Good morning everyone! We have to get some audience participation, you know our team already knows, so, good morning everyone! Good morning, good morning. First I’d like to take a moment and thank everyone for joining us here today – both our colleagues on stage and of course those of us from the team and our invited guests for for joining us this morning I’d like to kick us off by really sharing – we know that to the delight of parents across the commonwealth, including me as a parent, and the team here who has kids getting ready, we’re closing in on the start of a new school year and superintendents across the commonwealth are building their teams, principals are orienting staff, teachers are readying the classroom, and support staff are making sure even the smallest detail is in place for the start of the school year. The start of a new school year ushers in a sense of optimism and opportunity and serves as a reminder that whatever role you’re in in your education community, we are all in the position to learn something new, to develop a different perspective, and to tackle a problem alongside friends and colleagues. The same is true for those in the Department of Education. Under Governor Wolf’s leadership we spent the last several years tackling long-standing challenges and delivering results for children, families, and educators.Working together we’ve expanded high quality early childhood programs by thousands of seats. We’ve strengthened measures of school progress through the new Future Ready PA Index and reduced testing time by 20% and reworked the annual testing schedule to ensure greater balance between instruction and assessment. We’ve also been empowered to ask hard questions about our own practice and to change course when it’s needed. Under the former No Child Left Behind Act, the federal government assigned state education agencies a standard playbook for intervening in schools that needed support Under the Every Student Succeeds Act the successor to NCLB states have important flexibility to rethink rework systems for supporting schools and we know there is no work that we take more seriously as a lever for expanding educational equity However, as research, shows this isn’t work we lead through formal policy or top-down mandates. Rather, in a state like PA, with a strong tradition of local control and roughly 700 school districts and charter schools, this work is about setting conditions that incentivize the right practices for teaching and learning, ensure educators have meaningful voice in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of policies, and conditions that support the agency’s overarching goals of equity innovation and transparency and every school and in every community And by every community we mean large urban school systems, smaller third class cities and are hundreds of rural and small school districts So today, I’m proud to be joined by the leaders of the Pittsburgh, Allentown, and Juniata County school districts. Each of them have brought additional voices to an innovative pilot program in which the Department developed, field tested and refined new approaches to partnering with and serving schools This initiative was made possible through an investment in the fiscal year 2017-18 budget – thanks to Governor Wolf and Governor Wolf’s leadership, and the bipartisan support of the General Assembly When we began this work nearly nine months ago, I asked my team to start by rigorously and honestly evaluating PDE’s own prior efforts in their school improvement space and to follow that evidence. We wanted to model the same behavior that we ask of our educators and students – reflect on our practice, find out what’s working and address what’s not We learned that NCLB era school improvement initiatives didn’t sufficiently consider the root causes of achievement and other challenges. We learned that state policies could better align with promising local strategies. We learned that districts and schools throughout the commonwealth need more support in attracting and retaining great educators, and we learned that rolling out ambitious work sometimes requires starting small. We also learned that a better approach to school

improvement lies not in formal policy prescription, but in those fundamental conditions in practice that are most critical for improving teaching and learning for all students. So to be successful, schools must focus on continuous improvement of instruction. We must empower leadership We must provide student-centered support systems and foster high-quality professional learning for leaders, educators, and support staff Each of the superintendent’s gathered here today deserves thanks for making this work a priority in their districts. Over the last school year, and for ensuring the strongest possible start to our ESSA implementation as we begin our next phase. But before you hear from our superintendents, I want to take a moment to ask Dr. Rosemary Hughes who served as our Special Advisor of School Improvement to share a bit more about our work, and to also take a moment and thank her for her leadership in helping to improve schools and support kids and communities Rosemary – Good Morning – When I joined the team in October Secretary Rivera charged me and my colleagues with a truly amazing opportunity: design a system to support schools that need improvement in Pennsylvania that reflects our core values of: innovation, equity, and transparency – reflects what we know works in school improvement and has the capacity to respond to the unique context and conditions of each and every district and school in the state. In schools with the history of low performance, we all agree drastic actions are needed. Yet as the Secretary noted, the turnaround strategies prescribed – under No Child Left Behind our counter to what research tells us about the pieces needed to create and sustain improvement over time. A more realistic approach to sustained improvement in teaching and learning must include key components identified by researchers and more importantly, requested by educators Carefully determining the starting place with the most promise and building the skills