Schools in joint Kelley-IU School of Education Effective Leaders Academy show improvement

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Indiana Effective Leaders Academy joint program between Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the IU School of Education is showing improved grades for most of its participating schools.

In the latest school accountability grades announced by the Indiana Department of Education last month, eight of the 12 schools that have taken part in the program had improved grades. Five of the schools moved to an A grade, and three were rated as B schools.

The Effective Leaders Academy began nearly two years ago as a way to help schools in need of improvement develop an action plan and mechanisms for carrying it out. IU faculty from Kelley and the School of Education shared best practices from both business and education to enable change in their programs. Ongoing support from the IU faculty and staff helped the schools carry out their plans.

The cost of school participation in the program was covered by a grant from the IU Bloomington Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

"The ELA recognizes that schools can turn around when teams focus their efforts intentionally on student learning, especially monitoring each student's progress,” said Gary Crow, professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the School of Education. "The academy promotes a collaborative model between education and business because in order to improve student learning, schools need multiple resources and perspectives.”

“At Kelley we have long advocated that the importance of good business practice extends well beyond for-profit organizations,” said Tim Baldwin, chair of Kelley’s Department of Management and Entrepreneurship and Eveleigh Professor of Business Leadership, who was a key faculty member working with school teams. “What is so gratifying about this collaboration is the opportunity for us to share our expertise in helping improve public education. And nothing is more important to the future of business enterprises than the effective education of our young people.” 

The project aimed to help struggling schools discern particular needs and ways to address them, emphasizing educational interventions the schools considered and focusing on new ways of implementing them. Kelley faculty shared thinking and procedures about how businesses would strategically assess and handle struggling endeavors.

Switzerland County Elementary in southeastern Indiana had languished at the C grade. School leaders said that while they had tried to identify areas needing improvement before, the Effective Leaders Academy focused their efforts on using data to drive individual student interventions. In the assessment for 2013-2014, the school earned an A.

“We learned the process to improve our school and applied it in a shorter amount of time,” Switzerland County Elementary Principal Sally Weales said.

“By participating in the Leaders Academy, we were able to see the steps to get us there,” Switzerland County Schools Superintendent Mike Jones added. He said elements of the plan implemented at the elementary school are being emulated across the school corporation.

At Washington High School, the rise was less dramatic, from a B to an A, but nonetheless came at a crucial time. Washington Schools Superintendent Dan Roach said the community has been struggling to work effectively with a growing population of English Language Learner students, mostly Latino but more recently Burmese and Haitian.

“I realized that our high school could be a perfect candidate to look at the business model as it complements education,” he said. “And I liked the fact that everything was data-driven and the entire paradigm shift didn’t need to occur; but there did need to be some change in direction from what had previously occurred at the school.”

The data pointed the faculty and staff at Washington High School to increase their own efforts at engaging struggling students in their learning. Using the data, they’ve noted areas of instruction that don’t seem to reach some students as an ongoing instructional tool. That has allowed for better interventions with individual students and adjustments during courses.

“This is what this program helped us to see, that data is the key to success,” said LeAnne Kelley, principal at Washington High School. “We saw an immediate increase in our English scores -- a 12 percent jump this last year in students passing the ECA (end of course assessment) test. That was huge for us.”

Other rising schools included North Wayne Elementary in Indianapolis, which increased from an F to a B. Hope Academy in Indianapolis increased from a D to a B grade.

Particularly through continued support from Indiana University, the goal of the Effective Leaders Academy is to move all participating schools into the high-performing category permanently.