Consulting firm to help improve test scores, prep students for college

District will pay nearly $5.1 million for programs in 10 schools in 2009-2010; some question timing of implementation

By Joe McGehee

Staff Writer

Rockford Public School District 205 signed a contract totaling nearly $5.1 million with the educational consulting firm Evans Newton Inc. (ENI) Sept. 8. The contract with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based consulting firm, which includes implementation of the TargetTeach and TargetCoach2Coach products, was enacted to improve reading and math scores for four high schools and six elementary schools.

District 205 officials said the contract with ENI is designed to not only improve test scores, but also to prepare students for the educational challenges of attending college.

“We need our kids to get to college,” said Tracy Stevenson-Olson, executive director of Curriculum and Instruction for District 205. “Our partnership with ENI will assist our kids in achieving that goal by teaching on a college-preparedness level.

“Dr. [LaVonne] Sheffield [District 205 superintendent] brought her vision of training 106 of our own employees as coaches to life when this contract was signed,” Stevenson-Olson continued. “Not only will students get more focused instruction through our partnership with ENI, but the district will have a staff of trained coaches to continue to implement this plan in the future.”

This is not the first time District 205 has contracted with educational consulting firms, but by all accounts, this is the district’s most comprehensive plan to-date for improving the education received in area elementary and high schools.

“This plan is far more comprehensive than any other from recent years,” said Stevenson-Olson. “We are actually training our own coaches to coach faculty and students alike, which will save the district money because we will not have to rely on calling consultants back and paying for their time.”

According to the agreement, District 205’s contract with ENI was paid for solely through the use of funds allocated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

Earl Hernandez, executive director of Schools for District 205, said: “A lot of school districts are using their ARRA money on salaries and adding new positions. We’re making an investment in the future of not just our schools, but the city of Rockford as well with our stimulus money.”

Evans Newton Inc.,

TargetTeach and TargetCoach2Coach

ENI is an educational consulting firm that specializes in prepackaged software services and educational support services. The company produces an estimated $10 million to $20 million in annual sales, while generating $5.4 million in annual revenue.

According to its Web site, ENI “…has partnered with thousands of K-12 schools, districts, and state departments of education nationwide and in Puerto Rico to improve student achievement.” ENI also works with regional service agencies and education publishers on initiatives, processes and materials they feel can lead to sustained school improvement.

ENI’s consultants help schools identify gaps in the information that textbooks offer and what state tests require students to know to give teachers the opportunity to supplement their lesson plans.

ENI’s TargetTeach, which is being implemented in six District 205 elementary schools and four high schools, is a program designed to bolster students’ scores on state-mandated tests.

According to company literature, ENI’s TargetTeach is a “… proven model for school improvement and improved student achievement. Our trusted and adaptive systemic program is designed to improve school climate and instructional capacity. The program’s components and our expertise in implementation, integrated professional development and coaching all combine to produce measurable increases in student achievement.”

ENI’s TargetCoach2Coach, which is being implemented in every District 205 school, is based on the proven model of “Cognitive Coaching from Costa and Garmston,” according to company literature.

According to ENI’s Web site, TargetCoach2Coach is a “…a model that builds upon that base with pedagogical expertise and TargetTeach implementation concepts that have proven effective in district after district. Using the proven tenets of ENI’s TargetTeach process, coaches become expert in observing and mentoring teachers in principles of effective instruction including standards-based teaching, driving instruction through data, and differentiating instruction to individual needs.”

Teachers question implementation

Some District 205 teachers question not only ENI’s TargetTeach product, but the educational theory behind implementing ENI’s most highly-touted, for-profit offering. Many teachers also are questioning implementing these changes during an active school year.

Matthew Johnson, a District 205 teacher, said: “As teachers, we are always interested in improving our teaching, as long as it is done in a logical manner, which allows time for teachers to adjust lesson plans to the new method. However, the way in which this program is being implemented, teachers are not given this opportunity.”

When asked about starting the program during an active school year, Stevenson-Olson said: “Our biggest concern is our students. Would we have liked to have been able to start fresh with a new school year? Sure. But, the urgency to implement these programs is based on our concern to ensure our students receive the best education possible, as soon as possible.”

From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue

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