School Improvement in Maryland

Structure Regular Time for Teams to Examine Student Work

Principals play a critical role in structuring time for and setting the expectation that teams should regularly examine student work and use the data to inform their instruction. 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 end-products and recognize successful practices.

In many cases teachers have spent a great deal of time sorting student responses (either by letter grades or by rubric scores) and virtually no time diagnosing what students know and still need to learn. It is only the diagnostic information that will help teachers understand what they need to do next instructionally with their students.

Principals need to

  • Communicate expectations
  • Find and structure time
  • Model engagement in the process
  • Monitor process and end products
  • Recognize / showcase

What capacity building do teachers need to effectively examine student work?

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.