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Strategic Plan FAQs


1. What was the process for developing the draft strategic plan?

Throughout the year, nearly 200 community members, district staff, parents, and students have worked together to develop the draft strategic plan.  This work began with an open, public community forum in the fall of 2021, drafting of a framework by a core team of approximately thirty people in October, ongoing work by seven action teams throughout the winter and spring, and finalization of the draft plan by the core team in April.

This work has been supplemented by multiple opportunities for staff, students, parents, and community members to participate in community conversations and/or to complete brief surveys to share their feedback.

2. How have staff members been involved in the design process? For example, have all teachers had the opportunity to give feedback or have input?

In addition to the opportunities for engagement open to all community members, full- and part-time staff members were invited to express interest in joining an action team, and all who asked to join a team were named to one.

At each monthly principal meeting, principals received an update on the strategic planning process and were invited to share input.  This culminated in April with principals receiving materials to share more about the strategic plan – and collect feedback from staff via a survey – in their respective buildings by early May.

3. The goals that speak to multiple grade levels are broad. How will we ensure we can meet them?

If the strategic plan is approved, district leaders will immediately begin working to develop a five-year implementation plan that includes metrics and milestones for goals and strategies to be used to drive progress toward them.  Information about these items will be available on the district website and regularly communicated to the public.

4. How will the district monitor progress and measure success with implementation of the strategic plan?

If the strategic plan is approved, district leaders will immediately begin working to develop a five-year implementation plan that includes metrics and milestones for goals and strategies to be used to drive progress toward them.  One of the tools to support this work will be an updated data dashboard.  Information about these items will be available on the district website and regularly communicated to the public.

5. How can the community learn more about the goals and action steps in the plan?

If the strategic plan is approved, district leaders will immediately begin working to develop a five-year implementation plan that includes metrics and milestones for goals and strategies to be used to drive progress toward them.  Information about these items – including an enhanced data-dashboard aligned to district goals and priorities – will be available on the district website and regularly communicated to the public.

6. The plan shows us aspiring to 100% achievement of several goals; is this realistic?

The district’s mission is to prepare all learners for a lifetime of personal success.  Setting targets at 100% and developing implementation plans to drive toward them is important for alignment with the mission and overall goals of the district.

7. How does the strategic plan reflect that we serve a diverse group of students?

The strategic plan is designed to foster operation of our school district in a way that will  ensure our daily work is responsive to the needs of all the dimensions of our learners, so they experience personal and academic success.

8. How will we partner with all families on implementation, particularly ESOL families?

One of the most exciting parts of developing the draft strategic plan was the deep and ongoing community input.  If the plan is approved, the district intends to build on this partnership as it works to implement the plan’s various components.  Families and community members will receive more information this summer.

9. How might legislation impact the proposed strategic plan?

The district continuously monitors impending and newly-passed state and federal legislation and adjusts its policies and practices to ensure compliance.  This approach will remain consistent if the draft strategic plan is approved.

Pillar 1

1. How will the district maintain a focus on key standards, skills, and competencies for students at all grade levels as part of the strategic plan?

The Ankeny experience for each student at every grade level is grounded in the academic and behavior standards aligned to the Iowa Core and 21st Century Skills. The standards, skills, and competencies are prioritized and aligned by teachers through the curriculum review process and approved by the Ankeny School Board. Teachers design instruction, learning experiences, and assessments in alignment with the standards, skills, and competencies assigned to their grade level.

2. How will the strategic plan foster accountability for students?

Students take ownership of their learning when they have a vision for their future, are engaged in rigorous and relevant curriculum standards, and are supported by a classroom environment that embeds student voice and choice in learning. Student ownership of learning cultivates responsibility and accountability for their learning and growth.

3. How will the strategic plan support a year's worth of personal growth for each student?

When each student is engaged in a solid foundation of learning of the core standards, skills, and competencies in a safe and supportive learning environment supported by a multi-tiered system of supports, each student regardless of where their learning begins will grow at least one academic year annually.

4. What is a self-initiated, individualized learning plan? Will all students be required to have one?

Students in grades 6th through 12th grade will have an individual career and academic plan. This plan is developed and documented through the district’s career information system, Naviance. The plan is first drafted in 6th grade and is flexible and fluid throughout their secondary years. The plan is reviewed, updated, and revised at least annually. Parents also have access to Naviance and review and approve the plan each year.

