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System Initiatives to Foster Strengths, Hope, Well-being, and Engagement

An inherent shift in school improvement efforts moves the focus from what is wrong to what is strong. Data conversations take a deep approach to understanding why engagement matters, how strengths can be developed and maximized, and what actions need to be taken to help students and staff achieve Vision 2018.

The following are our investments in strengths and engagement providing support, motivation, and energy for achievement.

Strength Specialists

Read Ducketts Lane Elementary School teacher Rachel Edoho-Eket’s blog on how strengths development can transform school culture. →

In August 2014 HCPSS identified a group of system leaders to be trained as Strengths Specialists. The participants consisted of directors, coordinators, a principal, and managers from various district divisions and offices; additionally, six school counselors from the Elementary School Model (ESM) Initiative were included in the workshop. The intensive three-day training focused on coaching, professional learning, and action planning. The group divided into three sub-groups, each with a specific target audience: ESM Initiative staff and students, school leadership, and district leadership.

Through the work of the Strengths Specialists, HCPSS is establishing a strengths-based school system, which is invested in the belief that the more leaders understand strengths and talents, the more leaders can support how staff members use talents and strengths to improve performance and engagement.

Strengths Action Steps for Leaders

Strengths development has been a component of every principal and assistant principal leadership meeting throughout the school year, in addition to division and department meetings. The activities are designed to facilitate personal learning and professional reflection about how strengths are evident in leadership actions and how leaders can maximize their own potential and the potential of their teams.

Professional Learning to Support Strengths Development

The Office of Professional and Organization Development supports the capacity-building for our leaders, our emerging leaders and our teachers as they begin to explore the themes identified through the Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment. Leadership fellows, instructional team leaders, and new leaders have the opportunity to participate in a facilitated and collaborative environment to deepen their understanding of the full 34 strengths themes and the role these talents play in leadership and group dynamics.

Strengths Action Steps for Students

In the Elementary School Model several actions support increasing student engagement through talent and strengths development for students. The first guiding principle is that students begin with a goal in mind. In order to accomplish this task, students participated in goal-setting activities, counseling sessions, and brain lessons. Additionally, students in grades 4 and 5 will take the StrengthsExplorer assessment after they learn about the ten youth themes; they will also reflect on their personal talents and strengths in order to revise their goals and aim their strengths towards achievement. The goal is that students will be able to verbalize their strengths and use their strengths every day.

School Improvement Planning for Staff Engagement

In schools where leaders have effectively fostered a culture of learning and a climate of engagement, there is high value on expectations, professional practice, and relationships. School improvement plans for the 2014-15 school year include a specific goal to improve staff engagement. School improvement teams analyzed their baseline data from 2013 and began to look deeply into the twelve survey questions (Q12) and concepts to determine best practice action steps.

School Improvement Planning for Student Engagement

In a classroom with high student engagement, everyone is busy and everyone is contributing; in other words, an engaging classroom hosts a community of active learners. Students who are engaged ask questions, contribute ideas, and share excitement for their learning. Talent and strengths development for students is a natural fit with building strong relationships and establishing a culture for learning.

School improvement plans for the 2014-15 school year include a specific target to improve student engagement. School improvement teams analyzed their baseline data from 2013 Student Poll results and collaborated to determine best practice action steps. Many schools have formed engagement teams to approach next steps.