Change is part of the world we live in. We can fight it, embrace it, create it and ignore it. This year, TLSP will experience a major change as our Academic Excellence coordinator moves on from TLSP to begin working for Region 8. Cindy McKinney has been a trusted colleague, a valued resource to teachers and administrators and a welcome friend to our schools. Her move to Region 8 is a great blessing for them and we wish God’s blessings to Cindy McKinney in her change in vocation.
For TLSP, the transition is cause for assessment and evaluation. The Board of Directors for TLSP has created a task force with its purpose to assess the value of present services to schools in the area of academics and also seek input on the goals and needs for individual schools to see if there are areas of need that could be addressed by TLSP.The AE Task force consists of two TLSP board members (Axel Gruen, Heide Adair), two administrators (John Weber, Andy Gavrun), two teachers (Holly Ehle, Crystal Castleman), someone who has The Lutheran Foundation and multiple school leadership experiences (Carrie Gutman) and Mark Muehl (TLSP Executive Director). The task force represents the diversity of our region’s schools- rural and city, big and small, K-12 representation. All task force members are passionate about the Lutheran education community. Two meetings have occurred so far; the end date for our work is targeted for the end of October. This group will not be responsible for the staffing of this area of need. However, the work of this group will help TLSP guide the pursuit of staffing needs.The process for the group has included a review of guiding documents for the TLSP organization (mission, vision, guiding principles), guiding and formational statements for academic excellence strategic initiatives, and a review of recent efforts for an academic roadmap for TLSP schools. Next, principals and teachers were surveyed for input on two open ended questions- What can TLSP provide for the ongoing academic success of your school? What are the future strategic academic goals of your school?12 of 18 schools provided responses to these questions. These schools represented rural and city, big and small, K-12. The following were the top issues/topics of needs and future strategies shared in the responses- curriculum development (mapping, textbook studies, Response To Intervention, Project Based Learning), resource (academic coach, mentor), building community (grade level meetings, daylong PD days, councils), technology needs (integration to all school functions, curriculum, instruction), data (data gathering, data analysis), after school programming (for students [curriculum], for parents [parenting, support, money]), meet and exceed standards (ISTEP, maps), establish regionwide vocabulary, higher order thinking skills.As the task force reviewed this list, an interesting (and affirming) conclusion was made- the three major goals Cindy has targeted for TLSP were affirmed. Cindy has formed our region’s academic goals under the following- Pursuit of Academic Excellence, Developing 21st Century Skills, and Leading Edge Technology Tools. The input received from our schools affirm that the major goals of TLSP accurately reflect the needs of our schools. The strategies that are in use are all valued means for addressing these needs. It may be an overabundance of information but note the following strategy Cindy has in place for the 1617 school year- TLSP Strategic Imperative-Pursuit of Academic ExcellencePlan-TLSP schools have historically enjoyed strong academic reputations. To maintain this level of quality, our schools must constantly reflect on the rigor and relevance of our programs.Do-TLSP will continue to support two overarching processes that support the pursuit of academic excellence: establishing a guaranteed and viable curriculum (curriculum mapping) and making decisions based in data collection (lead teachers council, classroom walk throughs, Critical Friend Visits, accreditation team participation).Study-We will examine the advancement of our schools in their establishment and support of these two major undertakings by collecting data on curriculum mapping completion, standardized assessment results and professional growth plan development.Act-TLSP will use this data to determine if the current strategies are effective and need to continue or should be revised.TLSP Strategic Imperative-Developing 21st Century SkillsPlan-Preparing our students for life in the 21st century has proven to be our largest challenge by far. We continue to prepare our students for decades in the past and not the future.Do-TLSP will continue to offer growth opportunities that challenge our existing educators to create engaging learning opportunities through project and inquiry-based learning that shifts their role from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side” (IMPACT, Back to School Professional Development, foster collaboration [councils, grade level mtgs]).Study-We will survey teachers regarding implementation of project-based learning and workshop instructional format. We will also examine curriculum maps for evidence of higher order thinking skills and independent learning within our schools’ curriculum.Act-TLSP will use this data to determine if the current strategies are effective and need to continue or should be revised. TLSP Strategic Imperative- Leading Edge Technology ToolsPlan-TLSP must be an example for our schools to follow if we are going to success in this imperative. Our staff will continue to push ourselves to model effective uses of technology as we collaborate and offer professional growth opportunities.Do- As some of our schools begin to build momentum in this area, TLSP will provide opportunities for teachers to gather and share ideas and techniques. Eventually, these teachers will be models for all TLSP teachers to learn from as we organize observation opportunities in the high tech classrooms (tech target teachers, promote tech specialist.)Study-We will survey teachers on the amount of technology they use on a daily basis prior to and after offering observation opportunities. We will also use anecdotal data from our schools that have tech integration specialists to determine if this approach is effective.Act-TLSP will use this data to determine if the current strategies are effective and need to continue or should be revised. What’s next for the task force and for TLSP?The task force will discuss possible scenarios for addressing these needs. Does TLSP revamp its job description for academic excellence coordinator? Does TLSP seek to address these needs through a multi-staffed approach using staff and contracted services? One thing is for sure (and it's of great comfort as we move forward) that while the world seems to be in constant change, the One whom we serve does not change.The writer of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). We cannot see the future. Predictions based on history are our best guesses. We rely on our Lord for our individual futures and our collective future. Our task force will continue to remind ourselves, “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.” Ps 127:1. Your prayers are appreciated as we press on.