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Enhance Good Schools to Great Schools with a Bold Instructional Vision for Students

Instructional leadership and vision are the keys to moving good schools to great schools. The bolder the vision, the more vital it becomes to develop the capacities of instructional systems and people to achieve that vision. On the Pathways to School Advancement, we tailor our comprehensive services to your school’s unique needs and goals for your students and empower you to implement rigorous and engaging classroom instruction. Our team members have extensive experience coaching schools, redesigning instructional systems, increasing the richness of learning, and deepening leadership capacity.

In School District U-46, about 40% of students are English Learners. Students are on the pathway to flourishing academic vocabulary as they engage in teams.

The Enhance Pathway is for district leaders and principals who are unsatisfied with being good enough and instead aspire to establish a bold instructional vision for the future to advance their schools and students.

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The Enhance Pathway Is Right for Your School …

If you desire a vision for instruction where achievement gaps by race and income are eliminated and all students thrive with rigorous academics coupled with the skills and knowledge to flourish in the new economy whether in career or college.

If you have …

  • Strong management systems and sound structures in place
  • Most students learning at grade level and mostly satisfied teachers
  • Untapped potential in the school and district

If this does not describe your school culture and environment or more urgent challenges or conditions need addressing first, you may want to explore the Emerge or Elevate Pathways.

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If you want to …

Develop a shared bold vision for instruction and an empowering learning culture within all classrooms
Create the enriched and vibrant classroom learning culture of the future and make it accessible to empower all students from all races and all socioeconomic levels
Advance the instructional systems change necessary to support and sustain the envisioned classroom learning environments
Rally community buy-in for the destination vision and communicate a step-by-step process to achieve it
Motivate and build capacity in teachers to lead classrooms to the destination vision
Build a schoolwide learning culture of rigor and agency on the pathway to the Empowerment Destination
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Build Vision and Capacity

The Enhance Pathway solution focuses on building the vision for instruction and the leadership team’s capacity to achieve that vision in every classroom.

Our unique research-based methodology leverages a coalition of the willing process where volunteer teachers receive the training and coaching to create demonstration classrooms. These teachers become advocates and share their experiences with their peers inviting them to join in the process with the full support of their learning and experience. This creates a community of teacher learners and provides the organic momentum of teacher-inspired change that is purposely led and intentionally cultivated.

“Teachers who aren’t in the initial cohort get to see it in action before they commit. The interest is spreading like wildfire and non-cohort teachers are building their own resources.”

Jen Holdren
Instructional Coach, Colerain High School, Cincinnati, OH

Progress at Your Own Pace

Our process allows for the school to embrace instructional change at its own pace and build the capacities of systems and people in a methodical and fully sustainable manner with alignment to district and school initiatives.

Our evidence-based approach provides the full package of principal professional learning and coaching, school leadership team coaching, PLC or teacher team supports, teacher professional development and coaching, classroom resources, and supporting technology to realize the bold vision for instruction and resulting rich learning culture that you always desired.

“Trust the process. Find your First Followers and don’t give up.”

Adrianne Hopgood
Assistant Principal, Arthur Elementary School, Oklahoma City, OK
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We Are Not a Program – We Do Systems Work

Schools that start on the Enhance Pathway often have implemented program after program without obtaining the desired student achievement results. Programs cannot build the systems necessary for sustainable growth or create a vision destination compelling enough for the school to rally around. Systems work and re-visioning is second order change which requires time and the personalized support of dedicated leadership coaches.

Embedded Support for Systems Development

Our onsite school leadership coaching focuses on rapid, small wins that lead to sustainable systems improvement and instructional leadership development for principals. Every one of our leadership coaches has served as successful school or district leaders. Every single one.

School principals work side by side with our leadership coaches, learning by doing. This alliance ensures new practices immediately transfer and impact the school’s instructional systems, creating visible wins and building principal confidence.

