The Jefferson County School District began implementing a new pathway to learning in 2013-2014 when they joined Learning Supports Cohort 2 with the Alabama State Department of Education. The ALSDE partnered with Scholastic Inc., to offer state-wide implementation of the Learning Supports Framework. District staff understood that for all students to have the opportunity to succeed, the Learning Supports Framework demonstrated how the provision of learning supports coupled with effective instruction was the recipe for helping all students learn.
The ultimate goal of the Learning Supports process is to help students improve academic proficiency though the provision of wide range of learning supports. While some gains have been made by our focus on instruction, many of our students encounter too many barriers to become proficient. To that end, the District leadership requested the assistance of Scholastic’s Learning Supports Team in strengthening the application of the learning supports framework for district and school leaders.
With a visit from Scholastic’s team, Dr. Rhonda Neal Waltman and Tavia Crumpler in May 2016, JefCoEd’s district administrators discussed the learning support framework and categorized the district's needs. Several areas of challenges emerged from those discussions, which included: student mental health, student behavior, chronic absences, changing demographics and closing the academic gaps.
Using the Learning Supports Framework, the Strategic Goal Areas identified in the Strategic Plan, the Focus Areas such as LDC, MDC, and PBL, and the identified challenges/needs were aligned and a plan was developed to assist Jefferson County Schools to build the capacity of leadership and to optimize resources so that all children reach their full potential.
JefCoEd’s implementation of the Learning Supports Framework has been strategic building within the District Team, and extending to the schools through identified feeder patterns. The district leadership has provided a structure for continuous improvement and support to schools. The District Team or Learning Supports Collaborative (LSC) is comprised of a cross-section of district leaders from various departments to provide strategic support to the assigned feeder patterns. Teams serve a group of schools in one or more feeder patterns.
At Leadership Matters in June 2016, Principals were re-introduced to the Learning Supports Framework with a focus on the three component infrastructure of instruction, management/leadership, and learning supports, with alignment to the efforts of Accelerate JefCoEd. In July 2016, each school's leadership team met to immerse themselves in building a culture of continuous improvement through the framework and were tasked with developing discipline and attendance improvement plans.
The LSC came back together in December 2016 and developed an initial plan to serve schools with this new infrastructure. Preplanning considerations and guiding questions were vetted and a scaffolding for site visits was crafted. Site visits were completed in January 2017 and included discussions/dialogue with the Principal and his or her team for important feedback. Integrating the learning support framework with LSC representatives from instruction, management/leadership, and learning supports was the foundation for the structure of the school site visits.
At the LSC meeting February 10, 2017, District leaders were energized by their site visit experiences and were filled with suggestions to many of the complex issues that face the schools. Dr. Waltman reiterated how successful all baby steps were in moving forward. "Your district is making great strides in focusing on our goal and how important it is to celebrate all success no matter how small. You have made progress since we began this ambitious goal," she told the LSC. The LSC is continuing to work in an ongoing effort to develop their approach in serving schools with this infrastructure and will come together again in April 2017.
"All is now in place for evidence to start emerging from our classrooms because we are creating ownership and as that important ownership spreads through each faculty, results will be seen," said Dr. Jennifer Maye who has been a major cornerstone in this endeavor along with Dr. Phyllis Montalto.