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A Journey to Systemic Change in Hoover City Schools, Alabama

To bring about systemic change, a deliberate effort must be made to achieve significant results. This process of fostering sustainable growth in all areas of education and providing the necessary resources to succeed takes time and patience. The most uplifting aspect of this work is collaborating with educators who prioritize the well-being of their students and colleagues. These dedicated individuals put in place systems and procedures that align with their values and result in improved academic performance and equal opportunities for all students This has been our experience working with Hoover City Schools in Hoover, Alabama. Led by Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler, the district has taken comprehensive measures to ensure that EVERY student has a positive trajectory, and as a result, the data is promising as one of the districts in the nation for their work promoting educational equity.

Research shows that the global pandemic’s instructional inconsistencies have caused a loss of about 35% of a normal school year’s worth of learning; however, Hoover City Schools has maintained student performance well beyond the nationwide average. According to the latest research by Harvard and Stanford Universities (1), Hoover City Schools was recently recognized for significant overall positive academic outcomes. Dr. Chris Robbins, Chief Learning Officer for Hoover stated, “nationally, the average student lost more than half of a year of learning in math and a quarter of a year in reading from 2019

to 2022. This research also indicates that many subgroups, particularly Black students, Hispanic students, and students in poverty, were negatively impacted by learning losses to an even greater extent than white students. But that’s not the case in Hoover City Schools; and what’s so exciting is seeing these subgroups make academic gains at a rate that is the same or greater than the rest of the student body in the district.” (2)

● From 2019 to 2022 district-wide, Hoover students showed learning gains of +.35 in math and +.39 in reading, equivalent to about three to four months of learning in each area. The national research results showed this was an uncommon outcome. ● HCS landed on four National Top 10 lists for districts with substantial learning gains for students in poverty, Black students, and Hispanic students. ● According to this study, those specific subgroups also showed increases of three to four months of learning equivalence gains in reading and math in 2022 compared to 2019. Most districts saw losses in these areas. (1)

In 2018, Hoover City Schools entered into a partnership with The Elam Leadership Institute, led by Hoover City Schools Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Terry Lamar. Dr. Lamar worked weekly with the team from The Elam Leadership Institute to help construct a process to coordinate and analyze needed data on behalf of Hoover City Schools. Dr. Lamar coordinated regular communications, data collection and analysis, and goal-setting with a local team of teachers and administrators. Facilitated and guided by the team at The Elam Leadership Institute, conversations and processes relating to equitable access and opportunities became threaded throughout the fabric of the entire school district.

Hoover City Schools has made tremendous strides toward leadership in diversity, and currently has increased the percentage of African Americans in all certified positions; including district administrators, principals, and assistant principals.

Dr. Lamar states, “The original intent of working with the Elam Leadership Institute was to ensure that equitable practices were integrated into all facets of our schools and central office. We wanted to create an environment where students saw themselves in the classrooms, and curriculum, aligned to equitable discipline throughout their educational process. The Elam Leadership Institute helped facilitate this original intent… and it is working! We are absolutely seeing the results across the board.”

Dr. Chris Robbins has also worked hand-in-hand with The Elam Leadership Institute to ensure that high-value equitable instructional practices are present across the district’s schools, classrooms, and learning programs. “The district’s partnership with The Elam Leadership Institute has been instrumental in helping our principals and teachers understand the importance of being reflective in not just what we do, but how and why we do it,” Dr. Robbins remarked. He continues, “Equitable access to learning starts with teacher development and understanding, leading to intentional adjustments to a teacher’s instructional approach. The Elam Leadership Institute reminds us that all data tells a story and that we need to be consistent in using data to drive our instructional decision-making as it relates to equity. I am so pleased that the Elam Leadership Institute notes multiple patterns of data within HCS that point to an overall climate of high expectations for growth for every child.”

As a result of educator burnout and the need for increased student foundational wellness, many school districts are at a loss for how to truly move forward. Immediately prior to the pandemic, the Elam Leadership Institute formed a partnership with EdPower to fuel the data correlations and analytics needed to uncover the root causes for not-so-common disparities. Unpacking academic and behavioral gaps utilizing an asset-based model helps to operationalize equitable outcomes for all groups of students. Specifically, the partnership helped Hoover unpack and address themes such as:

● How can we increase data literacy in our schools? ● How can we increase rigor for all students? ● How do we create positive educational climates and environments? ● How can we decrease the disproportionalities we are finding with our behavior incidents? ● How can we incorporate collective efficacy into daily classroom routines?

The Elam Leadership/EdPower accomplishments are all research-based and aligned in parallel to the Elam Leadership Institute’s Equity of Effort and Unpack the Gap series which walks educators through how to design and implement inclusive curriculums, involve students in assessments, employ effective questioning techniques, create positive educational environments and climate while also ensuring rigor for ALL students. A sample of additional sessions can be found here.

For more information on how your district can become involved, click here to learn more.


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