“Every year we have one more thing. This work is not one more thing. It encompasses everything we are placing as a priority in our district.”

Erin Davis
Principal, Colerain High School, Cincinnati, OH

“Leadership Coaching has provided me the support and resources to become a true instructional leader for the first time in my building.”

Dustin Covarrubias
Principal, Willard Elementary School, South Elgin, IL

Two Complementary Enhance Pathway Solutions

Two models – Consortia or Demonstration Schools – that may be implemented separately or together. Comprehensive school advancement services are included in both models. 

Option 1:
Consortia Schools

The Consortia Schools Model allows for multiple schools to progress on the Enhance Pathway at their own pace with a shared learning community of practice for the school leadership teams and district leaders. The number of classrooms involved in implementation may vary between schools. The benefit of this model is that each school receives a tailored approach with the level of supports that fit the school’s needs and desired outcomes. This is a district-based, multi-school solution that may be combined with the Demonstration School Model below.

English Learners (EL) working together in School District U-46, Elgin, IL.

If you want to …

Integrate district initiatives with the vision implementation
Create a multi-school community of practice focused on a shared vision for instruction and implementation for school leadership teams and district leaders
Differentiate participation from intensive to light (or from all teachers to a small pilot of teachers)
Focus on instructional capacity building of school leadership teams
Build a leadership pipeline
Move at your own speed or implementation pace

Option 2:
Demonstration Schools

The Demonstration School Model is a more intensive schoolwide approach with additional tiers of support designed to accelerate implementation. This solution requires a strong existing school leadership team with a significant majority of teachers supporting the decision to become a Demonstration School.

A Demonstration School provides a laboratory of learning for the entire district. District office leaders see firsthand the instructional systems and structures that need to be developed to support a districtwide implementation with greater efficiency. Principals and teachers from Consortia Schools benefit by visiting Demonstration School classrooms to learn and replicate best practices in their own schools.

The ideal Enhance Pathway journey is a combined model that includes both Consortia Schools with at least one Demonstration School.

Students engaged with their teams, discussing text details at Jefferson Elementary, a Demonstration School in Grand Island, NE.

If you want to …

Accelerate successful change in a school
Establish laboratory of learning school(s) that mature into Model Schools with a bold vision for instruction that benefits all students
Facilitate and deepen implementation of the instructional vision and supporting systems using a learning lab model
Create a catalyst for accelerated implementation or a pacesetter for other schools in the district
Provide a laboratory of learning companion to Consortia Schools in the district

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Our Social Mission Drives Our Results

This work matters to us. Our social mission is to end generational poverty and eliminate racial achievement gaps through transformed core instruction.

We are so serious about our social mission that we founded our own independent Applied Research Center.

Our research center verifies every project using the most exacting federal research standards. We ensure our methods work in every school and every classroom in all the different communities that our partner schools serve.

The Enhance Pathway will help your school become the great equalizer children need it to be.

We Don’t Push Rocks Uphill – We Push Them Downhill

We build positive momentum quickly with a series of small wins that cascade into larger wins for the school. This provides a boost of confidence in the school advancement process while the effort gains greater momentum.

Learning Culture Grows

With each small win, the professional learning culture grows stronger, teachers feel reinvigorated as they share best practices with one another, and confidence builds until new dimensions of professional expertise spread across the school.

“They progress from ‘sage on the stage’ to the students taking responsibility. You can see how it’s changed the whole atmosphere of the school. It gives everyone a sense of pride. It has made us better, more effective teachers and leaders.”

Rhonda Hamilton
Principal, Arthur Elementary School, Oklahoma City, OK

Momentum Builds

We focus first on a coalition of the willing – those brave teachers that want to try something different to get a better result.

These teachers build momentum and buy-in among the faculty as they embrace the new approach. They essentially drive adoption of second order change in classroom practices.

Soon their classrooms pop with engagement and positive student behaviors. We celebrate their progress and invite others to visit their classrooms and replicate their success.

