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What is the Woodlawn Innovation Network?

What is the Woodlawn Innovation Network?


Woodlawn Innovation Network (WIN) is a Birmingham City Schools initiative to transform education as we know it in the five schools in the Woodlawn High School feeder pattern. The transformative approach, supported by Woodlawn Foundation and A+ Education Partnership, focuses on teaching children not only what to know, but how to think and how to apply that thinking to real-world problems. WIN features an integrated curriculum that carries children from Pre-K through high school graduation with the opportunity to earn up to 60 hours of college credit, the equivalent of an associate degree.


 What are the goals of the Woodlawn Innovation Network?


 WIN breathes life into Alabama’s PLAN 2020.  As a dynamic, 21st century system of schools WIN will energize teaching, learning and student results in five schools, literally changing the lives of nearly 3,000 young people, their families and their community. In so doing, WIN will become a model demonstration site for innovation in Birmingham and throughout the State of Alabama.  Its students will compete with the best in the world. 


Specifically, WIN is designed to achieve the following objectives by the end of 2017-18:


·         A minimum of 80% of students who enter high school in the Woodlawn Innovation Network will graduate from high school.


·         A minimum of 50% of graduates in the Woodlawn Innovation Network will complete at least 20 hours of college credit or a technical certification during their four-year high school experience.


·         Every graduate will leave high school with a personalized plan to complete the next step in their education, either an a four-year degree, an Associate degree or technical certification; further, every graduate will successfully complete at least one course from Lawson State Community College or the University of Alabama, Birmingham prior to graduation from high school.


·         Every graduate will possess the knowledge and skills needed to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing, first-year courses at a two-year or four-year college, trade school or technical school without remediation.


·         At least 80% of students who remain in the WIN Pre-K-12 feeder pattern for 2 or more consecutive years will perform on grade level in language arts and mathematics.


·         100% of students in the Pre- K-12 WIN feeder pattern will possess the ability to apply core academic skills to real-world situations through hands-on, problem-solving experiences with local business, community and higher education partners.


Realizing these aggressive goals and objectives will require everyone to do things differently.



Will teachers lose their jobs?


No teacher who currently serves in a Woodlawn feeder school will lose his or her job in the Birmingham City Schools; however, teachers are not necessarily guaranteed a position within the Woodlawn feeder pattern. The success of the Woodlawn feeder-pattern schools is built on total commitment of the entire faculty and staff.  We recognize that the implementation of the new model may not be the best fit for everyone. The district is committed to reassigning employees to other worksites without judgment or consequences to the affected employees.


How will the staffing process work?


All staff in the Woodlawn feeder pattern will complete a brief written statement about their commitment to the innovation process taking place in their schools.  Each staff member will have a one-on-one meeting with his or her Principal to discuss expectations for the staff and their commitment to the process.  Each administrator will do the same.  Final staffing decisions will be announced in early April.  The detailed process is discussed below.



February 1-14, 2014



·         The District determines 2014-15 staffing needs for all five schools.



February 17, 2014



·         The District posts staffing needs on its website.



·         All current staff members in the Woodlawn feeder pattern will receive a form allowing them to state their desire to opt-out or opt-in to WIN.  The form must be completed by February 28.



February 12 , 2014, 4pm



·         The Superintendent discusses the opt-in/opt-out process with staff members from Woodlawn High School and Putnam Middle School.



February 13, 2014, 4pm



·         The Superintendent discusses the opt-in/opt out process with staff members from Avondale Elementary, Oliver Elementary and Hayes K-8.



March 3-14, 2014



·         Opt-in/opt-out commitment forms accepted by the District Human Resources Department.



March 5- April 14, 2014



·         Principals conduct 30-minute, one-on-one discussions with staff members who indicate a desire to opt-in to WIN.



·         Principals make staffing recommendations to the Human Resources Department.



·         The District posts anticipated open positions within and outside of the district and begins screening for possible candidates.



·         The District’s Human Resources Department conducts discussions about transfers with staff members who indicate a desire to opt-out of WIN and those who are not recommended for placement in WIN feeder schools; all transfers will be conducted in accordance with District policy.



April 4-11, 2014



·         Staffing decisions made and communicated.



April 11 - May 1, 2014



·         District Leaders and Principals interview candidates for and fill open positions in accordance with district policy.




What are the expectations for those who opt-into schools in the Woodlawn Innovation Network?


 Very simply, every staff member of the Woodlawn feeder schools commits to learn,  grow and embrace innovation in his/her classroom.  The changes will be phased-in over the course of the initiative, and staff members will receive intense professional development and one-on-one support to be successful. 


·         Principals, teachers and instructional support staff from all five schools (i.e., counselors, instructional coaches and specialists, etc.) will be expected to attend a June 2-6, 2014, Summer Institute. (The few staff members who may have conflicts will be offered an alternate opportunity for the Summer Institute). 


·         Staff who opt-into WIN will be required to fully participate in the professional development process.  During the 2014 Summer Institute staff will work side-by-side with local partners like Jones Valley Teaching Farm, the Cultural Alliance, the McWane Science Center, Birmingham Museum of Art and others to begin the curriculum development process.  Using the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, teachers will engage in instructional design, developing hands-on, inquiry-based and integrated units of study.  Design thinking will be a problem-solving model that teachers will utilize to develop rigorous, real world learning opportunities for students in their daily instruction. 


·         Teachers will utilize a backwards design curriculum framework that includes big ideas, enduring understandings, and essential questions to guide inquiry.  That framework will serve as a lens that will support innovation in the classroom.  Real-world community partners will collaborate with teachers to plan and implement authentic learning experiences for all students. 


