Some of the toughest issues confronting education were tackled by the recently concluded fifth cohort of The Public Education Foundation’s Executive Leadership Academy, an intensive year-long program in which promising leaders at the administrative level are able to build their skills and maximize their capacity, empowering them to serve as agents of change.
The program culminates with a capstone project, where participants work collaboratively to solve challenges facing superintendents and district leadership throughout Nevada. Among the capstone projects this year were topics such as developing effective teacher evaluations, fostering collaboration among principals, promoting teacher retention, and encouraging parent engagement.
On Nov. 4, The Public Education Foundation held its completion ceremony in the Barrick Gold Corporation Board Room for those who graduated from its Executive Leadership Academy. Among the Clark County School District officials on hand to hear the presentations were School Board Trustees Carolyn Edwards and Kevin Child; Dr. Mike Barton, Chief Academic Officer; Rick Neal, Chief of Operations; and Dr. Greta Peay, Chief Instructional Services Officer.
Of the 30 participants completing the Executive Leadership Academy program, they included administrators from Clark County School District, Washoe County School District and a public charter school. Other entities that had participants in the program were the Governor’s Office, State Board of Education and City of North Las Vegas. Among the cohort were 20 principals, one assistant principal, five from the school district central office and one area superintendent. There also were three State of Nevada Principals/Assistant Principals of the Year: Greg Cole, Derek Fialkiewicz and Sarah Popek.
Two capstone projects were featured during the completion ceremony held at The Public Education Foundation’s offices: Principal Collaboration for Enhanced Practice and Revising the Nevada Educator Performance Framework Tool to Increase Impact on Teaching and Learning.
In Principal Collaboration for Enhanced Practice, the team of Tammi Boffelli, Jennifer Jaeger, Scarlett Perryman, Merry Sillitoe and Kemala Washington addressed the feeling of isolation among principals, examining how collaboration could help them meet the increased demands of their role.
The team conducted a survey of principals regarding their experiences and views about collaboration. Among the findings of the survey, which more than 130 principals replied to: 41 percent had been a principal between one to five years and just 9 percent had been a principal more than five years; the majority of principals hadn’t engaged in regular collaboration, but they did report that collaboration improved job performance and job satisfaction.
A majority of principals responding to the team’s survey identified a round table collaboration format as being the most beneficial. In response, the team organized a pilot round table collaboration to focus on improving instruction through supervision and coaching of teachers. In July, 29 principals attended this round table and several principals made presentations on a variety of strategies, tools and methods of evaluating teachers.
The round table was met with an overwhelmingly positive response. The team believes their findings demonstrate that a collaborative network, such as one developed in Milwaukee, where principals meet monthly to discuss problems they encounter in their work and offer strategies in response, would be beneficial to principals’ effectiveness and to student achievement.
In Revising the Nevada Educator Performance Framework Tool to Increase Impact on Teaching, the team of Barry Bosacker, Sarah Popek, Holli Ratliff and Lindsay Tomlinson addressed the Nevada Educator Performance Framework (NEPF). The authors note: “Using the current NEPF tool, teacher evaluations have minimal impact on teacher practice, yet consume a substantial amount of time for both administrators and teachers.”
The team’s research found that the most common suggestions from administrators for improving the teacher evaluation process were more attention on coaching teachers and reducing the amount of time necessary to complete the evaluation and the length of the final document. For teachers, the team found that teachers would like to see more time for conversations with their supervisors, a simplification of the process, and less time spent gathering evidence.
In turn, the team proposed that the observation tool and summative evaluation tool be more streamlined and made more efficient, decreasing the time and hours and spent on a compliance document and resulting in an increase in the time spent “having purposeful, continuous conversations with teachers.”
In their conclusion, the authors wrote: “The implementation of the proposed NEPF Tool will allow administrators more availability to conduct classroom observations and provide more continuous coaching and follow-up conversations with teachers. Teachers will receive more frequent feedback from their administrators and increased opportunities to collaborate regarding best practices and identifying ways to strengthen their craft. As teachers continue to develop as instructional leaders, they will continue to assume more responsibility for student learning and as a result, increase the consistency and quality of their instructional practices.”
Following are the other teams’ capstone projects, whose summaries are provided by Zhan Okuda-Lim, The Public Education Foundation’s Director of Policy and Analytical Leadership:
- The K-12 Implementation of 21st Century Employability Skills in Washoe County School District (Don Angotti, Lauren Ford, Robert C. Sidford)
This team focused on how Washoe County School District can incorporate instruction and training in 21st century job skills into the overall educational curriculum. The team recommended several policy changes, including incorporating employability skills into various subject areas, providing professional development in doing so, and studying the impact, if any, of this incorporation.
- Infusing Social Emotional Learning in Schools: A Districtwide Framework (George Anas, Spencer Beals, Greg Cole, Bradley Keating, Brandon Moeller, Bevelyn Smothers)
This team focused on how CCSD could integrate social emotional learning, or SEL, in schools to develop students’ skills to regulate emotions, build relationships, and solve problems. The team discussed ongoing work of CCSD’s new SEL committee and outlined next steps for implementation, data analysis, and professional development to apply the committee’s findings districtwide.
- Retaining Effective Teachers in High Needs Schools in Clark County School District (Tony Davis, Juanita Frasier, Tonia Holmes-Sutton, Lori McGaughey, Patricia M. Rosales)
This team focused on teacher retention in CCSD’s high-need schools, which during the past three years have experienced an average teacher transiency rate of almost 28 percent. To address this, the team recommended several policy changes, including allowing post-probationary teachers to earn 225 credit units for every three years of service in a difficult-to-staff school. The team also recommended exit surveys to better understand why teachers might leave, thus providing more information to inform future policy decisions.
- Increasing Parent Engagement at the Middle School Level (Derek Fialkiewicz, Richard McEnaney, Brian Wiseman):
This team focused on how middle schools can engage parents given that parental involvement in schools often declines after their children leave elementary school. The team recommended increasing communication with families and collecting their feedback and opinions, asking parents to contribute to school activities, and increasing retention of parents who continue to be engaged in school events and activities.
- Resolving Student and Labor Market Concerns by Addressing the CTE Teacher Shortage Problem in Nevada (Tera Anderson, Rebecca Fitzgerald, Manny Lamarre, Jonathan Synold)
This team focused on how to increase the number of career and technical education teachers, particularly in high-demand industry areas. To address this, the team recommended several policy changes, including decreasing the time needed to obtain the alternative business and industry license from five years to two years, and bolstering the instruction of best practices to new career and technical education teachers as part of the on-boarding process.