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Renton School District

Renton Innovation Zone inspired by West Hill Now! initiative

Through Renton Innovation Zone, schools are empowered to create new pathways for student success

Teachers and staff are committed to the education and well-being of their students. Now, they have added weight behind those actions through Renton Schools District’s Renton Innovation Zone initiative (RIZ). Renton Innovation Zone improvement strategies support educators in increasing student engagement, designing instruction that is based on conceptual understanding, and building classroom and school communities that support all learners in meeting standard.

To assist in being a catalyst for change, Renton School District has committed through Renton Innovation Zone 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. RIZ provides schools with the freedom to create school-centered action plans and timelines that drive work to strengthen instruction and teacher collaboration, dramatically increase student achievement, and improve school culture. Prior to the start of the school year, staff from RIZ elementary schools collaborated 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. 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 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.

Renton Innovation Zone strategy is an outcome based on the highly-successful Lakeridge Elementary School model as teachers and staff look for ways to have more teacher training and collaboration time to learn better ways to reach students and impact success.

Former Lakeridge Elementary Principal Jessica Calabrese Granger, who now serves as the district’s Chief of School Improvement, leads the work.

Thanks to the great work of staff, Renton School District's Renton Innovation Zone (RIZ) has been recognized for being a national leader in the effort to partner with students, families, non-profits, and CBOs to improve outcomes for students living in our district's Skyway/West Hill and Highlands communities. Click here to read a Case Study that documents the RIZ work to date.  

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More News on Renton Innovation Zone (RIZ)

Highlands Elementary Joins Renton Innovation Zone

April 17, 2018 —Teachers and staff at Highlands Elementary School are working to improve classroom instruction, school climate, and staff collaboration through the district’s Renton Innovation Zone (RIZ) initiative. RIZ is an extension of the West Hill Now! initiative started last school year at Bryn Mawr, Campbell Hill and Lakeridge elementary schools. Renton Innovation Zone improvement strategies support educators in increasing student engagement, designing instruction that is based on conceptual understanding, and building classroom and school communities that support all learners in meeting standard. 

Core Principles for Student Success

Before the start of this school year, district staff worked with Highlands Elementary teachers and support staff to come together as a team to create a school plan to increase student achievement. During their first year in the RIZ, Highlands staff have worked collaboratively to implement these plans and strategies and to carefully monitor the impact on student engagement and learning outcomes. The core principles of the Renton Innovation Zone initiative (as well as those that guide the West Hill Now! initiative) include:

  • Collaboration focused on student learning
  • Use of Data and Best Practices
  • Embedded Professional Development
  • Principal's Role as Instructional Leader
  • Operational Flexibility
  • Building Culture
  • Community and Family Engagement

At Highlands the 2017-18 school year began in August with three extra days of staff training that included learning together about new mathematical instructional practices and strategies to increase students’ social emotional readiness to learn. To support continuous improvement all classroom teachers also participated in an additional four full days of training called Math Labs, which are facilitated by a Math Coach and attended by one grade-level teaching team and the principal who learns alongside teachers. During a Math Lab teachers learn new content and instructional strategies and go into classrooms and practice teaching them to students so that they develop a common vision and expectation of what effectively supports learning and how their team can work together to adjust instruction to ensure all students are engaged. Teachers then meet every week specifically to collaborate about math instruction. To support this effort to continuously improve instruction, the district provides substitutes for their Math Lab days as well as additional staffing to support this improvement model. And while this work started in Math, the Highlands staff is already planning to expand this to include Literacy professional learning next year.

Teachers

Effective instruction is critical, but creating a classroom and school community in which children feel safe in taking academic risks and a true sense of belonging is equally essential. The staff at Highlands has engaged in extensive professional learning about how the brain develops and how to help students develop important skills like how to self-regulate and solve conflicts. Their goal is to build community rather than compliance so that students develop a sense of agency and see themselves as sense-makers. The district is supporting this effort by funding a partnership with Sound Discipline and providing additional staffing to support social emotional interventions intended to assist students in staying in the classroom so they don’t miss instruction.

 As with all of the schools in the RIZ, in order to engage in improvement efforts of this scale and at this rate, the staff at Highlands, the school district and the Renton Education  Association collaborated to support the Highlands RIZ plan. Based the shared goals, the district was able to fund all of the staff’s requests for additional staffing and supports. These included creating a new school based and district level positions. For example, a Family and Community Engagement Coordinator was hired solely to support the four  schools in the RIZ in their efforts to increase meaningful family and community partnerships.

 The Renton Innovation Zone inititave will expand again next year to include Sartori Elementary School as that school opens this fall.

West Hill Now! Inspries Renton Innovation Zone

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.

West Hill Now To Renton Innovation Zone Graphic

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 inspired the Renton Innovation Zone initiative to provide the flexibility and support to other district elementary schools beyond our West Hill schools.

West Hill Elementary Schools Get New Robotics Club

May 12, 2017 —Students from three district elementary schools have a new after-school club that provides new and exciting ways for them to use their math, science, and technology skills. Thirty Bryn Mawr, Campbell Hill and Lakeridge elementary school 4th-graders are learning robotics and computer coding as part of the newly-established West Hill Robotics Club.

