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Client-Partner Spotlights

We collaborate with our education clients, getting to know their goals, contexts, and challenges. We then we develop solutions together that are based in evidence and best practices, but also customized to meet their specific needs. Over the years, we’ve partnered with school districts, education foundations, colleges, universities, and ed-tech developers, to create solutions that address root causes and identify under-used bright spots that can be built upon.  We like to share stories of these collaborations, to celebrate our client partner’s progress and achievements, and to help other schools and organizations see how McREL might be able to support them as well.

Contact us today for more information about our consulting services, professional learning options, and school improvement solutions. Our consultants will work with you, using a collaborative, capacity building approach to help design and implement research-backed solutions for improvement, creating a path for you to reach your goals for student success.

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Creating a School Improvement Blueprint in North Dakota

To support the individual improvement journeys of schools in CSI and TSI status, the Region 11 Comprehensive Center operated by McREL partnered with ND’s Department of Public Instruction, regional education agencies, and the state’s university system to develop an overarching system of data transparency, capacity building services for school teams, a school renewal guide and progression rubrics, and monitoring plans.


A Mental Health Department
Aims for Ongoing Improvement

The citizens of Aurora, Colorado, voted for more mental health services in schools. To be sure the money is spent effectively, the district hired McREL to launch an evaluation process that can grow along with the department. In addition to making quality services available to students, the partners are taking a hard look at helping providers feel safe and valued—proving that caring and data work together.


Supporting Educators and Students Across the Pacific

One of McREL International’s core beliefs is that, while many evidence-based best practices are universal, they need to be geared to local needs, strengths, and goals for school improvement to stick. This emphasis on local approaches helps explain why McREL has for years co-created solutions in such areas as professional learning, coaching, consulting, and analysis with many Pacific island jurisdictions.


Students Gain When Virtual School Nurtures Working Relationships

Nevada Virtual Academy High School (NVVA), a state-chartered public online school that serves 900 students across all of Nevada’s counties, was a pioneer in distance education but faced the same needs as any school in terms of leadership, collegiality, and alignment of curriculum and state standards. Over four years of partnership with McREL, our consultants paid several in-person and virtual visits to NVVA, helping the faculty form professional learning communities, develop schoolwide instructional routines, and build capacity. Now teachers are happier and key performance measures like course pass rates and graduation rates are climbing.


McREL’s Evaluation of Ed-Tech Product Gets Top Mark From Evidence for ESSA

The biggest question schools and tech developers have about any ed-tech product is: Does it work? Schools, understandably, want to spend their technology funds on products that have evidence of success and meet ESSA requirements. And developers want to ensure that their products work as intended and help student achievement. McREL helps both sides by conducting efficacy studies of ed-tech products, such as this recent analysis of Raz-Plus, a blended literacy resource that McREL found had positive effects for students. Learn more about McREL’s ed-tech evaluation services.


Iowa Superintendent Discovers the Missing Piece to School Reform: Leadership Training

Paul Gausman, superintendent of the Sioux City, Iowa, schools, is a fan of the teacher leadership training included in his state’s school reform plan. When he went looking for a partner to help him expand the initiative into building- and district-level leadership. he turned to a familiar name: McREL, whose Balanced Leaderhsip platform turned out to be a perfect fit. Now student performance gains are catching the interest of other superintendents.


With the Right Tools Available, “Why” Becomes “How” in Simi Valley

A California district experienced impeccable timing with its Classroom Instruction That Works® training. Just as it was looking to translate great new strategies into classroom practice, McREL came out with a new initiative based around a new book, Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works, designed to accomplish exactly that. Now a blend of tactical advice and local implementation has got the district thinking big about how it introduces and assesses instructional concepts.


North Central Comprehensive Center Helps Wyoming Access the Future of Learning

Its work may be largely behind the scenes, but the North Central Comprehensive Center (NCCC), which is operated by McREL, plays an active role in helping school districts in four states to innovate. Learn how the Center, which is part of a technical assistance network spanning the nation, helped Wyoming update its Digital Learning Plan to bring immediate opportunities to students and help districts plan for an exciting future.