·         During the 2014-15 school year, classroom teachers will design and implement hands-on, inquiry- based units, including quarterly real world design challenges.  Visitors to classrooms will begin to see evidence of teachers using the Rigor/Relevance Framework and high-payoff instructional strategies.  As part of the inquiry-based units, teachers will employ more lessons that provide students with the opportunity to think in complex ways and to apply their knowledge and skills in real world situations.  Students will create solutions and take action to further develop their own learning. There will be a dramatically-reduced use of worksheets and rote memorization.  Teachers will ensure students have a sound understanding of foundational knowledge and skills and engage them in problem-solving, critical thinking, making arguments and thinking deeply about the world around them.  Teachers will move from whole-group instruction to data-driven, personalized learning for students, including blended and flexible learning. An increasing number of lessons will help students understand how the information they are learning in the classroom is used in the workplace.  Over the course of the next four years teachers will continue to “expand their instructional toolkits” so that by the end of the 2017-18 school year, mastery and competency-based learning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills will be promoted through every class, PK-12,


·         Staff members can expect to see changes in the way the school day is structured, as time is organized to support inquiry learning.   For instance, when it is fully developed, the elementary school day will be focused in three specific blocks of time: one that develops foundational skills in language arts and mathematics, one integrates learning across the core content areas and the arts, and a third block that supports innovation by connecting students with community partners in real world learning experiences.   


·         The physical space in the school and classrooms will be reorganized to support innovation and learning for the 21st century.  Staff members may be asked to move to different offices or classrooms to facilitate the implementation of integrated units and more closely align grade-level teams.  At the high school, a new space utilization plan will provide create unique, dedicated space within the existing structures for the Academy of Business and Finance and the Academy of Arts and Environmental Science.  Over the course of the next few years, existing underutilized space will be reconfigured to create an Early College Center on the grounds of Woodlawn High School.


·         The District is expanding available technology, particularly at the high school, and staff will be expected to begin integrating the use of technology as a learning tool to expand students’ reach beyond the walls of the school, such as regular, effective use of  tablets, promethean boards, classroom computers, distance and blended learning.


·         In fall 2014 staff members can expect to see a streamlined set of courses in grades nine and 10, all focused on accelerating learning to prepare students to be successful in college classes.  By the time the Early College Academies are fully developed, each school will offer students a unique set of high school and college courses that reflect the school’s interest-based focus.  The middle schools will begin to see changes in course offerings, reflecting changes at the high school.  Middle school students will have the opportunity to earn high school credits.


·         Principals, teachers and instructional support staff will continue to participate in professional development, including Summer Institutes, through 2016.  There is a possibility professional development could continue through summer 2018, based on needs of the schools.



Will staff members who choose to opt-out of WIN lose tenure?


Staff members will retain tenure when they are transferred/re-assigned.




Can Principals let staff go at the end of the 2014-15 school year?


 Once staff members “opt-in” to and are confirmed as a part of WIN, future staffing decisions are made in accordance with District policy and procedures, just as they would be in any school.



Will there be an extended day or an extended year?


 Birmingham City Schools will accommodate the learning needs of every student which may include learning opportunities outside of the standard school day or contract year (i.e. before/after school and Saturday school, summer academies, camps, etc.). Hayes K-8 was awarded the School Improvement Grant (SIG) and it is the only school with a defined extended school day at this time.  If we find it necessary to require an extended day or year for each school, we will do so as required by the Code of Alabama (1975). WIN wants every student to have the opportunity for extended learning.  The exact structure of those opportunities will be determined over the course of 2014-15 through the work of the school Design Teams.  Staff members involved in extended day or Summer Bridge activities will be compensated.  At this time, there is only one extended-learning activity planned.  We know that rising ninth and 10th graders will have the opportunity to participate in a one-week Summer Bridge with the University of Alabama at Birmingham or Lawson State Community College. 



Will there be certified teachers instructing the students?


By and large, all teachers will be certified and highly qualified in the areas in which they teach. In addition, the design for WIN schools anticipates expanding real-world learning opportunities by possibly offering some instruction from professionals who possess the required skills to be successful in their respective roles, but may not possess traditional certifications.



Will Principals in Woodlawn feeder pattern schools be called CEOs?


 The highest leader on the campus of each WIN school will still be the Principal. There is no proposal to call WIN principals CEOs. A growing number of innovative districts and schools across the country are beginning to use the term, “CEO” as a kind of “short hand” describing roles and responsibilities for their leaders in the 21st century. Principals will be both visionary and flexible, able to respond rapidly to a changing environment.  Language in the state waiver application compared WIN principals to CEO's of their schools in that they will have greater authority over key aspects of their schools, WIN Principals will be given a set of annual targets that they must reach – much like any corporate CEO would receive from his or her Board. Even with this new level of authority and responsibility, WIN Principals’ reporting structure remains the same as other BCS leaders, as does their protocol for day-to-day administration including purchasing, making personnel recommendations, and conducting evaluations. 



Is this an effort to create charter schools?


No, the Woodlawn Feeder pattern schools remain exclusively public schools in the Birmingham City Schools. The Birmingham Board of Education is the governing body that will continue to develop policy for the system and provide support to the Superintendent, who is responsible for day-to-day administration and operation of the schools in the feeder pattern.



Will the District be redrawing the attendance zone for Woodlawn High School to change the student population?


 We currently serve more than 3,000 students in the Woodlawn Innovation Network.  The make-up of the student body is 94% African American, 4% Hispanic and 2% of other identified racial groups.  It is our intent that the number of students and families grows as WIN becomes fully established.