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Domain 3 - Instructional Transformation

Each Domain has three practices that describe the broad activities involved in each domain. For each practice, the roles of the state, district, and school is briefly outlined. Practices are not provided in a suggested order of implementation.  Many practices might be implemented simultaneously, although it would be difficult and even counterproductive to focus on too many domains or practices at once. Decisions about what practices to implement when, and how, as well as necessary course adjustments, should consider the particular needs and context of the rapid improvement effort.

Practice 3A: Diagnose and Respond to Student Learning Needs

Practice Description

  • Diagnose student learning needs to drive all instructional decisions and evaluate their effectiveness in meeting the needs of prioritized students.
  • Based on identified needs, incorporate effective student supports and instructional or behavioral interventions.
  •  Use fluid, rapid assessment and adjustment of instructional grouping and delivery to meet all student learning needs.

Examples of How Different Levels of the System Can Enact this Practice 

State. Provide incentives around funding and support to LEAs and schools that target staffing improvements that ensure teachers have the time and capacity to diagnose and respond to each student’s needs. Provide training on fluid instructional groupings and selecting evidence-based strategies that address local needs.

District. Develop protocols to assist teachers in drilling down on individual student academic and/or behavioral needs and creating action plans aligned to those needs. Explore creative use of instructional time, which may include but is not limited to, options for extended learning such as longer school days, weeks, or summer sessions to support each student’s needs. In doing so, any additional instructional time should be structured and staffed to ensure high-quality learning will occur (continuing effective evidence  based practices). Ensure that data sources (e.g., benchmark assessments) exist for teachers to conduct frequent progress monitoring of student outcomes.

School. Regularly examine individual student data, carried out in team meetings, professional learning communities (PLCs), or in other planning sessions as part of teachers’ regular work and expectations. Creatively use fluid instructional groupings rather than year-long assignments that may not meet students’ (and teachers’) needs. For example, when students struggle with a certain concept, they could be assigned temporarily to a teacher whose data demonstrate that he or she teaches it well or differently from the students’ current teacher(s), placed in a small group for reteaching, or given individualized instruction. Provide teachers time within the school day to conduct such analysis and develop plans to address identified needs. Hold teachers accountable for doing so and for carrying out the plans they develop for students.

Practice 3B: Provide Rigorous Evidence-Based Instruction and Behavioral Supports

Practice Description

  • Implement high academic standards and behavioral expectations for all students and ensure access to rigorous standards-based curricula that is implemented with fidelity.
  • Provide ongoing coaching and progress monitoring to ensure evidence-based strategies are used in instructional planning and facilitation of student learning.
  • As gaps are identified in the curriculum or instructional delivery, develop plans to strengthen these key components.

Examples of How Different Levels of the System Can Enact this Practice

State. Provide district-level leaders with professional learning on state standards that enables them, in turn, to plan and provide learning opportunities that bolster teacher content knowledge to improve instructional delivery when needed. Provide guidance on using evidence to select curricular, behavioral, and instructional supports.

District. Work with schools’ instructional leadership teams to refresh, update, and bolster teachers’ content knowledge through ongoing professional learning opportunities on rigorous evidence-based instruction. Coordinate vertical alignment such that teachers understand what their students should have learned the prior year, before entering their classroom, and what their students will be expected to learn the following year. Examine curricular, behavioral, and instructional supports to ensure they are grounded in evidence, rigor, and the state standards.

School. Conduct a curriculum analysis and map lesson plans against standards to ensure the plans adequately represent the standards. Determine whether adjustments and supports are needed to ensure all students have equitable access to the curricula. In each instructional mode utilized - whether whole class, small group, independent work, technology-based, or homework - ensure that teachers routinely utilize the best instructional practices for that mode and that school leaders support their development of those practices.

Practice 3C: Remove Barriers and Provide Opportunities

Practice Description

  • Systematically identify and eliminate barriers to equitable access to student learning and participation in elective courses and extra-curricular opportunities.
  • Enhance learning by providing relevant opportunities for exploration and expand options to prepare for college, career, military, and other life skills pathways.
  • Provide multiple opportunities for all students by engaging with families and other strategic partners to support all students in overcoming obstacles and developing personal competencies that propel success in school and life.

Examples of How Different Levels of the System Can Enact this Practice

State. Support districts in developing early warning systems to identify students who may be falling behind, giving the school an opportunity for timely intervention. Identify and network with other state-level entities that could serve as partners for schools and districts. Create access to services that districts can deploy in order to meet students’ needs that, if left unaddressed, can impede learning (e.g., health care, clothing, nutrition).

District. Identify and remove any barriers (whether policies or practices) that stand in the way of all students having an equitable opportunity to learn at higher levels and participate in extracurricular activities. Identify the district’s most prevalent nonacademic barriers to student learning. Disseminate this information to principals, and during meetings with principal supervisors to continually revisit how community resources can be leveraged creatively to meet students’ basic needs.

School. Track student progress and help students regain lost ground through academic supports (e.g., tutoring, co-curricular activities, tiered interventions), extended learning opportunities (e.g., summer bridge programs, after-school and supplemental educational services, Saturday academies, enrichment programs), credit recovery programs, and virtual courses. Give students demonstrating sufficient prior mastery access to higher level assignments and courses. Network with nearby organizations in the community to identify available supports — or to generate new supports — for students. Consider having medical, dental, and social-emotional services available on-site on a regular basis. Provide onsite laundry service for families in need. Provide food for students during extended learning sessions and other periods when they are at school outside of regular school hours.

Domain 3 Reflection Questions 

  • How will teachers diagnose each individual student’s learning needs? What tools, systems, and structures need to be established?
  • How can fluid grouping of students be implemented and supported?
  • How will alignment of instruction with standards be facilitated?
  • Identify possible barriers to student learning and how each level of the system can work to remove those academic and non-academic barriers in schools in improvement.
  • How will teachers guide and track the progress of each student? What tools, systems, and structures need to be established?
  • Who will establish these tools, systems, and structures?
  • What learning benchmarks will teachers use in order to guide and track the progress of students?
  • What types of early warning systems will identify students who may be falling behind? Who will be held accountable for establishing those early warning systems?
  • What evidence-based interventions are used to help students who are falling behind? How might those be adjusted or changed? Who will be included in the team to adjust or change those interventions?
  • How can funds be leveraged by your schools to provide additional academic and behavioral supports, extended learning opportunities, credit recovery programs, and virtual courses? Are there stakeholders who would be willing to financially support these programs? How do teachers challenge students that are exceeding their current level of schooling? What types of programs does your schools offer?
  • What types of higher-level assessments and courses have your schools offered in the past and have they worked well to challenge gifted or advanced students? What can schools do differently to challenge gifted or advanced students?
  • How do teachers give students authentic experiences, to connect their interests with real world applications?
  • How do your schools involve community members and stakeholders in offering internships, career exploration, and service-learning opportunities? Who will be held accountable for helping make these connections for your students?