Teachers lead teachers into positive change.

“The coalition grows naturally from within as teachers see and hear about the successes of their peers.”

Kristin Andrews
Instructional Coach, Colerain High School, Cincinnati, OH

Teachers Become Leaders

The coalition of the willing quickly become influencers and advocates and help the principal lead the change process. Often, these same teachers become future leaders building a strong bench in the school and district.

“We have seen a huge improvement in the quality of our Friday PLCs that are led by our content leaders. Strengthening the instructional leadership of these individuals is having a direct positive impact on student academic outcomes.”

Jolene Galpin
Principal, Mildred Osborne Charter School, New Orleans, LA
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Visible Changes in Students

We provide the structures and supports to help students develop agency or the ability to self-direct their learning. Our support and model of instruction transition students from a learning environment that creates dependent, compliant learners to one that cultivates independent, critical thinkers.

Developing Student Agency Inside Classrooms

Changes in both teacher and student behavior soon become evident as teachers gradually release the responsibility for learning to students. Listen to a group of students discuss the resources available while working on a given task in the video below.

The most important transformation is always within the students themselves. We don’t just re-label students as “scholars.” We go deeper with our model of instruction and support students as they become empowered scholars in their learning environment. A learning culture is formed, focused on rigorous critical thinking and reasoning, where students engage in deeper learning and scholarship. Students take center stage and positive behaviors become incredibly visible in all our partner schools. Visitors notice the difference in student behavior and ask how to do the same in their schools.

Empowered Learning Environment

Our model of instruction creates classroom learning environments of rigorous engagement through purposeful and meaningful tasks that require student dialog around standards-based content. Classroom instruction transforms from low-rigor activities and worksheets to high-rigor team tasks.

In every case, student behavior and attendance improve because students are meaningfully engaged in satisfying, quality learning.

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The Enhance Pathway Journey

The Enhance Pathway provides the principal coaching, school leadership team structures, and teacher professional learning and coaching to define and achieve the bold vision for instruction that benefits all students with higher achievement and 21st century critical thinking, creative problem solving, leadership, and teamwork skills. Both solutions – Consortia Schools and Demonstration Schools – include tailored, comprehensive services that will advance good schools to great schools.

Empowerment Destination

The Empowerment Destination is reached when both the instructional systems and educator capacity mature to create an intentionally designed classroom learning culture of high student agency and academic rigor. All students soar to new heights and all teachers feel they have fully attained their true purpose.

Pathways to School Advancement

A True Partnership

Mutually Accountable Partnership

We meet you where you are, we learn your current strategies, and we activate your instructional vision, initiatives, and goals for school advancement.

We walk your schools with you, we own your data with you, and we work shoulder-to-shoulder with you.

We embed ourselves in the daily work of the team, share your problems and challenges, and are invested in your overall success.

“Build a culture of psychological safety where teachers are willing to grow, mess up, and be reflective.”

Erin Davis
Principal, Colerain High School, Cincinnati, OH

We Honor Your Work

We complement and build on the work at your school.

We provide a range of support and structures needed to rapidly transform leadership practices and enhance classroom instruction while honoring the current work of the school.

We implement systems that are missing or are not well-functioning and strengthen systems that are working.

We build capacity in instructional systems as well as leaders, teachers, and students.

“We are not paying for someone to come in and do something to us. This is a lot of coaching work for both the leadership team as well as for professional learning for our teachers with an emphasis on teacher leadership teams. Instructional Empowerment works alongside our teachers to help them develop and expand capacity.”

Brandon White,
Assistant Superintendent of Academics, South Bend School Community Corporation, IN

What Principals Can Expect

Why Teachers Embrace This Work

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Our Secret to 100% Success

Our approach is methodical and fast paced. We are data focused and have metrics to complement existing school data sources.