The elementary students meet every Monday afternoon in the Campbell Hill library to build and program robots, with the expertise of five Lindbergh High students, two retired engineers and three mathematics coaches. Using their recent study of geometry and measurement, and multiplication and division, the 4th-graders work collaboratively to solve problems, and have discussions to reflect on strategies they’ll need to get their robots to travel exactly 125 cm and turn 90 degrees. The Lindbergh High volunteers work with students to design and create maze challenges, then program the robots to navigate.

The extra-curricular robotics club helps to greatly improve student engagement with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. The hands-on experience of learning to design, build and program robots of increasing complexity greatly boosts student teamwork and problem-solving abilities, while helping them to learn how abstract concepts of mathematics, engineering and computing actually work in practice.

Materials for the Robotics Club, like robotics kits, are made available thanks in large part by funding from a Circle of Giving grant.

Student Robotics

West Hill Now! Work Continues Elementary Schools to Create New Pathways for Student Success

August 29, 2016 —Teachers and staff at Bryn Mawr, Campbell Hill and Lakeridge elementary schools continue their work to be better prepared to make meaningful changes in the lives of their students.

In March, the district kicked off a new initiative called West Hill Now! to create action plans and timelines for targeted work to dramatically increase student achievement, and thus the outlook and hope for a better future for children at the three West Hill/Skyway schools.

WHN! Staff Training

Lakeridge Principal Named to Head West Hill Now! Efforts

April 11, 2016—Lakeridge Elementary School Principal Jessica Calabrese Granger has been appointed to serve as the Chief of School Improvement, pending School Board approval. In her new role, Jessica will provide intensive support to specific schools and principals identified by the Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Teaching. For the 2016-17 school year, she will support the West Hill NOW! efforts that are focused on Bryn Mawr, Campbell Hill, and Lakeridge elementary schools.

Jessica has served as principal at Lakeridge Elementary since 2011. During her tenure at Lakeridge, she has partnered with staff to lead a remarkable turnaround at the school as student performance has increased markedly in both math and English/Language Arts. These improvements recently resulted in the Lakeridge Elementary School teachers, staff, parents, and administration being selected as recipients of the 2016 Golden Apple Award.

A graduate of both UC Davis and Seattle University, Jessica started her career as a 7th/8th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher in the Pleasant Valley School District in California. She joined the Renton team in 2003 as a professional development coach at Campbell Hill and Lakeridge elementary schools, and Dimmitt Middle School. She continued in that role through 2007, before becoming assistant principal at Dimmitt for four years before taking on the duties as principal at Lakeridge. 

“We are excited that Jessica is willing to take on this new opportunity,” said Dr. Damien Pattenaude, the district’s assistant superintendent of Teaching and Learning. “We look forward to her continuing to push our practice and helping us find innovative ways to provide outstanding service, support, and leadership to and for our students, staff, families, and community.”

Timeline for West Hill Now!

Last school year, at the start of the initiative, the district asked teachers and school staff at the three West Hill elementary schools to come together as a team to create individual school plans to increase student achievement. The district also asked staff to present a list of needs to the district to help support and ensure the success of those plans.

Staff worked for several weeks in teams to incorporate into their plans math labs to increase effective and differentiated math instruction; positive student discipline; and increased 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.

Before the end of the school year, 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.

In April, 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.

Aside from the core components, Bryn Mawr Elementary will increase meetings and strategic communication with families. Campbell Hill Elementary will continue to institute the Kids at Hope model (a belief system, supported by a cultural strategy to enhance school programs) and partner with the University of Washington Teacher Education program. Lakeridge Elementary will work to continue to engage parents in better understanding of grade-level math and literacy curriculum and teaching strategies.

West Hill teachers and staff have continued to meet prior to the start of the new school year to hone plans and ideas to be implemented at their individual school to strengthen instruction and improve student achievement.

Building Blocks of West Hill Now!:

  • Believe in all children
  • Look for joy in the work
  • Entrust and believe in the staff
  • Forge a three-school planning and support team
  • Extend the proven leadership of Lakeridge Elementary
  • Engage the Community
  • Transform the central office to a support agency for this work
  • End years of talk and take action – “Dream big -- Act immediately”

Why West Hill Now!

The overarching impetus for the West Hill Now! initiative is to provide equitable outcomes to a population of students and families in the district that reside in an area outside of Renton city limits where very little economic development or quality of life improvements have taken place in many decades.  West Hill Now! will work towards student achievement outcomes that enable success for all children; ensure a climate of access, opportunity and inclusion; and guarantee equitable treatment through a climate of safety, respect and support for children and adults.

Jessica Calabrese-Granger

Chief of School Improvement
425-204-2398
jessica.granger@rentonschools.us

Ebony Pattenaude

Director of Renton Innovation Zone (RIZ) Partnerships & Early Learning
425-204-2408
ebony.pattenaude@rentonschools.us

Cherryl Jackson-Williams

Family & Community Engagement Coordinator
425-204-2249
cherryl.jacksonwilliams@rentonschools.us

MyKa'La Alexander

Early Learning & Afterschool Program Development Specialist 
425-204-6273

mykala.alexander@rentonschools.us