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Success Story
Belvidere School District

Belvidere, Illinois

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Belvidere School District in Illinois is comprised of ten schools (five elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and one STEM academy).

8,278 students

  • 53.8% free and reduced lunch
  • 12% English learners
  • 15.28 % special education

Belvidere School District's Challenge

Belvidere School District began working with Marzano Resources to build a guaranteed and viable curriculum through the development of proficiency scales. As the school district continued this work, district leaders were introduced to the High Reliability Schools (HRS) framework for school improvement. The design of HRS and its alignment to Belvidere’s desire to create a positive culture that promotes student learning led to the adoption of HRS.


Members of the district leadership team took the first step by attending the annual HRS Summit, which prepared them to begin implementing the framework in all ten schools.

Adopting the HRS framework provided a common language and a shared set of expectations for their school improvement efforts. While the model is supportive and responsive to the individual needs and opportunities at each school site, using it as a districtwide tool creates opportunities for shared learning, collaboration between schools, and alignment of resources, time, and energy.

“Each of the levels is interconnected and leads to a readiness to transform a school from a traditional model to a competency-based system,” explained Dave Carson, assistant superintendent of Belvidere. “Understanding HRS as a system provides clarity about the ‘why’ of this work; it is both to improve the school at each level while preparing the system to move its practice to one that better meets the needs of each student.”


Each school in Belvidere School District is now a certified High Reliability School. Using the HRS framework, Belvidere’s school improvement teams have a clear set of indicators to guide their efforts and transform their school improvement process. The tools for identifying focus areas and monitoring progress have empowered each school team to improve structures and practices in a manner that builds on the strengths of the school staff while allowing them to design solutions to meet their needs best.

“HRS provides our district with a prioritized roadmap of school improvement efforts that propels us toward our vision of a student-centered learning environment.”

Dave Carson, assistant superintendent

Why High Reliability Schools?

Dr. Marzano’s vision for K–12 education is simple: the vast majority of schools can be highly effective in promoting student learning. To show how, he created the Marzano High Reliability Schools framework. This framework, based on 40 years of educational research, defines five progressive levels of performance that a school must master to become a high reliability school—where all students learn the content and skills they need for success in college, careers, and beyond.