In just three weeks, I will begin my journey as a first year Assistant Principal. As part of my summer learning, I am currently involved in some training which is providing me many great things to think about! This post will be the first in a series of reflections on this training. It will be a way for me to share my learning and resources, reflect on the ideas and how they align with my own philosophy, and receive feedback from others to further push my thinking. If you are a new administrator too, I hope you will join in with me and be my thought partner! If you are a seasoned administrator, I would value your insights as well, as they will surely help drive my understanding and help me to synthesize my learning. And if you are a teacher, your reflections, insights and input will truly be invaluable to me as I share my learning with you and receive your feedback.
This first entry will focus on correlates found in effective schools.
Below is a graphic which relates to effective schools correlates, as identified by Dr. Larry Lezotte and Ron Edmonds, Effective Schools researchers. These are “correlates” because researchers have identified them as being correlated to student achievement. The first correlate, Clear and Focused Mission, is at the top. This is designed to show that the remaining six correlates support the first one.
The following quote by Lezotte speaks to the philosophy which emerged from their research:
An effective school is one in which all the students learn the specified curriculum regardless of factors in their backgrounds which ordinarily have been identified as those which prevent such learning. –Lawrence (Larry) Lezotte in Learning for All.
For historical perspective, this came about in response to the work of other researchers, which held that student home environment had the most profound influence on student learning. The purpose of this post is not to discuss or debate the two different views; but to focus on the correlates outlined above and how some of our current practices align (or don’t align) with these.
As we think about specific programs or actions we currently have in place, we could categorize them according to each correlate. Many will fall into more than one correlate. I am interested in seeing which correlates our practices are most often aligned with, and also which correlates are least identified. Below I will list each correlate and then a few of the practices I have seen which I would categorize there. These lists are by no means exhaustive, I’m just going to list a few actions under each correlate which are practices from my previous schools.
Strong Instructional Leadership
- shared decision making
- goal setting
- positive supposition
- focus on analyzing data and identifying trends across the campus
- collaborative environment with a focus on vertical alignment and common academic language
- clear and effective communication with all stakeholders
- scheduling decisions made to make maximum use of instructional time (block schedules, etc)
- teacher leadership / shared leadership
- curriculum which is aligned, rigorous, and reflects the standards for each subject/grade level
Positive Home-School Relations
- frequent communication with parents
- literacy nights, math nights, reading posse, carnivals
- leveraging of social media to provide a peek into our days
- celebrations and events to celebrate students and families, including weekly assemblies
- opportunities for parent participation on committees, as judges for contests, and as classroom helpers
- updated websites which contain useful and relevant information
- curriculum nights which help families learn about the curriculum and learning goals
- district-wide showcases of student learning
- positive phone calls, emails, or notes home
Safe and Orderly Environment
- effective school-wide and classroom discipline systems
- rooms free of clutter, well lit, clean
- rituals and routines in place and consistently followed
- classroom management which emphasizes personal responsibility for the learning environment
- procedures for visitors entering the building, students know what to do if a visitor is not wearing a visitor sticker, for example
- procedures are in place for dismissal, with students safely exiting the building and knowing designated areas for bus lines, parent pick up lines, etc
Climate for High Expectations for Student Success
- Rubrics which students help design and which students use to guide their work
- exemplar products which model high expectations
- focus on growth mindset and grit as they relate to individual success for all students
- focus on classroom routines
- evaluating of student work, identifying best practices and collaborating on scoring criteria / grading practices. Is the quality of work which meets or exceeds expectations in one class the same in another?
- regular evaluation of data and identification of next instructional steps to move students forward
- focus on commended ratings and programs which move high achieving students further
- feedback to students which coaches them toward success
- students can articulate the learning goal and what success looks like for that particular task / understanding
Frequent Monitoring of Student Progress
- PLC meetings are regular, frequent, and effective. Teachers build common assessments and evaluate student progress.
- leadership actively monitoring grades and common assessments given weekly
- clear guidelines for intervention processes are in place and teachers understand the process for scheduling meetings to discuss individual students who are beginning to struggle
- the process of RTI is streamlined; we do not spend unnecesary time “trying out” intervention effectiveness before we can meet as a team again (if those interventions are not showing effectiveness in a reasonable amount of time)
- grade levels being assigned a “case manager” who they can go to with student progress needs
- faculty-wide evaluation of data and collaboration vertically on skills, needs, and strengths
- curriculum /assessment alignment
- classroom progress monitoring occurs daily, including such things as fluency checks, conferencing, small group guided lessons, guided reading, and anecdotal records
- formative and summative assignments are aligned and evaluated for instructional direction
Opportunity to Learn and Student Time on Task
- Scheduling allows for blocks of time for core subjects (90 minutes for Language Arts, for example)
- specials and lunch schedules are designed so as to not interrupt the core blocks as much as is possible
- minimal loss of instructional time – video announcements, assemblies scheduled with least disruption, etc
- tutorials are held before school, after school, and during the day to allow opportunity to participate
- necessary materials are provided for learning, including science materials, manipulatives for math, variety of books, etc
- differentiation to allow for multiple learning styles
- class procedures are established to encourage time on task (routines for reading workshop that maximize time spent reading, for example)
- absences and tardies are addressed
- student needs are met, including making sure students are not hungry, addressing needs at home such as with utilities, academic support at home, transportation needs, at home materials (sending home books with those who may not have books at home)
As you can see, many of these actions could fall under multiple correlates. An interesting next step would be to dig further into the practices of my new campus, assign actions to categories as they are relevant, and then analyze the most and least represented to see how this might relate to the achievement of students at our campus.
These six correlates, and the items categorized under each, are definitely things that I would say speak to a “Clear and Focused Mission“, the top correlate in the pyramid. Using these ideas, how might I come up with a sentence that captures my view of an effective school? I might say:
Effective schools hold the vision that all students can succeed and take actions which align with and support that vision through high expectations, strong collaborative practices, and effectively monitoring the progress of all learners while cultivating strong family and community relations.
Perhaps this activity might be something you would like to do as it relates to your own campus. Think about some of the practices at your school. How might you categorize them using the Effective Schools pyramid? Do you see any that are under-represented? Do you see any actions which conflict with one or more correlates? How do your lists compare with mine? Do you see any that you might place differently? Please share your thoughts with me, and your “Effective Schools” statement!
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