and knowledge of those responsible for student learning – it would also from the beginning meaningfully engage teachers and the community in setting goals and putting them into practice – and it would acknowledge the importance of resources, patience, and resolve. After careful consideration of what research tells us worked, and what districts and schools in Pennsylvania told us they need – we generated a vision for an innovative evidence-based framework for school improvement. Now we needed committed leaders from diverse districts who represent a variety of characteristics including: size, urbanicity, student demographics and other contextual factors related to school improvement The goal of a school improvement pilot was to field test tools and a process that would improve our capacity to diagnose and correct systemic issues that undergird the performance challenges in individual schools Throughout an authentic collaboration with Superintendents Hamlet, Yarger, Parker, and their teams – we explored the following: a more robust approach to assessing the conditions and practices associated with rapid and sustained improvements in teaching and learning; integrating state-level initiatives within the context of current district systems and priorities; an authentic empowerment of district and school communities to prioritize improvement efforts that are most pressing for the students they serve. I could stand here for hours and elaborate on our vision of school improvement and the promise for real change that emerged from the pilot, but a more powerful voice is that of the leaders who are in the front line of school improvement each and every day. I would first like to invite Dr. Anthony Hamlet, Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools to share the pilot experiences in a large, urban school district with a strong foundation for district level support for school improvement Good morning – thank you for inviting us. So, first off kudos and a big shout out to Governor Wolf and also Secretary Rivera for funding this very important initiative around school improvement for our commonwealth – so thank you for that. So there’s a dramatic need to progressively shift the behaviors where adults have high expectations and belief that all students can learn – thus increasing all students ability to meet college, career and life readiness. The Pennsylvania Department of Education demonstrated this understanding of this need through creation of a school improvement pilot

which sought to build a process and tools to support evidence-based research school improvement strategies. In Pittsburgh, rural position meaningfully to participate in this pilot due to the launch of our five-year strategic plan expect great things announced in the spring last year The plans for strategic themes – 19 initiatives support our tiered approach to transforming schools and improving our standards of support service to all schools, parents, and communities boasters system-wide improvement and provides intensive support for our lowest performing schools. As part of the pilot, school leadership teams at 11 schools in collaboration with Network Assistant Superintendents, district leadership, improvement facilitators provided by PDE – utilize the essential practices assessment to determine the status of implementation of research-based practices that fosters sustained improvement in teaching and learning for our students. Our team work closely with Rosemary Hughes, PDE Special Advisor on school improvement and state facilitators to align existing processes, tools, and data sources to the PDE process which who are greater prepared to do an instruction review process. We created a additional support for our lowest performing schools. Rosemary, and three state facilitators had the opportunity to participate in this process and informed any adjustments Also, this was a highly collaborative process – again, this is a pilot As far as at the beginning, so this is not an event – it’s a process – so we went through the process of collaborating going back and forth to fine-tune this particular pilot and processes that to roll out to the commonwealth Through the pilot we learned it was effective to have school-based teams complete the self-assessment in advance and separate from the school principal – very important There’s often times that we know in education when you have the leader there – voices aren’t really true. So we wanted to make sure that process was pure and hear the voices of our teachers and leadership teams exactly what was going on in the school. We also found there’s a need to streamline the process due to the time and scheduling restraints for schools and strengthen root-cause analysis – making some adjustments to the documents and tools. We plan to facilitate the central practices assessment with all of our schools in the district on August 14th. We will train district facilitators to support this process. We look forward to our continuing partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and support we have received from these issues, from Secretary Rivera and the unwavering support from Governor Wolf. Our participation in his school pilot supports the work of our newly-formed Office of School Transformation, which will support school leadership teams in the creation and monitoring school improvement plans need cross-functional teams, and allocate additional school-based personnel to support culture systems and instruction for improved academic outcomes for all students. It has also gone a long way in increasing buy-in among our school staff, families, students and communities. The work directly impacts the creation of plans tailored to the needs of their schools. Thank you again for inviting us and we look forward to continued partnership. Thank you Thank you Dr. Hamlet – I would next like to invite Mr. Keith Yarger, Superintendent of the Juniata County School District to share the pilot experience in a small rural school district, where the Superintendent serves as the literal jack of most trades Thank you Rosemary – I’d like to first thank Governor Wolf tremendously for this opportunity and Secretary