DCS Forward: A comprehensive strategic plan

DCS Forward is the Duanesburg Central School District’s comprehensive plan to revolutionize its schools. The plan features long-term goals and the work that is being done to achieve them. The goals are based on recent academic data and the visionary leadership of the Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Niedermeier and school administrators. 

The school district began work toward achieving the goals outlined in “DCS Forward” during the 2020-21 school year. Work will continue through the 2022-23 school year and beyond.

DCS Forward Goals and Strategies

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Navigate to: Academic Achievement | Personal Development | Facilities & Finances | Culture | Partnerships | Communication

Watch: DCS community forum video from December 2020

View: DCS strategic plan Google Slides presentation

Academic Achievement

icon with a star and pencilWe will increase the number of students participating in challenging coursework and the number of students demonstrating proficiency across curricula.

Increase proficiency on 3-5 state tests for all students: Students often struggle to transition to more rigorous academic work in intermediate grades. We will develop an intermediate house model for grades 3 through 5 to support ongoing collaboration between the three grade levels and ensure curriculum is both horizontally and vertically aligned to allow for the smooth transition to more academically rigorous content and assessments.

    • Cluster intermediate classrooms to have grade levels in close proximity with each other.
    • Establish common planning time for grade levels.
    • Develop an aligned curriculum and rigorous assessments with coordinators and BOCES coaches.
    • Assess the effectiveness of departmentalizing of content instruction for grades 3-5.

Increase the percentage of students in poverty achieving proficiency on 3-5 state tests: Students with lower SES often require more medical, academic, and socio-emotional support than their peers. We will create an advocacy intervention for students in poverty so that they can stay on par with higher wealth peers. 

    • Create a select sub committee of RtI to support K-2 students of lower socioeconomic status who struggle academically.
    • Establish bi-weekly review needs/assessments.  
    • Create parent support contacts/strategies.
    • Engage in faculty development around discussions about biases and equity (e.g. book study, etc.).

Improve elementary students’ number sense: We want students to build their conceptual knowledge of numbers and their relationships to each other. This goal is important because it supports the mathematical practice of “look for and make use of structure.”

    • Direct and explicit instruction on math fact fluency and strategies.
    • On-going review for vertical alignment.

Improve continuity in K-2 reading instruction: There is misalignment in resources and assessments used in K-2 that could be resulting in variability of achievement.

    • Multiple teacher meetings at both grade-level and department-level will be designated to:
      • Review pre- and post-assessments. 
      • Reflect collaboratively on teaching with the primary resources (sharing what worked and how we know, etc.)
      • Plan, evaluate and revise assessments for increasing rigor. 

Increase proficiency rates in 7-8 math: 7th and 8th grade math scores lag behind other schools in our region. We must make sure that our 7th and 8th grade students are more prepared for high school math. 

    • Pivot to the use of Illustrative Math in both 7th and 8th grade.
    • Work with the BOCES instructional coach to improve strategies for middle level learners.

Develop a more cohesive middle school program: Because of our current structure, middle level learners simply do not get the attention and support that we offer our Elementary and High School students. There is a need to strengthen and support those students. 

    • Research best practices for middle level learners.
    • Convene focus groups with students, parents, and teachers to discuss middle level needs and wants.
    • Closely examine middle level data related to achievement and behavior, especially as it compares to elementary and high school measures.

Improve students’ ability to justify and explain: The ability to effectively justify and explain answers is an important problem solving skill and it is assessed on all state exams in mathematics. 

    • Increase familiarity with expectations and vocabulary.
    • Incorporate Regents questions into daily learning and assessments.
    • Teach students to utilize the rubric and strategies to demonstrate sound reasoning through their writing (explain) and mathematical work (justify).

Increase the number of students taking Algebra 2: Too few students of our college-bound students are prepared for college level math. We must provide the support necessary for them to succeed at the next level. 

