School Improvement for All: How-To Guide for Doing the Right Work

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Sustained school improvement only happens when teachers and administrators collectively ensure all students learn at high levels. With this practical resource, K–12 educators will discover how to use the School Improvement for All framework to transform their school’s processes and procedures. Develop a common curriculum among collaborative teacher teams that will enhance learning and align with state and national standards. Each chapter includes space for teacher teams to determine next action steps and a list of questions to help bring greater focus to school improvement efforts.

Benefits

  • Learn how to use the School Improvement for All framework to improve student learning by authentically measuring student growth and helping celebrate students’ successes.
  • Consider anecdotes from the authors’ experiences working with schools that illustrate the framework in action.
  • Contemplate your school’s reality and determine what actions you can take to improve student achievement with a model of leadership that stakeholders can engage in to support the school improvement process.
  • Plan for structural changes that will produce the school culture your school seeks.
  • Use helpful protocols, rubrics, and action and assessment plans found throughout the book designed to support schools that need to improve student achievement but feel they have tried all their options.

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Chapter 1

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LEADERSHIP & PLC

C H A P T E R

1

Charting a Course Focused on Learning

Indeed, there are virtually no documented instances of troubled schools being turned around without intervention by a powerful leader. Many other factors may contribute to such turnarounds, but leadership is the catalyst.

—Kenneth Leithwood, Karen Seashore Louis,

Stephen Anderson, and Kyla Wahlstrom

I

t was October at Grant High School when the newly assigned principal realized that 204 of the 264 seniors were not on track to graduate that year. Most of them had not passed the state end-of-year assessment or had failed required courses. As Sharon, the school-improvement coach for the PLC at Work process (DuFour et al.,

2016), met with the new principal, it was evident that immediate action was necessary. No student should spend an entire year in school with absolutely no hope of graduating. Sharon and the principal created a spreadsheet to show the current status of each student and each student’s relevant information. The spreadsheet included courses completed, passing of required assessments, days absent, discipline referrals, tardies, and other pertinent data.

 

Chapter 2

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L E A D E R S H I P & C U LT U R E

C H A P T E R

2

Transforming Culture and Structures

The greatest challenge to school improvement is the overwhelming perception that no matter what the teachers and administrators do, there seems to be no way out of failing results. With some of the lowest annual student-achievement results, there is a perception among staff that students’ poverty and low skills, as well as disengaged families, are more potent than any teacher’s impact, which leads to a sense of futility. Teachers often feel deflated by a sense that their best efforts are ineffective and unappreciated by students, families, or the system in which they work.

—Sharon V. Kramer

S

haron entered Washington Middle School just as students were starting to arrive, lining up to start their school day by walking through metal detectors while security staff searched their backpacks. As she watched the students enter, she was struck by how many of them looked down and avoided eye contact with others. So far, Sharon had witnessed little laughter or joy in the eyes of staff or students. Unfortunately, this scene plays out daily in schools that have repeatedly experienced failure. Missing is the joy and passion for learning of teachers and students alike, replaced instead by a feeling of compliance and hopelessness. Students are acutely aware when they attend a school that ranks as low or underperforming. They often come to school with a “Why try?” attitude of defeat.

 

Chapter 3

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C H A P T E R

3

For more than a century, the industrial model of education did a fantastic job of preparing students for careers. Those careers are no longer relevant in today’s changing world. . . . Instead of preparing students for an industrialized world, the education system is now being tasked with preparing all learners to be college and career ready to compete globally with peers.

—Eric C. Sheninger

T

he meeting to review student achievement data and determine the greatest areas of need at Madison Middle

School began with each content team presenting their data. As Sharon looked at the information and listened to the teachers explain the data, she was excited to see that there were more students proficient in eighth-grade mathematics than in any other subject or grade level. She asked the team, “What do you believe is the reason for these good results?” The teachers quickly explained that at Madison they identify students for pre-AP or honors mathematics classes, and that these students do really well and help the school’s scores. Sharon probed a little more and asked how many of the students not in pre-AP or honors classes were proficient. The answer was astonishing: three students. It was apparent at this school that pre-AP students were much more successful than those who the teachers had not identified as such. Sharon asked a follow-up question, “What if all students were labeled pre-AP or honors—would that make a difference?” The curriculum and assessment are the same despite the labels. The only difference between the two groups appeared to be the instruction and the belief that students would or would not be proficient.

