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

How will you lead discussions of the monitoring data?

One of the best ways for principals to provide clear expectations for what they want staff to do is to model the process. Leading a data dialogue effectively requires a focus, data, guiding questions, and an understanding of the collaborative inquiry process. Data-driven dialogue assists teams in making shared meaning of data, in surfacing multiple perspectives, in separating data from inference, and in making data-driven instructional decisions. Though the data are key to the dialogue, the process of collaborative inquiry drives the results If the team regularly discusses their data, they are more likely to take ownership for the decisions the group collectively makes.. When leading the data dialogue, you will find the Seven Norms of Collaborative Work, developed by Laura Lipton and Bruce Welman, to be helpful to the process.

There are a number of key questions that an examination of classroom data should address.

  • Which content standard indicator(s) was the teacher assessing?
  • What percent of students demonstrated proficiency?
  • What implications does that have for instruction?
  • Which students have not demonstrated that they can do this?
  • What diagnostic information did an examination of student work provide?
  • Based on individual student performance, what do I need to do next to move the student to proficiency?
  • Based on the class performance, what re-teaching do I need to do?
  • After reassessing, did my students demonstrate proficiency?
  • Is my re-teaching or other intervention resulting in improved student performance?
  • When we compare performance by subgroups (e.g., by racial group, gender, students with disabilities, ESL students, or students in the free and reduced meals program), do we see any groups not performing as well as the whole group? If so, what are we going to do about that?
  • Do we have any students who are not attaining proficiency across indicators?
  • What diagnostic information do we have about them to inform instruction?
  • What interventions have we tried? What interventions do we plan to try next?