- Sponsorship -

Latest RAMS Report Provides Blueprint for Improvement

When Michael Shibler arrived as Rockford’s superintendent in July 1989, he thought it would be presumptuous to tell residents what they should value in their children’s education. So he sent out a survey and asked them.

“I was shocked,” Shibler said 25 years later in recalling the strong community response. “I had people attaching narratives to their surveys, thanking me and saying, ‘This is the first time anyone’s ever asked my opinion.’”

Thus began the first Rockford Action Model for Success – better known as RAMS – a strategic plan to determine directions and priorities for the nearly 8,000-student school system. Compiled every three years since then, the RAMS documents guide the district in everything from teaching and learning goals to finances, community services and public relations.

Now comes RAMS IX, the ninth volume of the series, which took effect Jan. 1. Its nearly 100 goals grew out of extensive surveys of staff, students and parents, hours of committee meetings and detailed reviews by administrators. The Board of Education approved the document in December and stamped it with its own statement of support.

Published in glossy magazine format as well as on the district website, the report’s student-designed cover shows a blueprint with a Rockford Ram in the middle. The symbolism is important, Shibler said.

“It’s a direct blueprint,” he said. “I can say to the community that we’re going to be better this year than we were last. And that we’re going to be better next year than we are this year. I can prove it.”

‘A Living Document’

RAMS IX represents months of preparation resulting in a wide range of specific goals in eight categories. Far from sitting on a shelf gathering dust, it will be a “living document” whose implementation will be monitored over the next three years, Shibler said, adding almost all RAMS goals to date have been met.

He points to previous plans that have produced changes. For instance, RAMS VIII called for collaboration with higher education, a goal realized with the Early College Program for high school students with Ferris State University. This year’s new orchestra program also was a RAMS VIII goal.

Other goals are ongoing. For example, the district’s high schoolcompetency test required to earn a diploma grew out of a question Shibler first asked the community in 1989. Ninety-six percent of respondents supported the test. He has repeated the question on every RAMS survey since then.

The latest survey was taken last spring with the aid of the Gartner & Associates marketing firm. Nearly 2,000 people responded, including community residents, high school students and staff members. They answered dozens of questions on everything from how satisfied they are with instruction and services to how safe students felt from bullying. Ninety-two percent of current parents gave Rockford schools an overall A or B grade, while 79 percent of students gave the same grades.  

Committees of school leaders and board members reviewed the surveys to set rough goals, which were further refined by Shibler and administrators before being approved in two readings by the school board. Committees of administrators and teachers will work to ensure goals are accomplished over the next three years.

The final document is handsomely designed and illustrated with photos. It is also deliberately devoid of jargon and “educationese” so that it is clear to the parents, business owners and civic leaders who will receive it, Shibler said: “My goal is that a person on the street in downtown Rockford could take these goals and understand what they are.”

Honors such as being a national Blue Ribbon District of Excellence attest to the RAMS plans’ effectiveness, Shibler added. As the longest-serving superintendent in Kent County, he wants it to continue well into the future to ensure it remains “part of the culture.”

“I know today the RAMS model would stand long after I’m gone,” Shibler said, “because people feel it works.”

Note: The report will be available from the Rockford Public Schools website Jan. 27th

- Sponsorship -
Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers Rockford and Grand Rapids. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.

LATEST ARTICLES

Vaccine trial participant: ‘I really want to get back to normal’

Orchestra teacher and cellist Eric Hudson longs for the days when he can direct student musicians in concerts and tours and play in his own ensemble once again. To help speed that process along, he is participating in a COVID-19 vaccine trial...

Longtime agriscience teacher earns honorary FFA degree

After 24 years of teaching, John Schut believes incorporating fun and service into education is more engaging for students than taking notes in a classroom...

Stress, studies and the pandemic: a steep learning curve

In response to the social and emotional impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rockford’s Developing Healthy Kids Campaign wants students and families to know they are not alone...

Health Department helps schools tackle challenges of instruction, during winter, in a pandemic

Working with the health department has been crucial in helping area school leaders understand the nature of COVID-19, the types of mitigation strategies that can be most effective and how to plan for the future...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Stress, studies and the pandemic: a steep learning curve

In response to the social and emotional impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rockford’s Developing Healthy Kids Campaign wants students and families to know they are not alone...

Students find a quiet place to chill out: the hygge room

A calming “hygge room” has become a popular part of Roguewood Elementary’s mental-health supports for students during the pandemic...

Major factor in school closings: evidence of virus spread

While the Kent County Health Department is working hard with superintendents to keep schools open, sometimes closing is the best way to mitigate spread...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS