School improvement means changing a schools practices and policies to improve teaching and learning. It’s a continuous process for all schools - both those with effective and ineffective practices.
Effective schools share not only common strategies for change, but also share common methods for bringing about that change. They have a basic commitment to “everyone getting better all the time” in order to improve results for students.
- How does the principal distribute leadership to create a collegial community for continuous school improvement?
- What processes help schools to continuously look at data to identify progress toward goals, strategic plan, and assess and adjust?
- Plan, Do, Study, Act – what does that mean to you? Do you know how to implement this process to bring about change in your school?
Using data for improvement and engaging techers in the use of data:
Principals need to use data for nearly every decision that is made. All curricular pacing and instructional planning must begin with data starting with WESTEST in the upper grades, but also DIBELS, QPS, common assessments, benchmarks for every grade level. Teachers need to be meeting in functioning PLCs (Collaborative Teams) where they are looking at instructional practices based on data. Principals can model this in faculty meetings or ISE days when addressing issues. Principals can gather survey data, attendance/tardy data, parent involvement, various grade distribution data, test data, etc. and generate large or small group discussions based on the analysis.
Instructional Practices Inventory (IPI) is excellent to use for teacher involvement. This process involves trained teachers collecting data on levels of student engagement. Once the data is gathered, all of the school's teachers are given the data and presented with the following questions:
- What can we celebrate?
- What can we improve?
- What is a reasonable goal?
- How will we change our practice between now and then?
The West Virginia Department of Education has defined standards for principals that apply to culture as:
Standard VI - Manages Operations for Learning
Today’s principal manages the processes and systems of the school in order to assure efficiency and effectiveness in achieving 21st century outcomes for students. The leader manages facilities, transportation, nutrition, technology and fiscal resources in ways that contribute to student personal welfare and 21st century learning. Time is maximized and allocated in order to effectively benefit student and staff learning. The effective recruiting of staff with proficiencies which enable them to meet diverse student needs and implement differentiate instruction accordingly is also essential to the management of operations for learning.
Standard VIII - Effects Change and Innovation for Continuous Improvement
The leader creates an environment that embraces change and understands it as a continuous part of the improvement process. The contemporary principal analyzes a variety of data from multiple sources to implement strategic planning, goals and learning activities. This utilization will guide the plan/do/study/act cycle. It is important for the principal to nuture the leadership of others and to distribute it among students, staff, parents and the community. A balanced assessment system is utilized to determine the effectiveness of the programs.
Watch video on Distributed Leadership Teacher.
Complete this Plan, Do, Study, Act activity with you teams
Locate and identify, with some school stakeholders, two or three school improvement processes and choose one for implementation at your school.
Additional activity using David Langford's book Tool Time
- Select your stakeholders and distribute tasks amongst the leadership team. (Plan)
- Along with the leadership team, meet and share results from your findings with all stakeholders. (Plan)
- Collaboratively develop a plan of action that addresses the identified areas of need for school improvement. (Do)
- Working with the team, analyze the results of the identified assessments to create a school-wide set of best practices. (Study)
- Implement the new framework of action (based on steps 1-3) within the five year plan and monitor progress. (Act)
What are the positive aspects of your leadership activities?
What sustainable actions will you take to continue with your progress?
Is your strategic plan a living document? How can this process make your strategic plan a living document?
One of the most important tasks an administrator has is to distribute leadership and then facilitate the work of the school in Collaborative Teams. Knowing when to be dictatorial and when and how to move the work forward with accountability as well as willing participation is the tight rope that principals must walk. Ask youself:
Am I a good facilitator?
If not, what can I do to improve in this area?
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