Denton ISD District of Innovation (DOI) ProcessIn January 2016, several Denton ISD leaders attended a session House Bill 1842 and “District of Innovation” legislation at the TASA Midwinter Conference. Under the guidance of superintendent, Dr. Jamie Wilson, an advisory team was formed from the attendees and preliminary discussions began on how Denton ISD would approach the process.
In honoring its commitment to the success of every child by advocating for true accountability based on measurement of individual student progress over time, regardless of external mandates, the Denton ISD Board of Trustees discussed and unanimously passed a resolution to explore becoming a “District of Innovation (DOI)” on Tuesday, February 9, 2016.
Advisory team members met monthly between February and May 2016 to guide the formation of the District of Innovation (DOI) Committee. Because members wanted input from a significant number of stakeholders, it was determined each campus would have one teacher representative (40). Additionally, administrators including principals and assistant principals from each of the four high school vertical zones (12) and a representative from each of the five district divisions (i.e. Academic Programs, Business Office, Curriculum and Instruction, Human Resources and Technology) as well as parent (five), business and community (seven) reps were added. Including the superintendent and DOI Chairperson, Chris Shade, Coordinator of District Improvement and Innovation, the committee of 70 was formed.
Based on the work of author and leadership expert, Simon Sinek, committee members were introduced to WHY the district would be taking on this process. In Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Sinek writes,“Every organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. These are products they sell or the services they offer. Some organizations know HOW they do it. These are the things that make them special or set them apart from their competition. Very few organizations know WHY they do what they do. WHY is not about making money (or earning higher school ratings). That’s a result. WHY is a purpose, cause or belief. It’s the very reason your organization exists.”
Historical context was shared as progress had been over three years in the making. Through social and traditional media, the district Educational Improvement Council (EIC), first rewrote its mission (our “WHY”) to read as follows:
“Denton ISD: Empowering lifelong learners to be engaged citizens who positively impact their local and global community.”
Next, the district logo was redesigned through crowdsourcing to capture the essence of the mission statement and to model the meaning of being a part of a “local AND global community” at the same time. Over the past two years, the EIC has worked to develop a community-based accountability system; and the district has crafted a report to reflect the values of the community. The first report is available online at https://www.dentonisd.org/whatwevalue as is its follow-up, What We Value 2.0. With these initiatives in mind, the district has embraced this opportunity to explore the lengths to which it could go as a “District of Innovation,” with “innovation” defined by Couros as “a way of thinking that creates something new and better.”
The first of a series of “colloquies” with the DOI Committee was held during the Denton ISD TIA Conference on July 19, 2016. Keynote speaker, George Couros, met exclusively with the DOI Committee to discuss his book, The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. During the opening colloquy, members discussed The Ever Increasing Burden on America's Public Schools written by businessman and author Jamie Vollmer, identified a number of burdens imposed upon public education, and sorted responses into one of three circles (based on Habit 1 from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey):
1) concern (issues of which we are aware and concerned, but can do little about now (i.e. standardized assessment), 2) influence (issues we are concerned about and can influence now), and 3) control (issues we can directly control now).The DOI Committee met for the second time on September 13, 2016 at Braswell HS. Superintendent, Dr. Jamie Wilson, addressed the role of the committee noting members were to identify barriers to student achievement and local control. While the DOI Committee was established to assist administrators in identifying barriers, it was noted appropriate district staff would be assigned to craft solutions to overcome the identified barriers. Once identified, the District of Innovation (DOI) Plan was to be crafted noting the specific exemptions the district sought under the DOI legislation with a deadline set prior to winter break. During the colloquy, members discussed the results of the circles of concern, influence, and control activity completed during the summer session and noted attendees identified time, expectations, and students as the top three areas of influence. Members participated in roundtable discussions addressing the following questions:
- What barriers prevent Denton ISD from meeting students’ needs and/or impedes teaching and learning, student opportunities, school culture/climate, and growth/management?
- Explain this barrier in more detail.
- What would evidence of its implementation look like?
- What would evidence could demonstrate its impact (on teaching and learning, student opportunities, school culture/climate, and/or growth/management)?
- Identify if the barrier is this internal (i.e. local policy, procedure, etc.) or external (i.e. federal or state law, mandate, etc.).
Between the second and third gatherings of the DOI Committee, members of the Superintendent's Cabinet (i.e. directors, superintendents, etc.) and campus principals participated in the same exercise identifying barriers.At the third colloquy on September 27, 2016, DOI committee members reviewed the feedback offered on the “DOI Barriers and Innovations” spreadsheet, an open, online form constructed to reflect barriers in the four areas identified on the Denton ISD What We Value Survey: 1) teaching and learning; 2) student opportunities; 3) school culture/climate; and 4) growth and management.At this point, the following external barriers were identified in the “DOI Barriers and Innovations” spreadsheet:
- School start date
- Certification (related to career and technology education)
- Class size
- 90% attendance
The October 11, 2016 DOI Colloquy was cancelled; and in its place, campus teacher reps worked collaboratively with campus principals to hold campus-specific meetings during the month of October to provide an update of the external barriers already included and to collect additional feedback from the campus regarding additional barriers yet to be identified. Using a slideshow presentation, members shared the work of the committee and collected additional feedback from the campus. Thus, each and every educator in Denton ISD was provided the opportunity to contribute to the process of identifying barriers.
Once complete, DOI committee member gathered together on October 25, 2016 to review final submissions, which included site-based decision-making as well as the [new] state appraisal system (T-TESS) in addition to the initial barriers previously identified.
A draft copy of the District of Innovation (DOI) Plan was posted on November 11, 2016 for internal review. DOI Committee members were formally asked to respond online to the draft on November 18, 2016.The District of Innovation (DOI) Plan will be formally discussed during the meeting of the Board of the Denton ISD Board of Trustees on December 13, 2016; and the DOI Plan will be posted online for 30 days.