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Power of SMART Goals, The: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning

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Help staff focus on results, and implement SMART (Strategic and specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results based, and Time bound) goals to transform your school into a place where every student meets or exceeds standards. The authors present four success stories from real SMART schools and several frameworks for adult and student goal setting that lead to real results.

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8 Chapters

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Chapter 1: Introduction: The SMART Goals Process

ePub

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carroll
From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2002, p. 53)

Think back to a time when you made a significant change in your life. Perhaps you were dissatisfied with your career or job, and so you pursued more education, a new position, or a different work setting. If you wanted to master a new hobby or sport, you may have enrolled in classes, joined a team, or sought personal coaching. Maybe you were unhappy about your weight, so you started a weight-loss program. Regardless of whether you were pursuing a dream of something better because you were unhappy or because you simply wanted something different, you probably set some goals toward accomplishing that dream and pursued those goals with passion, rigor, and perhaps even specificity: “I’ll get a master’s degree in educational psychology within 2 years,” “I will be able to kayak grade-3 rapids by the time I’m 40,” or “I’m going to lose 15 pounds by the end of the year.”

 

Chapter 2: Keeping Goals Alive

ePub

“So if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go.”

—George Leigh Mallory

(cited in Hobson, 1999, p. 112)

The process of goal-setting and monitoring is very much one of “beginning with the end in mind,” to quote the wisdom of Stephen Covey (1999). The “end” we envision is that by the end of this book you will see goals as a way to fuel, guide, and motivate the work you do each day. It is our hope that framing goals in this way will breathe life into how you lead improvement in your classroom, school, and district. Goals can be a driving force for change; they can be dynamic, resilient, and alive with possibilities. For goals to reach their potential as a high-leverage improvement strategy, we need to keep them in the forefront of our attention at all times. Somehow we need to find ways to keep goals alive on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. This chapter explores what that process looks like.

 

Chapter 3: Linking Assessment and Goals

ePub

“If we want to create viable alternatives to researchers lobbing information at us, we have to come together in community to engage in difficult forms of discourse out of which shared knowledge is generated.”

—Parker Palmer (cited in Sparks, 2003, p. 52)

In a middle school we know, the teachers put in heroic hours trying to help underachieving students learn needed skills and acquire study habits that would lead them to more success. Many of the teachers spend countless hours helping kids after school, reviewing the information taught that day, and cajoling them to put forth more effort and not give up on themselves. Yet in spite of their best efforts, the students who were struggling at the beginning of the year are all too often still struggling at the end.

What is missing? Heroic efforts are not enough—in fact, we may all be working too hard as teachers. Were the teachers in this school familiar with the research on feedback, motivation, and goals, they might have engaged students in a powerful continuous-improvement learning process that would have resulted in greater success. This chapter addresses the link between assessment, goals, and shared responsibility for learning. It examines methods for working smarter, not harder.

 

Chapter 4: SMART Goal–Driven Curriculum and Instruction

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“Learning is driven by what teachers and students do in the classrooms.”

—Black and Wiliam (1998, p. 139)

When Jan was in her first year of teaching, she was confronted with a class of 28 first graders, 8 of whom clearly were already struggling in school. None of these 8 students had mastered beginning level math, reading, or writing skills. Each was “acting out” in his or her own way—one by passively not doing her work and staring out the window, another by throwing crayons across the room when Jan’s back was turned, and another by calling out over and over again. Each student was really saying, “I’m feeling like a failure! Help!” Unfortunately, Jan had no tools to help them. She had no curriculum (other than basal readers and math workbooks) and certainly no assessments. She had very little training in teaching reading and early math skills. She worked harder that year than she had ever worked in her life and was sure that very little student learning resulted. Throughout the year, she yearned to talk honestly with colleagues, to tell them she was feeling overwhelmed and did not know what to do, but she was too ashamed. Sadly, by the end of the year, these same students still were not very strong readers, could not do math computations well, and could barely write. At the urging of her colleagues, Jan referred all eight students for special education or Title I services. At the end of the year, she was also crying out for help.