New Principal Makes a Commitment to Consistency; Elevates Learning with Common Instructional Language and Strategies

The new principal at Nebraska’s Lincoln High School was hearing lots of good ideas from teachers, but something was missing: the consistent vocabulary and practices that would be necessary for whole-school improvement. Classroom Instruction That Works and other McREL frameworks provided the common terms and collegial support to spur collaboration. Now an easier, more fluid exchange of ideas is benefiting teachers and their students in an increasingly diverse city.


A Rural Region of Central Arizona Finds Success with a Train-the-Trainers Approach to Professional Development

Keeping the schoolhouse doors open is hard enough in rural Arizona. High-quality professional development for the faculty and leadership seemed like an unattainable luxury. But the Yavapai County Education Service Agency wouldn’t give up, and found success by forging a train-the-trainers partnership with McREL. Affordable and sustainable, the initiative relies on local educators who have become authorized facilitators in the Classroom Instruction That Works and Balanced Leadership frameworks. Now professional development is “part of our culture in this area,” in the words of one small-town principal.


“Turnaround” School in Colorado Actually Turns Around . . . With Help from Classroom Instruction That Works

Colorado applies the hopeful phrase “Turnaround Plan” to struggling schools, but the reality is that many of them fail to meet the state’s targets and get reprogrammed out of existence. Gilcrest Elementary challenged that pattern by bringing in a McREL consultant to help implement the strategies in our Classroom Instruction That Works titles. With new practical tools and newfound confidence in themselves, the faculty turned things around so convincingly that Gilcrest soon was recognized as one of the Centennial State’s fastest-improving schools. “The results are incredible,” the district superintendent says.


Pacific School System Becomes a Leader in Implementing Instructional Leadership Success Strategies

McREL had been working with schools in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for years when a new challenge emerged: Strengthen internal capacity enough to ensure an ongoing supply of highly capable leaders for the country’s 19 schools on 15 islands. Constructing a “principal pipeline” meant diving deeply into the Balanced Leadership framework over several years. Ultimately the school system and McREL arrived at an entirely new implementation support program that guides the learning journey of everybody in the system, from kindergartener to commissioner, and prepares emerging school leaders for the challenges ahead.


Small-Scale, High-Quality Study Boosts Confidence in Vocabulary Tool

The publishers of a supplemental vocabulary-building program called VocabularySpellingCity® thought they had a hit on their hands, but without data, how could they be sure? They turned to McREL to start generating answers. Our small-scale but rigorously designed study showed a clear advantage for students who got to play with the program in addition to studying traditional word lists. Students loved using it because succeeding was fun, and their test scores followed suit. Now VocabularySpellingCity has a solid starting point for further research.


Strengthening Leadership and Instruction in Minnesota District Leads to Academic Gains

In 2011, changes in the Minnesota Legislature required districts to establish formal principal evaluation systems and job descriptions aligned to district goals and to include observations and data on student growth in their reporting. School District 197, located in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area, turned to McREL for a research-based principal evaluation system and aligned leadership development program to build a framework that met the state’s goals and requirements. Since implementation in 2013, the district has been more intentional in its improvement planning and implementation, and has seen increases in achievement in science (+3.6%), reading (+4.5%), and math (+7.6%).


Reducing Variability Leads to Achievement Gains in Large Nebraska District

Lincoln Public Schools is the second largest district in the state of Nebraska—and getting larger every year. With a rapid increase in the number and diversity of students, the district was looking for a way to ensure effective instruction across its schools. The research-based instructional strategies of McREL’s Classroom Instruction That Works provided the consistency the district needed and led not only to better teaching but also to improved achievement districtwide.


Study Finds Link Between School Climate and Literacy Achievement

The Department of Education and Training in Victoria, Australia, contracted McREL to develop a highly reliable staff opinion survey to measure five key areas of school function: school climate, school leadership, professional learning, staff safety and well-being, and teaching and learning. Using a predictive validity study to examine the survey results as they relate to student achievement on standardized assessments, McREL researchers found that school climate was the greatest predictor of grade 5 achievement in literacy. Further statistical analysis showed that strong leadership led to better teacher collaboration, which then led to academic optimism.


Cultural Connections Lead to Systemic Change in Cree Nation

The Cree Nation School Board partnered with McREL to develop and implement a multi-year comprehensive school improvement plan for 11 schools spread across Quebec, including a tri-lingual guaranteed and viable curriculum. The schools are now collaborating in new ways to address challenges and share successes, which include increases in student attendance and graduation rates.