The Georgia Department of Education is teaming with the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University to offer training for 10 school districts throughout the state as part of the Proving Ground Institute.

According to state school officials, Proving Ground works with local school districts to help them identify and test solutions to specific challenges that are obstacles to student achievement. The program uses a continuous improvement approach to help districts learn to gather and use evidence rapidly and effectively. The partnership is being coordinated through the DOE’s School Improvement Division.

“In Georgia, we are committed to continuous improvement and providing high-quality services and supports so all schools can prepare their students for successful futures,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods. “This partnership provides a crucial support to educational leaders as they address some of the most serious issues facing their school districts.” At a four-day Proving Ground training, 50 staff members from 10 districts identified for additional support will engage in an intensive, four-day professional development workshop with instruction, coaching, and action planning, and receive additional coaching following the in-person workshop.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are required to identify schools in need of additional support. The Georgia Department of Education’s Office of School Improvement will work with CSI schools and provide assistance to help them improve the educational outcomes of their students.

CSI schools fall into one or more of the following categories:

● Lowest 5%: Title I schools that, when ranked according to their three-year CCRPI average, are among the lowest performing 5% of Title I schools in the state

● Low Graduation Rate: High schools with a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate less than or equal to 67%

The Proving Ground training will focus on equipping districts to select interventions, and how to know those interventions are backed by evidence.

To put what they’re learning into practice, Woods explained the district teams will review their data on student attendance and chronic absenteeism and learn about evidence-based strategies that have improved student attendance. By the end of the institute, district teams will identify a specific problem related to chronic absenteeism in their district, identify solutions to address the problem, and develop a detailed action plan for a selected solution they can implement in their districts.

The Office of School Improvement works to provide tiered and tailored supports to help all schools improve — from Tier I Universal Supports offered every school in the state, to more intensive assistance offered for identified schools. This new partnership with Harvard is an addition to GaDOE’s menu of offerings to support effective leadership in school districts, joining efforts such as the Governor’s School Leadership Academy (GSLA), a partnership with the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and Gwinnett County Public Schools.

The GLSA targets four levels of educational practice in order to significantly impact educators in all phases of their careers – from induction to school and district leadership. Taken together, the four components of the GSLA are designed to develop and retain teachers in their first years of practice and to offer pathways for teachers to become transformational leaders in a variety of roles throughout their careers.

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