Case Studies

Omaha Public Schools

Focusing in on Leadership

A team working collaboratively.

“After four years of working together, we at OPS no longer consider FourPoint a vendor—we now consider them partners in the journey to improve outcomes for 52,000 young people.”

– Mark Evans, Superintendent, Omaha Public Schools

Experience

In 2013, Mark Evans became superintendent of Omaha Public Schools (OPS). That summer, on a recommendation from the Council of the Great City Schools, he hired FourPoint Education Partners (then Cross & Joftus) to conduct a comprehensive review of the school district and facilitate the development of a five-year strategic plan. Based on its new strategic direction, OPS then partnered with FourPoint to help create a principal supervisor position, support individuals moving into that new role, develop a career pipeline for principals, and serve as a critical resource and coach as the district set out on its path to improvement.

Insight

Like FourPoint, Superintendent Evans cares deeply about systemic coherence—the alignment of district strategies, systems, and resources with a clear theory of action for school improvement. FourPoint’s district review confirmed what Sup. Evans expected: Although OPS boasted a number of important strengths—including an outstanding instructional framework and a very supportive community—the district had disparate strategies across its central office departments. OPS needed to focus on deep implementation of programs and practices, engage stakeholders fully around a clear vision for improvement, allocate resources effectively and efficiently, and use performance management to guide and monitor progress in real time. In short, Mr. Evans needed to foster coherence.

Action

For the district review, FourPoint collected a variety of data that OPS needed for improvement purposes, engaging hundreds of stakeholders through community forums, interviews and focus groups, classroom observations and a survey of all principals and teachers. Findings included:

  • Student achievement was generally flat and actually decreasing in some areas.
  • OPS had a world-class instructional framework, but implementation in classrooms varied widely across schools.
  • Principals were receiving little support or coaching to improve instruction in their schools, and principal evaluations were not effective in holding principals accountable for improved student performance.
  • There was a lack of clarity among central office leadership about roles related to supporting principals and schools.

After the needs assessment was presented to the board and administration, FourPoint facilitated the development of the five-year strategic plan. Again, stakeholders from across the community were engaged in the advisory and working groups that drafted the plan. The inclusive process created buy-in for bold recommendations for improvement. The plan was approved unanimously by a divided school board in 2014.

OPS then engaged FourPoint to support implementation of the strategic plan. Most notably, the new strategic plan called for a new senior central office Executive Director position to supervise the district’s 81 principals. Sup. Evans hired four former principals to serve in the new role and called upon FourPoint to help define the new position and provide coaching and support to the individuals serving in the position for the first time.

Impact

This project is in its third year, and Mr. Evans and other key stakeholders credit the work for improving school quality and student achievement.

“For years, the Omaha Public Schools hired principals and then provided little oversight, letting many sink or swim on their own. These days, OPS manages its principals differently. The district has promoted several principals to a new position, executive director, to train, mentor and motivate the district’s other principals. This priority on leadership development is helping fuel OPS’ improving test scores and academic results.”

– Omaha World Herald editorial, July 11, 2017

Sup. Evans points to his work with FourPoint as a significant contributor to this improvement. “Since I started and FourPoint began working with us in 2013, student achievement is up and school quality has improved. . . Let me be clear: FourPoint is not the only cause of these gains. But I value their partnership immensely,” he said.

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