06/13/2013

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A formula for planning effective school improvement It’s nearing the end of the school year across America, which means thousands of principals are preparing school improvement plans for the 2013-14 school year. There are two common scenarios that take place, illustrated here by Principal A and Principal B: Principal A sits down and, with little input or involvement from others, dutifully writes an ambitious school improvement plan for the next school year. The plan is submitted to the central office and receives a stamp of approval. At the beginning of the new school year, the plan is shared for the first time with the school staff. Momentum and focus are quickly lost, and the plan sits on a shelf, practically untouched, until the end of the school year. Principal B, on the other hand, meets with the school leadership team to collect, organize, and analyze data to form several key problem statements. Next, the principal meets with school faculty members to present the data analysis and the key problem statements. Collectively, the faculty members review the data, identify root causes of the problem statements, develop goals, and create an action plan based on research-based practices. This all takes place before the summer break. At the beginning of the new school year, the plan is reviewed and staff members sign-up for subcommittees to lead implementation and actively monitor progress. Monthly progress reports and achievement data are reviewed by the school leadership team. Which school is more likely to meet its goals? It’s easy to predict that Principal B’s...
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What do you do with classroom observation data? At their core, classroom observations should be about coaching, building up professional practice, and supporting better outcomes for students. Principals should use classroom observation data to enrich conversations during professional learning community meetings, individual teacher coaching conferences, and staff meetings. When large samples of student data are available, school leaders can disaggregate the data by age, content area, or other categories to enable powerful analysis of the data’s meaning and uses. This, combined with other evidence, can be used to support school improvement goals, collaborative planning, professional development planning, and a common understanding of what quality pedagogy looks like. Principals who do this well can help their teachers make great gains in teaching and learning. We’re sometimes asked by principals and district leaders who are interested in Power Walkthrough® for more information about how the system ties in with research-informed instructional practices and good classroom observation protocols and purposes. The Power Walkthrough system supports best practice by using a carefully designed template of observable elements based on the best understanding of modern pedagogy, with indicators of research-informed classroom environmental factors, instructional strategies, learning taxonomies, technology applications, evidence of learning, and student interview responses. The template is customizable, so that if a school wants to focus on formative assessment or collaborative learning, they can do so by adding or substituting observation elements. We recommend not adding too much to the observation template, so that it doesn’t turn into a teacher evaluation tool and take too long to conduct. If individual observations...

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