For teachers in the Joplin R-8 School District, who were not thrilled with Core Collaborative, the expensive consulting firm brought in by former curriculum director Sarah Stevens, the 4-3 vote that booted the group was welcomed enthusiastically.
The Collaborative and its pied piper, Paul Bloomberg, repackaged theories that have been around for years, including some that had been discredited, and passed them off as a miracle cure for an administration that had few people who could tell the difference between professional development that worked and professional development that was a disaster.
As the R-8 Board of Education is considering yet another consulting firm to turn out a group of Stepford teachers, the original one is putting its spin on its time here, cashing in on Joplin with the release of a self-serving case study of its one year in the district, titled One School's Journey- The Story of Joplin Schools: An Impact Teams Case Study.
The study begins with a bleak assessment of the teaching that was taking place in Joplin:
Totally absent was an aligned, engaging curriculum that was standards-based. In addition, high-quality, standards based formative assessments to measure student progress were not evident in most classrooms.
The study details what Core Collaborative did in Joplin and takes credit for improvements in MAP scores, though there is no evidence to indicate the consulting firm had anything to do with those improvements in the little time it was here.
Remarkably, the case study ends on a positive note talking about the new direction Joplin is moving in ... but failing to mention that the R-8 Board kicked Core Collaborative out, just one year into a three-year program:
I n 2015, the Joplin School district being guided by a new superintendent, Dr. Norm Ridder, went through a human-centered design plan to gather stakeholder voice and create a five-year strategic plan complete with a new mission and vision.
With the help of community members, administration, teachers, parents, and students the vision of Joplin Schools is to engage a community of learners through integrity, empowerment, and opportunity.
The plan has three main goals: Goal 1: Joplin Schools will prepare every learner to be physically, socially, and intellectually ready to take on the challenges in the next level of learning. Goal 2: Joplin Schools will be a team of empowered adults who are student-focused through their actions, resources, and continuous improvement cycles. Goal 3: Joplin Schools will be a customer-focused culture that demonstrates responsible management in a purposeful manner to add value to the system for the benefit of students, staff, and patrons of the district. In order to achieve these goals, Joplin Schools will build a high performing community of learners engaged in their future through a culture of continuous improvement.
The next step is to continue to build capacity within the system by developing models of success and providing feedback through the Impact Team process. Taking the classroom model approach, a repeatable seven-week plan to support schools has been created in continuing to roll out student-centered learning one team at a time.
Of course, the study fails to mention that Ridder's plan began and was created after Core Collaborative was history in Joplin.
The study also includes glowing recommendations from two current upper administration members who pushed hard for the retention of Core Collaborative.
Executive Director of Student Services Mark Barlass offered the following testimonial:
I’ve been working for 17 years in special education and special programs, and in doing so I know what it’s like to be a segmented part of the educational process.
Working with The Core Collaborative with a focus on the Impact Team Model has finally given our district a central focus.
The work done by The Core Collaborative consultants has had a profound effect on all aspects of our district. For the first time in 17 years, I see all departments speaking a common language, from our special education programs, our English Language Learner programs, even our juvenile detention programs, everyone is speaking the same language.
Positive things are happening in the way teachers are approaching their instruction, pedagogy is changing, and more best practice instructional strategies are being utilized.
It used to be the only place you could get high quality instruction was in the general education setting, with implementation of The Impact Team Model, standards based instruction is taking place in the hallways, in the special education department, it’s happening all over our district and it’s something I’ve never seen before. Teacher team, school teams and teacher teams all working together towards a common goal is what anchors this work.
Jennifer Doshier, the current Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, was also effusive in her praise:
Our leadership and administrative team have gained a much deeper understanding of teacher clarity and the formative process through leadership training on classroom walk throughs and specific feedback to students.
With a strong focus on teacher clarity, self-regulated learning and specific feedback in communication arts from Dr. Bloomberg, we saw large percentile gains in our proficient and advanced students on state testing.
Impact Teams were developed at one of our elementary schools and we saw gains in this already high performing school. We are looking forward to taking Impact Teams and the formative process to our other schools. Paul’s support was instrumental in this process and the success we have seen thus far. We look forward to the student achievement results in the future.
Surprisingly, one person whose testimonial was not included in the case study was the former Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment (executive apparently was added for Doshier when she was moved to the job to justify her much higher salary) Sarah Stevens.
Stevens was removed from her position after aggressively pushing Core Collaborative, to the point of trying to have teachers get student video testimonials about its effectiveness and trying to convince area school districts that they should hire the firm.
Stevens submitted her resignation and is now listed as Director of Professional Learning for Core Collaborative.