What We Do

CSSR provides technical assistance and school change coaching to schools and districts throughout the United States. Our comprehensive approach addresses instruction, leadership and culture change best practices. To build capacity and sustain knowledge we believe in working alongside our clients to develop a path that will meet their specific, contextual needs and lead to higher student achievement. We offer a variety of customized services delivered by our diverse team of experts who contribute years of knowledge and experience to the conversation and activities. At the core of our work is the belief that students must always be at the center of any learning environment. From planning a professional development day, to a year-long schedule of coaching, CSSR can design a purpose and structure around any of the best practice strategies below.



Personalized learning and teaching environments meet the needs and aspirations of individual learners, by design. Through a workshop series, CSSR coaches familiarize teams of teachers with learning strategies to begin personalization with the individual “persons” in the classroom. Participants explore methods to personalize content, instruction, product, and assessment with students. Educators become familiar with a range of options for personalizing learning and teaching both in and out of the classroom. CSSR coaches support teachers in creating a fold-out plan to incorporate personalization strategies into existing lessons and units.

 CSSR is a national leader in the move towards Competency Based Progressions as a framework for advancing students through coursework based on demonstration of mastery. CSSR coaches can work with your instructional staff to articulate competencies that include explicit, measurable, and transferable learning objectives.  This work includes the creation of performance-based assessment systems that lead to meaningful learning experiences for all students.

Inquiry based teaching provides a vehicle for student interest to be the framework for mastering academic content in a way that has significant and lasting value for the student. CSSR coaches have extensive experience working with educators to ensure mastery of common core standards in all disciplines through the use of inquiry based teaching. Coaches work with educators to draft questions that students are invested in answering and that have multiple entry points for students of varying skill levels. Our approach supports teachers both in understanding the use of, and implementing inquiry based teaching as a student engagement vehicle for deeper learning.

Performance assessment is the process wherein students demonstrate mastery of course content in an authentic and public format. Student designed projects are essential to this work, and include exhibitions as well as other products that demonstrate deep authentic learning through: construction of knowledge; disciplined inquiry; and value beyond the school. Student work is expected to reflect college and career readiness, and is assessed through a moderation process to ensure both a deep level of learning, and fairness in scoring. CSSR provides professional development to schools seeking to begin or expand this work.

Student advisory can be accomplished through regular meetings between small groups of students and educators within a school. CSSR provides training for creating and implementing a student advisory that meets individual school needs – whether that be academic, social/emotional, civic responsibility, and/or career and college readiness. Our coaches work with a site-based design team to create a program focused on a clear purpose established by the school. We work with you to align the organization, content, assessment, professional development and leadership necessary for successful implementation.

CSSR works with school leadership teams to examine ways in which the bell schedule interferes with the school’s ability to accomplish its goals. Through this process, the schools identify what’s working and what needs to change to meet their goals for student achievement. A key element of this process is the exploration of numerous bell schedules in use in a wide variety of schools across the country in order to expand thinking about what’s possible. Once created, CSSR helps the school to develop a professional development plan to gain staff buy-in for the new schedule.




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Fully developed Personal Plans for Progress (PPP) ask students to express themselves in their own voices – earning praise and recognition for their unique performances. The purpose of PPPs is to provide a systemic way of guiding students to examine who they are by exploring their talents, interests, dreams and aspirations. Through this process of self-understanding, students become full partners in the learning process, and are guided to: set personal and learning goals; ask questions; explore how to find out more; and reflect on what they have learned in the process. CSSR coaches work with your school to develop a process to ensure PPPs for each student. This includes the establishment of the procedural aspects of this work, as well as working with the school leadership to vest other educators in this process.
The Student Led Conference, a key component of the Personal Plan for Progress, provides a vehicle in which students are able to articulate, with supporting evidence, how they are progressing. During a Student Led Conference, students lead their adult supporters (parent, guardian, coach) through a thoughtful and thorough analysis of their progress to date, and commit to specific next steps for increased progress. Reflecting on their progress and articulating action plans builds ownership and leadership in students. Research on goal setting shows that committing to our goals in writing increases the likelihood of their accomplishment, and describing our commitment out loud provides an even greater chance of success. CSSR helps schools to develop the leadership and infrastructure necessary to facilitate Student Led Conferencing.
The Challenge Night model is designed to bring student voice and choice into focus at each school by involving students, teachers, and administrators in a series of purposeful activities and protocols. This process is extremely successful in moving participants to action, and empowering them to improve the culture and climate of their school. The formula is simple – building trust between students and adults is the first step in creating a collaborative, student-centered learning environment. CSSR helps schools to plan for and implement Challenge Nights, and to plan for and carryout the follow up of your event.
School Governance in a student-centered, transformational schooling model takes shape through the development of a student-led Site Council. Each student has a voice in the governance of the school through a governing body that includes a majority of students – democratically selected, and representative of the demographic makeup of the school. This Council makes all school-based decisions not governed by state or local policies. CSSR works with schools to prepare for the shift in school-governance, to establish operating norms for the Council, and to support the learning community in addressing the rulings of the Council. Those more comfortable with the traditional top-down governance model are often fearful of this approach. However, years of experience demonstrate that the student-led model is a very powerful, and positive change-driver with few if any negative side-effects.
Typically part of a Readiness Assessment, Student Focus Groups and Forums are strategically designed around a series of conversations and activities that get to the heart of any school issue or initiative – by understanding the students’ point of view. Students want to be seen as part of the solution, not the problem. Focus Groups and Forums help in the initial development of a plan to tackle the challenges and empower students to take action. CSSR helps schools plan for Student Focus Groups and Forums; will facilitate the event and/or train site-based individuals in the facilitation; and provides ongoing support in the follow-up of the event.