Predictive Team Metric

We use a research-validated, predictive team metric developed at Harvard University to identify and measure team effectiveness and drive improvements to structures and processes. This tool assesses team design, effort, strategy, knowledge, and skills to determine how well leadership teams will perform and develop over time. This team effectiveness survey is administered at the beginning and the end of the partnership year.

Leading Scientific Indicators of Instructional Rigor

We bring the most research-validated measures of rigor in the nation. We apply these scientific indicators of instructional rigor to focus the principal and school leadership team on the practices that must change and then coach on how to make those changes.

Tiers of Embedded Support

All our coaches are experts in their field. A leadership coach and faculty coach are provided to every partner school to support principals, the leadership team, instructional coaches, and teachers. Our onsite coaches become embedded in the school community and form strong bonds throughout the partnership.

We simultaneously build the capacity of the principal, school leadership team, teacher leaders, instructional coaches, teachers, and ultimately students with our commitment to systems improvement.

“The team, whether it be the individual that works with our teachers or the individual that works with us, they have such a wealth of knowledge and insight that we may not see because we are here day in and day out. There are so many different layers of things they support you with, it is amazing!”

Iris Rocio Jiménez
Principal, Scharbauer Elementary School, Midland, TX

Practical, Hands-on Professional Development

Everything we do is focused on high-quality instruction with increased student engagement and rigor. Our professional development is relevant, authentic, and immediately transferable with highly engaging student and teacher resources. We believe that our in-person and job-embedded professional development accelerates growth and transforms classrooms into thriving and dynamic learning environments.

Illinois School District U-46 engaged in professional development.

Short Cycles to Accelerate Progress

To accelerate implementation, we use a weekly action board and daily stand-up meetings to ensure all leadership actions are aligned to data and connected to their vision for instructional improvement. This daily and weekly accountability provides focus and follow through which quickly results in early wins and helps the team move from firefighting symptoms to curing root causes in their instructional systems.

Colerain High School Leadership team reviewing their Action Board.

Executive Action Team Meetings

We believe reciprocal accountability is the foundation to a successful partnership. The IE district lead meets regularly with the district executive action team to review data and engage in continuous improvement review cycles. The team transparently collaborates around available data, successes and impediments in the field, next steps, and how the district office can support the school advancement process. We hold ourselves accountable to the goals set forth and agreed upon in our proposal.

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“The Executive Action Team meeting provides explicit instructional leadership coaching for district level administration to implement powerful goal setting practices, build data monitoring systems and create and implement district level improvement plans to support our sites. Our leadership practices have changed to allow us to be the change agents of enhancing our systems until all systems work for all students.”

Dr. Suzanne Johnson
Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, School District U-46, IL

Hope Is Not a Reform Strategy

Our process helps schools move from “buying a program and hoping it will work” to a scientific approach and implementation with transparent data. We don’t believe in surprises. You will be informed of progress regularly, and with our scientific indicators of rigor, you will see the real-time data of instructional systems improvement.

The Longer You Partner with Us,
the Better Your Results

Build Your Capacity

Our goal is for you to experience self-sustaining increases in student learning gains.

How? We establish instructional systems, high-capacity principal leadership, and a strong school leadership team. Strengthening systems and developing leaders’ and teachers’ instructional capacity is critical to our work.

Grow from a Strong Foundation 

Our research shows student learning gains and proficiency continue to increase each year during our multi-year partnerships. Our support level is typically more intense in the beginning to establish the core systems. As the principal and school leadership team increase their capacities to lead the work, we will build the ability to sustain the initiative.

Catch Your Own Fish 

Recall the old saying: Give someone a fish, and the person will be hungry tomorrow. Teach someone to fish, and the person will never be hungry. Quick fixes never lead to sustainable results. The longer we have the opportunity to coach you, the better we can build your capacity to sustain the work.

Learn more about how we partner with schools.
According to a districtwide 10,000 student research study meeting What Works Clearinghouse federal standards in Des Moines Public Schools, all students in partner schools that worked with our team had a statistically significant improvement. Students in Year 2 schools had larger learning gains: the equivalent of an additional 21 days of learning in reading and 10 days in math.

