Changing the Way We Think, Interact, and Assist Schools SEA

By The Indiana Department of Education Office of Early Learning and Intervention / August 21, 2015

The STLC is very excited to invite you to join and follow staff from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) as they share their reflections via a monthly blog on how they are using the SIG pre-implementation year to strategically change the way they think and interact with schools.

The Indiana SIG team is on its way to awarding the sixth cohort of schools this year. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) provided extensive technical assistance and support to prospective grantees and thirty-nine schools decided to be risk-takers by submitting an application. The review process is in progress and close to conclusion. This all sounds very typical on the surface for a SIG 1003g grant; however, this cohort’s grant and process are extraordinarily different. Our team has reflected deeply and worked strategically to change the way we think and interact with schools. Our goal is to truly transform learning environments that close achievement and opportunity gaps with the initiatives and interventions our sixth cohort implements in their buildings. 

As we reflected on the previous cohorts of SIG in Indiana and around the country, it was clear that as a whole the SEA needed to change the way we think and interact with schools to initiate, ensure, and sustain true change. For this year’s cohort, the IDOE has focused on working in convergence, providing a process for schools to think more expansively, and utilizing the power of the pre-implementation year.

IDOE has moved beyond collaboration and instead is working in convergence. Convergence requires collective ownership and movement towards common goals. This has been transformational.  Instead of the one office taking on the responsibility of SIG schools, the SEA now surrounds the SIG schools with support. This organizational structure is instrumental in the SEA and the LEA operating as a critical unit of change by elevating the LEA’s capacity, aligning resources, and ensuring the right supports. The graphic below illustrates the infrastructure of how multiple offices work in convergence for a particular LEA and/SIG school.


With our fifth cohort, IDOE began holding intense technical assistance sessions to help schools think differently and deeply about their commitment to school improvement, their school needs, and their school goals. This process was continued with our cohort six application process. Districts were given an opportunity to sign up for a time slot to come and work one on one with an expert. In order to make this time the most effective, the IDOE team followed a process similar to a Consultancy Protocol – schools provided an overview of their grant to IDOE experts, clarifying and probing questions were asked, and discussions took place. These planning sessions allowed for deepened thinking, transparency, and open ideas regarding the grant. 

The biggest change IDOE made to our application process and SIG for cohort six is the pre-planning year.  We were very excited when USED included the potential for a pre-implementation year in this application as we believe success begins here.  Thus, we made a planning year an Indiana Condition, required by all grantees for cohort six. This required pre-planning year will provide schools the opportunity to think deeply about policies, procedures, and practices, as well as the importance of clarity, convergence, community, and culture. To ensure a successful planning year, the IDOE included a dedicated extensive planning section in the grant (, requirements such as specific actions in particular phases, and is planning a hands-on approach with coaching the schools and participating districts throughout year one.

IDOE is working across departments and districts to turnaround Indiana’s lowest performing schools.  We know this requires changing the way we interact together and goes beyond the state level to the local and national levels as well. We are passionate about the changes we have made to SIG in Indiana and look forward to continuing to share our successes, struggles, and implementation ideas with other SEAs.


Lisa Pryor

August 27, 2015 - 9:51 am

Bravo! Taking the time to plan and design an effort for success instead of building the plane when it's already in the air is exactly the right approach. At the National Center on Time & Learning we have been supporting school teams for a decade as they plan for a different kind of day/year and as they design the operations of their school to better serve all students. We've also been there to support them as they implement, and then refine, their plans in the challenging and dynamic culture of public schools. Time does matter, and in this case, planning time for the work is critical to the grant's success in creating a teaching and learning environment that works by engaging all stakeholders in a meaningful way. Eagerly awaiting the next blog post!

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