Dear Friends of UP Education Network,
As we enter this season of gratitude and reflection, I wanted to take a moment to share a few updates that highlight the ways in which our organization is continuing to learn and grow to best serve all of our scholars. Now more than ever, we must succeed in our promise to educate and empower the extraordinary and resilient students we are so fortunate to call part of the UP community.
Over the last year, UP has embraced the need for important program enhancements and adjustments to raise academic achievement results, strengthen culture, and reduce suspension rates across our network over the coming years. Specifically, we recognized that there was more to do to better support our students, especially those with high behavioral and emotional needs, in staying in the classroom. Our early returns are promising: we are proud of the strides we’ve made in creating safer and more stable school climates while at the same time reducing instances of suspensions across the network by 45% during the first twelve weeks of school.
Our work is not done, and we know that it will take time in order to accomplish sustained and consistent improvement on this front. To that end, in recent years, a number of high performing school networks nationally have pioneered effective approaches to improve school culture and reduce suspensions, while fostering safe, inclusive, and supportive learning environments that continue to hold students to the high bar of excellence that we know they can achieve. We are proud to embark on a similar journey. In addition to early changes we have already made, by the end of December we will complete a detailed three-year roadmap to meaningfully improve school culture and increase student achievement across our network.
The organizations that have done this work best have taught us that we need to focus on significant improvements over time that address some key aspects of the school model. As such, we have pre-identified a few main areas of focus over the next three years: teacher development, family and community engagement, and student support. A few elements of our plan that are already in place or are about to go into effect this academic year are:
Family and Community Engagement
- Hired a network-wide Director of Family and Community Engagement, who has already put in place a number of new and best practices, including staff coaching, standing family councils and school site councils at all UP schools, and new partnerships with community organizations
- Developed a series of network-wide, family feedback sessions and community-building meetings for the 2016-2017 school year to engage families in conversation around topics of their choice, including behavior systems and student support
Teacher Development and Student Support
- Created a robust teacher development pathway, aimed at improving teacher practice, with targeted professional development and coaching, and an initial focus on setting and maintaining stable classroom cultures
- Providing additional resources and expertise to schools and teachers to support students with high behavioral and emotional needs, including the hiring of a behavioral/student support specialist
- Monitoring concrete, measurable health metrics around school climate, such as referral rates and family survey data
As an organization, we are confident that the plans we have put in place will help our schools continue to evolve from the amazing learning environments that they are today to extraordinary places of joyful learning and student support for many years ahead.
Our collective intention is for UP Education Network to be an organization that, like our students, is always seeking to grow and improve. And like our families, we have high hopes and dreams for our scholars, and we will do everything we can to support them in school and in life. Thank you for believing in our work, and we look forward to sharing more updates on our progress over the next few months.