5. How will the district start with individualized learning plans in 6th grade? What will this look like?

A team of staff will determine the process for incorporating the development of individual plans in 6th grade. The plan and process will ensure that learning and development is vertically articulated from 6th grade to 12th grade.

6. The strategic plan mentions both educational access and educational opportunity. What is the difference between those concepts? Why are both important?

Educational access is the ability of all people to have equal opportunity in education, regardless of their social class, race, gender, sexuality, ethnic background or physical and mental disabilities.

Educational opportunity is access to experiences that enable individuals to acquire knowledge and certain skills, and to cultivate certain capacities.

Both are important as both access and opportunity create an education system that helps all students develop the knowledge and skills they need to be engaged and become productive members of society.

7. What does “asynchronous” mean, especially outside of the COVID context? Is that the same thing as a flipped classroom or an online school? How would asynchronous learning work for elementary school students?

In this instance asynchronous learning is most closely related to online or blended learning formats. As the action plan is implemented a group of staff members will determine how this might work best for elementary students.

8. Would offering asynchronous learning mean that not all classes would be offered as full-time, in-person courses?

At this time all courses will continue to be offered full-time and in person. Offering asynchronous courses is meant to increase flexibility, not replace current offerings.

9. How would the district decide which classes would be asynchronous?

A team of staff will assess courses to determine which courses could be transitioned to an on-line or blended format.

10. What do we mean by “multiple learning models”? Would these models be available to students in all grade levels? Would any other criteria be used to determine if a student could participate in asynchronous learning?

Multiple learning models includes traditional, online and blended learning formats.

A team of staff will determine which models are appropriate for each grade level/band and will determine criteria for student participation.

11. What steps will the district take to ensure accountability for students in asynchronous learning models?

As with any learning setting teachers will be asked to provide students with feedback on their progress in the course and toward their mastery of standards. Teachers currently provide parents with information regarding student progress and these methods will continue regardless of the setting of the course. The action plan also mentions the creation of courses to help students learn “how to” navigate both asynchronous and blended learning environments as a way to help support students who may be engaging in this type of learning for the first time.

12. What impact might offering multiple learning models have on teachers? For example, would it create additional work? Would teachers welcome these models?

In order to create additional formats of courses there will certainly be additional work. However, the goal will be to first identify courses where the work is minimal and to utilize teachers who are interested in pursuing the work. The plan would also be to compensate teachers for their time.

As with any change we will have teachers who are excited about a change and those that are happy with our current state. Our goal would be to use teachers who are excited about the change to help build and engage in different formats of learning while we support our other teachers in navigating through the change. There will always be a place for traditional courses in traditional settings. Teachers will be able to share their preferences for how they engage in instruction.

13. What would the cost be to the district to offer multiple learning models, both in terms of overall cost and in potential changes to staff compensation?

Upon approval of the strategic plan and development of a prioritized implementation plan, a team of staff will convene to develop the structure, process, and parameters for each learning model. A component of this work will be the development of a staffing plan, a budget, and an agreement with our certified union representatives.

14. How does the community feel about offering multiple learning models?

Community members were a part of the strategic planning process and participated in the development of each action plan. The idea of offering multiple learning models came from these action teams.

15. What is challenge-based learning?

Challenge-based learning (CBL) is a framework for learning while solving real-world challenges. The framework is collaborative and hands-on, asking students to identify big ideas, ask good questions, discover and solve challenges, gain in-depth subject area knowledge, develop 21st-century skills, and share their findings.

16. How will the district be able to maintain a focus on key foundational and educational standards, especially in elementary grades, if it incorporates challenge-based and project-based learning?

Solving complex problems requires students to have both fundamental skills (reading, writing, and math) and 21st century skills (teamwork, problem solving, research gathering, time management, information synthesizing, utilizing technology, etc). Fundamental, foundational literacy and math skills will need to still be directly taught, especially in an elementary classroom. With application and combining of these skills, students become empowered in the learning process, which is guided and mentored by a skilled teacher.

17. Under the strategic plan, who will have oversight for project-based learning and challenge-based learning and how will these types of experiences be built into the curriculum?

The Academic Services team currently oversees implementation of curriculum. This will continue as we ensure that project/challenge-based learning is embedded into course work. These types of experiences will be embedded during the scope & sequence/unit planning portions of curriculum review.

18. What are implementation expectations for project-based learning in K-5th grade?

A team of staff will determine the process for implementing project-based learning in K-5th grade.  The plan and process will ensure that learning and development is vertically articulated from kindergarten to 5th grade.

