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Chapter 2: Exploring

Step 1: Getting Started

Needs and Readiness Assessment

ACE is an equity-focused initiative, ensuring that students with the greatest need have access to effective educators, data-driven instruction, enrichment opportunities, social and emotional learning supports and community involvement. It includes implementing five core components . (as mentioned in Phase 1, Step 1), on a school campus that can lead to significant results. This section will help districts explore the initiative and assess their need and readiness.

When district leaders are considering the ACE initiative, it is important that they reflect on the level of need of the district, meaning the number of schools that would benefit from the model, and the level of readiness to implement the initiative, meaning whether the conditions are in place or could be in place to ensure successful implementation. By completing and discussing the self-assessment below, district leaders can better understand whether the district will benefit from ACE, and what the steps are to move forward.

Best in Class is also available to discuss additional details regarding the ACE initiative and implementation supports available with districts. To develop a customized support plan to provide districts and community partners the aforementioned services, Best in Class uses tools such as robust data analysis, convening relevant stakeholders, and aligning stakeholders on common goals, priorities, and strategies through intentional facilitation.

These efforts typically follow the following cycle:
  • Problem Identification

    Intensive collaboration with district and community stakeholders to identify and frame the problem and develop a project timeline

  • Input Gathering

    Conduct data analysis from district, state, and federal sources; perform stakeholder interviews; conduct site visits

  • Stakeholder Facilitation

    Convene and facilitate relevant stakeholders through a multi-stage process, using techniques to allow the community to drive action and to align on common goals, priorities, strategies, and metrics

  • Input Synthesis

    Synthesize insights gleaned from the stakeholder convening coupled with key indicators and data points from the input gathering phase

  • Product Development

    Depending on the services requested, this can result in a range of end products, including the creation of a strategic plan, a theory of action, a needs assessment, Dashboards and Scorecards, or a set of common indicators and metrics

  • Iteration and Activation

    Support the continued iteration of strategic plans, technology & tools, & a theory of action while simultaneously aiding districts and community partners in the development of activation plans & continuous improvements of existing systems

Best In Class Support

Lesson Learned

When answering the questions about need and readiness, districts should not look at a single year of data.

Instead, if possible, districts should use longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data. This can include test scores as well as data from student and staff climate surveys.

Lesson Learned

When answering the questions about need and readiness, districts should not look at a single year of data.

Instead, if possible, districts should use longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data. This can include test scores as well as data from student and staff climate surveys.

Step 2: ACE District Spotlight

Four districts across Texas – Dallas ISD (2015), Fort Worth ISD (2017), Garland ISD (2018) and Richardson ISD (2018) – have implemented the ACE initiative, and in August 2019, six more districts will launch their ACE initiatives - Lubbock ISD, Crowley ISD, Aldine ISD, El Paso ISD (modified model), Plano ISD (modified model) and Pflugerville ISD. Each district provides a model of how the five core components have been implemented with fidelity while also adapted for the specific needs of their schools. To gain an understanding of how districts implemented the five core components specific to their context, please read the following vignettes and the examples provided throughout the Toolkit.

Step 3: Implementation Timeline

ACE, at minimum, is a three-year initiative with an additional year for the transition in process.

Step 4: Leadership Teams

It is critical to establish an implementation leadership team at the district level to manage implementation of ACE. A district implementation leadership team should be a cohesive unit and include a superintendent who is invested in the purpose and goals of the initiative. While the leadership team will be responsible for leading the day-to-day implementation of ACE, it is important for the superintendent to be a visible leader of the initiative, helping to set the vision and manage resistance that might emerge.

The most important departments in the implementation phase include:

  • Human Capital
  • School Leadership
  • Communications
  • Operations/Finance

A project lead(s) with the authority to make decisions is needed to coordinate across departments and ensure the process moves forward at the appropriate pace. All department teams should align on a unified message about the reasons for implementing ACE.

