State Superintendent of Education John White signed a three-year partnership agreement with Superintendent Lamar Goree of the Caddo Parish School Board, establishing the Caddo Transformation Next Zone, a plan to transform 14 of Shreveport’s most challenged schools through ambitious goals, community-based accountability, attracting top educators, intensive supports for teachers, and broad decision-making authority for principals.
The agreement is part of an ongoing effort by state and district leadership to improve schools in Caddo Parish and is in lieu of action by the Recovery School District (RSD) to assume control of select Caddo schools.
State and parish leadership will establish long-term and annual goals for each school in the Zone. Goals will include the elimination of long-term substitute teachers, out-of-license area teachers, and teacher vacancies. Goals will also include increases in literacy and math skills, ACT scores, and high school graduation rates.
The Caddo Parish Superintendent will hire and oversee a full-time Transformation and Innovation Officer to guide the Zone and its progress. The State Superintendent will appoint a Liaison to support the Zone, and the Zone will be advised by a council of diverse local leaders who will hold public meetings, review progress and make recommendations to both the state and the district as to needed changes. All appointees to these roles will be named by April 30, 2017.
At the school level, principals within the Zone will be granted unprecedented levels of authority to hire, evaluate and terminate staff; to identify effective curricula and professional development plans; and to establish an annual school calendar and daily schedule that maximizes time with students enrolled at the school.
Effective teachers and other educators will be eligible for pay increases of more than $15,000 annually for working effectively in Zone schools. Every school in the Zone will be supported by the nationally recognized Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, providing training, ongoing support, and daily collaborative planning among teachers.
“The Zone is a common sense set of solutions in schools that have struggled,” said State Superintendent John White. “Set ambitious goals. Empower the school leader to make decisions. Attract top teachers and end the constant teacher turnover. Give the community a regular forum to offer feedback. These steps will work for kids in Caddo Parish.”
For Caddo, the efforts directly address longstanding concerns that have hindered the speed at which schools have turned around.
“We’ve come such a long way in less than three years of our work in the Transformation Zone yet we have much more to do in order to ensure every child has access to the highest quality education,” Goree said. “This partnership agreement seeks to attract passionate, gifted educators to our most struggling classrooms while supporting our teachers and principals with nationally recognized professional development programs coupled with competitive salaries and incentives. There is no doubt this will continue to be the hardest work for any teacher to enter, but it is also the most rewarding. We have changed lives in the Zone for the better with the work we are doing, and I truly believe this partnership builds on that success in substantive and profound ways.”
Tony Davis, District 4 representative on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), said the plan reflects a true partnership of state and local efforts to efficiently and effectively address disparities and improve school performance in Caddo Parish.
“I’m proud of the transparency of this plan for future accountability, and confident that this balanced and locally-driven approach will result in real progress for the most challenged schools and the district as a whole,” Davis added.
The partnership is a strong example of how the Department will continue its work with school systems to create more autonomous and accountable schools in its pursuit of improving results for kids. This is particularly important as Louisiana begins to implement its plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which requires each state to present comprehensive school improvement strategies.
To demonstrate its dedication to this charge, the Department will financially support the expansion of the TAP model to all Zone schools, the work of the District Management Group to review district efficiencies, and National Board Certification for teachers through May 2020.
The local school board will support all other compensation costs contained in the agreement that are not associated with the state-supported initiatives.
At the end of the three-year term, in May 2020, the Department and the school system will analyze the agreement and its outcomes and determine whether it is sustainable.
Principals of schools in the Zone have expressed excitement about the opportunities ahead. Midway Elementary Principal Marvin Rainey, for example, said one of the greatest supports provided in the partnership is the financial assistance provided to teachers to pursue National Board Certification. Rainey, who attained National Board Certification in 2011, sees the program as one of the most intensive but rewarding training processes in the country.
“As a teacher at a struggling school, you are more focused on how best to meet the needs of your students,” Rainey said. “You give so much of your own time and finances where you may not have the means to take that next step and go through the certification process because of the costs associated with it. This provides an opportunity for our teachers to achieve a prestigious certification that grows them as educators and makes them better teachers for our students. Ultimately, student achievement will improve as a result of the plan presented today.”
Werner Park Elementary Principal Shunda Huff agreed that incentives and professional development opportunities for educators were important to recruit and retain staff, and in turn, support students.
“We feel incredibly supported by a district that has worked directly with the state to advocate for what we need in order to be the most successful we can be,” Huff said. “We have spent the past three years making the most of every opportunity to address the needs of our students whether through student-specific professional development or extensive work to better involve our community. Each component of this agreement expands on what we are doing well and speaks to realities we continue to face. This will benefit children and our community.”