Rivera, as well as David Volkman, Matthew Stem, and all of the PDE team This was a wonderful pilot and I do believe that it is something that will definitely help all the schools in Pennsylvania continue to move forward. Three questions moving forward with this pilot was: What is the nature of the collaboration between PDE and the Juniata County School District? Important lessons learned from the school improvement pilot, and how are these lessons inform the district’s plans in the year ahead? So taking a look at the first question, the nature of the collaboration between PDE and the Juniata County School District the facilitators that came into the district, helped to modify the process to match with the rural district circumstances – allowing the pilot to explore the unique considerations for rural communities and the schools. Some examples that I can give that would fit for a rural school district – are that in a rural school

district such as Juniata County – human resources are very scarce. What PDE quickly discovered – the principal that I have in charge of the pilot school selected – is also the pricipal of two of my other schools in the district which would allow her presence in the school for only 1/3 of her time without an assistant principal. In the district office with our district being a district with approximately 3,000 students in grades K-12 the only administrators that I have in the district office with me are the Business Manager and a Special Education Director This made the collaboration for the central office and PDE more direct with me, the Superintendent – rather than with the Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant Superintendent, or a Director of Education. All of which, I do not have in my district. Instead, collaboration with PDE flowed very freely and appropriately as they all had my cell phone number and would text me at any time or call me and I would do the same back to them throughout the day and even into the evening hours – which I appreciated very much, because my mind is always trying to think of something new for our students and there were different times at 10 o’clock at night I’d be sending out a text and receiving a text back. The School Principal established a highly collaborative relationship with the facilitators, which contributed to an honest and valid assessment of current implementation of the essential practices followed. Moving on to the second question: important lessons learned from the school improvement pilot – inclusion of student voice was very enlightening for the school team and shaped their selection of priorities for improvement. As the Superintendent of the district, I try to get into the schools as much as possible to hear what the students have to say about our programs and use that information help guide our practices for the future. It was good to see that the pilot enforced those actions that I was thinking and reinforced what I was doing with the students and what the information that I was gathering in the years past to take back to the board I believe that the pilot is a great opportunity for schools to reflect and really listen to what the students are saying about the programs and the instructional strategies – creating a place of learning for the district The school team successfully created a space that empowered the parent representative to contribute to the needs assessment and improvement planning in a significant way as well. This led to a strong sense of shared responsibility for improvement among more stakeholders in the district, as opposed to resting squarely with school leaders and staff – which is essential in my belief to any school success. Without that parent support and the parent ties that you make in the school’s, you’re only doing half of the job that needs to be done The parent-school connection is extremely important when looking at the student and the school success. The last question: how these lessons inform your plans for the year ahead? The school that participated in the pilot is consolidating with five other school buildings in the 2018-19 school year The Principal indicated that the essential practice assessment process would be really valuable to conduct with the newly consolidated team in the spring of 2019 when the consolidation of the buildings take place. Another Principal in the district who observed the process indicated the desire to replicate the pilot in his two schools and he is the educational leader He felt that it would really benefit his schools and would have a very positive impact on the academics on the school environment in general. The school improvement pilot allowed our teachers to experience a sense of urgency on the state of the instructional processes and practices in a manner that was non-threatening to them. They were able to with the assistance of the consultants, review and analyze a variety of data resources and identify specific areas for improvement. Once the areas of need were identified, the team worked with us to organize an implementation process. The continued support from our consultants allowed us to see growth and the short amount of time we had for the implementation. This process has created a plan that will continue to follow through for the 18-19 school year, or on top of that the school was under new leadership for the first time in many years during the 17-18 school year, as I moved to my principals to facilitate change. Facilitating change to promote school improvement can be a very difficult task and takes careful analysis, questioning, and communication to properly identify trends and plan

