School Redesign Toolkit

This School Redesign Toolkit is a series of resources that SBISD has created to walk schools through the Redesign Process. These are available for other Districts, school leaders, and teachers interested in fostering innovative learning experiences for students. The toolkit is divided into the following sections:

1.)    District Redesign Tools - Overview of the Design Thinking Process and resources to foster divergent thinking, develop innovative learning experiences, and manage bold change across several campuses.

2.)    Campus Leadership Tools - Supports developed to build campus-level leadership capacity to support Redesign.

3.)    Instructional Resources for Redesign - Resources to foster teachers’ capacity to personalize learning through examples, interviews, customizable data management tools.

Attributions: Some of these resources include original content; all of them were developed in consultation with current research and our invaluable partners. As you use and share these resources, please attribute “Spring Branch Independent School District: School Redesign”, or, where relevant, the original authors of the resources we’ve incorporated into our process.

Redesign Resources

District Redesign Tools

In the 2018-2019 schoolyear, SBISD launched its third iteration of School Redesign. Over three years of learning, reflecting, and refining, the School Redesign Team has developed a robust set of protocols, systems, and resources to drive the process. 

In terms of structure, the District's work "officially" falls under the purview of the Academic Design and Performance (ADP) Department. ADP is charged with straddling the work of current schools with the vision of schools for tomorrow, what Harvard Business Review refers to as the Ambidextrous Organization.  This team includes the Associate Superintendent, 5 School Redesign Coaches, and an Operations Coordinator that work closely with 25 campuses in the Design and Implementation phases. However, the work of designing world-class learning environments requires intentional and intensive collaboration. ADP works closely across Departments and divisions to support campuses, including Human Resources & Personalized Professional Development, Academic Performance and Support, and Communications. Our Organizational Chart continues to evolve to reflect this collaboration.

The Scope and Sequence of the Redesign Year gives an overview of the process. More details on each phase of the Design Thinking process can be found below.

[Qualitative Empathy] Community Voices

The Empathy phase encourages designers to suspend assumptions and biases to get a true understanding of the user experience and how it shapes mindsets and behaviors. In School Redesign, this means interviewing students, teachers, family members, and community members to understand their perspective on school and its impact on them. Each school typically conducts 50-100 interviews in the Fall. Because these interviews yield powerful insights, most schools find their Design Teams hungry for more.

To launch interviews, Redesign Coaches train teachers on the Anatomy of an Empathy Interview, with principles developed from the D School. Coaches then walk schools through the process of identifying stakeholder profiles, connecting them to prospective interviewees, and crafting key questions to provoke meaningful conversations. This process involves commitments from the larger Campus Design teams. 


[Quantitative Empathy] Data Deep Dive

SBISD has adopted a Multiple Measures of Success approach to assessing school and student performance. We consider the following “ingredients” to success, which are aligned with the District’s T-2-4 goal:

  • Postsecondary Enrollment
  • Postsecondary Completion
  • School Connectedness
  • Student Growth
  • Student Achievement - Postsecondary Readiness
  • Student Achievement - Gap Closing

When Redesign Schools build their case for change, they are asked to consider current and historical data on each of these measures.

SBISD also believes that data should be at the fingertips of school leaders, teachers, students and parents. To that end, SBISD has built a data dashboard called COMPASS that reports real-time student data from multiple measures. This online tool updates daily with information from the MAP Assessment, Panorama Survey, STAAR, as well as attendance and behavior data from PEIMS. 

Teachers can assess the data and use it to group students for small group instruction and track students by group and individually. As we integrate more formative data sources (e.g. daily assessments or pre- post- unit assessments), COMPASS will become an invaluable resource for teachers as they prototype and test new designs and instructional practices.


[Neurology] Learning Science for Rigor

One of SBISD’s Pillars of Personalized Learning is Individualized and Rigorous. Students at all levels of mastery ought to be doing the heavy lifting in the classroom.

We like to say, “kids should be sweating”.

To inform instructional practices that engage and challenge students, the Redesign Team infuses concepts from an emerging body of neurological research, called Learning Science. Using what we know about how the brain reacts to new information, we can design classrooms where Every Child is engaged and learning to their fullest potential. Transcend Education’s Science of Learning and Development is a comprehensive literature review that synthesizes the most compelling research in this field and applies it to school design. We introduce this content to Core Design Teams in the Ideation phase or Redesign.

Learning Science at a Glance

Courtesy of Transcend Education

[Ideate] Fostering Divergent Thinking

Redesign Coaches foster divergent thinking through Case Studies, multimedia resources, collaborative brainstorming sessions, and Learning Visits to innovative schools both locally and nationally. Schools explore the current context of Houston and Trends for the Future.  In the Ideation Phase, schools identify Graduate Aims that serve as their design principles and Signature Experiences that constitute their Redesign.

Graduate Aims: Beyond TEKS, what do we want our children to learn that we believe will set them up to thrive in a global economy?  To find purpose and to be happy?

Signature Experiences: What ‘chunks of time’ can be reimagined to build and develop our graduate aims and support personalized learning?

[Ideate] Learning Visits for Divergent Thinking

Our work with Spring Branch Middle School in the 2016-2017 school-year taught us that that “seeing is believing”. Through generous philanthropic funding, SBISD was able to engage in Learning Visits across the city, state, and nation that exposed SBISD's Designer-Educators to divergent ideas about learning and schooling. Each year, with generous funding from the Spark Grant, Houston Endowment, and Texas Education Agency, educators have visited sites in places like Houston, Austin, Denver, San Francisco, and New Orleans. These Learning Visits are carefully planned and led by our School Redesign Coaches, who serve as Sherpas, pushing participants to actively engage in visits and bring back their learnings to their school teams.  

Examples of spaces we've visited include:

  • Children's Museum of Houston
  • Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen @ Rice University
  • Ann Richards School in Austin
  • Clear Creek ISD, Round Rock ISD, Pasadena ISD (Raise Your Hand Texas Showcase Visits)
  • 4.0 Schools in New Orleans
  • Uncommon Construction in New Orleans
  • Alt School in San Francisco
  • Stanford University's D-School
  • Precita Eyes Mural Arts in San Francisco
  • Compass Montessori in Denver
  • The Cube School in Denver

[Vision and Roadmap] Dream Canvas & Implementation Plan

The Dream Canvas is a culmination of the Design Process and captures the big, bold vision for the school. It includes the Case for Change (derived from Qualitative and Quantitative Empathy), Graduate Aims and Signature Experiences.

By the end of the year, schools must also submit an implementation plan that includes detailed steps for the first year rollout of their vision as well as broader steps for long-term implementation at scale. The plan must be thoughtful and responsible-- that is, schools must emphasize financial sustainability and think through a plan for any necessary capacity-building.

Our template for the Dream Canvas and Implementation Plan is linked here. Note that this is an iterative document.

[Capacity Building] Summer Prototyping Laboratory

Recognizing the need to build teachers' and school leadership's capacity to support personalized learning, the Research and Design reinvented summer school at Ridgecrest Elementary. The Summer Opportunity enabled teachers and administrators to:

  1. Engage in timely and targeted professional development sessions,
  2. Leverage new skills and knowledge to collaboratively build rigorous personalized curriculum,
  3. Prototype personalized instructional strategies in the classroom, and
  4. Build each School Leadership Team’s skill in coaching teachers effectively.

During the two week program, campus teams worked collaboratively to create plans and resources that would support Redesign. For part of the day, teachers engaged with students in the classroom, piloting and refining instructional practices that would be instrumental in their Redesign. Coaches gave real-time feedback to help teachers grow.