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Remote Cross-District Collaboration

Leveraging remote capabilities to increase cross-district collaboration through site meetings and grade-alike PLCs

Overview

Prior to the pandemic, cross-district professional learning and planning at Austin ISD (AISD) required teams to travel to physical sites. This meant site leaders had to leave their schools to plan collaboratively, resulting in lost time and expense for travel. AISD teachers also planned at the site-level, preventing them from collaborating with colleagues across the city. When the pandemic hit, the district used the move to remote learning as an opportunity to create more consistent cross-district leader and teacher planning.

"I had a meeting with a group of principals last week at 8:00 a.m.. Elementary school started at 7:35 or whatever it was. And so in order for them to be able to be in a room on Zoom at 8 a.m., they had to do all the health checks and everything before...a meeting was able to start at 8:00. And we talked about whether or not we wanted to start meeting in person either towards the end of the school year, or the beginning of next for this team. And they said we will never go back to face-to-face because we have just saved forty-five minutes in Austin traffic to drive to headquarters. And we didn't have to miss check-in on our campus. We still got to do all the welcomes and now we're having an efficient on-time meeting."- Suzanne Newell, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Austin Independent School District

Approach

The use of video for cross-district collaboration greatly increased the districts’ ability to bring educators together across sites. At the site-leader level, Austin was able to bring together site leaders on a weekly, rather than monthly, basis (as was the case pre-pandemic).

On the teacher front, Austin established grade-alike professional learning communities (PLCs) to convene across the district. The virtual PLCs facilitated inter-school collaboration by eliminating the need for travel. The shift also supported collaborative planning using the district's new curricular blueprints; teachers working at different sites were now working together using common materials. The flexibility of remote meetings also allowed for more efficient and frequent meetings, as travel is no longer required.

A result of this endeavor is that the district has seen large percentages of students within the same grade completing the same activities regardless of school placement. Teachers who formerly lacked planning communities (often as they were the only teacher on-site in subject areas) now had collaborators across the district to learn from and lean on.


This strategy is a part of TLA's Hop, Skip, Leapfrog release, which explores the concrete ways in which schools and systems pursued student-centered innovation during COVID-19. Explore the full guide to find additional strategies, insights, and resources.