19. Will there be grade-level project-based projects - or will this be left to teacher choice?

A team of staff will determine the process for implementing project-based learning. Teacher voice and choice will be considered in the implementation plan.

20. How will staff be trained to implement project-based learning (PBL) and challenge-based learning (CBL)?

Professional learning opportunities will be provided to support teachers in planning and implementation of PBL and CBL.

21. There are references toLeader in Methroughout the plan. What is that? How does it look at different grade levels (elementary, middle, high)?

Leader in Me is an evidence-based, comprehensive model that builds leadership and life skills in students, creates a high-trust school culture, lays the foundation for sustained academic achievement, and focuses on the whole child through social-emotional learning. Leader in Me helps students learn how to become self-reliant, take initiative, plan ahead, set and track goals, do their homework, prioritize their time, manage their emotions, be considerate of others, express their viewpoint persuasively, resolve conflicts, find creative solutions, and value differences.

In K-5th grade the curriculum is called Leader in Me and teaches the 7 habits of effective kids and goal setting. In 6th -12th grade it is referred to as Lead with a focus on the 7 habits, the six decisions of teens, and career and life management skills.

22. How do we measure the impact of Leader in Me?

  • Data is collected annually
    • Measurable Results Assessment (MRA) Survey – students, staff, parents
    • Other data sources – academic data, discipline referrals, attendance>

23. What are some examples of ”expanded career preparation opportunities”?

Expansion may include broadening of opportunity types and/or expansion of access to a larger portion of students. Some examples of career exploration and preparation activities are listed below.
JA BizTown
Classroom Speakers in PK-5 about various professions
Elementary Career Days for upper elementary students
Career Counseling
Career & Academic Planning (ICAP)
Strengths Finder / Interest Assessments
Career Fairs
Career Presentations
Industry Speakers
Interview Professionals
Worksite Tours
Project-based Learning
Career Research
Employability Skill Instruction
Orbis Experiences
Industry-sponsored Projects
Job Shadowing
School Based Enterprises
Service Learning
Community Service Projects
Employability Skills Refinement
Job Search Coaching
Assistance with Post Secondary College or Career Applications, Entrance processes, etc.

24. What kinds of experiences would provide authentic career exploration opportunities for K-5 students?

  1. Biztown – 5th grade
  2. Field Trips to local businesses
  3. Guest Speakers

25. What is the district’s current post-secondary readiness rate? How would implementing the strategic plan help increase this rate?

  1. The Iowa School Performance website includes 4 elements under the post-secondary readiness dashboard:  ACT or SAT participation; ACT or SAT success; College level coursework; and Career and Technical Education (CTE) Concentrators.  Ankeny currently performs above the state average on all but the CTE concentrators.
  2. The strategic plan addresses post secondary readiness for all students regardless of pathway after high school graduation.  For example, further development of Career and Technical Education pathways would directly influence CTE concentrators.

26. How will the district balance college course loads with student needs?

College coursework is available to students as they progress through their academic career. Students have the ability to select coursework that aligns with student needs and interests.

27. How might the district leverage Iowa's Future Ready initiative to support the post-secondary goals in the strategic plan?

Iowa’s Future Ready initiative is one of several resources in the state that districts can utilize to support post-secondary work. The district is currently accessing this resource.

28. How can the district engage businesses and community partners to support students with post-secondary readiness? Are there any ideas we can leverage from other districts?

The district currently engages businesses and community partners in some facets of career preparation and training. Examples include Orbis, internships, job shadowing, etc. Additionally each strand within Career and Technical Education solicits business and industry input in program development.

29. What grading mechanism will be used when the strategic plan is implemented? Will it be standards-based PK-7 and letter grades for 8-12?

All grades will be based on a collection of evidence on how students are performing on state standards.

30. Will implementation of the strategic plan lead to changes in the structure of report cards?

Report cards are a tool used to communicate the progress of student learning toward the standards of the curriculum. Report card statements are aligned to the learning standards at each grade level.

31. Would the strategic plan change how the district offers honors classes or programs? Would it impact other traditional class celebrations, such as valedictorian?

  1. Course offerings and programs are reviewed every 5 to 7 years. The review process is conducted by a team of K-12 teachers, principals, and district office administrators. The work of curriculum and program review teams is informed by student learning data, educational research, and professional expertise. Therefore changes are guided by research and best practices in support of improved student learning.
  2. The Ankeny School District has not named a valedictorian for graduating classes for more than 25 years. Additionally, the school board approved the removal of class rank from transcripts (unless requested by a scholarship committee or postsecondary institution) in 2015.

32. How will parents and families be involved in the student academic experience if the strategic plan is adopted?

Partnership between families, parents, students, and the school has always been a priority in Ankeny. This partnership will grow as parents and families unite in support of student learning experiences such as career exploration and awareness of work-based learning. Determining a student’s vision for their future and engaging in learning that centers the student’s voice and choice in the process is best done when the educational team and the family work together.

33. How will the district measure success related to this pillar?

Upon approval of the strategic plan and development of a prioritized implementation plan, a team of staff will determine measurement tools for each component of the strategic plan.

Pillar 2

1. Under the strategic plan, would the district prioritize the hire of new or experienced teachers? How would this compare with the current approach?

The goal is to always hire the best candidate.

2. What strategies will the district use to recruit, select, and hire “talented people”?

A team will research and determine the strategies.

3. What are “performance expectations” for district employees?

We currently use the Charlotte Danielson PGM for evaluation and have this tool crosswalked with the Iowa Teaching standards.  Performance expectations will be a district conversation.

4. Under the strategic plan, how would the district measure teacher effectiveness?

See # 3 / a team will research and determine next steps.

5. How specifically would the district measure teacher and administrator leadership under the strategic plan?

A team will research and determine next steps.

6. How does the strategic plan take into account current staff satisfaction with mentoring and professional development (e.g, results of surveys about professional learning opportunities)?

  • The recommendation to reinstate a Mentoring Coordinator position within the district is a direct result of feedback from existing mentors, mentees, principals, instructional coaches, and our district Mentoring Coaches.
    • The Mentoring Coordinator will be able to provide direction, leadership, and learning for our mentors.
  • Currently, the majority of professional learning provided through Wednesday late start time or full-day Professional Learning days is determined by building Instructional Leadership Teams, thus it is also currently up to buildings to collect satisfaction data.
  • Through staff exit and pulse surveys we will also collect data related to satisfaction relevant to professional learning and employee experience.

7. Under the strategic plan, would staff have choice in the professional development in which they participate? Would they be able to submit ideas for learning topics?

  1. Currently certified staff do have choice in the professional development through PD Projects they submit, by participating in Summer Academy, and sometimes through building level professional learning opportunities.
  2. All Certified staff can submit PD Projects with the following stipulations:
    1. PD Projects should be two or more people, require no substitutes, no conferences on student attendance days, and limited to $500 compensation or associated costs.
  3. As suggested in the HR Action Plan we are proposing that ALL staff have access to professional development.

8. Under the strategic plan, will the district access outside expertise to support with staff learning?

  1. Yes, when appropriate and financially feasible. We already access outside experts such as our Heartland partners. In addition, we contract numerous presenter’s/speakers for our annual Summer Academy.
  2. Each building also has the autonomy to work with outside experts as needed.
  3. When considering staff development for all employee groups as proposed within the HR Action Plan, it is realistic to think that we will lean on a variety of “in the field” or industry experts.

9. How would mentoring be structured under the strategic plan?

Would teachers have a mentor in their same school or not – why? The mentoring team will continue to seek feedback and determine the best structure.

10. What is the district’s current staff retention rate?

How might this change under the strategic plan? The district is currently working to gather this data. If all components of the strategic plan are implemented our goal would be to have a high retention rate.

11. Would the strategic plan provide opportunities for all staff to provide feedback satisfaction and the “state of affairs”?

Yes. Ongoing feedback will be critical to the success of the strategic plan.

12. How will the district measure success related to this pillar?

  1. Through future pulse surveys conducted by our Human Resources Team.
      1. Improvements in culture and climate (district and manager feedback)
      2. Feedback to support learning (evaluation)
      3. Training opportunities
      4. Professional learning opportunities
      5. Mentoring
      6. Job satisfaction
      7. Compensation and benefit satisfaction
    1. Retention Rates + Exit survey data
    2. Diversified candidate pools (Branding and Marketing)
    3. Increased pipeline opportunities

Pillar 3

1. What does social-emotional learning (SEL) look like for staff?

  1. Learning around Social and Emotional Learning will be supported by our new SEL specialist in cooperation with Directors within our Academic Services Team.
  2. Buildings will continue to have the autonomy to lead SEL initiatives based upon the needs of students and staff.
  3. Leader in Me/7 Habits is a Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) endorsed SEL curriculum. We see Leader in Me as our “Tier 1” for SEL.

