Highland Academy is a grades 7-12 cyber-charter school in a western state. Over 1200 students are enrolled covering all regions of the state. Student population is very diverse including students engaged in international athletic competition, study of the arts, former home schoolers, and former dropouts. Academic instruction and support services are delivered face-to-face online and at regional sites. LeadershipEnergies (LE) provided an online diagnostic inventory (VitalInsight™) for stakeholders to complete a needs assessment and root cause analysis of performance strengths and vulnerabilities. A performance improvement plan was developed with the school’s leadership team.
Description: A state-wide cyber-charter school
Project Type: Develop a performance improvement plan with strategies and tactics addressing priorities, fine-tuning structures, positions, and relationships to accomplish goals, and establishing a standards-based self-assessment program to accelerate the professional growth of the faculty.
Highland Academy is experiencing enrollment growth of 100 or more students annually, and concurrently has a similar problem of onboarding new employees. The main challenge was to develop and implement a plan that would improve the performance quality of the school and staff and increase student achievement and graduation rates while experiencing rapid growth. There were subordinate challenges: 1) implement an appropriate academic and support program for every student; 2) establish ongoing positive relationships among students, families, and school; 3) define roles and responsibilities among a variety of positions and teams to provide consistent, high quality instruction and effective student support; and 4) translate expectations for faculty and staff performance improvement into a program of self-assessment and collegial and coach support for rapid performance quality growth.
VitalInsight™ (VI) results and data from the required state’s “needs assessment and root cause analysis” and process were used to prepare a three year improvement plan. After several meetings with members of the School Leadership Team (SLT) and interviews with faculty and staff members, LE developed Horizontal Organization Charts and descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of employees in chart positions. The Charts identified people working at a dozen Key Contact Points (KCP) where people, programs, protocols, and metrics come together in cooperative and effective team efforts to achieve academic and personal goals. In addition, LE developed with the SLT a standards-based faculty self-assessment instrument to determine each faculty member’s level of mastery in twelve professional development topics. The ten point scale used to establish mastery levels starts at step one (familiar with knowledge and skill) and is used to measure improvements over time. For example, step three defines the practice in each PD topic as, “comfort exists at being video-taped and observed by colleagues implementing a new skill.” At step six a faculty member plans lessons with colleagues who observe one another, provide feedback, and implement modified trials until comfortable with sharing process and results with the faculty. And at step 10, the faculty member is recognized as expert in one or more PD topics and has successfully led multiple workshops and trainings of other faculty members. Faculty members establish in annual Professional Growth Plans, the topics in which they will demonstrate growth, and how and with whom that will be accomplished.
The performance improvement plan was approved by the Board of Trustees and the Utah State Board of Education. The descriptions of the Horizontal Organization Chart and the roles and responsibilities of people in the KCP were reviewed with school leaders who in turn were prepared to teach and support department and grade band team members. Department and grade band team leaders oversee implementation of the strategies to achieve goals. Faculty members completed the online self-assessment instrument in September. The reports were generated and distributed. The results were used to complete annual professional growth plans.
“In my twenty-eight years as an educator, this is the most effective diagnostic tool (VI) I’ve used, and that’s including the ones developed by accreditation companies.”
—Dolores Cooke, Ph.D., Principal
*The case study is real and positions of personnel are accurate. Names of districts, schools, and personnel have been changed.