 

Chapter 5: Using SMART Goals to Drive Professional Development

ePub

“For it is the ultimate wisdom of the mountains that man is never so much a man as when he is striving for what is beyond his grasp and that there is no battle worth winning save that against his own ignorance and fear.”

—James Ramsey Ullman

(cited in Hobson, 1999, p. 142)

When Anne began her career in education, she was excited, nervous, confident, and scared—a mix of emotions that was both intense and exhilarating. She had an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children, as well as an enormous responsibility. With great enthusiasm, she accepted a position as a school psychologist in a small rural school district. She soon discovered that her new job required her to perform duties for which her university training had not prepared her. She remembers her heart pounding as she wondered, “What’s this thing called ‘in-service,’ and why am I in charge of it? What does a gifted-and-talented coordinator do? How do I supervise the migrant programs? How can I be the junior varsity girls’ basketball coach?” She realized that she needed a plan, and she needed it right away.

 

Chapter 6: Building Capacity for Goal-Oriented Thinking

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“As teachers, our first step begins with a genuine desire to seek a better way of doing things, to truly believe that new paths to learning are worth exploring.”

—Terry Weeks, 1988 Teacher of the Year

(cited in DuFour & Eaker, 1998, p. 231)

West High School in Madison, Wisconsin, is an excellent school by many measures. A high percentage of students go on to college and even do postgraduate work, and the school has more than its share of National Merit Scholars; however, it also has a growing number of disenfranchised, underperforming students, many of whom are poor and minority children. Five years ago, the school began to look at the achievement gap and question the reasons behind it. Social studies teacher Ginny Kester and two students successfully applied for a grant to lay the foundation for a student leadership program to address both student culture and achievement at West High School.

Kester initiated the Honor Guard program, which is aimed at developing a group of upperclassmen as leaders and tutors. Seniors in good academic standing (with an A or B average) in a subject they could tutor others in are invited to join. The Honor Guard’s responsibility is to sign up for one of seven study hall (“resource hall”) times, staff a study table (science, math, English, or social studies), and provide assistance to whoever comes to the table. During a training program, each Honor Guard participant is encouraged to share ideas for improvement. Kester has always stressed, “This is new territory and we’re creating it as we go.”

 

Chapter 7: Case Studies

ePub

“Play for more than you can afford to lose, then you will learn the game.”

—Winston Churchill (cited in Hobson, 1999, p. 43)

In this book we have attempted to show that many facets of professional practice are positively influenced and enhanced by the use of SMART goals. SMART goals work, and the strategies, tools, and examples presented in this book support that point. As often is the case, however, simply knowing they work is not enough. The reader is left with the nagging question, “But how can we make it happen in our school?”

What follows is a sampling of how schools at different levels and in very different circumstances have approached the introduction, implementation, and support of SMART goals in their schools. These case studies highlight the need for schools to make SMART goals their own, while adhering to some basic principles of the change process:

• Strong leadership and leadership capacity

• Data-driven decision-making

• Collaborative processes and cultures

 

Chapter 8: Renewing Our Schools, Our Practices, Ourselves

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“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year.”

—John Foster Dulles, Former Secretary of State

There is no question that teachers have one of the toughest jobs in the world. And the job isn’t going to get any easier; in fact, in many ways it is getting harder. What other profession demands so much while simultaneously subjecting its members to such intense public scrutiny? What other profession asks its members to not only give of their skills and knowledge, but also so deeply of their hearts? And what other profession has the future of the world held so completely in its hands? The stakes are indeed high and the pressure intense, especially in today’s world of global communications, accelerating scientific discoveries, deep environmental concerns, and world-wide conflicts. The students that are in our school systems today will need to be more resilient and flexible, more skilled in collaboration and reflective analysis, and more quickly adaptive to changing information than previous generations. Schools today, and the teachers who are face to face with students every day, are being presented with an interesting challenge: If we are going to help students for tomorrow, we will need the courage today to fundamentally change the way we have been “doing school.” Many schools are developing both the will and the skill to make these changes, but others still have a long way to go. Why do we continue to keep doing what we have always done in the face of increasing challenges?

 

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