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Designing Aligned School Models: A Framework for School Improvement

Following last year’s publication of The Science of Summit, Summit Public Schools is proud to announce the release of Designing Aligned School Models: A Framework for School Improvement. This white paper not only serves as a companion piece to The Science of Summit, but also prompts school communities to articulate their existing school model, design an aspirational school model, and identify gaps between the two.

In The Science of Summit, we introduced a multi-step framework for the development of an aligned school model, which represented our best recommendations for how a school community might engage in strategic improvements. After the paper’s publication, we called upon teachers, school leaders, researchers, and policymakers to help us strengthen this framework, and we partnered with like-minded organizations like Transcend, NewSchools Venture Fund, and others who support communities engaging in new school designs to further develop our thinking.

Since 2017, Summit has added an additional 200+ schools to our community, and we have learned with them as they develop their new school models as well.

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Now, in Designing Aligned School Models, we share a revised version of The Aligned School Model Framework based on the feedback we have received from diverse communities across the country. Each time we work with a school community — whether rural, urban, or suburban — we use this framework to help structure our design work. This tool serves as the organizing backbone for professional development and school improvement efforts, and educators, parents, and other community members have recommended we share it more broadly.

Aligned School Model Framework_Blog_06042018
The revised, eight-step Aligned School Model Framework.

Within this paper, we share our revised framework: specifically, we articulate the challenge we are trying to address; introduce the revised, eight-step framework, describing each step of the framework in more detail; and share examples of aligned school models.

Importantly, a framework is not prescriptive; it is content-agnostic, providing a roadmap to the how of school improvement rather than dictating the what. A framework helps move the work forward in a logical, rational manner and creates a mechanism for iteration and continuous improvement. Without a clearly defined mechanism for continuous feedback, new school models can stagnate, fade, or become unsustainable.

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Educators work through the entire Aligned School Model Framework during our professional development session.
Educators work through the entire Aligned School Model Framework during the “Designing Aligned School Models” professional development session.

The Aligned School Model Framework came out of our own continuous improvement work at Summit Public Schools. Having done this work ourselves and with other schools and districts nationwide, we encourage your school community to articulate and compare its existing and aspirational school models. We also welcome you to take part in a formal Designing Aligned School Models professional development session, where Summit educators facilitate your team through each step of the framework’s articulation process.

We invite school and district leaders to connect with our team via email to learn more. Reach us at schools@summitlearning.org.

Download the full white paper now to read more about designing aligned school models.

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About the author

Erica Swallow is a storyteller at Summit Public Schools, dedicated to sharing informative and inspiring stories from around the Summit Learning community. Erica's thoughts have been published in Forbes, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. A first-generation college student, she believes education is the key to opportunity. Erica holds degrees from New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.