 

Chapter 4

PDF

C H A P T E R

4

Establishing a Common Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum

—Richard DuFour

W

hen Sarah first became a teacher at a high school in Oregon, she had to ask her geometry students which teacher they had the previous year so she could understand what material they had an opportunity to learn.

Some algebra teachers taught through chapter 6 on systems of linear equations, while others got through chapter

12, covering topics that included quadratics, exponential functions, and statistics. Despite their diverse understandings of algebra, the school expected all students to learn geometry well. She wrestled with the questions,

Where do I begin? How do I re-engage all learners in the necessary prerequisites to be successful learners of geometry? Without ensuring a common commitment to what students would learn each year, the school was setting up students and teachers to fail their mission of all students learning at high levels. Being clear about a common curriculum changes this paradigm.

 

Chapter 5

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C H A P T E R

5

Creating and Using Common Assessments

Classroom assessment is central to every teacher’s success and every learner’s success. It is central to addressing the standards. It is central to guiding instruction. It is central to making individual and program improvements. It is more than just a measure of learning; it must promote learning.

—Cassandra Erkens, Tom Schimmer, and Nicole Dimich Vagle

The teacher explained, “We already give the STAR assessment every month, and our district created English language arts and mathematics unit pre- and postassessments for us to administer at the beginning and end of every three weeks. Plus, we have to give a district benchmark test at the end of each trimester. And then there is the state test in the spring. We can’t use more class time to test—we have to teach!”

Unfortunately, when a school is not getting the results it, the district, community, or state desires, one solution is to find more nationally normed or recognized assessments and create district assessments to measure the learning across sites in the same grade levels or courses. In addition, too often these assessments occur in rapid succession.

 

Chapter 6

PDF

C H A P T E R

6

Planning Meaningful and Effective Instruction

Regardless of the research basis, it is clear that effective teachers have a profound influence on student achievement and ineffective teachers do not.

—Robert J. Marzano

D

esigning meaningful and effective instruction is one of the most critical tasks that teaching requires—and one that greatly influences student learning. How does a teacher and his or her collaborative team best plan for the learning of every student? Which routines and tasks will most effectively move learning forward? How will each student learn from feedback and engage during the lesson? These are just a few of the questions to address every day with each lesson plan.

In another fourth-grade classroom in the same school, Sarah observed students as they worked in pairs to write poems after reading and discussing five poems the previous day. Once they wrote their poems, they shared them with the class. When Sarah asked a student in that class what she was learning, the student replied, “We are learning how to write a poem and listen to each other.”

 

Chapter 7

PDF

C H A P T E R

7

Embracing Accountability

We hold students accountable by analyzing their work, providing feedback, providing focused interventions and additional time and support, and insisting students redo their work when it is not to standard. So too must adults— specifically teacher teams, principals, and district office leaders—be held accountable for the work connected to improving student learning.

—Robert Eaker and Janel Keating

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hy do teachers do the difficult, time-consuming, and at times spirit-draining work of designing lessons, creating and administering assessments, responding to student learning, and taking time to really know students? This entire book rests on the premise that the answer is this: because of a desire for all students to learn at high levels and to open the doors of opportunity to every student. Many educators can attest that their drive to improve the lives of students through education is relentless despite the toll it sometimes takes. So how does one know if all the effort is paying off? How do teams learn what actions they should replicate for future student learning? How do they know how to extend the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency, the fourth critical question of a PLC (DuFour et al., 2016)? The answers to these questions come from a careful and continual look at data to evaluate learning and programs.

 

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