Edmonds School Board reviews school improvement plan, adopts highly capable program

Assistant Superintendent Helen Joung (center middle) discusses the updated School Improvement Plan with the Edmonds School Board via Zoom Sept. 28.

The Edmonds School Board at its Sept. 28 meeting reviewed the School Improvement Plan planning report for the 2021-22 school year, and also adopted the Highly Capable Program plan, which supports students who require additional educational services to be successful.

Assistant Superintendent Helen Joung presented the district’s School Improvement Plan, which has created a new template with a focus on math, literacy and engagement in schools. The shift is related to the district’s overall goals and its new strategic plan.

She noted that historically, school improvement plans used throughout the U.S. have been documents “where a lot of energy is put into its creation and then you put it away unfortunately, and there’s not a lot of follow up” or ongoing discussion afterward. Joung added that despite all of the energy and time needed to create the plans, they are “often not a living document, and so in Edmonds we wanted to change that.”

The updated school improvement plan is meant to function alongside the district’s new strategic plan as guidance, and the two plans will serve together as a type of “north star of what we’re trying to do to support our kids,” Joung said. Next steps in the overall process will include creating tools, resources and guides for supporting the strategic plan’s areas of focus, which are defined as equity, engagement and excellence.

“The future for Edmonds is at the end of the day, we want all of our students to feel like they belong to our district, schools and their classrooms,” Joung said. “And once they feel that sense of belonging, academic gains start happening,” along with improvements in self-regulation. The premise of the strategic plan is then to help all of the district’s students, families and staff feel that they belong.

Instructional frameworks have been introduced this fall that focus on systems of equity, engagement and excellence. Those factors also center on building relationships, accelerated learning and ensuring that high-quality teaching and learning are offered districtwide.

“We want to create cultures of affirmation and belonging,” Joung noted. “We want to design and implement data-driven, timely and appropriate interventions, and really strong core instruction overall. And we want to really address the need of our staff and students over time in intentional ways.”

While creating the new template, district staff and leadership teams collaborated on providing feedback, reviewed research on nationwide best practices for school improvement planning and also looked at several examples of plans used by high-functioning school districts. Joung described the district’s resulting document as “simple, yet very intentional in its practice.”

Best practices found to be commonly utilized across high-functioning school districts include having a school-level team to design, implement and monitor improvement efforts. “It can’t be a document that you put on the shelf and then you forget about,” Joung said. “It has to be something that all staff refer to as well as its leaders.”

The district’s new school improvement template utilizes a three-year plan. “It’s unrealistic to close gaps that are widening due to the pandemic,” along with other factors, on a shorter timeline Joung said. “It’s unrealistic for schools to make significant gains after just one year — especially when most of the year you’re contact tracing and you have safety at the forefront of your minds. So we wanted to create a template that would even make sense during hardships like the pandemic, during times where instructional leadership may not be the first focus when you open school, it’s really the operations and managements regarding safety.”

She added the resulting changes are meant to make sense not only to school staff but also the families of students in the district.

Changes made included simplifying the vocabulary and format of the improvement plans, which can also help to better tell each school’s story. Redundancies throughout the plan’s documents were removed to simplify statements of vision and mission, long-term goals, needs assessment, and rethink the fidelity of implementation. The update also added a section for reflections and revisions, which will occur twice throughout the school year as part of progress monitoring and are meant to stimulate ongoing conversations about specifics of the improvements plan.

For example, the district added common guidance for all of its K-8 schools this year to have a reading literacy goal, a math goal and an engagement goal. While all of its high schools must have an on-time graduation rate goal, an on-track-for-graduation goal and an engagement goal, the plans also now highlights strategies that each school will act upon to meet its improvement goals.

Several of the school board members said they appreciated the updated plan’s simplicity and how it was designed to function within the district’s overall strategic plan.

The school district’s Highly Capable Program, which was unanimously approved Tuesday for the 2021-22 school year, requires annual approval to receive grant funding for implementing the measures. It provides the district with resources needed to run the identification process, to support teacher training and professional learning, to supply supplemental curricular resources that meet the unique needs of highly capable students, and to support staff resources to run and support the program.

