Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reflections on Improvement

Sometimes my job is really fun! As part of our school improvement grant this year, I interviewed a variety of principals and assistant principals regarding their AYP success.  What became apparent fairly quickly was that success was not built on a specific initiative. In fact schools that did not have large gains in student achievement looked similar on paper. So what is the discernable difference?

Here are some common characteristics of the AYP Success Schools:

  • Sustained building leadership
  • Sustained building vision
  • Patience - Buildings had long-term plans – 5 to 10 years in most cases
  • Relationships and culture were primary considerations. Leaders consciously and strategically built relationships between:
    • Building leadership and teachers
    • Teachers to teachers and
    • Teachers to students
  • Focus on implementation. 
    • Many teams got lost here… focusing on providing the two hours of professional development mentioned in the plan. Schools experiencing success focused on the changes in classrooms as a result of the professional development.

It is also worth noting that of the few high schools making high growth, all of them talked about engaging students as partners e.g. Advisory Councils  and Mentoring.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Saucon Valley Elementary: An Evolution in Data-Driven Instruction

Saucon Valley Elementary has accomplished what most schools dream of…. they have high achievement and high growth with proficiency scores of 85.4%  in reading and 93% in mathematics on the PSSA. They also have sizeable and consistent gains for growth as measured by PVAAS. Meaning their students in grades 4 and 5 have exceeded a year’s worth of growth.

    According to principal, Ro Frey, “The big idea is teacher ownership of their students’ success.  Teachers own their student’s achievement data, and make decisions based on that knowledge.  They know specifically what they expect of their students in terms of developed grade level standards in reading and math, they share that with parents and students, and they monitor each student’s progress toward that goal. We support the teachers as they accomplish great things for their students.” 

    dataKeys to Success:

    • Consensus on grade level expectations, aligned assessments, and accountability for student success.

    • Data in the hands of the teachers.

    • Teachers empowered to make changes to reach grade level goals.

    • Teachers control the data and lead the conversation. Administrators inquire and support.

    • Respect for teachers knowledge of student needs and professional expertise

        Evolution of Date-Driven Instruction over the course of a Decade:

        • IST meetings revealed no clear consensus regarding grade level expectations.

        • Administrators facilitated collective, grade-level agreement on student end of year outcomes and then developed of end of year assessments to measure them.

        • Teacher accountability: each teacher met with administration at year’s end to review each student’s achievement of grade level standards”

        • Teachers recommended the need for common quarterly grade-level assessments to monitor progress toward end of year benchmarks. Can’t wait for the end of year to determine where students are in relationship toward goals.

        • Use multiple measures of student achievement e.g. DIBELS, 4Sight, PSSA, Quarterly Assessments, RtI – progress monitoring data

        • Half-day work sessions to analyze data and create classroom and grade-level goals beginning and mid year.

        • Continued Refinement of quarterly common assessments.

        • Teachers create a class profile using multiple measures

        • Data Portfolio for each student is created

        • Use class and student data profiles to identify students at-risk  and extension on specific objectives

        • Leadership Team (Principal, Assistant Principal, and Coordinator of Academic Services) – meets with each teacher twice a year (late September and mid-year) on what the data says.

        • Every 10 days to 2 weeks – grade level meets to discuss students in need of assistance.

        • End of year each teacher completes a reflection

        • The Constant: What does your data say? What are you going to change, if you need to?

        Next Steps:
        Common intervention period where teachers regroup students into targeted groups. Each teacher will take a group and provide targeted instruction, rather than each teacher trying to meet a wide-range of intervention needs for their class.

        “Talent is suffocated unless it is practiced in trust.” Eugene O’Neill