Editor's Note: This story is part of The Partnership Project, a series of content written in an effort by The Daily News to follow the formal collaboration of Ball State University and Muncie Community Schools. Read more in this series here.
Muncie Community Schools (MCS) submitted its Academic Innovation Plan — “Placing Learners First: The MCS-Ball State University Partnership” — to the Indiana General Assembly Tuesday, according to an MCS press release.
When the legislature approved the MCS-Ball State partnership in 2018, state lawmakers required this plan along with a report of financial viability to be submitted to the legislature by the summer of 2020, the press release states.
The plan, which provides a roadmap for transforming the school district’s K-12 school system into an “innovative, cradle-to-career, community-based model” is based around two foundational principles:
- Continuous, aligned and strategic professional learning: According to the press release, this principle puts content-focused professional development at the forefront for developing and retaining highly competent and motivated education leaders throughout MCS.
- Culturally responsive practices: This principle provides engagement opportunities with students and their families and are embedded in training and performance rubrics from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, an MCS partner.
“These two principles will provide the foundation on which our entire district is being built,” said Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, CEO and director of public education at MCS in the press release. “You can’t have an outstanding school system without superior teachers and administrators, and we want these professionals to have access to cutting-edge concepts and technology that have proven results.”
The plan also includes five operational pillars to provide the infrastructure for student success:
- High-quality Pre-Kindergarten Education
- Recruitment, Development and Retention of Educational Leaders
- Student-centered Teaching and Active Learning
- Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
- Family and Community Engagement
The plan expands into further details on the foundational principles and the five pillars, among other things.
“It’s a new day in Muncie public education. Muncie Community Schools will not settle for or implement second-best concepts,” Kwiatkowski said. “With Ball State’s help and this plan now in place, we have set a high bar for our students, teachers and administrators, and we expect the results to follow.”
According to the press release, some of these results include lower professional turnover, higher graduation rates and increased family and community engagement.
Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns said in the press release that submitting the plan was the latest example of the progress made in the university’s partnership with the school district.
“I am grateful to everyone who has played a role in shaping this plan, which contains the principles and the pillars that will create a strong foundation for our schools—and ensure a bright future for our children,” Mearns said.
The press release states that MCS’ goals are philanthropically supported by organizations like Ball Brothers Foundation, The Community Foundation of Muncie & Delaware County, the George and Frances Ball Foundation, First Merchants Bank, Old National Bank and Northwest Bank, with more than $5 million committed to its margin of excellence funding.
In addition, local nonprofit organizations like Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Meridian Health Services, Open Door Community Health Service, Purdue Polytechnic, Ivy Tech Community College and others are assisting to meet the social, economic and healthcare needs of MCS families.
“We are very proud of the Innovation Plan as well as our recently completed strategic plan that sets the course for our next five years,” said James Williams, president of the MCS board of trustees, in the press release. “We appreciate our partnership with Ball State and our many other community partners. It truly is a collaborative community endeavor.”
The press release states this Academic Innovation Plan is intended to be a living document with two distinct parts: the Innovation Plan and the MCS Strategic Plan, which outlines how MCS’ goals will be achieved over the next five years. The plan will be reviewed, supplemented and modified on an annual basis at a minimum. The entire plan can be accessed on MCS’ website.