Quincy Public Schools has a long-standing tradition of offering educational excellence to our students and their families, for the benefit of the greater community. From the youngest students in preschool to high school students in Advanced Placement courses or state-of-the art vocational training, our students grow and learn within a wide array of educational opportunities. In order to sustain and improve this educational excellence, school systems are compelled to consistently change in order to meet the ever-shifting needs of students and staff and the world beyond the classroom.
Quincy Public Schools is a school system and learning community that functions with cohesive and unified goals. We have a mission and vision that is reflective of the need to manage change, a philosophy of participatory and contributory decision-making, as well as a distributive model of leadership, all of which is embedded in the District Improvement Plan. Our belief is that through communication, meaningfully focused collaboration, and significant contribution, we can work to create an effective, safe, and nurturing learning environment for all students, while maintaining our focus on student achievement. (Quincy Public Schools Organizational chart)
Our District Improvement Plan consists of Components built upon the foundation of the Design Elements and Framework. All of these items facilitate the process of managing system change, based upon a three-step cyclical process: Planning, Implementation, and Assessment. As we work within this cyclical process, three significant Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) accountability and support measures are integrated and aligned within our District Improvement Plan Framework: the District Standards and Indicators; the Conditions for School Effectiveness; and the Framework for District Accountability and Assistance.
The cyclical process is expressed in the seven Design Elements: the Standards, Key Questions, Indicators, and Benchmarks all form a conceptual picture of an effective school system that sustains growth and supports ongoing improvement and represent the Planning part of the process. The remaining three Design Elements — Teams, Goals, and Sources of Evidence — detail how the professional staff, parents, School Committee, and administrators make this concept a reality for our students and represent the Implementation phase of the process. The Assessment phase follows Implementation and leads into Planning and thus the cycle continues. (Design Elements)
Each of the eleven District Improvement Plan Components and the District Improvement Plan Framework are built from these Design Elements. The six standards that form the basis of the District Improvement Framework come from the DESE District Standards, as do the two to three Key Questions whose answers support each standard, and the sixty-four indicators which share the responsibilities and expectations the school system should meet under each standard. The Benchmarks are created by our school system and are associated with each indicator to underscore accountability and share how the school system will meet the responsibilities and expectations of that indicator. (Aligned DESE Standards and Indicators)
The Teams, Goals, and Sources of Evidence are the key parts of the implementation phase. Over 100 teams have been formed to oversee and assess the many aspects of our school system. These teams are comprised of hundreds of teachers, counselors, principals, assistant principals, department heads, coordinators, directors, parents, secretaries, the School Committee, and other professional and para-professional staff. Each team establishes goals that initiate work within a specific process of managed change. The distributive leadership within the team participation and contributions build leaders, learners, and facilitators among the Quincy Public Schools staff. Incremental improvement can be evaluated by the success of each team’s completion of their goals. (Team Alignment Chart)(QPS Initiatives Chart)
To begin the Planning process, the District Improvement Plan Framework provides a foundation to review the prior year’s benchmarks, sources of evidence, and team/program responsibilities. The District Improvement Plan Framework embraces DESE’s Framework for District Accountability and Assistance and links to the state’s accountability and assistance activities for our Level 3 status. The DESE Framework provides common indicators and tools to diagnose problems and identify appropriate interventions. (District Improvement Plan Framework; DESE Framework for District Accountability and Assistance)
Teams and programs set no more than three goals with related action steps, timelines, and sources/documents of evidence. All of these goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed. Our system plans by setting goals, implements through action steps/timelines, and assesses these goals and action steps by applying monitoring criteria, staff contribution and participation, as well as sources of evidence. Sources of evidence share what documentation helps measure whether or not a benchmark or goal has been met. As part of the Assessment process, Benchmarks, responsible Teams, or Sources of Evidence may be added or updated in the Frameworks.
The eleven Components of the District Improvement Plan are related plans and information created for the School Committee and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) who review, approve, and/or enhance information to be communicated inside and outside of the school system. Within the eleven components, there are eight significant planning documents: School Committee Goals, Superintendent’s Annual Plan, the District Improvement Timeline, Curriculum & Assessment, Technology, Professional Development, School Improvement, and Program Improvement. The other components are the Quincy Public Schools Budget, the Annual System Profile, and the Educator Evaluation Process.
The Quincy School Committee meets at the beginning of each school year in order to Assess/Reflect on the previous year, Plan for the upcoming school year, and establish their Sub-Committee priorities. The Superintendent’s Annual Plan is discussed at many levels in the school system and is reviewed and approved by the School Committee in public session. The District Improvement Timeline shares all the components of the District Improvement Plan and the schedule for the Planning, Implementation, and Assessing/Reflecting cycle for each component. (Quincy School Committee Sub-Committee Connections; Superintendent’s Annual Plan; District Improvement Timeline)
The Curriculum and Assessment Plan shares the significant, data-driven system goals set by our Curriculum Management Team. These goals are shared with Principals, Program Directors, Academic Classroom Teachers, Academic Program, and Academic Support Staff. Their purpose is to offer system-wide direction in regard to their site and program Curriculum and Assessment goal statements. (2017-2018 Assessment Calendar)
We are proud of our Technology Plan and the difference quality instructional technology creates. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued benchmarks so that along with a mission statement and assessment of current technology, each district’s technology plan would develop a series of goals and action steps in the following areas: Technology and Curriculum Integration, Technology Professional Development, Equitable Access to Technology, Infrastructure and Connectivity, and Access to the Internet Outside the School Day.
