School Improvement in Maryland

Leading the Process: Principal's Role

“As principal, I played an important role in initiating, facilitating, and sustaining the process of shifting our collective focus from teaching to learning. To make collaborative teams the primary engine of our school improvement efforts, teachers needed time to collaborate. Teachers, accustomed to working in isolation, needed focus and parameters as they transitioned to working in teams. They needed a process to follow and guiding questions to pursue. They needed training, resources, and support to overcome difficulties they encountered while developing common outcomes, writing common assessments, and analyzing student achievement data.” —The Learning-Centered Principal, Rick DuFour

What expectations should you set for staff?

The first level of expectations involve an explanation of what and why teachers are required to monitor, in what format and to whom they must submit the data and how frequently? The second level of expectations are about how they are expected to use the data.

Principals need to set clear, concrete expectations that would address the following questions:

  • What expectations can you give your instructional teams that will ensure they use student data to make the kinds of instructional decisions that would result in improved student achievement?
  • How do you expect these teams of teachers to collaborate in this effort?
  • What do you want the end product(s) to look like?
  • How can teachers demonstrate that they have used this information to inform instruction and improve the student's achievement?

The monitoring data are only useful when they are examined and used to inform instruction. Consequently, teams of teachers need to analyze and discuss the instructional implications of the data on an ongoing basis.

The discussion may be focused on a number of student achievement questions:

  • Which students are not meeting proficiency on a specified indicator/objectives?
  • How is the class as a whole performing on a specified indicator/objective?
  • What progress is the class or individual students making toward proficiency on an indicator/objective?
  • How does an individual demonstrate proficiency on this indicator/objective?
  • What does the student work tell us about strengths and needs?
  • What are our next instructional steps?