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 capacity building do teachers need to effectively collaborate on examining student performance?

As teams begin to collaborate on the end products they are responsible for producing, they will quickly identify areas in which they need to build capacity. They may recognize they need capacity building in understanding a content standard indicator or in reaching consensus on defining proficiency. They may need help in writing good assessments, analyzing data, or in diagnosing student performance.

"Just in time" learning is an effective professional development strategy for this kind of capacity building by embedding the professional development in the context of the process. For example, you or someone else with expertise in these areas, might facilitate the data analysis or examination of student work discussion so the team understands what the discussion looks like. You may ask a district or school content expert to sit with the team to answer questions about an indicator. You may provide feedback on the end products and/or showcase especially good end products to provide clarity about what they should look like.