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

Where can you find time for ongoing team meetings?

Middle schools have traditionally organized schedules to include team planning, so finding the time for them is not as challenging as changing how folks use the time. Finding the time in many elementary and high schools is more challenging. Ideally, elementary schools would create a schedule that frees up a grade level team to meet by scheduling all the students in that grade in a variety of specials at the same time. High schools need to prioritize scheduling to accommodate a common planning period for staff teaching the same course.

In the March 2000 issue of Education Update, Dan Galloway, principal of Stevensville High School, says, "Teachers didn't want collaborative time in addition to the school day - they wanted it as part of their school day." Teachers found time by deciding to arrive at school 15 minutes early on the first day of the week and delay students starting classes by 30 minutes so that teams could collaborate.

An ASCD article in Educational Leadership, entitled, "Finding Time for Collaboration" by Mary Anne Raywid offers 15 examples of how schools are experimenting with creative ways to make or find time for shared reflection.