effective goals for improvement. Through surveys, data analysis, and team planning the consultants helped our team analyze and tackle tough topics such as planning – such as parent engagement, leadership, collaboration, current instructional practices, curriculum, and overall school climate. The facilitators fostered a collaborative approach with the inclusion of all stakeholders which allow the team to create obtainable goals with a clear plan for improvement Finally, looking what else happened was a turnaround in self-confidence with the teachers. They had the skills and curricular programs to make instructional changes, but lack the empowerment and self-confidence The facilitators connected with the teachers and ongoing support allowed the team to become more confident in their own decision-making in meeting the needs of the students in school. Looking ahead at the 18-19 school year, we will continue to use a work that was performed with a pilot group and allow for that group to help assist our other schools through the same process that they work through during the course of the pilot for gains of all students in our district Thank you Thank you Mr. Yeager. I would now like to invite Mr. Thomas Parker, Superintendent of Allentown School District to share the pilot experiences in a mid-sized urban school district with a new superintendent who is in the early stages of building district-level capacity to support school improvement Good morning – first and foremost again I would like to say thank you to Governor Wolf and to Secretary Rivera for this awesome opportunity for districts across the state to have this level of access and resources to the best practices of our of our department. It is absolutely wonderful. Again, the the work here in Allentown School District is very similar and I echo the sentiments of my colleagues who spoke recently – however, we have a few different elements in play as a mid-sized district and I like to kind of approach a few of those topics. John F Kennedy once mentioned that leadership and service are indispensable to each other. PDE’s work with the school improvement pilot absolutely exemplifies that sentiment – it gives an opportunity for the Department to provide leadership – to provide accountability, and to provide the vision for where the commonwealth is going to go and providing services to schools, but it also understands that service is a integral part of that process and it serves to help districts provide those resources and supports for kids. So to Rosemary and her team, I say thank you. They’ve been really important in my work this year as a new superintendent to the commonwealth in being able to provide resources and supports from our students. So Allentown School District is undergoing a significant transformation – we’re providing services and educational resources to an ever-changing, and diverse student population, and as we continue to do this work we’ve been engaged in a really strong partnership with PDE. So our picture is the school improvement pilot, but also a larger focus on engagement with the department to ensure that our district is effectively meeting the needs of our students. Over the past 12 months, we developed the strategic framework for the Allentown School District and that framework was developed before we even knew that the school improvement pilot was a possibility. Upon learning and being invited to participate in the pilot and reading the the premise behind the pilot and the goals – it absolutely aligned perfectly with our strategic framework and it gave us an opportunity to not do additional work in school improvement, but to continue to do the work that we had promised to our parents into our community that lined aligned really well with the state’s focused with the school improvement pilot. The school improvement pilot identifies a few critical pieces of support that that correlates well with the Allentown School District. First and foremost – to reiterate the point that this is not additional work. The school improvement work that’s been identified in the pilot and the way that our schools have been engaging with the teams of support that have come out have been in alignment with our school improvement work that the district has identified. Our work to provide better support for our 9th grade students – to have a continuous

improvement model for how we identify for our students that are transitioning into 9th grade – how we’re able to have higher rates of support, has been a focus of the school improvement pilot with our with our two high schools in the Allentown School District. The second critical point is that the impact here is not just at the school level, it’s also at the district level. The work that we’ve done with the school improvement pilot has also given us as district leaders the lens by which we see how we engage our school based leaders, teachers, and community members. The work with the surveys really identifying what our teachers, our students, and our parents perceive and need in the school improvement process has not only been helpful to our school teams, but also created greater reflection for our district teams as we’ve been able to provide a more an additional support. Thirdly, is that the school improvement pilot focuses on building capacity. It’s not about identifying what schools are what districts should do and then holding accountability. It’s about helping the schools and the districts build their capacity to meet the needs of their children on a consistent basis Lastly, one of the areas that we that we absolutely connected was the focus on a continuous improvement model. As we learn, and grow and transform our work in the Allentown School District – it aligns well with that core tenet of the school improvement pilot to ensure that we have continuous improvement models so that our school teams, our district teams continually focus on ways to improve the way that we provide services for kids I’ll end with just a message from one of my principals – Dave Honda’s principal at Union Terrace Elementary School and when I was coming out today, I wanted to be able to share something that was a point of pride for a leader in how they provided services to their school and to their community and the message from from Mr. Hahn was that one of the pieces that they began to focus on was vision. In the survey process that was part of the school improvement pilot – actually one of the first parts of the school improvement pilot – what he identified as a leader is that there was a misalignment in what some of the expectations were from the teachers to the students, and the leadership. So all the work in school improvement and all the work in providing resources