Innovation Zones (formerly West Hill Now! initiative)
District works to empower schools to create new pathways for student success
Teachers and staff at Bryn Mawr, Campbell Hill, Highlands, and Lakeridge elementary schools have always been committed to the education and well-being of their students. Now, they have added weight behind those actions through Renton Schools District’s Innovation Zones initiative.
To assist in being a catalyst for change, Renton School District has committed through the Innovation Zones initiative to do more, now, to dramatically improve the quality of education in schools, and thus the outlook and hope for a better future for children. This is the first year that Highlands Elementary School will become part of the Innovation Zone initiative. Bryn Mawr, Campbell Hill and Lakeridge began the process last school year, as part of the West Hill Now! initiative, now renamed Innovation Zones.
What’s innovative about Innovation Zones?
Staff at Innovation Zone elementary schools are provided the freedom to create school-centered action plans and timelines that drive the work to strengthen instruction, dramatically increase student achievement, and improve school culture. Prior to the start of the school year, staff from Innovation Zone elementary schools collaborate to develop individual school plans and strategies. With assurance from the district that schools will be provided their own operational flexibility, the groups develop plans that will pursue achievement outcomes to enable success for all children.
The schools create collaborative teaching teams to work on the curriculum and develop new teaching strategies used during class time. Data on how well students learned the material with the new teaching strategies is used by teaching teams to improve teaching in real-time for every grade. The schools and district work together to refine the plans. The district commits to the budgets and staffing requested by the school to implement the plans. The innovation strategy is an outcome based on the highly-successful Lakeridge Elementary School model as Innovation Zone teachers/staff look for ways to have more teacher training and collaboration time to learn better ways to reach students and impact success.
The district works with each school to evaluate the specific needs of their students and teachers and create action plans that will address long-term improvement in standardized test scores, student comprehension and building teacher support teams. Each school must address a set of core principles designed by the school district and the schools in order to receive money to fund their proposals. Some of the requests made by schools will not require additional funding: but the district is committed to provide funds to implement approved innovation plans. Some of the supports requested by school staff and funded by the district include: additional summer training, substitutes so teachers can participate in embedded professional learning during the school day, training to support Social Emotional Learning, full-time counselors, full-time Interventionist, health clinic aides, and more.
Former Lakeridge Elementary Principal Jessica Calabrese Granger, who now serves as the district’s Chief of School Improvement, leads the work.
West Hill Now! becomes Innovation Zones initiative
Staff at Bryn Mawr, Campbell Hill, and Lakeridge elementary schools have worked for a year as part of the West Hill Now! initiative to improve teaching strategies and student achievement. Teachers and support staff worked in teams to create plans that included math labs to increase effective and differentiated math instruction; to impact positive student discipline; and increase community and family engagement. The plans also call for additional time each week for staff to come together and discuss student outcomes and engagement, and use the information to improve teaching practices and strategies. Staff from the three schools presented their individual plans to their families, and asked for further input. Leadership from the Renton Education Association, the teacher’s union, also reviewed the plans and enthusiastically endorsed efforts by staff at the West Hill schools to increase student achievement efforts for children and families.
The district reviewed those plans and committed to funding all of the teacher’s request to improve student learning. The core components of the plans are:
- structured time for teacher collaboration in math and literacy;
- increased access and time for professional learning opportunities;
- use of data and best practices in teaching;
- ensuring that principals act as instructional leader;
- operational flexibility outside of school/district norms;
- positive school culture; and
- more meaningful family and community engagement.
This work has now become the Innovation Zone initiative to provide the flexibility and support beyond the West Hill schools.
Lakeridge Elementary hard work results in great success
Lakeridge teachers and staff, under the guidance of principal Jessica Calabrese-Granger, have been recognized in The Seattle Times, The New York Times, and other media for their work over the past few years to transform a school once identified as an underperforming, to among the top 50 percent of schools statewide. In just two years, fifth grade math scores increased by 35 percent and reading scores went up 25 percent. The hard work and results were so impressive, principal Calabrese-Granger recently won the coveted Golden Apple award which recognizes individuals and programs making a dramatic difference in Washington state education.
Elementary schools on the West Hill/Skyway will use this success as a blueprint to create their own individual plans for student success. Soon after, the district will provide a process to allow other schools in the district this kind of creativity and operational flexibility.
Award-winning teacher Laretha Todd helps students understand math
Lakeridge Elementary School 3rd-grade teacher, and Renton School District's 2016 Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year, Laretha Todd, demonstrates best practices for teaching mathematics.