Community Engagement



CSSR is fully aware that it really does ‘take a village’ to create conditions that maximize student growth – be it academic, social/emotional, and/or civic responsibility. CSSR works with schools and education agencies to develop a framework and tools for creating engagement strategies and vehicles for community stakeholders to be active partners in school or district matters. This involvement can include a voice in creating the district and school values, vision, mission, and guiding principles; and in making them a reality in daily practice.
Community Advisory Council (CAC) is a powerful vehicle for engaging the voice of the community in the life of the district and its schools. Creating a Council that is representative of the community brings together in one body an essential source of energy, skills, wisdom, and political will for school change. CSSR works with schools to develop the CAC, and facilitates the development of collaboration that can lead to the institutionalization of student-centered learning practices resulting in career or college readiness upon graduation from high school.



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Assessment for Goal Setting and Capacity Building

The CSSR Readiness Assessment is the first step in any high school redesign work. It consists of three days of rigorous conversations and activities that include: round table discussions; initiative prioritization; culture analysis; stakeholder analysis; and student shadowing. We work with you to examine what is currently working, and build a redesign plan off of that – no need to reinvent the wheel! Student shadowing is a full day experience for school leaders and teachers. The goal for the day is to see the learning environment from the students’ perspective, in order to better plan for initiatives that focus on improving the learning environment for all students.

CSSR is accomplished at assisting building Principals to implement regular teacher evaluations. We also support district-wide redesign of teacher evaluation, for example with the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) that is a key element of many Race to the Top initiatives. Our work supports Principals to conduct walk-throughs, observations and final evaluations that reveal a thorough and evidence-backed review of teacher performance, and will stand up to potential scrutiny in an appeals process. This work is grounded in helping evaluators recognize student-centered best practices in the classroom setting.

The demand for top-performing district and school administrators is at an all time high. Initiating and sustaining positive change is one of the essential roles of leadership. To ensure administrators have “the right stuff” to be successful, CSSR has developed a 360º evaluation process that provides valid competency feedback for administrators regarding their strengths and limitations in the context of their specific job goals and demands. The result of the evaluation process is an accurate picture of leadership capacity to aid in the creation of very targeted professional development plans.

Team Performance

Teams are the true engines of change in schools. There are key tenets to team creation and development that are essential to ensure teams are staffed and resourced appropriately, and that they have a clear and formal charter. CSSR has a unique methodology for team development that is supported by processes, tools, and protocols that are adaptable to any school culture and result in teams that are successful in driving change initiatives and improvements in student outcomes.
Common Planning Time (CPT) is the practice of adults meeting together on a frequent basis to review and craft plans to improve the academic engagement and achievement of the shared students they serve. Embedding a structured and purposeful CPT into the school schedule: promotes the practice of personalized learning and teaching; increases the extent to which instruction is integrated across grade levels and content areas; and facilitates peer learning and continuous improvement for the entire school staff. CSSR works with schools to provide CPT by: crafting a school schedule that provides the time, and facilitating the development of highly functioning teacher teams.
Collaborative Skills and Practices – by design – are integral to any high performing professional learning community, and contribute directly to increased student learning and achievement. CSSR works with educators to learn the concepts, habits, tools and skills that lead to reflective practice and facilitative leadership. Professional development is provided through the use of protocols for engaging in reflective discourse; giving and receiving of product feedback; examining student work; and facilitating group development and processes.

