960s was focused on getting a man on the moon, so too is Spring Branch ISD’s mission focused on doubling post-secondary success for its graduates. And like the 1960s space program gave us residual products, everything from microcomputers to space blankets to freeze-drying, so too will reaching T-2-4 give us residual products, such as more aligned processes and planning, better teacher evaluation instruments and stronger leadership – and a strong sense of urgency to get the mission accomplished.

The Cross Functional Teams:

Leadership Pipeline Facilitator: Patti Pace
Teacher Development and Evaluation Facilitator: Jennifer Blaine
Driving Results Facilitators: Lance Stallworth and David Sablatura
To and Through Higher Education Facilitator: Duncan Klussmann 
Culture Facilitator: Linda Buchman

Additional Links of Interest:


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One goal. One family.

By Rusty Graham
Senior Writer, Spring Branch ISD

Reaching Spring Branch ISD’s T-2-4 goal of doubling students’ success rate in post-secondary training and education requires a change in mindset throughout the district.

From administrators to custodians, from teachers to bus drivers and cafeteria workers, from principals to parents, Duncan emphasized at 2014 Convocation that everyone involved with students should have a growth mindset, one that fosters the potential of the individual and emphasizes the value of hard work in the pursuit of dreams and expectations.


“We have to maximize what we do with kids every day,” Duncan, SBISD Superintendent said. “We can help students do more than they thought possible.”

Spring Branch ISD’s T-2-4 goal – which challenges the district to double the number of students who successfully complete a technical certification, military training, two-year or four-year degree – requires the Spring Branch “family” to embrace a growth mindset.




“I believe SBISD is the only district in the country with a single goal (of post-secondary success),” said Duncan, “bringing everyone together for a single purpose.”

Based on the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset challenges the notion of the fixed mindset, which assumes that one is born with whatever intelligence one has, that’s built on winners and losers, of success and failure.

A growth mindset, conversely, supposes that a person’s true potential is unknown, that effort and hard work matter and that people can change and grow. And often all it takes are simple phrases, small words that can have the largest effect.

Northbrook High School alumna and 2010 salutatorian Carolina Rangel knows well the power of those small phrases.

Carolina, the first from her family to go to college, will graduate from Texas A&M in May with a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in taxation, and has a job waiting for her with Ernst and Young.




Carolina told Spring Branch staff gathered for convocation on Aug. 15 that after moving to Spring Branch from Mexico at age 7, she spoke no English and was often made fun of, begging her parents to take her back to Mexico. But a Ridgecrest Elementary teacher pushed her to learn English, taking her out of bilingual classes before she thought she was ready.

“This was such a frightening thought because I did not feel ready at all, but she pushed me and gave me no choice,” Carolina said. “Even though it was a difficult year, I am so glad Ms. Sanchez pushed me because I learned so much and it prepared me for middle school.”

And it was at Landrum Middle School that she first heard the simple phrase “why not?”. Art teacher Andres Batista pushed her to be her best, she said, with those two words: “why not”. “His ‘why not’ changed my thinking completely,” said Carolina. “I couldn’t have (her accomplishments) without teacher support and ‘why not’.”

Then at Northbrook High, a teacher asked her during her junior year where she was going to college – “not if, but where,” said Carolina. That difference pushed her to consider college when she hadn’t before. “Thank you, teachers, for asking all the right questions,” she said. “Always remember that you make a difference … because sooner or later we (students) will remember. You’re all role models.”

Duncan used Carolina’s story to point out that conversations about students’ post-secondary success need to start before 11th grade: “We need to start much earlier,” he said.

And while academic preparation is critical in getting students ready for post-secondary work, character development may be just as important, particularly grit – the notion of overcoming adversity, of breaking through obstacles, of sticking with a task and finishing.

Jonathan Martinez, a 2014 Stratford graduate who will be studying architecture at the University of Texas at Austin this fall, told the story of his grandfather, an immigrant from Mexico, orphaned at 8 and who became a tailor who brought his family to the United States for a better life.





His grandfather moved first to Chicago, then Houston, setting up shop and building his business through word-of-mouth. “My grandfather wasn’t a great man because of the things he accomplished,” Jonathan said. “He was a great man because of the way he lived. He made people feel special.” Jonathan told teachers that they have the power to unleash the potential in their students.

“Children are the future but it starts with you,” he said. “I don’t believe you understand how much potential is in this room.” he told the staff gathered at Don Coleman Coliseum. “Do not underestimate your potential, and most importantly the potential you can unlock in a student. Do not underestimate the power you possess as a family.”

Stratford Assistant Principal Laura Ragsdale Villaflor said that as a teen, she was taken with Ayn Rand’s book “The Fountainhead” and its theme of the individual above the collective, seeing Howard Roark as something of a hero. “But now, I teach to serve, and I want other people to help me,” she said, noting that one’s strengths are often another’s weakness, and vice versa.





Like geese flying in a “V” formation, where the mutual flapping of wings makes the flight easier for all, where geese honk to encourage the others and where the leader swaps out with another bird when she gets tired, it’s about one goal, one family.

Duncan said that the Spring Branch family’s mindset:
  • Sets high expectations, and helps kids believe they can achieve them
  • Believes in the kids being taught
  • Believes that every role is critical – the goal can’t be reached without everyone working together
  • Believes that the best decisions are made closest to the action
  • TEAM beats individual
  • Believes that to teach or lead requires trust “Every moment counts,” he said.
“Take the time to do what matters most. See your students from a growth mindset.”
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The SBISD Mindset

What is the SBISD Mindset? 
  • Sets high expectations, and helps kids believe they can achieve them
  • Believes in the kids being taught
  • Believes that every role is critical – the goal can’t be reached without everyone working together
  • Believes that the best decisions are made closest to the action
  • TEAM beats individual
  • Believes that to teach or lead requires trust every child counts.
Read more on SBISD's Mission, Goals and BELIEFS on our STRATEGIC PLANNING WEBSITE.
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Welcome to the INSIDER

A New Blog Showcasing Vision, Strategy, Action and Success

SBISD is excited to launch a new blog, The SBISD Insider. This blog is dedicated  those in our Team and SBISD Family who want to learn more about how, TOGETHER, we will achieve the goal of Spring Branch T-2-4.

Over the coming months we'll take a deep dive into the vision, strategy and action behind the work we do every day in SBISD. We'll see how inspiration is being distilled into tangible action, and how the learning experience for all students is being transformed.

We'll share examples of what is working related to strategy, the craft of teaching, the student learning experience, and the development of our SBISD Leaders. This blog will connect each of us through our shared passions, perspectives and successes.

To contribute to the SBISD Insider blog, email Rusty Graham.
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What is Spring Branch T-2-4?

Download: Beliefs Poster (PDF)
Read more on SBISD's STRATEGIC PLANNING WEBSITE.






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