School Improvement in Maryland

Keep the Focus on Student Achievement

The allocation of time is one of the truest tests of what is really important in any organization. The time devoted to an issue on both the annual calendar and within the daily schedule of an organization tells its people what is really valued.

How do you focus other stakeholders on the target?

Parents and other stakeholders also have a need to know how well the school is progressing toward meeting the school's student achievement goals. Principals need to develop a communication plan that will include periodic updates on school goals and progress toward meeting those goals. Results from data analysis should be shared. State assessment data is available to the public via the state websites and often the school district website. You will want to clearly communicate to stakeholders that your school analyzes the state assessment data and uses it to make improvements. No matter what your results are, the critical message to communicate is that you learn from your data and use them to determine what additional changes your school needs to make to improve the achievement of your students. You cannot afford to be defensive about your data. You should not blame students or sub-groups of your students for your results; nor should you blame teachers for the results. You need to model how you use your data as feedback information about how you are doing so that you can determine what you might need to change to get better results.

You will want to use your PTA newsletter, PTA board meetings and any other regularly scheduled time with parents to communicate progress. You will also want to consider how to share this information with volunteers in your building, business partners and other community members.

School entryways are an important place to establish your priorities. What are the messages one receives from your entryway and hallway that lead to the main office? Use it to communicate your school priorities. The same school bulletin board you created to share with staff progress on the school improvement goals is also a good communication vehicle for parents and other stakeholders coming to your school. It is helpful to maximize the use of graphs, charts, and other visual displays and minimize the amount of text to tell your school's story.

Some schools have found success in creating a data retreat for their school or district that bring together the school faculty and a broad representation of parents and community members to examine data on school performance. But don't let any one-time event replace the more important need to regularly collect monitoring data and communicate progress that these data show throughout the year.