Wisconsin Graduation Rate Improvement Plan


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Improving Outcomes Through Planning and Implementing

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1. School Leadership and Districtwide Diagnostics
School Leadership – PEFA* Task Force Beliefs
  • "The school community sets high expectations for all students, fosters a sense of belonging, infuses instruction with culturally relevant practices, and celebrates individual as well as group achievements."
  • "Highly effective school and instructional leaders close race-based achievement gaps by empowering students of color to become actively engaged in their own learning. Students, staff, and families, who are supported and motivated by one another, form a community that embraces cultural differences and allows members to express themselves openly."
"We made a commitment as educators when we walked into our classrooms for the first time that we will reach every kid in our classroom. We didn't make a commitment to reach 75% of the students."
- Dr. Desmond Means, Superintendent, Mequon-Thiensville School District

Vision. Agreed upon statements that provide a clear purpose and goal for meeting; describes the mutual benefit for all members, youth and families. Principals of high-achieving schools communicate to all stakeholders that learning is the school's most important mission (Cotton, 2003; Marzano et al., 2005).

Student Leadership. Highly effective leadership also provides clarity of purpose and strategic planning, leads collective inquiry into best practice and current reality, is action orientated, focuses on results, and builds strong leaders who empower others. (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Karnahek, 2006). One consistent finding in the research is the importance of well-structured opportunities for collaboration that allow school leaders to work in closer partnership with their teachers and students to establish sustained, continuous improvement systems rooted in ongoing data analysis. (Chenoweth, 2009). Many strong leaders know how to have "courageous conversations" about race and culture as they lead to close the achievement gaps. (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2014; Schumann, Zaki, & Dweck, in press; Singleton & Linton, 2005)

Districtwide Diagnostics - Data Analysis and Early Warning Systems. States, districts and schools have developed comprehensive, longitudinal, student level databases that, at a minimum, include data on student absences, grade retention, and low academic achievement, e.g. an Early Warning System. Data should be reviewed regularly, with a particular emphasis before the transitions to middle school and high school. Data systems support a realistic diagnosis of the number of students who dropout and help identify individual students at-high risk of dropping out. A well-implemented early warning system can help educators and others identify students at-risk of dropping out and assign and monitor interventions to keep them on track for graduation and increasing local and state graduation rates.

2. Family and Community Relationships
Family and Community Relationships – PEFA* Task Force Beliefs
  • "Schools are strengthened by a diverse community in which to live, work, and grow—we choose diverse schools."
  • "When we engage culturally and linguistically diverse families and communities, we feel we are making a difference because we are actively seeking out diverse families as partners who have valuable contributions to make toward the success of their children."
  • "We believe new and different ways of engaging families based on mutual trust and respect are required because our schools belong to all."
"After my first year, I could see the difference. I went from thinking 'why am I here?' to feeling like I was part of a new family."
- Rebecca Panjan, Teacher, Starbuck Middle School (Racine)
Student and Family Characteristics. . Understanding the child's personal or family characteristics that may impact successful school participation and completion will give educators a better understanding the child’s learning difficulties. Once the teacher is aware and acknowledges the impact of these characteristics, he or she will have more patience with the student and tools to create a safe, personalized learning environment that results in helping students feel secure and included when learning is taking place.

Family Engagement. Research consistently finds that family engagement has a direct, positive effect on children's achievement and is the most accurate predictor of a student's success in school. When all groups in a community provide collective support to the school, a strong infrastructure sustains a caring and supportive environment where youth can thrive and achieve.

Community Relationships. When all groups in a community provide collective support to the school, a strong infrastructure sustains a caring and supportive environment where youth can thrive and achieve.

3. Student-Educator Learning Supports
Student-Educator Learning Supports – PEFA* Task Force Beliefs
  • "Positive student–teacher relationships start with a safe, trusting, culturally responsive environment in which both students and teachers are empowered to have open conversations, share personal information, and create authentic connections to foster long-term relationships beyond the classroom."
  • "Open conversations about race, ethnicity, disabilities, and culture should be intentional, and other modes of cultural competence should be infused into the classroom."
  • "We create a safe space to hear students' experiences and voices and that builds trust."
"We are expected to challenge children, but it is okay for us to be challenged by them too"
- Tricia Olander, Teacher, Notre Dame Middle School (Milwaukee)
Mentoring. The practiced art of developing and maintaining positive and helpful human relationships. Mentoring is a one-to-one caring, supportive relationship between a mentor and a mentee that is based on trust, and is an effective strategy for working with youth in at-risk situations and in need of role models and a positive support system.

Tutoring and Academic Support. Tutoring, also a one-to-one activity, focuses on academics and is an effective practice when addressing specific needs such as reading, writing, or math competencies. Additional academic support and enrichment improves academic performance. These activities should be implemented in conjunction with other recommendations that serve youth in at-risk situations that are part of the district's comprehensive dropout prevention programs.

4. Effective Instruction and Targeted Interventions
Effective Instruction and Targeted Interventions – PEFA* Task Force Beliefs
  • "We honor cultural backgrounds, acknowledge similarities, and provide diverse perspectives and multiple modalities for learning."
  • "In our culturally responsive learning environments, students of color are valued, respected, and accepted as individuals."
  • "Students of color are provided equal access to a rigorous curriculum."
  • "We are critically aware of our own cultural identity and the ways it permeates our world views. We draw from the students' cultural backgrounds and experiences to connect to the curriculum."
  • "The classroom environment empowers students to take risks."
"You put a caring administrator in every school and a caring teacher in every classroom, you’ll close the achievement gaps."
- Dean Hess, Principal, John Muir Middle School (Wausau)
Personalized Learning Environments. A personalized learning environment creates a sense of belonging and fosters a school climate where students and teachers get to know one another and can provide academic, social, and behavioral encouragement. "Environment" includes school and classroom strategies working together to create a safe and inclusive environment that is welcoming to both students and families. Students find new and creative ways to solve problems, achieve success, and become lifelong learners when educators show them that there are different ways to learn.

Rigorous and Relevant Instruction. Rigorous and relevant instruction better engages students in learning and provides the skills needed to graduate and to serve them after they leave school. Engagement can be increased by providing students with the necessary skills to complete high school and by introducing students to postsecondary options. Technology courses offer some of the best opportunities for delivering instruction, while engaging students in authentic learning, addressing multiple intelligences, and adapting to students' learning styles.