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?

What questions guide the examination or facilitate the discussion?

The key questions to ask in an examination of student work are the focus of the examining student work to inform instruction protocol:

Part 1: Reaching Consensus about Proficiency?
What do you want your students to know and be able to do?

In the first part the facilitator will ask the following questions to assist the team in understanding what is being assessed and in reaching consensus on what constitutes a proficient response. The team will answer the following questions:

  • What did you ask the students to do?
  • Which Maryland Content Standard indicator and objective were you assessing?
  • What did you consider proficient performance on this assignment? Exactly what did students need to say or write for you to consider their work proficient?
  • With hindsight, did the assignment give students a good opportunity to demonstrate what they knew?

Part 2: Diagnosing Student Strengths and Needs
Where are my students? What evidence do I have to know that?

After reaching consensus, each teacher will read his/her three sample student responses, and the team will diagnose strengths and needs and identify next instructional steps. The team will be examining what the response demonstrates the student knows and can do and what the student has not demonstrated he knows and can do. The team will be answering the following questions:

  • What did the student demonstrate that they knew?
  • What misconceptions or wrong information did the student have?
  • What did the student not demonstrate?
  • How would you find out if they knew it?

Part 3: Identifying Instructional Next Steps
What do you do if they don't know it? What do you do if they do?

After diagnosing what the student knows and still needs to learn, the team will discuss where the teacher should take the student next instructionally. They will also determine if they need to re-teach any concept or skill to the whole or part of the class. The team will be answering the following questions:

  • Based on the team's diagnosis of the student performance, what do you do next with that student?
  • What questions might you ask the student?
  • What feedback will you give?
  • Based on the team's diagnosis of student responses at the top, middle and bottom of the class, does the teacher need to re-teach anything?