Standards, Goals and Optimizing Resources

People need to dream – to have a vision for the future that is truly compelling. CSSR has a process for generating guiding statements that are both inspiring and practical, and that guide both the strategic and day-to-day decision process at every  level. The result of the process includes the following:

  • A clear statement of values,
  • A vision that captures the aspirations of the school, district, and community,
  • A mission that reflects what is being done in the ‘here and now’ to prepare students for success in careers or higher education,
  • A set of guiding principles that describe how business is conducted on a day-to-day basis to ensure the practice of values, and the accomplishment of the vision and mission.
You can’t get where you wish to go if your goals and plans for getting there aren’t clearly articulated. CSSR assists districts and schools to create highly functional strategic plans that provide direction and guide the allocation of resources. The CSSR process is adjustable to accommodate the funds, timeframes, and desired scope of plan creation.
One of the most persistent problems encountered by schools and districts is finding the time to focus on what’s most important in driving improvement in student outcomes. Good intentions have resulted in almost every school and district being “over-goaled.” Given limited resources, it is essential that schools focus on those programs and practices that have the most impact on outcomes. CSSR employs a methodology for doing this called “Initiative Mapping.” This process clarifies priorities, and provides a realistic process for taking those activities off the plate that are of less importance.
A key cause of the failure of initiatives to meet their goals is a lack of role clarity, which is the number one predictor of job productivity and satisfaction. The introduction of new practices is always accompanied by the need to recalibrate the role and position descriptions with regard to task and skill priorities. CSSR employs a process that adds clarity to role and position requirements, clearly identifies professional development activities in support of role and position changes, and builds community support for changes.
Everyone realizes that it is better to get the right people in the right jobs to start with, rather than trying to retool people once they are in place. CSSR provides a unique approach to identify role and position standards and to identify the candidates most capable of meeting those standards. The CSSR process takes into account the level of effort to enhance or acquire specific knowledge, skills, and talents as part of the screening process, with a particular focus on those attributes that are less “trainable.” It is an approach that also facilitates a higher level of stakeholder engagement in the hiring process, while reducing the amount of time necessary to make effective candidate selection decisions.
Given the complexity of running an effective district and school – to include the number of initiatives in play at any one time – everyone is faced with the challenge of staying on top of how well all the parts are functioning as part of a larger system. This means a district/school must have a very efficient and effective system for measuring and communicating progress. CSSR has a proven approach to initiating and sustaining a continuous improvement process that ensures the utilization of the right data to make timely adjustments to processes and practices, and to optimize the allocation of resources in the service of meeting district and school goals.

Governance and Leadership

CSSR works with schools to establish Site Councils comprised of a comprehensive collection of key stakeholders. The role of the Site Council in providing governance and leadership to the school is to promote stakeholder engagement and ensure that the values, vision, and mission of the school are honored and carried out by all involved. CSSR coaches have experience facilitating the creation of governance structures that include a democratically elected Site Council that governs the school. In most instances the Council includes a majority of students as Council members, in addition to teachers and community members. The school Principal is typically an ex-officio, non-voting member.
Most initiatives do not succeed at the level everyone wishes they would. This is not due to a lack of smarts, resources, positive values, or a genuine desire for improvement in student performance. Most of the time it boils down to the lack of specific leadership skills and strategies required to deal with resistance to change, and the inability to find time to make things happen. CSSR has a variety of modules aimed at strengthening leadership skills at every level for the purpose of improving communications, creating buy-in for change, and finding the time necessary to support and sustain change.


Informing Policy


CSSR supports LEAs to create policies that promote personalized learning and instruction. This includes for example: allowing for the earning of credits for Extended Learning Opportunities; moving away from ‘seat time’ and the Carnegie unit as the basis for earning course credit; and the creating of a site based governing body that includes a democratically elected majority of students. CSSR will present cutting edge work in place around the country, and work with your Local School Board to set goals that lead to transformative, student-centered schooling.

CSSR supports SEAs to create policies that can support districts throughout the state in promoting transformational, student-centered learning environments. We have experience throughout the United States facilitating state-level conversations and advising SEAs through the change process. CSSR has worked closely with the State of New Hampshire in the development of new school standards that require demonstration of mastery – not seat time – for the earning of course credit in redesigned high schools. Additionally, CSSR has convened a colloquium with participants from state departments in NH, ME, RI, OR, WA, AZ, and KS to explore the value of Performance Assessments as part of a high school redesign initiative.
Members of the CSSR team have been part of national level policy conversations for over two decades. Starting when CSSR President Joe DiMartino was a founding member of the National High School Alliance, our team members continue to lend their experienced voice to policy-making conversations at the highest levels. This includes: recent conversations regarding competency based pathways at Achieve; the study to redefine the Carnegie unit at the Carnegie Foundation; and being invited to participate in high school redesign conversations at the White House. CSSR continues to advocate for personalizing learning in the high school experience for each student.


What is a school change coach?

The school change process is difficult and complex. This is especially true when new practices are being implemented while school is in session, and prior professional development has not totally prepared the staff to deal effectively with the changes being introduced. A CSSR school change coach has an expertise in facilitating the school change process and working with staff to ensure the successful adoption of the initiatives being introduced. All CSSR coaches have a deep understanding of both the “WHAT” of content best practices, and the “HOW” of  implementing process and organization development. To begin any program, a school leadership team must have the tools, research, and data on best practices to support implementation, but also must have the roadmap on how best to make sure the program is sustainable over a long period of time.


To learn more please contact us here.