Lesson Learned

When answering the questions about need and readiness, districts should not look at a single year of data.

Instead, if possible, districts should use longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data. This can include test scores as well as data from student and staff climate surveys.

Self-Assessment

Take Assessment

Spotlight: Dade Middle School

Subtitle Explaining Significance

Detail

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Step 5: Change Management Elements

Initiatives to improve student achievement, especially those that involve significant changes, can result in some pushback from both within the district and external stakeholders. Developing a proactive change management process can help reduce this unease.

Key elements of this process should include:
  • Communication

    Over-communication of the rationale for implanting ACE

  • Unified Message

    A unified message from the leadership team that articulates the what, why and how

  • Stakeholder Facilitation

    Clear communication materials and timelines for all stakeholders

  • Balanced Messaging

    A balance in all messaging between district impact vs. individual impact because the initiative will not largely impact all at the district but will significantly impact those at the ACE campuses

  • Student Need Focused

    A continued focus on the needs of students on district campuses outside of the ACE initiative

  • Long Term Vision

    An emphasis on how the initiative fits into the larger strategic vision for the district

  • Celebrate Wins

    Celebration of early wins once the implementation is under way

Sometimes, it can feel as if the pace is slowing down to allow for the change to be processed. But typically, the long-term benefit of allowing for this space outweighs the reduced speed of implementation.

Throughout the toolkit, when one of the change management elements is emphasized or illustrated, the text will be highlighted with this icon.

Lesson Learned

When answering the questions about need and readiness, districts should not look at a single year of data.

Instead, if possible, districts should use longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data. This can include test scores as well as data from student and staff climate surveys.

Step 6: Financial Implications

Cost

On average, the annual ACE initiative costs are an additional $1,200-$1,400 per student or a total of $750K-$950K per campus (assuming 650 students and 45 teachers). ACE is a three-year program, at a minimum, with the district committing to the additional expenditures on the front end. Approximately 50% of that increase goes toward educator stipends and the rest is spread out across professional development, afterschool enrichment, transportation, and other social/emotional and operational costs identified by the district.

A breakdown of the stipend by role is as follows:

  • $15,000 - principals
  • $13,000 - assistant principals
  • $10,000 - teachers
  • $10,000 - counselors
  • $8,000 - instructional coaches
  • $8,000 - librarians
  • Estimated Cost Breakdown

    A general example of an implementation timeline including program design, planning and logistics

  • District Specific Projected Cost

    Garland ISD outlined the total projected cost of ACE stipends across the district

  • District Specific Financial Presentation

    Garland ISD created a Finance and Budgeting presentation that details the budget for ACE with information on sources of funds, expenditures and lessons learned.

Finding the Funds

While implementing the ACE model requires a significant investment, it is a strategic decision that can help a district realize the tremendous potential within every student.

There are many ways to identify resources to pursue the ACE model. Some districts do so by running a deficit budget, changing the student-teacher ratio or auditing professional development contracts.

The most common exercises for identifying resources are:

  • Problem Identification

    Intensive collaboration with district and community stakeholders to identify and frame the problem and develop a project timeline

  • Input Gathering

    Conduct data analysis from district, state, and federal sources; perform stakeholder interviews; conduct site visits

  • Stakeholder Facilitation

    Convene and facilitate relevant stakeholders through a multi-stage process, using techniques to allow the community to drive action and to align on common goals, priorities, strategies, and metrics

  • Input Synthesis

    Synthesize insights gleaned from the stakeholder convening coupled with key indicators and data points from the input gathering phase

  • Product Development

    Depending on the services requested, this can result in a range of end products, including the creation of a strategic plan, a theory of action, a needs assessment, Dashboards and Scorecards, or a set of common indicators and metrics

Lesson Learned

When answering the questions about need and readiness, districts should not look at a single year of data.

Instead, if possible, districts should use longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data. This can include test scores as well as data from student and staff climate surveys.