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Driving permanent and positive impacts on student achievement

Marzano High Reliability Schools™ framework defines what’s needed for success in college, careers, and beyond

When Deer Creek School District in Edmond, Oklahoma, was asked to participate in a pilot program for Marzano High Reliability Schools, there was an immediate buy-in from Grove Valley Elementary School principal Kelly McCoy.

“We were very excited to see what it could do and if it could make an impact at our school,” McCoy says.

Deer Creek assistant superintendent Diana Jones saw the Marzano HRS model as a way to support student achievement and teacher growth.

“I feel like I waited my entire educational career for this model, because we know what good research says, but we’re all out there trying to just piecemeal it together and do everything without any real organized road map to get there,” McCoy says. “This gives us a guide of how we can best implement good research into practices within the classroom.”

Enhancing performance, empowering teachers

The Marzano HRS framework helps schools focus on specific, research-based conditions for continuous school improvement through strategic planning. Based on 40 years of educational research, the Marzano HRS framework shows how best practices work together and provides indicators to empower districts and schools to measure their progress on attaining five increasing levels of reliability:

Level 1: Safe and collaborative culture

Level 2: Effective teaching in every classroom

Level 3: Guaranteed and viable curriculum

Level 4: Standards-referenced reporting

Level 5: Competency-based education

Jones says that after the successful pilot, Marzano HRS was implemented districtwide, and schools quickly took to the program. Deer Creek Middle School and Deer Creek Intermediate schools achieved Level 1, which focuses on specific strategies for shared decision-making and developing collaborative processes around curriculum, instruction, assessment and achievement for all students, within the first semester. Jones says Level 1 provides a foundation for all other levels. Effective teaching in every classroom, which is Level 2, establishes a model of instructional practice, thereby creating a culture of pedagogical growth for teachers.

“Once we started down that road, teachers realized that everything we were doing was research-based and good for the students, and teachers and administrators began seeing some success,” says McCoy, whose school is certified through Level 4. 

Jones says Marzano HRS is not rigid and that flexibility is one of its best benefits. “The beauty of Marzano HRS is that it doesn’t tell you exactly what to do or how to do it. It gives you a guide, and principals can implement these processes in a way that fits their school culture.” 

“New principals say Marzano HRS gives them a road map to decide which challenge to take on first,” Jones says.

Support network

Both McCoy and Jones say Marzano HRS is not a “one and done” program. This is an ongoing professional development program that can be implemented by utilizing the resources within the book or with in-person training.

“I have found the ongoing professional development to be invaluable,” McCoy says. “The absolute best benefit is I am able to offer teachers strategies and equip them to become highly skilled professional educators. Instead of one-shot professional developments here and there, it’s every day now. We are learning from one another, we are collaborative, we are transparent.”

McCoy adds that trainers from Marzano “are very responsive to our needs, because some of the schools in the district are very different, and we have different needs and challenges.”

McCoy and Jones both see progress with students as well.

“It is exciting, and we’re seeing students who are thriving with this high-reliability framework,” McCoy says.

Jones adds, “According to research, there’s a 32 percent gain in student achievement if they begin to track their own progress, so we have seen huge gains. When kindergartners and pre-K students are able to articulate their own learning progression using academic vocabulary, it’s amazing.”