Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Building Blocks

Kim Marshall has written much about school improvement and has some excellent ideas about the role of the principal in developing more effective teachers. His article, Recovering from HSPS (Hyperactive Superficial Principal Syndrome) A Progress Report, has some excellent insights on that role. Some of you are probably ready to diagnose me right now! His aricle gives some suggestions on walkthroughts that I'm workin on currently. (The biggest change is one I mentioned a couple weeks ago, namely giving verbal feedback within 24 hours instead of relying on written or e-mail feedback).

He also delineates the structures that need to be in place in a school for significant progress to be made. Here are those four elements and a quick assessment of where Halecrest stands (from one perspective, of course :)

Clear grade by grade curriculum proficiency targets

The standards are definitely in place, but I'm not sure we have a definition of what proficiency looks like in every grade level. Our collaborations around student work are getting us closer to being able to articulate proficiency in writing, for example. I see us slowly, but surely building a common understanding as we spend time discussing student work in light of the standards.

Teacher teams that plan curriculum units with an end in sight

This is very much hit and miss right now. Our work last June was a good start at designing a unit of study around the standards at a particular grade level. We as yet have not moved into planning curriculum units on a consistent basis. It would be good to knock off a couple of collaboratively planned units this spring. It wouldn't take much to plan a lesson around writing. We could even use the models in Routman's book as a springboard for those plans.

Teams engaging in Japanese-style lessons study

We have discussed videotaping our lessons for reflection. The ILT sort of volunteered to do that this year, yet it hasn't got off the ground. I think it's time I put my money where my mouth is and jump out there to videotape a lesson. That will be on my short list of New Year's Resolutions.

A power "learning cycle" in which teachers use student work and data to improve teaching and learning

Of all of these elements, I believe we are farthest along on this one. The staff has embraced the use of data to inform instructional decisions. Our recently adapted Learning Cylce Planning Tool is a step in the direction of refining our dig into data to make specific decisions about students and develop SMARTE goals that can be reviewed and analyzed. I'm hoping this will lead us naturally into developing those curriculum units based on our data analysis, which in turn could lead naturally into lesson study of those very curriculum units.

Thinking about these elements of quality schools gives me great encouragement. The work we are doing is not a band aid approach. We are taking the long view of careful analysis of what students need, how we can deliver that instruction, and assessing if we have been successful. I probably need to be reminded of the adage that "Go slow to go fast" more anyone.