2. What is “tiered support” with regard to social-emotional learning and/or mental health?

“Tiered support” references the intensity, duration, and frequency of instructional services and supports that will be provided to students based on their unique and individual needs.  Universal Instruction (Tier 1) refers to SEL instruction that is provided to all students, targeted instruction (Tier 2) refers to a specific SEL intervention provided to a student or group of students based on data, and intensive instruction (Tier 3) refers to specific intervention provided to a student that is individualized with increased intensity and frequency.

3. How will the district staff our schools to support mental health initiatives?

Mental Health supports and services are often provided for students through partnerships with outside services and agencies. We currently contract with two outside agencies who in turn provide mental health services within our school buildings for students who are referred. Our desire would be to increase the diversity and depth of mental health services available to students on site, as well as partner with agencies with varying types of insurance access.

4. How will the strategic plan help to address student behavior? For example, will there be a code of student conduct? Will this include rules related to cell phone use at school?

The incorporation of CASEL/SEL standards into instruction at all grade levels in all buildings, the tiered social-emotional learning / mental health structure to provide targeted support to students, and the goal of 100% of students and staff will have access to mental health resources to support their success at school and/or at work will all impact student behaviors. A committee of administrators, and SIAC members has met this spring to revise the current code of conduct, and there will be a committee that continues to meet into the future to develop processes for the response to student behavior that supports student learning.

5. What are some specific ways that, under the strategic plan, the district will help all students feel like school is a secure environment?

The facilities action team developed a plan that includes a physical structure audit every other year and a technology infrastructure audit on the opposite years to identify security vulnerabilities and remedy those vulnerabilities. These audits will involve both ACSD staff and external experts. This work will also be informed by student survey data.

6. Will the strategic plan provide an opportunity to reduce class size?

The strategic plan addresses long range facility planning including ensuring that the district has adequate facilities (classrooms) to meet the demands of student enrollment, determining the grade-level configuration that best supports student learning, and guidance for how future boundaries are designed. These components, along with the Pillar 2 human resources action items will have a direct impact on class sizes.

7. Under the strategic plan, what opportunities will exist for parents / families to proactively work with the district to support student learning at home?

There are several conduits for families to work with the district in the plan. For example, for basic needs such as internet connectivity at home, requests would be able to be made through the online request form that would then be followed up by someone at the building/district level to ensure that the family is connected with the appropriate resources. If trends or significant needs are seen through the data collection, the Community Engagement Advisory Council–which is an extension of the district’s Community Engagement department– can work with potential community partners for solutions to needs and to connect the district with the appropriate resources. In addition, the inclusion of representatives from each school on the council (this may include family representatives, administrators, teachers, etc) will allow for a more representative view of the needs within Ankeny neighborhoods so that the council can determine the appropriate partnerships to address the needs.

Parent organizations at each school also give families the opportunity to engage with building staff and other families, and to communicate concerns and/or supports that are needed to help students succeed at home. Because needs may differ from school to school, the plan allows for each school to determine its own purpose and objective to support the needs of its students and families.

8. What are the “standards for new construction” mentioned in the strategic plan?

For all new construction and renovation projects, the district works with the architect to ensure that the structures align with current best practice for square footage, design of common areas, technology needs, etc. These standards are taken into consideration for updates for existing facilities. In addition, a district team identifies furniture, fixtures, and equipment needs for new construction, and the district standard for FF&E is revised based on the needs for new construction. Projectors and voice amplification are examples of how this process has worked in the past. Once the need is identified for a building, a plan is developed to equip all buildings with the technology.

9. How will the district meet technology needs in a fiscally responsible way?

The district will align its multi-year technology infrastructure to the needs identified in the strategic plan. The district will prioritize needs based on impact on student learning. The renewal of the voter approved PPEL will be critical to the district’s ability to meet the technology needs in the future
12. Pillar three includes many components. How will the district make sure it is feasible?

If the strategic plan is approved, district leaders will immediately begin working to develop a five-year implementation plan that includes metrics and milestones for goals and strategies to drive progress toward them. One of the tools to support this work will be an updated data dashboard. Information about these items will be available on the district website and regularly communicated to the public.