[r76] Innovation Key to Success (8/5/2011)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Start Date: 8/5/2011 All Day
End Date: 8/5/2011

Innovation Key to Success

The definition of innovation is to change or to renew, and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) epitomizes what it means to be innovative. The school corporation has implemented new school models into many of its classrooms enabling a focus to be placed on key subjects, creating more first generation college students, giving schools autonomy to employ changes and building close-knit school communities.

EVCS's school leaders spent countless hours researching best practices across the nation before launching the EVSC innovative model initiative, a part of the Strategic Plan for the corporation. The goal of the plan is to help schools better meet the ever changing needs of their student populations.  Each of the new models implemented is specially designed to target different students' needs.

Below is a description of some of EVSC's new school models.

One of EVSC's most innovative models is Project CHILD, which stands for Changing How Instruction for Learning is Delivered. Project CHILD is a research based three dimensional teaching and learning system for grades K-5. In this program, emphasis is placed on reading, writing and mathematics with science and social studies incorporated throughout the curriculum.

Grade levels in a school are divided into two clusters with grades K-2 forming a primary cluster and grads 3-5 forming an intermediate cluster. Teachers are then divided into cluster teams with three teachers placed on each team. In the cluster team, one teacher will focus on reading, another focuses on writing and the third focuses on mathematics. A teacher cluster will then work with the same students for three consecutive years, which fosters a close connection between teachers and students.

A CHILD student has shown to have significantly higher academic achievement and better behavior than their peers in traditional classrooms. Another bonus of the program is that parent support and enthusiasm has proven to be quite high with this initiative. 

I have the privilege of serving as the Director of EVSC's Early College High School. Here, our approach is to create synergy among our school and the higher education institutions of Southwest Indiana through partnerships with University of Evansville, Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University. 

Through these partnerships with our local colleges, our students get to attend college-level classes and earn college credits, while still in high school. Students will have the opportunity to attain their associate's degrees before their high school graduation or earn up to 60 college credit hours. One of the best aspects of this program is that it allows more students to continue their academic career at the collegiate level by engaging them in the college experience early on. 

Another model takes a slightly different approach to prepare students for higher education. The International Baccalaureate Study Program is a program where students take a rigorous curriculum, which is highly regarded and gives graduates of this program access to top universities. 

It covers a wide range of subjects and is offered to junior and seniors who are highly motivated. The IB program is offered at Bosse High School and is being investigated at other grade levels at this time.

Helfrich Park Middle School began operating as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy in an effort to integrate more science technology, engineering and math into the school curriculum.

To support the curriculum, students participate in a number of field trips, which allow students to see real world applications of what they learn. They travel to area businesses and industrial sites to see how what they learn integrates into the business world.

Three schools have been given great autonomy to implement what will best make their school successful. These schools are called Equity Schools and are quite revolutionary, by allowing the staff in the buildings to implement the changes they see necessary. 

This concept was developed by EVSC personnel and the Evansville Teachers Association leadership.  Some of the changes the schools can implement include the ability to lengthen the school day or school year, create dress codes, change the curriculum focus and have technology play a greater part in their academic life.  These schools needed change and this model allows these schools to deliver the education that their students require.

These are just a few of the incredibly innovative models that EVSC has implemented within the past few years and which I hope will expand. The school leaders of this corporation dared to be innovative and their courage and vision have paid off. Across the state, people are beginning to take notice of EVSC's innovation.

The various models have allowed the school corporation to better serve students.  The number one thing we can give to kids is a top notch education that prepares them for the 21st Century job market.  These changes will put our students on the path to success.