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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Working ourselves out of a job


Betheny Lyke, Ed.D. Director, Illinois Center for School Improvement

Working yourself out of a job doesn't seem like a positive thing, does it? But in terms of our mission here at Illinois CSI, working ourselves out of a job is just what we want to do! What this means to us is that we have successfully supported school and district leaders by providing them with the knowledge, skills, and evidence that will allow for continued transformation within their schools without our intensive support and services.

What happens when we begin to work ourselves out of a job? To me, it is when we hear districts speak to how they use their data systems to analyze information within their schools. It is when we see the development of data cultures that encompass the full staff. It is when districts begin to adopt new language focused on worthy targets, adult practices, and measures of progress.

When we move from Illinois CSI staff members guiding discussions in District Leadership Team sessions to Illinois CSI giving feedback to school staff members after guiding the meetings based on their more effective teaming practices, we know that we have made progress in moving ourselves out of our initial roles.

We know that we are on track to working ourselves out of a job when the districts that we support have created common planning times during which teachers focus on student- and data-centered discussions.

Other examples of evidence that the necessary transformation is on the right track are when we see a shift in the expectations of students that is based on data analysis, and when we observe that a flow of communication among district leaders, school leaders, and classroom teachers that focuses on increasing student achievement has become the norm.

And major evidence of transformation is when district, school, and instructional leaders have adopted and disseminated across the system a plan of action on which all personnel can act and which they can sustain.

In this month's newsletter, you'll read about two districts receiving Priority Services and the results of their transformational practices.

Achievements like these show me that we are successfully working ourselves out of a job!

Betheny Lyke, Ed.D.



Illinois CSI Partners With Bloom Township High School District 206 to Present the Continuous Improvement Professional Development Symposium


Pictured above, from left to right: Dorith Johnson, Dr. Betheny Lyke, Dr. Debra Graham, Dr. Jennifer Norrell, and Dr. Lenell Navarre.


"Really, what's your secret?" "How do you do this?" "What are the first steps?" and "I wish we could do this in our district" were some of the comments overheard at the Continuous Improvement Professional Development Symposium recently hosted by Bloom Township High School District 206 (Bloom 206) and sponsored by Illinois CSI.

This rewarding event brought together more than 150 people from all around South Cook and Will counties to celebrate the successes of Bloom 206.

The first "secret" for schools seeking to replicate Bloom 206's success is to use research and data to develop their goals and worthy targets. The district used the American Institutes for Research (AIR) co-interpretationSM process to analyze data that were relevant to the district and to formulate next steps.

Working with Illinois CSI at AIR, Bloom 206 had access to the best research in a user-friendly format and leveraged that information to guide a plan that propelled them to success.


The second "secret" is to embrace equity of voice … but to make a decision. Research tells us that at least 90% of participants must enact a plan with fidelity to be effective and to show change (Fullan, 2004). Effective meeting practices implemented from the District Leadership Teams (DLTs) to the School Leadership Teams (SLTs) to the Instructional Leadership Teams (ILTs) promote dissemination of information and establishment of communication channels. What is particularly important is that the information goes back up the channel as well, from the ILTs to the SLTs to the DLTs.    The meetings and processes are monitored through the DLT Effectiveness Surveys to ensure fidelity of this key component of success. All voices are heard, but one voice determines the direction that the entire district will take.

Another "secret" is to consider starting small but implementing big (fidelity = 90%—that is, critical mass), which includes monitoring adult practices (Fullan, 2004). Often, districts have many good, research-based ideas—too many, in fact. To achieve success, a district must decide on the few ideas that will be implemented and monitored. This decision should be made using the data and Critical Key Findings from the co-interpretationSM collaborative process that show where the most urgent needs are, what resources are available, and other factors that are unique to the district. Once the decision has been made, adult and student measures must be in place and then monitored and discussed at all levels. When a practice or process is yielding expected results, celebrate and continue, but when the results aren't there, ask the hard question, "Why?"


