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Pathway Beyond an ADC

Pathway Beyond an Academic Distress Commission

Considerations for District Academic Improvement Plans to Exit ADC Status (ORC 3302.103)
Introduction
The Department of Education is committed to working closely with district boards of education, Chief Executive Officers and Chairs of Academic Distress Commissions to successfully implement the recent provisions adopted in H.B. 110 that set forth a path to return control of the district to the local board. Our goal is to facilitate the process as much as possible and ensure fairness and honesty throughout. We support open communication and invite engagement at any point during the process.

This document has been prepared to help districts understand in advance, as much as possible, what the Department of Education will be looking for in submitted plans. We hope this will help avoid significant back-and-forth of plan consideration. Also, the Department is willing to review or provide advice on a preliminary (unofficial) basis, regarding any proposed ideas or concepts that may be considered for the plan.

Key Provisions of Law
The following are key provisions of the enacted law:
District Academic Improvement Plan: Within 90 days (September 30, 2021) of the effective date of Ohio Revised Code (ORC) section 3302.103, the district board, in consultation with stakeholders, the academic distress commission, and the chief executive officer, shall develop and submit an academic improvement plan to the State Superintendent.

Effective Period: The plan shall operate for a period of three school years, effective July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2025.
Benchmarks and Targets: The plan shall include annual and overall academic improvement benchmarks for the district and strategies for achieving those benchmarks.

Criteria for Release from Academic Distress Commission Status: If the district meets at least a majority of the academic improvement benchmarks, the academic distress commission shall be dissolved.

Guiding Principles, Recommendations and Considerations for the Academic Improvement Plan
In the interest of helping districts understand what standards will be applied to the Department’s consideration of submitted plans, the following principles, recommendations and considerations are offered. The guiding principles, considerations for annual and overall benchmarks, and considerations for strategies that follow are provided to assist the three local boards of education develop their respective academic improvement plans.

Guidance and Recommendations for Plan Strategies
In order to support an efficient and effective plan review and approval process, districts should follow the suggestions and guidance contained in this document. It may be easiest for districts, as a starting point, to build their plan from the existing district improvement plan currently in place as prescribed in ORC 3302.10. The academic improvement plan should be an enhancement of these plans or highly aligned to the existing plan, rather than a radical departure from them.

Generally speaking, research is clear on the key components of what is required to drive school and district improvement. Plans should specifically address the following four areas, both from a district- level perspective as well as for each school:
  • Leadership: The quality of school and district leadership is paramount. The plan should discuss the quality of school and district leadership (including individuals such as Board members, principals and other administrators, as well as ways in which teacher and staff leadership are supported). Consideration should be given to district and building leadership recruitment and retention and professional growth strategies, including teambuilding, and quality coaching as appropriate.
  • School Culture & Improvement Processes: A high quality plan can only work in an organization where the staff and leaders embrace a culture of success and improvement. The plan should reflect on the current state of culture and improvement processes at the school and district levels and what strategies will be employed to improve and support a culture of success and improvement. Supporting structures, data analyses, and improvement processes should be considered, including the maintenance or development of a culture regarding how these are utilized by teachers and staff to improve student success.
  • Teaching & Learning: Effective teaching and learning must be the foundation for improving academic growth and achievement for students. Plans should include a discussion of instructional frameworks and/or strategies, ensuring that standards-aligned curriculum is in use, and appropriate teacher professional growth activities (including coaching, as appropriate).
  • Climate & Student Supports: A successful academic experience relies on a school climate that is student focused and creates engagement and belonging by students. Non-academic supports and school climate have a powerful effect on student academic outcomes. The plan should discuss how student voice will be honored, the implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, connecting caring adults to students, and other approaches that nurture a positive learning climate for students.
In addition, plans should address the following concepts:
  • Collaborative Plan Development: Among the most important contributors to success of improvement plan implementation is a shared understanding and commitment by the organization. This is best achieved through inclusive practices for plan development. Districts should work closely with unions, parent organizations, community partners and others in identifying and embracing plan elements.
  • Independent Monitoring System: Consideration should be given to routine, consistent independent monitoring of the implementation of identified strategies (“boots on the ground”), including feedback to appropriate personnel.
  • Partnership Support: There are many organizations and entities in Ohio and nationally that have successfully supported school improvement. It is recommended that districts identify and secure the services of competent partners with proven track records to support them in their improvement work.
  • Documentation of Consultation: The plan shall include a section describing the requirement of law for “consultation with stakeholders, the academic distress commission, and the chief executive officer.” An explanation of the stakeholders and the process should be included.
Principles and Recommendations for Annual and Overall District Benchmarks
Principles: The following are four key principles for the establishment of benchmarks. These principles should guide the definitions and selection of measures.
  • Fair: Each academic improvement plan must include academic benchmarks and strategies. These benchmarks and strategies should be reasonable to the district and for stakeholders, both ambitious and achievable. Consideration should be given to benchmarking against similar districts.
  • Honest: Districts should avoid any appearance that the selection of benchmarks is deliberately designed to make it easy to achieve the “majority” standard in the law. Benchmarks should be meaningful and strongly related to supporting improving academic achievement.
  • Ambitious: Benchmarks should challenge the district and schools to demonstrate academic improvement and include related strategies that task adults to improve behavior, improve systems, and improve climate and culture for achieving the benchmarks.
  • Achievable: Benchmarks, while being ambitious, should also be realistic and allow the district to demonstrate an upward trajectory in specific student academic areas. It is acceptable that benchmarks be stratified and disaggregated, as long as such stratification or disaggregation creates a set of benchmarks that include all measured students.
Recommendations and Considerations for Benchmarks: For the portion of the plan that relates to the proposed benchmarks, districts should consider the following:
  • Baseline data and targets: Each benchmark shall include a baseline. The year or time period of the baseline data point shall be clearly indicated. Each benchmark shall include three years of targets. The presentation of the data shall include computed values for the change in the benchmark each year.
  • Rationale: Each benchmark listed in the academic improvement plan should be specific, quantifiable, measurable, and accompanied with a rationale explaining its relevance and importance. Historical data over the past 3 years may be included in the rationale.
  • Focused: To ensure focused intentionality, plans should include enough benchmarks to provide a complete picture of the district, while remaining attentive to important academic benchmarks.
  • Local Assessment: Due to challenges and lags in state data, districts are encouraged to use data derived from locally chosen assessments that are likely to remain stable throughout the implementation of the plan. Historical data or data from the 2021-22 school year may be considered for use as baseline data.
  • Math, Reading, English Language Arts: Consideration of foundational academic skills should be a key element of the benchmarks selected.
  • Performance Index (PI): The PI score may be considered as a reliable and fair state-level score that can demonstrate improvement. However, it should be recognized that plans may need to use a PI baseline based on the 2018-2019 report card, since no other PI computation will be available by the time plans are required to be submitted.
  • Graduation Rate: Showing improvement in graduation rate(s) is an indication of student improvement.
  • Related Data: Consideration of other data that supports academic success is encouraged, such as grade point averages, discipline rates, attendance, student surveys, and staff surveys.
  • School-Building Level: Data at the building level is highly encouraged, as it provides a snapshot of what is affecting the district historical data and the district benchmarks.
  • Stratification of Data: High student mobility is a common theme among ADC districts. Stratifying benchmark data for students who have been, for example, attending school in the district for 5 or more consecutive years may be a way to demonstrate a clear and fair picture of how the district is performing. However, such stratification shall be done in a manner where multiple related stratified measures encompass 100% of measured students.
Note on Benchmarks: Given that the benchmarks and targets will need to be established in the plan, but that the plan will be established many months prior to the beginning of its implementation (July 2022), the Department intends to allow for plan updates to be suggested.

