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Success Story
The School District of Lee County

Fort Myers, Florida

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The School District of Lee County is the ninth largest in Florida and the 32nd largest in the nation. Lee County educates over 100,000 students with just over 13,000 employees. The School District of Lee County strives to be a world-class school system where each student reaches his or her highest personal potential. Safe and supportive learning environments are critical to their mission.

99,354 students

  • 11.5% special education
  • 17.5% English learners
  • 74.5% eligible for free and reduced lunch

The School District of Lee County's Challenge

As a district, Lee County hires approximately 500-700 new teachers yearly. Many teachers they’ve hired came to the profession as career changers and required ongoing support to increase their instructional capacity.

The administration team at Lee also saw several teachers, leaders, and community members expressing the desire to provide input and feedback on the optimal functioning of their school and district.

The resulting need to hire and train new teachers and the request for input at several schools led the School District of Lee County to adopt the Marzano High Reliability Schools framework. The administration team hoped to use the framework for school improvement, creating and monitoring common systems across all school buildings for teachers, leaders, parents, and students.


Once the decision had been made to adopt the HRS framework, school leaders engaged in training during fall of the following school year. The training initially started as optional sessions for school leaders and peer collaborative teachers. Sessions took place through in-person and Zoom training during the pandemic years.

Training was offered throughout the school year and as a component of summer training for leaders. As engagement and excitement for the learning continued, several schools expressed interest in obtaining Level 1 HRS Certification, which focuses on a safe, supportive, and collaborative culture.

Through the award of the ESSER grant, Lee County was able to fulfill these requests. Cohort 1 was created at the High Reliability Schools Coaching Academy, which is specially designed professional development that prepares teams of educators to lead their school in mastering all five levels of the Marzano HRS framework, with an emphasis on the first three levels: Safe, Supportive, and Collaborative Culture; Effective Teaching in Every Classroom; and Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum.

A cohort consisted of the principal, teacher leaders, and a district representative. The academy consisted of 6 training days, surveys for students, parents, faculty, and staff, HRS Tool Kits, and coaching from a Marzano associate.

All ten schools in cohort 1 achieved Level 1 Certification. This momentum sparked interest in other schools, and three additional cohorts were offered. A pathway was then created to allow all schools to engage in the HRS Academy and obtain Level 1 certification. Schools in Lee County that wanted to earn an HRS certification had to survey parents, students, faculty, and staff regarding the eight leading indicators for Level 1, create an action plan to address areas indicating an opportunity and monitor data from the systems implemented on an ongoing basis to obtain certification.

While teacher leaders engaged in professional learning with their administrators during the HRS Academy, they expressed interest in learning more about the New Art and Science of Teaching. Teachers in Lee County supported the New Art and Science of Teaching, and attendance at professional development training grew to more than 200 teachers for each evening session. More than 700 teachers received training in the New Art and Science of Teaching.

Now, 75 teachers are applying their learning through the High Reliability Teacher process, and out of those, four teachers have recently achieved High Reliability Teacher Level 1 certification.


32 schools in the Lee County School District received a Level 1 HRS certification. 26 early adopter schools opted to engage in a Level 2 Academy. Students across grades 3-10 at Lee County schools with Level 1 certification experience higher proficiency scores in English language arts.

The implementation of leadership indicators has fostered a unified approach to learning and collaboration among teachers, creating a stronger foundation for both student and staff growth.

As far as return on investment, staff surveys indicate educators in Lee County value their work with HRS. In year 1 of implementation, 93% agree and strongly agree that the content presented will enhance work performance. In year 5 of implementation, 94% of staff surveyed agree and strongly agree that HRS professional learning provides them with a meaningful opportunity to learn and grow.

“With level one certification, teachers have described the school environment as less chaotic than before, more consistent, and a place where they are able to focus on learning. Teachers also describe it as a less isolating and more collaborative culture in a way that supports the growth of their own craft.”

Helen Davis Martin, Ed.D., director of professional development, The School District of Lee County

ELA Student Achievement Data, Grades 3–10

Average percent proficiency on FAST ELA scores in HRS Level 1 certified schools compared to schools not yet certified

Graph showing Average percent proficiency on FAST ELA scores in HRS Level 1 certified schools compared to schools not yet certified

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.