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

Should you start with a monitoring plan before you train teachers?

There is no question that a monitoring plan, in and of itself, does not address staff needs of understanding the indicators, understanding what good student work looks like on the indicator, creating good observations and interpretations of student work, and analyzing the results. Some would argue that you need to provide staff development on those issues before you ask staff to monitor. However, that might delay moving forward on a data collection process that is critical to understanding where students are.

Creating a school-wide expectation and requirement to monitor and submit student performance data on the indicators provides a focus for the discussion and a more urgent need to learn how best to examine the work. The discussion of student performance will naturally lead back around to a discussion of how best to assess proficiency on the indicator, what the student performance tells you about what students know and don't know, and how you can use the diagnostic information to plan instruction to support students in demonstrating proficiency on the indicator. Teachers participating in the discussion frequently uncover areas in which they need to build capacity, and that self-diagnosis provides a stronger motivation for acquiring the appropriate skills.

It is worth emphasizing that in addition to the student performance data collected to monitor school improvement goals, teachers may also need tools to collect student performance data on all the indicators they are responsible for teaching. In a perfectly aligned system, this would replace a teacher's grade book which is also a data collection template though rarely aligned with the content standard indicators.