All of our work is guided by the following principles:
We incorporate an equity lens as a guide and frame for all of our work. We orient our work with schools to place the highest priority on the needs of students who have been left behind in the educational process. Without blaming the students, their parents, the schools, or state and federal agencies, we focus on the needs of these students by using an equity lens (or set of lenses) to clarify the systemic barriers that have impeded their progress. It is important to recognize the contemporary impact that discrimination and racism have on students' access to quality teaching and ability to succeed. Students frequently face hardships and challenges due to their race, color, gender, religion, ethnicity, disability, and/or sexual orientation. Factors such as English language proficiency and socioeconomic status are also centrally important. Many of these factors intersect and further complicate both the systemic picture and individual experience. Formally acknowledging institutional and cultural barriers and assessing district and school improvement efforts through an equity lens is critical to providing effective supports and recommendations, especially in districts serving minority and low-income students. The equity lens not only sharpens our perception of school and district conditions, but focuses on-going efforts to improve climate, policy, knowledge and practice.
We recognize that a systems-based approach to district and school improvement is optimal for ongoing and sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. We recognize that an education system is complex and multi-tiered, involving multiple communication channels across and among all tiers of the system. Promoting and supporting effective and sustainable improvement requires that we understand how the different elements of the system interact, so that we can craft the best strategies to maximize resources across the system.
Jointly engaging with district and school leaders and staff is essential to supporting sustainable improvements in teaching and learning: Building upon our systems-based approach, we understand that district actions and policies impact local school improvement efforts. Similarly, we know that school improvement efforts ultimately involve interaction with teachers and students. As a result, we engage in a strategic mix of district- and school-based improvement efforts. Although we may have different entry points, our approach entails that we work with stakeholders across the system, including district leaders, school administrators, teachers and staff, and parents and community members.
We work to align research findings and federal and state policy with the contingencies of local contexts. Local contexts vary greatly in availability of resources and contextual supports as they seek to adapt to the findings of research or the dictates of federal and state policy. We strive to align research and policy directions with local circumstances so that our strategies and suggested recommendations are feasible, practical and meaningful.
Because districts, like teachers and students, have different learning needs and ways of working together, it is important that we have a flexible approach and are able to provide information in multiple formats and through different mechanisms—e.g., through technology, via workshops and professional development, network building, ongoing assistance and consultation, and evaluation.