    • Establish a support intervention for students in A2 with weaker Algebra skills
    • Emphasize the importance of  this course though the scheduling process.

Improve students’ science writing skills: Assessments show that our students struggle with the ability to communicate in non-multiple choice, short response-style exam questions. This type of communication is an important life skill. 

    • Provide strategies for breaking down questions
    • Use context clues to identify key vocabulary
    • Focus on improving breadth of student response
    • Provide opportunities for peer evaluations and analysis

Improve students’ writing about enduring issues: Our students struggle with writing about enduring issues, which is both an assessed element on Regents exams and an important life skill.  

    • Integrate enduring issues in writing from 6th grade through graduation.
    • Focus on the analysis of primary sources.
    • Balance content instruction with historical thinking and literacy skills.

Improve students’ ability to support claims with evidence: We want students to independently identify textual evidence to support their claims because this is a requirement in all disciplines. 

    • Direct explicit instruction of how to identify textual evidence.
    • Practice skills using highlighting, underlining, graphic organizers.
    • Provide more explicit feedback.
    • Create a minimum of one evidence-based content specific writing prompt per quarter.
    • Teach and reinforce SCORE writing rubric strategies: spelling, closing, opening, respond to task, and editing.

Personal Development

icon of a plantWe will encourage our students to become well-rounded individuals through engagement in the arts, athletics, extracurricular activities, volunteerism and career development. We will support our staff in professional capacity building endeavors. 

Increase the percentage of high school students who have taken at least two business courses by graduation: It is important that all students who graduate from DCS have had educational experiences that prepare them for the world of work. To that end, we want to encourage more students to take at least two business courses by graduation. 

    • We will establish a career exploration and internship program with a certified work-based learning coordinator.
    • We will examine and modernize business course offerings to make them more attractive, including entrepreneurship, personal finance, marketing and accounting.
    • We will leverage partnerships with higher education so students can earn college credits.
    • We will explore using FBLA to infuse excitement into the business program.

Increase the percentage of high school students who participate in at least two music courses by graduation: Music instruction can be beneficial in many ways. We will increase the number of students who participate in music instruction in the high school. 

    • We will analyze survey and focus group information to determine the reasons why students discontinue music instruction.
    • We will analyze our scheduling and instructional practices.
    • We will seek to add music courses that are attractive and beneficial to students.

Increase technology capacity of staff: It is important that all students who graduate from DCS have had educational experiences that prepare them for the world of work. 

    • Provide professional development resources for the Technology Committee to build capacity as turnkey trainers.
    • Provide time during conference days for workshops.
    • Develop a system for on-demand staff training with videos, documents, Google Classroom, etc. 

Align professional development with employees’ goals and growth needs: As a district, we will use data to develop goals and use goals to dictate the types of professional learning opportunities in which we invest. We will also personalize adult learning to meet the individual growth needs of our staff. 

    • The Data Committee will be restructured to look at district data and develop district goals. 
    • The Professional Development Committee will investigate and compile resources for staff development based on goals.
    • Building administrators will work with teachers on crafting individual professional development goals that are aligned to personal growth goals and district goals.

Facilities & Finances

icon of a building with grass and a cloudWe will create and maintain safe, inviting, and modern facilities designed to help our students succeed without sacrificing district financial stability.

Five year fiscal planning forecast: The district will develop a five year fiscal plan that keeps the tax levy increase at or below the cap per year without loss of programming, and supports the district mission and values by January 2021.

    • Track and find offsetting efficiencies or cuts for COVID-19 related expenses and withholdings.
    • Develop prioritized needs.
    • Investigate 0-based budget planning for near future.

Capital project: The district will develop a capital project plan by 2023 that will modernize our instructional spaces and make our schools more welcoming and inviting to the community without adding to taxpayer burden.