and supports was great, but if there’s not that alignment in vision and expectations, then then we don’t find success so he was able to identify early that that was a concern and their work over the next year is to ensure that there’s a systemic communication process for what the higher expectations of academic achievement are for kids, students, and parents in that school and in that community – and that’s the ultimate impact of the school improvement pilot Helping schools and helping districts identify what their individual needs and concerns are, and building their capacity to address those concerns. So on behalf of the children of the city of Allentown – I’d like to again thank Governor Wolf, Secretary Rivera – this has been an absolutely dynamic process for us and we’re looking forward to continuing that collaboration well into the future Thank You Mr. Parker. To maximize the opportunity to learn from these three districts and the 19 schools, and ten facilitators who embarked on this journey with us – we leveraged our partnership with the US Department of Education”s Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center to collect feedback from pilot participants. Through an independent formative evaluation, I would like to introduce Dr. Angela Minnici, Senior Director of State Strategy Technical Assistance and Policy at WestEd to share some of the key takeaways from the formative evaluation Thank you, Rosemary Shew, it’s tough to be last a lot of pressure on this really illustrious panel. So I’ll try to live up to it As Rosemary said, I’m from WestEd and for those of you who don’t know us, or haven’t heard of us before – we are a research development and service agency We work with education and other communities throughout the United States to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children youth and adults – and we managed the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center that is a federally funded Technical Assistance Center that works with states in the mid-atlantic region – including Pennsylvania to really help support priorities to improve teaching and learning. I think one of the things you heard from the Secretary this morning is that school improvement is a key priority for the state and that’s really how we got involved with this work. We were asked by the Department to come in and do really two things, and the first thing was again

what you heard the Secretary described this morning – was to make sure that the school improvement process that they were developing was really grounded in the best research and evidence that we have today about – turn around low-performing schools. So we were able to help them in that process, and then secondly as Rosemary talked about – we were able to provide an evaluation of the pilot process. In doing that, we were able to look at the the tools, the resources, the supports that were provided to interview the educators that were working in this process to feed that information back to the Department so that they could really strengthen their school improvement process to make sure that it aligned with the needs of the students, aligned with the needs of the community as well I also just want to kind of point to two key takeaways from the work that we’ve done in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. I think the first is that you you’ve heard it from the Secretary this morning, you’ve heard it from the superintendent’s – it’s really important when you’re launching a new initiative or a reform to make sure that you’re inviting educators into the process. We have lots of research that shows that when educators are not authentically engaged, when they’re not part of the process – that those reforms are less likely to be successful and so this was really important to make sure that the people that are on the ground – the superintendent’s who are on stage here those are the ones that are going to be charged with moving forward and turning around low-performing schools – that they really feel that they’re engaged in as well. The second key takeaway I want to talk about is actually the pilot process itself. It’s a really thoughtful approach to make sure that you roll this out in a way that I would say you go slow to go fast, or start slow to go fast. So making sure that the you invite districts to participate that represent a variety of the characteristics in your state so that you’re not designing a process that’s only for your urban districts, or a process that’s for your rural districts, but you pilot this with several of those different districts and roll that out very thoughtfully. I think some of the things you’ve heard on stage today about it’s a process, it’s not an event – you’ve heard a lot about continuous improvement. I think this is really the way that the Department is moving and really a thoughtful approach to this as well. So we’re excited to be a partner in this work, excited to partner with the Secretary and his team, and the superintendent’s to make sure that this really is a process that’s going to help improve outcomes for students in Pennsylvania. Thank you So I’d like to take this final opportunity to say thank you To say thank you to our colleagues who support schools each and every day for for your hard work, your voice, and your leadership. Because of you, not only will there’s pilot you know be a success, but the work on behalf of our children and communities will continue to improve exponentially – and also take a moment to thank our partners and our colleagues at the Department who are here in the audience and Rosemary who’s up here for your leadership in ensuring that our transition into school improvement and continuous school improvement is thoughtful and aligned to meeting the needs of children – first and foremost, to approving schools and improving communities. So as we look to embark and taking this to the next level we want to assure everyone involved that your voice, your leadership, what we’ve learned from you will be evident each and every day in and through school improvement. So thank you, and have a great afternoon

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