School Improvement in Maryland

A Principal's Role in Structuring Regular Examinations of Student Work

Principals play a critical role in setting the expectation that planning and examining student work and performance data should be an ongoing, collaborative process. Principals need to provide time for this to happen. They need to consider how they could use staff meetings or other meeting times to build capacity and set expectations for how teams or departments will examine student work as a regular activity at their team meetings. Principals must also monitor the process and products and recognize it when it is successful.

Principals need to

  • Set expectations
  • Find and structure time
  • Model engagement in the process
  • Monitor process and end products
  • Recognize / showcase

They must address the following questions:

  • How and how often do you expect these teams of teachers to collaboratively plan and examine evidence of student learning?
  • How can you communicate these expectations and the high priority you place on it?
  • What do you want the end product(s) to look like?
  • How can teachers demonstrate that they have used this information to make the kinds of instructional decisions that would result in improved student achievement?

Where can you find time for ongoing team meetings?

Middle schools have traditionally organized schedules to include team planning, so finding the time for them is not as challenging as changing how folks use the time. Finding the time in many elementary and high schools is more challenging Ideally, elementary schools would create a schedule that frees up a grade level team to meet by scheduling all the students in that grade in a variety of specials at the same time. High schools need to prioritize scheduling to accommodate a common planning period for staff teaching the same course.

In the March 2000 issue of Education Update, Dan Galloway, principal of Stevensville High School, says, "Teachers didn't want collaborative time in addition to the school day - they wanted it as part of their school day." Teachers found time by deciding to arrive at school 15 minutes early on the first day of the week and delay students starting classes by 30 minutes so that teams could collaborate.

An ASCD article in Educational Leadership, entitled, "Finding Time for Collaboration" by Mary Anne Raywid offers 15 examples of how schools are experimenting with creative ways to make or find time for shared reflection.