CASDA’s Mission in Action: Powerful Partnerships with the University at Albany’s School of Education

February 16, 2017

Motivated by the mission as catalysts, conveners, community developers and capacity builders, CASDA faculty have collaborated with researchers and faculty at the University at Albany’s School of Education on two successful programs designed to share research and encourage sharing evidence-based practices. The NYKids Project in the School of Education and the Teacher Leadership Quality Partnership Grant Program represent eight years of direct work with school teams using research and best practices for school teams to ensure continuous school improvement.

 

The NYKids Project, led by Dr. Kristen Wilcox, principal investigator of research studies and assistant professor in the Educational Theory and Practices in the Educational Theory and Practices Department of the School of Education. Dr. Wilcox developed the COMPASS tools and oversees or leads all COMPASS training. Betsey Schuhle, formerly of CASDA, serves as project director. CASDA faculty members Nancy Andress and Susan Tangorre are facilitators for NYKids team training.  Over 40 school teams have been trained in using COMPASS tools and planning process. The website, www.albany.edu/nykids,  provides free tools including interactive displays of school performance data, studies on high schools, middle schools and elementary schools and best practice frameworks.

 

The goals of the COMPASS (Compare, Assess priorities, Select levers for improvement, Set SMART goals and develop action plans) is to engage school teams, led by the principal, in reflective, collaborative inquiry that looks holistically at how to impact student performance. The institutes at CASDA or school based-workshops are usually done in two days and guide school teams to use web-based tools and studies from higher and average- performing schools to identify best practices in curriculum, instruction and critical school issues. Workshops allow teams time and support for developing schoolwide goals and the freedom to innovate to meet the goal. Once schools develop action plans, guidance for implementation and follow-up is provided by CASDA and University staff. Schools participating in School Reviews have found COMPASS to provide support for developing SCEP or LAP plans. Asked for feedback after one institute a teacher wrote, “The institute allowed us to think through and discuss where we are now and where we can go. The time with colleagues and time to focus on specific pieces of our school was invaluable.” Current NYKids projects  with school teams are in Fort Plain Junior Senior High School and Harry Hoag Elementary in Fort Plain Central School District and Karigon Elementary in Shenendehowa Central School District.

 

The second CASDA partnership with the School of Education is a New York State grant-funded initiative, Teacher Leadership Quality Partnership (TLQP), and the Albany City School District. This is the eighth year of the grant which builds learning communities to improve student achievement in four elementary schools: Albany School of the Humanities, Montessori Magnet School, Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Learning and Delaware Community School. Dr. Cheryl Dozier of the Department of Reading is the Project Director. Nancy Andress and Susan Tangorre assist her for CASDA in planning and guidance for professional development and school improvement. More than 40 teachers and paraprofessionals work with principals in school teams on TLQP projects which are responsive to teaching and learning needs identified in school or district improvement plans. With the support of Dr. Dozier, school teams collaborate to use grant funds for student projects on drama, dance, environmental studies, Descriptive Review, literacy, community gardens, mindfulness, whole school book study, STEM partnerships, enrichment activities, outdoor learning and collaborative data teams.

 

Each year all teams involved meet for a fall and spring seminar and at the end of the year attend a two-day Final Symposium at the University to share projects through an Artifact Museum. This included multi-media presentations, student work and interactive technology demonstrations. Each year an author delivers a keynote as part of the symposium. Last June Dr. Patricia Edwards, an award-winning author from Michigan State University, spoke to the group on parent and community engagement. In the final evaluation in June one teacher responded, “TLQP has focused the goals at our school. The resources have empowered me as an educator to focus on my students’ emotional, social and communication skills. I have been given the resources, help and community to give my students strong self-esteem, a voice, and the empathy to love accept and respect others.”

 

For more information on the NYKids COMPASS project, summer institutes and workshops contact bschuhle@albany.edu.

 

For information on the TLQP program contact nandress@casdany.org.

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