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Madison Metropolitan School District

Finding Opportunities for Innovation within Summer School

Finding Opportunities for Innovation within Summer School
by Leigh Vierstra

The Situation

Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) currently hosts a 6 week summer school program for roughly 25% of its students. Serving approximately 6,000 elementary, middle and high school students over 18 sites, MMSD hopes to create a more efficient and effective summer learning opportunity. In order to do this, the summer school team joined forces with ROCKiT in the winter of 2019 to discover possible areas for growth and improvement within the summer school program so that youth and their families are able to have a more positive and engaging summer school experience.

Research to Discovery

Starting with elementary summer school, the largest and most complex of the three programs, the team first needed to learn about the ecosystem that surrounds this program and dig into the student and staff experience. ROCKiT Innovation Strategist Leigh Vierstra led participants through a service design technique called service blueprinting, where the team mapped out the front stage actions (student journey and staff touchpoints that students can visibly see) and backstage actions (staff and backstage/central office support that students cannot see) in order to gain a full picture of the student and staff experience within the summer school program. To begin this work, each team member shared their expertise around Summer School in 6 categories: Pre-Work, Excite, Enroll, Engage, Transition Out, and Exit using the following prompts:

  • What is the student journey through summer school? What actions do students/
    families take?

  • What are the staff actions aligned with the student/family journey?

  • What backstage or internal supports are happening? Who are the players? Who
    is accountable?

Finding Opportunities for Innovation within Summer School Timeline of the project

After the initial mapping, the team brought in the voices of a summer school principal and two parents of elementary aged youth that are essential to this work. During this time these “experts” walked the team through their summer school journey and helped map the frontstage actions of the service blueprint. As they shared their journeys, the facilitator tracked the information on color coded stickies on the wall.

project gant chart

After co-creating the summer school blueprint, ROCKiT then used the blueprint to fuel more discovery into where innovation could happen. By zooming in on the pain points across the front and backstage actions, ROCKiT pulled out themes and identified quick wins and possible areas for innovation. The themes identified were family and staff communication; staff recruitment, and collaborative cross-functional planning teams.

The Outcome and Impact

Based on findings from their work with ROCKiT, the summer school team has already started to address quick win areas, such as creating a district wide summer school e-newsletter to keep all staff informed and up to date on summer school, while taking time to address some of the more complex areas of their work. Beyond the program specific work, our hope is that the blueprinting work that this team engaged in will inspire other district leaders to more intentionally plan and design around the student and staff experience as well as work to address some of the issues that were illuminated through this process.

What It Took:

From the Summer School Team:

  • 4 participants - 1 Central Office leader , 2 program managers, 1 summer school expert, 2 parents
  • 8 dedicated hours - 2, 3 hour working sessions to co-create blue-print, 1 hour for parent interviews and 1, one hour post blueprinting debrief and summary of learnings

From ROCKiT:

  • 1 Innovation Strategist to plan, facilitate, and summarize
  • 20 dedicated hours - over 1 month