The More Coaching Days –
The More Student Achievement

Everything we do is research-verified, including the effects of our school leadership coaches.

Research verifies that the more days of our side-by-side leadership coaching we provide to a principal and their leadership team, the greater the student achievement acceleration.

Instructional Empowerment takes great pains in providing the best school leadership coaches to our partner schools. Every one of our leadership coaches has served as successful school or district leaders. Every single one.

Basileo, L. D., Lyons, L., & Toth, M. D. (In Progress). Measure Real-Time Improvement of Instructional Trends and Systems: Validation of a Diagnostic Observation Tool.

Partner Schools on the Enhance Pathway

Focusing on Core Instruction Results in Promising Gains

School District U-46 is the second largest district in Illinois. It serves a student population with 95 home languages, and nearly 40% English Learners across 57 schools.

U-46 initially partnered with our team members with 5 Demonstration Schools. Together, we co-developed an instructional vision focused on ensuring all students engage in rigorous learning and receive quality core instruction to develop the skills they need for better life chances and opportunities.

After one year of partnership with our team members, U-46 is already seeing promising gains. Gaps are beginning to close for Black male students, English Learners, students receiving free and reduced meals, and students with disabilities. In year two, the partnership continues to strengthen as the district increased their number of Demonstration Schools to 14.

Video Credit: School District U-46, IL

“School District U-46, Illinois’ second largest district, has partnered with Instructional Empowerment as we strive toward our moral imperative to change our systems until they measurably work for all children. Our collaboration has pushed our leaders to refocus on core instruction and setting the conditions for self-regulation and agency for all students.”

Dr. Tony Sanders
Former Superintendent of School District U-46
Current Illinois State Superintendent of Education
Second grade students in School District U-46 collaborating together on a team task.

Gains Equate to Extra Days of Learning

Des Moines Public Schools is the largest school district in Iowa, with 64 schools. Des Moines has a large refugee community with over one hundred languages spoken in the school hallways.

  • 27% of students are English Learners and
  • 82% receive free and reduced meals

The district’s goal was to make rapid progress towards becoming a national model for urban education.

Des Moines Public Schools partnered with our team members, starting with six Demonstration Schools and expanding to include 22 Demonstration Schools in total.

According to a 10,000-student study conducted using federal research standards (What Works Clearinghouse), students at all Demonstration Schools experienced a statistically significant positive impact.

  • Students in schools in their first year of implementation experienced a 7% improvement in reading and 3% in math over the gain otherwise expected.
  • Students in year two schools experienced twice the gains, with a 15% improvement in reading and a 6% improvement in math over the gain otherwise expected.
  • High school students experienced 37% improvement in reading and 26% in math over the gain otherwise expected.

“First-hand testimony from educators engaged in Instructional Empowerment’s model shows the lasting impact it has had on school culture, student agency, and perhaps above all, teacher practice, as I observed when visiting Des Moines Public Schools. Students who take greater responsibility for their own learning will learn more effectively.”

Dr. Steven Tozer
Professor Emeritus of Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago

“The student experience has been enhanced so much by this work, and we’re seeing growth—proficiency scores are improving. That’s exciting. This is the school we want to have.”

Ben Graeber
Principal, North High School, Des Moines, IA

The photo above features Steven Tozer, Professor Emeritus of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Michael Toth, founder, and CEO of Instructional Empowerment observing student-led learning in Des Moines Public Schools.

Interested in learning more about the Enhance Pathway?

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Many of Instructional Empowerment’s team members previously served at another company led by CEO and Executive Director of Research, Michael Toth, before Instructional Empowerment was founded. They compiled some of the data and research on this website at this previous company. Michael Toth and the Instructional Empowerment team have perfected and applied their own evidence-based school advancement approach.