Students may go through the identification process, which involves tests and assessments during kindergarten through 11th grade. That process is conducted in the winter prior to the school year, during which the student will begin receiving those services. Final identification decisions are then made by a multi-disciplinary selection committee based on criteria that include a preponderance of evidence from the data demonstrating that a student is among the most highly capable, evidence of a clear need for highly capable services, and a determination of which students would benefit the most from inclusion in the district’s program.

Programs the district offers to its highly capable students include participation for grades one to eight in a self-contained program that consists of highly capable students. In seventh and eighth grades, the program includes English, science and social studies. Advanced mathematics are also offered in those two grades, mixed with neighborhood program students who have also qualified for advanced mathematics.

For high school students, acceleration and advancement is offered through choice options that include Running Start, advanced placement and honors courses, College in the High School and International Baccalaureate programs, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Honors STEM diplomas.

The school board also approved an agreement between the school district and the Rotary Club of Lynnwood to construct tiny homes and a single-family residence duplex in support of the Career and Technical Education Carpentry program and curriculum. Carpentry students will construct those tiny homes at the residential carpentry program’s classroom and the single-family residence will be built on property, located within Edmonds School District boundaries, purchased by the Rotary Club of Lynnwood.

The board’s approval marks 47 years of cooperative efforts and contracts for the framing and landscaping of a house by students participating in the Career and Technical Education classes. The Rotary Club provides project managers to coordinate the efforts and also assists with providing mentors for students in the carpentry class to support the program’s educational objectives.

Other tasks involved with the project are sub-contracted out by the Rotary Club, which finances all of the construction costs. The sale of the house is the sole responsibility of the Rotary and profits realized from its sale are then used by the club to support its community service and charitable activities.

The school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve several items on its consent agenda including:

– Renewal of the memorandum of understanding Voluntary Employees’ Benefit Association (VEBA) for the Service Employees International Union, Local 925 Custodians, Food Service Drivers and Warehouse Employees effective Sept. 7, 2021 through Aug. 31, 2022.

– An agreement related to the impacts of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate between the district and the Public, Professional & Office-Clerical Employees and Drivers Local Union No. 763, effective for the 2021-22 school year.

– A memorandum of understanding with the Edmonds Education Association (EEA) regarding state-mandated COVID-19 vaccines for all district employees.

– A memorandum of understanding regarding class load relief for Edmonds eLearning Academy for the 2021-22 school year.

– A waiver regarding grading periods at Scriber Lake High School for the 2021-22 school year.

– An interlocal cooperation agreement with Northwest Educational Service District 189 for Educational Services at NW Regional Learning Center.

– A memorandum of understanding related to the impacts of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate between the district and the SEIU Local 925 Food Service Employees, effective for the 2021-22 school year.

Two speakers addressed the board during the meeting’s public comments:

– A parent said he was concerned that a quarantine policy for people exposed to someone with COVID-19 that treats fully vaccinated and unvaccinated students differently is “a discriminatory policy, but also its inequitable.” He understood that guidance is coming from the Washington State Department of Health, but added he felt “it should still be addressed,” and hoped the school district “would consider taking a stand against these policies.” See more about the district’s quarantine policy in this related school board report.

–  Bryce Levin, a representative from Everett nonprofit organization Housing Hope, spoke about a proposed local project in partnership with Edmonds Lutheran Church to purchase a portion of its property, on 236th Street Southwest near Highway 99, to build a 52-unit affordable housing development that would serve families in the area who make significantly less than the median income. The project has funds committed from Snohomish County and is seeking additional funding from Washington state, he noted, adding that redevelopment and design work is currently underway. “Part of our process for our (funding) applications and something that we like to do is reach out to local school boards, city councils and make sure that we give plenty of time for input from the community,” Levin said. He also encouraged anyone with questions or comments to reach out by emailing brycelevin@housinghope.org.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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