Common Themes and Lessons Learned

The case studies included in this toolkit provide a window into schools, communities and leaders taking steps towards equity-focused school innovation. Within each case study, each individual school context influenced the innovation process. However, there are convergent themes and lessons. Below you will find highlighted learnings within each phase of the framework that may help frame another school’s process of innovating for equity.

Phase 1: Establishing Our Team

Team Formation Processes

Each school took a different approach to team formation. Chelsea, for example, leveraged an already existing group of educators focused on a high risk student population. In Hampton’s case, there was not an explicitly defined team. Instead, intentional outreach to the whole school community that included the school board, parents, faculty, staff and students participated. The Holmes school took an even different approach, fielding applications for faculty to join a community focused on innovation. This was a structured and open process. The process that was selected matched the need statement behind the innovation.

Impetus for Change


The impetus or champion behind innovations in a handful of these case studies came from either a leadership change or a noticeable decline in student outcomes. The Holmes School was facing potential intervention based on test scores and accountability ratings. The Hampton School had declining enrollment due to the opening of a new school as well as the presence of a new school leader who aimed to champion change. In each of the schools, the climate for change was set by a community identified need and/or a champion school leader.

Professional Development


As part of establishing an innovation team, professional development played a central role not only in building trust but furthermore expose teachers to the forthcoming innovations. The presence of CCE staff in some of these cases involved external voices to guide and implement professional development modules. This is an aspect of the process that looked different depending on the individual’s school context.

Phase 2: Rediscovering Our Community

Varying Levels of Rediscovery

Each school had a varying level of rediscovery based upon the data that was already available. The impetus for change, as aforementioned, often came in the form of data driven measures that effectively pushed the school towards innovation. In other cases, such as the Chelsea Opportunity Academy, the need and data was already gathered before the team was established.

Oftentimes, data collection has already been conducted. It is important to note that this phase still holds importance for understanding aspects that the data does not show including an assets-based analysis or determining the inclusiveness of the classroom. In addition, a root cause analysis can be important to illuminate conclusions from descriptive data. In the Chelsea case, a reflection from the innovation process was that the data was only the beginning of the process - focus groups and community participation could have revealed more information about the students.

Phase 3: Envisioning the Change

Community Participation

Community voices were uplifted in many of these case studies to help develop this vision. Access points for community participation were seen as effective ways to ensure widespread consensus building. In the BoCoLab case, mini hack-a-thons on top of traditional outreach methods were used. In the Hampton case, different formats were used to gather community input from face-to-face focus groups to online & paper surveys. Additionally, student voice played a key role in the visioning process. The inclusion of student voice honors their perspective as a key stakeholder in the education process.

Phase 4: Implementing for Equity

Iterative Improvement

Each case shows how within the innovation process, further potential change can be identified and developed. Trial and error cycles utilized by Loreto helped teachers quickly pivot strategies based on what was working best for students. Chelsea Opportunity Academy still meets regularly to reflect on progress and target ongoing needs. The process of implementation is a cycle that still includes the aforementioned stakeholders and partners from previous phases.

An approach to teaching and learning that is flexible and adaptable, adjusting the system to the individual students and what they need to be successful in today's diverse, global world.
Students exercise voice and choice in their learning, embracing their individual strengths, needs, interests, and cultural backgrounds.
The ability to use the cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of culturally and linguistically diverse learners as conduits for teaching them more effectively. (Geneva Gay, 2002)
Developed in a way that ensures a barrier-free environment for all students, ensuring that every student, particularly those within historically underserved groups, has what they need to be successful. To be truly equitable, schools must not only have equity of opportunity, but of outcomes.
The process of envisioning, designing, and implementing a school model, either from scratch as a way of redesigning and disrupting the existing educational system, or as part of the transformation of an existing school.