Important Dates
June 30, 2021: 
Effective date of the statute (ORC 3302.103).

July 1, 2021 – September 30, 2021: District boards of education, in consultation with stakeholders, the ADC, and CEO, shall develop and submit an academic improvement plan to the State Superintendent. The plan shall operate for 3 years, and include annual and overall academic benchmarks for the district, and strategies to achieve those benchmarks.

30 Days from Submission of Improvement Plan: State Superintendent shall approve or suggest modifications. Should the State Superintendent require modifications, the district board has 15 days to resubmit the plan.

Date of Plan Approval through June 30, 2022: The district board shall begin to prepare to implement the plan (the plan shall be in effect July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2025). The ADC and CEO shall work with the district in preparing to implement the plan.

July 1, 2022:
  • Implementation of the plan officially begins
  • CEO is removed
  • District board shall resume all powers granted to it in the ORC
  • ADC continues to exist & provide assistance to the board
  • The district may hire the former CEO as its superintendent. If so, the Department will compensate the individual under the terms of the CEO contract.
July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2025 or June 30, 2026 or June 30, 2027, if extension(s) granted:
  • The district is not subject to ORC 3302.10.
  • The district may hire the former CEO as its superintendent. If so, the Department will
    compensate the individual under the terms of the CEO contract. The Department continues to compensate this individual until the district hires a different person as superintendent or the ADC is dissolved or becomes subject to ORC 3302.10.
  • Implementation of the improvement plan operates throughout this time period.
  • The district board shall provide annual reports to the state board of education on the progress toward achieving the benchmarks in the plan.
  • The auditor of state shall complete a performance audit of the school district once during this time period, and submit the results to the district board and the ADC.
  • The district board may submit a request to the State Superintendent to modify the
    improvement plan during the implementation period. The improvement plan shall not be modified without the State Superintendent’s approval.
June 30, 2025: If the district meets a majority of the benchmarks, the ADC shall be dissolved. At this point, the district board is responsible for compensation of the superintendent.
If the district does not meet a majority of the benchmarks, it may ask the State Superintendent for an extension of one year. It may do so two times, pending approval by the State Superintendent.

June 30, 2027: Final date (assuming 2 extensions) for the district to meet a majority of the benchmarks. If the district does not meet a majority of the benchmarks, the district shall be subject to ORC 3302.10, the ADC appoints a new CEO, and the CEO assumes the powers being exercised prior to July 1, 2022 under ORC 3302.10.
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