Areas for improvement targeted
CENTREVILLE — Interim Superintendent for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, Gregory Pilewski launched the first “QACPS Innovation Center” in August in response to the Curriculum Management audit findings.
The Innovation Center — five teams comprised of QACPS principals, assistant principals, academic deans and teacher specialists — is a way to address the areas needing improvement brought to light by the curriculum audit. A team based approach, broken down into five specific areas is a manageable way to efficiently address these concerns more expediently while allowing and encouraging faculty to be involved in the process, explained Pilewski.
Each team focuses on a specific area, Organizational Effectiveness; Early Learning and School Readiness; Curriculum, Instructional Tools, and Assessment; Leadership and Building Capacity; and Monitoring Progress and Performance, with the overall lens for the work of equity, equality, diversity and culture.
“This [Innovation Center] is really an outgrowth of listening to the needs of the teachers, administrators and parents,” said Pilewski.
Pilewski and Janet Pauls, assistant superintendent for instructional services and school improvement, head the five teams that comprise the Innovation Center. “These are five high-performing teams, playing on the strengths of our employees,” said Pilewski, “all five working in harmony together.” The five teams have the opportunity to work together in person and via the internet and will report to the executive team monthly.
The audit, conducted by the International Curriculum Management Audit Center Phi Delta Kappa, was a third-party independent organizational analysis of the curriculum and instruction functions looking at ways to improve achievement for all students, said Pilewski.
The audit found some areas that needed improvement, citing “board policies are inadequate to provide local curriculum management direction ... some critical positions for quality control were absent.”
The audit also concluded there was a lack of comprehensive curriculum management plan in place to guide the design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of the curriculum; further indicating that a broader scope of the written curriculum could be helpful in providing better direction for teaching staff. And suggested planned and implemented professional development opportunities for teachers would increase student success.
In all, eight recommendations were made by the curriculum audit team to strengthen and develop staff job descriptions and expectations and ensure a more consistent curriculum delivery with an emphasis on clarity and cohesive written plans. These recommendations are being evaluated and addressed in part through the Innovation Center.
Pilewski said, “Our classroom teachers, administrators, and supervisors have experienced a tremendous amount of educational reform initiatives over the past several years. Often, educational initiatives were implemented all at once.
Our teachers, administrators, and supervisors have done a fantastic job making these shifts as we transitioned to new standards and assessments and analyzed our results, we wanted to take a closer look at our core functions of teaching and learning. We reflected and asked ourselves: what are we doing well that we can build on and where can we improve to close gaps in student learning?”
The Innovation Center is a tool to allow all administrators to be a part of the process — addressing issues identified by the curriculum audit — and looking ahead to what future needs might be, said Pilewski.
“The structure [of the Innovation Center] allows for greater alignment of our organizational efforts and resource allocations with our district strategic goals. We anticipate improved clarity, transparency and efficiency,” he said.
The Board of Education and Superintendent have set forth goals that we hope to achieve with the support of the teams in the Innovation Center and we are working to develop action plans to reach those goals. As the plans are implemented the responsibility of the board will be to ensure fiscal responsibility, monitor timelines and set or revise policies as necessar y, explained Pilewski.
One example of what the Innovation Center is working on presently, is technology as an instructional tool, said Pilewski.
Chromebooks are now being used by grades 3-12, and we face a host of challenges, he said. How the device is used, implemented in the classroom, how we can utilize it to our best advantage, and how we integrate technology in the overall instruction process. We also have to look at what the next few years will bring, what is the refresh and looking ahead to budget assessments as we may be expecting to rollout new devices, he summarized.
One of the other teams is monitoring the elementary grading system that first came out last school year. Reviewing and monitoring the implementation of the new grading system and making recommendations where necessar y, said Pilewski.
The Innovation Center is also focusing on closing the achievement gap by grade 2, said Pilewski, getting students ready to do kindergarten work, with pre-k programs and outside partnerships — an area that had previously been found lacking.
In short, Pilewski hopes the Innovation Center will generate high payoff solutions to system challenges and target and support the instructional core ... accelerating the exploration of new ideas to support all students.