Pledges to report quarterly progress
Ambitious plan responds to community feedback, emphasizes accountability
The Gary Community School Corporation released on August 31 The Path Forward, its bold two-year plan for continuing to improve academics, engagement, fiscal matters, and operations in the district. Notably, the district pledged to publicly release progress reports every three months so the community can see what gains its schools are making.
“I’ve worked in education for more than 20 years, and I’ve never seen a district regularly and publicly share progress on a set of indicators,” said Dr. Paige McNulty, the district’s manager. “This approach is rare, but we believe it’s what Gary residents deserve. The community wants to know and deserves to know how its schools are doing, and we believe it’s an important building block as the district peers down the path of ending state control.”
The Path Forward is a strategic plan that includes 29 measures of success across four pillars: academics, engagement, fiscal matters, and operations.
The plan includes the critical metric for petitioning the end to state control – balancing the budget – as well as a host of metrics related to academics, engagement, and sustainability.
With the district’s deficit decreasing from $22 million in August 2017 to $6 million in December 2019, the focus for the next two years is increasingly on strengthening teaching and learning and increasing family and community engagement.
For example, some of the metrics for academics include increasing the five-year graduation rate, decreasing the number of suspensions, and creating more opportunities for students to learn about Black American history and culture.
“GCSC schools are headed in the right direction, and now is the time to build on the momentum by making greater gains in the classroom and thereby contributing to the positive direction of the larger community,” said Kimberley Bradley, the district’s chief academic officer. “Our students have extraordinary talents, and this exciting plan will help make the most of them.”
In August, the district solicited feedback on which metrics it should measure across the four pillars, and it received suggestions from students, educators, parents and caregivers, and residents. Many of the community responses have been incorporated into the plan, such as investing in teacher pay and teacher training, sharing updates on remote learning, and making career and technical education pathways available to students in earlier grades.
“Our mission is to prepare students to be successful after graduation, and offering more career pathways will help prepare our students for college and beyond,” said Shelly Martin and Bob Phelps, co-directors of career and technical education. “We were excited to read of the community’s interest in expanding this work, and we’re eager to get going.”
A full list of indicators for each pillar is included below. The district will publish and present progress reports every three months, and the reports will be available online and in the main office of every school building.
Indicators for each pillar:
- Increase the five-year graduation rate
- Offer career and technical education pathways to students in earlier grades, and increase the number of students in career pathways at the Gary Area Career Center
- Decrease the number of suspensions
- Increase the pass rate for ILEARN and ISTEP+ state assessments (math and English language arts)
- Increase the growth scores for ILEARN state assessment (math and ELA)
- Increase progress on i-Ready formative assessment (math and ELA)
- Increase the average daily attendance
- Arrange for counselors to work with the same group of students for all of high school, which will support college readiness
- Create more opportunities for students to learn about Black American culture and history
- Publish quarterly progress reports
- Post Frequently Asked Question documents after each Manager forum, which will also be broadcast on radio or TV
- Create three new committees – curriculum, technology, and food services – made up of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and a representative from the Advisory Board
- Create Advisory Committees at each school made up of students, parents, teachers, and administrators
- Share the results of an annual community survey
- Offer leadership training for Gary citizens focusing on different aspects of school corporation operations
- Hold public training sessions on Title I, federal and state grants, school finance, and school law
- Offer more extra-curricular activities for students
- Ensure teachers reach out to families on a regular basis to facilitate two-way communication about their students’ academic progress
- Balance the budget
- Increase overall enrollment
- Adhere to the Viable Deficit Reduction Plan
- Invest in teacher pay and teacher training
- Distribute a Chromebook with internet access to every student and offer trainings for parents and a helpline for students, parents, and staff
- Report on content availability and access to remote instruction through the district’s network and technology infrastructure
- Train all school resource officers in de-escalation strategies
- Decrease the number of audit findings for federal grants
- Decrease the number of audit findings for Average Daily Membership counts
- Decrease the number of audit findings for the Annual Financial Report and the Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards
- Implement and provide quarterly updates on the School Improvement Fund Plan