Finally, another "top secret" is the willingness to engage in open dialogue centered on successes and challenges with each other and with the broader community. We tend to want to keep both our failures and successes a secret. But Bloom 206 shared with other schools and districts in attendance their successes and the areas in which they struggled. This shows the importance of believing in the work that you do and in the work that your neighboring districts are doing. Share and collaborate to compound positive results and perhaps avoid pitfalls. Celebrate the wins and learn from the losses. The May 2 symposium was a celebration of the work done by the entire Bloom 206 district, with practitioners telling their peers what works and what doesn't and sharing experiences to support one another. It is out fondest hope that this was the first of many similar events to increase collaboration between districts. As you can see, there are no secrets—just hard work using the resources that are available and a willingness to change.

Pictured above: members of the Bloom Township High School District 206 district team: Dr. Jennifer Norrell, Briana Amos, Alicia Espinoza, John Boggs, Cynthia Gonzalez, Lisa Dallacqua, Brad Wieher, Marilyn Bittner, Jennifer Mitchell, and Dr. Lenell Navarre. Photo Credit: Mary Compton Photography.



Fullan, M. (2004). Leadership and sustainability: System thinkers in action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.



Great Things Happening at Maywood–Melrose Park–Broadview School District 89












Pictured above, from left to right: Illinois CSI's Michael Czerniawski with Maywood–Melrose Park–Broadview School District 89 team members Scott Wold, Pauline Zdonek, Superintendent David Negron, Marie Urso, Barbara Dahly, David Brusak, Jill Deets, and Brandy Bolden. Photo credit: Charles Cherney Photography.



We featured the success story of Maywood–Melrose Park–Broadview School District 89 (SD 89) in our 2016 Annual Review. You'll recall that then-new superintendent Dr. David Negron wanted to realize his vision of transforming systems to increase the level of student achievement and to improve teacher practices. Dr. Negron inherited his district's identification to receive Priority Services by the Illinois State Board of Education, and he readily partnered with Illinois CSI to help achieve that vision.


During its first two years of receiving Priority Services, SD 89 focused on collecting and analyzing data to set worthy targets that focus on local assessment and implementing curricula with fidelity. In 2017—its fourth year of receiving services from Illinois CSI—SD 89 has deeply implemented plans down to the classroom level. Illinois CSI worked with the district to create new mathematics and English language arts walk-through rubrics to measure its worthy targets, facilitated data retreats for school staff to analyze and understand trends in their data, and, with additional support from an outside consultant, developed a Comprehensive Balanced Literacy (CBL) program.











SD 89 Elementary School. Photo credit: Charles Cherney Photography.



Data collected and analyzed within the district show that these combined efforts to improve teacher practice are working. For example, 63% of all teachers were implementing the components of the new CBL framework by midyear. "With new resources, ongoing professional development, and aligned curriculum maps," Dr. Negron explained, "we have set our goal to 100% of CBL fidelity of implementation in all SD 89 classrooms."


In addition, SD 89 began focused monitoring of the mathematics curriculum that is beginning its third year at the middle school level. Seventy-five percent of middle school teachers achieved a rating of excellent on the middle school mathematics walk-through rubric for fidelity of implementation (classroom environment, mathematics talks, lesson introduction, student exploration, and conclusion). This monitoring process has been expanded to the elementary level as well.


Likewise, early results show that student achievement is on the rise. "During the time that Illinois CSI has been engaged with the district, students have seen significant increases in achievement," Dr. Negron observed. "According to Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) results, the average student has grown 15 percentile points in reading and 13 percentile points in math from fall of 2014 to winter of 2017. The growth in grades 6 to 8 was especially impressive, with a growth of 21 percentile points in reading and 18 percentile points in math."


Dr. Negron concluded with one more impressive fact: During the time that Illinois CSI has been engaged with SD 89, the district has focused more intently on climate and culture, yielding very good results. "Out-of-school suspensions across the district have dropped significantly; in just one year, suspensions dropped by 59%, and the district is expecting another drop for this academic year."

We look forward to continuing to follow SD 89 to see what new achievements lie on the horizon.


Useful Resources

Illinois CSI in external media:

Executive Director Betheny Lyke is featured in this month's Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) Leadership Matters magazine:

Several Instructional Support Specialists contributed to the spring issue of the Illinois Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ILASCD) quarterly journal:



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