Our District Improvement, Professional Development, School Improvement, Program Improvement, and Technology Plans respond to each of these technology benchmarks with a major emphasis placed on the need to continue and expand professional development opportunities for staff so that they can effectively enhance student learning by integrating technology into the curriculum. The new “basic skills” for the next century will require students to have the ability to access, analyze, and communicate information effectively. These information processing skills will enable our students to assume a productive role in technology-driven workplaces that are integral to our global economy.
As we know, professional development opportunities are critical to professional growth and student achievement. Our school system prides itself in addressing both of these important elements through our Professional Development Plan. The Professional Development Plan ensures the involvement of professional and support staff as learners, leaders, facilitators, and team members and encourage interdependence and collaboration among all of our staff members. (Professional Development Plan information is found in School Improvement Plans and Program Improvement Plans.)
In addition to requiring that each school system have a District Improvement Plan, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires that each school establish a School Council and create a School Improvement Plan (SIP) annually. The School Improvement Plans are developed using guidelines created by the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 and the Superintendent’s Leadership Team. The Superintendent’s Leadership Team guidelines protect the individuality of each school’s goal planning, yet provide for consistency in format and information reported. The purpose of these guidelines is to strengthen the local school system’s leadership and accountability for school improvement and to provide for school-based planning responsibilities of school councils. This foundation provides a more focused and responsive school system to serve our students, families, and community. Massachusetts’ Conditions for School Effectiveness are used in the School Improvement Plans for identified Level 3 schools. These school effectiveness conditions identify research-based practices that assist schools in effectively meeting the needs of all students. All of our plans identify opportunities to make each child’s learning experience as rich and rewarding as possible and to assist students to become strong academically, socially, and physically. (Massachusetts Conditions of School Effectiveness – Aligned; Elementary, Middle, and High School School Improvement Plans)
Other integral parts of our District Improvement Plan are the Academic Programs and Academic Support Programs Improvement Plans. These are an in-depth review and assessment of such valuable system-wide programs as Special Education, Literacy, Student Support Services, Health Services, and English Language Learners. These programs set goals that are integrated with the District Improvement Plan’s overall goal to sustain and enhance the learning opportunities of every student. (Academic Program Improvement Plans: Career and Technical Education, English Learner Education, Literacy, Early Childhood, Special Education; Academic Support Program Improvement Plans: Health Services, Technology & Training, Student Support Services)
Exceptional school systems build their futures on a thoughtful analysis of data from past school years. Historical data found within the Annual System Profile highlights Quincy Public Schools enrollment, demographics, risk factors, assessment, and other pertinent data. This District Improvement Plan component is the foundation for planning for many Academic and Academic Support Programs by helping to identify areas of achievement and potential for growth. (Annual System Profile)
The Educator Evaluation of teachers and administrators is the newest component of the Quincy Public Schools District Improvement Plan. The key design feature of the Educator Evaluation is the use of multiple measures of student learning, growth and achievement as a significant benchmark in all educator evaluations. Other important features are: four standards with indicators, three categories of evidence, four performance ratings, and a five-step evaluation process. It is imperative that this invaluable process be institutionalized through component status in our District Improvement Plan.
The final component of the District Improvement Plan is the Quincy Public Schools’ annual budget. Each budget is unique and its creation offers a myriad of challenges as our school system defines its priorities within the parameters of available resources. Each April, the Superintendent’s Leadership Team starts the budget-building process with a reflection on the budget from the current school year, academic program reviews, and projected increased costs in both the academic and non-academic area. The areas of priority are first expenditures for students and academic classroom teachers, followed by academic programs, academic support, non-academic support, subsidized programs, academic expenses, and non-academic expenses. This model is consistent with the priority of our School Committee being class sizes that adhere to their policy. Since fixed costs generally determine 85% of the entire school budget, it is incumbent to have an organized and systematic approach to justify and prioritize the funding for the remaining needs of the school system. Our spiraled approach of building the budget from the inside out recognizes all stakeholders and allocates resources in an open process that communicates the necessity of setting priorities. (QPS FY2018 Budget Book)(FY2018 Grants Booklet)
In order to sustain our growth and improve as a district, we believe we must break down the hierarchy of standards into a manageable size and give the responsibility to evaluate and assess the aspects of each standard to teams of invested staff members. The team alignment to the standards gives direction and the indicators and benchmarks give organizational focus. The team goal-setting process initiates actions that can be monitored by our sources of evidence. Success is evaluated by the completion or reassessment of each team’s goals, which in turn facilitates the ongoing process for improvement in our school system. Ultimately, our success is measured by the exceptional educational opportunities available to all of our students and their development into productive citizens who are invested the greater community.