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Normandy’s schools have persistently ranked among the lowest performing in the state and have had an outsized impact on America’s understanding of race and public education, given the district’s prominence in national news coverage following the death of Michael Brown, a 2014 graduate of Normandy High School. Earlier this year, The Opportunity Trust supported the state-appointed board in undertaking a systematic audit of the district’s strengths and gaps to shape its future direction. On July 13, the Normandy Schools Collaborative board unanimously approved its 2025 Strategic Plan aiming to dramatically improve the learning outcomes and environment in the district. This plan builds upon the 360 degree audit and data review and was stewarded by Normandy’s new Superintendent, Marcus Robinson.

The board and Superintendent engaged Attuned Education Partners to lead a comprehensive and inclusive three month planning process that included: a broad community survey; focus groups with students, parents, teachers, district staff and partners; virtual school reviews; and, an audit of instructional and operational systems at the district. A planning committee was formed to help ensure a broad range of perspectives shaped the plan and to keep it moving forward despite the additional challenges created by the pandemic. “The pandemic made even more stark the urgent need for us to transform many of our practices to ensure children in Normandy have access to a world-class public education that is relevant to their daily lives and to the world they will graduate into,” said Sara Foster, President of the Normandy Schools Collaborative Board. “It would have been easy to delay this planning process given the numerous additional challenges we were navigating, but given what we heard from students, families, and teachers, we felt an obligation to ensure we restarted school this fall differently. The pandemic only increased our sense of urgency.”

This fall, the district is initiating a number of bold and significant changes to accelerate student learning and to improve the environment for both students and staff. Highlights include the adoption of a new kindergarten through 8th grade English language arts curriculum and a rigorous math curriculum pilot shown to support double-digit growth in proficiency with strong implementation. The district has also initiated an overhaul of teacher support and development by launching a summer institute led by a nationally recognized training group, School Kit, and weekly professional learning across the district. Download the full report here.

The district is reallocating existing resources in line with its priorities, however, shortfalls due to declining tax revenue and support needed to help build district capacity in the near term will require nearly $8 million in philanthropic support to make this plan possible. The Opportunity Trust has committed $1.5M towards this plan so far and is working with the district to secure the additional funding needed. “This kind of transformation simply isn’t possible without partnership,” said Superintendent Robinson. “The Opportunity Trust is bringing much more than financial support. They are ensuring Normandy students and staff get access to the very best resources and professional development, and they are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do the transformation work alongside my team and me.”