    • Collaborate with outside entities on the elementary school playground.
    • Seek out an architect to develop plans based on five-year plans.
    • Put a referendum out to vote in May 2022.
    • Begin project utilizing capital reserves as early as summer 2024.
    • Complete project by fall of 2026.

Culture

icon with people of various heights standing on boxes to make them the same heightWe will foster a culture that all district stakeholders believe is safe, welcoming and inclusive.

Improve stakeholder perception of wellness: Parent, student, and staff climate surveys will demonstrate 15% improvement in the categories of bullying, mental health, and substance abuse by June 2022. 

    • Educate parents and families about mental health services available.
    • Provide Dignity for All Students Act training targeted toward students and parents and provide simple and multi-modal methods of DASA referrals.
    • Invest in staff professional learning in ACES and PBIS at intermediate and secondary levels.

Develop equity plan: The district will develop an equity plan based on a comprehensive audit of the 12 elements of the Equity Learning Institute’s Equity Framework by June 2022. 

    • An Equity and Inclusion Committee (EIC) will be formed.
    • Members of EIC will be trained as equity facilitators.
    • EIC will construct an equity audit of the district.
    • Additional groups in-school community will be trained.

Improve DCS “net promoter score” (NPS): The district will seek to measure the likelihood of stakeholders recommending our school to outsiders and continually improve this metric. 

    • Research business use of NPS.
    • Integrate NPS questions into climate survey.
    • Analyze score at least twice per year with the PR Committee.

Partnerships

icon of puzzle piecesWe will partner with resources that will help us prepare our students for fulfilling their dreams and aspirations for the future. 

Deepen Partnerships with Higher Education: The Capital Region has many college resources nearby from which DCS may benefit. Not only can partnering with Higher Ed. Institutions provide greater opportunities for our students, these partnerships can also help the district with future staffing and training needs. 

    • The high school will establish a 1+1 program in conjunction with Schenectady County Community College by January 2021.
    • Provide additional development for AP teachers.
    • Provide outreach to area colleges to solicit student teachers in areas of need.
    • Join the C-TEN working group at the University at Albany.
    • Join the Clarkson advisement group.

Explore other revenue streams: Though we will always be primarily funded by state aid and local taxes, it may be helpful to seek out funds for special projects through other means. 

    • DCS will utilize the BOCES grant writing service.
    • The district will increase private grant submissions and partnerships with the district Foundation as a way to increase revenue.
    • The district will increase its capacity as a vendor of remote learning and professional development by June 2023.

Communication

icon with two chat boxesWe will recognize the exemplary work of students and staff, give all stakeholders more input into school decisions, and elevate our reputation across the region. 

Internal and external communications: Each school in the district will improve perception of its communication among all stakeholder groups. 

    • Administrators will conduct “rounding” sessions with all staff twice per year.
    • Principals will communicate with parents/guardians at least twice per month.
    • Regular “management team” check-ins will be conducted twice per month.
    • Administrator/Superintendent Rounding twice per month.

Increasing DCS brand value: The district will improve its communications profile, adding value to the DCS “brand.” Our hope is that improving our perceived value may also help us to improve our enrollment over time. 

    • The district will develop a profile of a DCS graduate that reflects our mission and values and recognizes DCS students and graduates who exemplify these values. 
    • The district will develop a cohesive social media strategy as well as a style guide for social media.
    • The district will update its website to improve its ease of use and compliance with the law.
    • The district will reach out to local media to highlight important instructional initiatives.
    • The district will modernize its approach to print communications to focus on attracting new and outside-of-district readers.

Improve district transparency: It is important that the district be public with its data. To that end, we will construct a data dashboard on our website that will provide stakeholders with pertinent information about success measurements that we use to gauge our progress. 

    • Conduct informational forums about the data included in this plan and our strategic goals.
    • Determine the metrics that we will use to determine our success.
    • Report out to the Board of Education regularly on our progress.
    • Conduct regular meetings with the PTA to share data.
    • Post pertinent data and source locations on the website.