Handbook for SMART School Teams, The: Revitalizing Best Practices for Collaboration

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Prepare your students for the future while juggling the expectations of multiple stakeholders! A fresh take on the classic first edition, this guide defines and advocates SMART goals-goals that are Strategic and specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented, and Time bound. Gain a schoolwide understanding of how to cultivate a productive collaborative culture, and engage every member of your team in the process.

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Part One: Building Effective Teams

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Productive collaboration does not come easily. Most of us have belonged to a team in which everyone got along, but nothing got done. Sooner or later, busy people lose patience with teams that do not seem to accomplish much of anything. Productive collaboration takes both purpose and skill to be effective; teams need to be clear about why they exist (purpose) and have the ability to create and implement a plan for getting it done (skill). We can’t create productive collaboration just by telling people to work together. Teams that have skill and purpose save time and develop effective solutions that they can implement smoothly. Without skill and purpose, collaboration is a waste of time—yet, ironically, time is one of the most frequently cited reasons for why people do not collaborate (Kanold, 2011; Loehr & Schwartz, 2003).

This chapter discusses the components needed to add purpose and skill to collaboration and ways that you can set the stage for productive collaboration.

 

Part Two: Using Tools and Processes for Effective Teamwork

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Meetings represent a significant investment of time and energy for any organization. Hundreds of thousands of hours are spent in meetings each year. That investment can be magnified many times in schools with a team-based structure as the predominant model for collaboration, professional learning, instructional improvement, and decision making. Because time is such a precious resource for educators, wasting it in ill-planned or poorly run meetings is simply not an option. Meeting solely to impart information from one source to another diminishes the inherent value of bringing people together and wastes an opportunity for collaboration. There are endless ways to share information without convening a meeting to do so.

Meetings are important venues for collaboration. In fact, most of a team’s collaborative work time will be spent in face-to-face meetings. The value of collaborative meetings emerges from the synergy created when people come together to pursue a common goal or address a common concern. Collaboration builds understanding, heightens commitment, and generates new ideas and knowledge.

 

Part Three: Implementing Effective School Improvement

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The farmer in James Bender’s epigraph for this chapter illustrates a principle that’s known as systems thinking, a focus on optimizing performance for the system as a whole, often by working across traditional boundaries. We know from research that higher-quality learning and teaching result when schools operate like a system rather than a heap of pieces (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; Hirsh & Hord, 2012). Schools achieve more when teams—not just individuals—are learning together, when the school as a whole is focused on a common mission and vision, and when professional learning is aligned and congruent with that focus. We know that for most schools the ability to be effective is directly related to the larger district’s effectiveness and efficiency. In short, we know the power of thinking and acting like a system.

The principles, tools, and methods we describe in this chapter and throughout this book lay the groundwork to help your teams start thinking like a system. A system is a collection of parts that interact to function as a whole. One truism concerning a system is that it cannot be divided to get identical separate parts; alternatively, a heap of parts can be so divided. For example, a pile of sand can be divided, and you will have two piles of sand. A horse, however, will not be two separate horses if divided!

 

Appendix A Tools for SMART Schools

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This appendix includes examples, guides, templates, and tools to support the information in The Handbook for SMART School Teams (Second Edition). The various items are referenced in the chapters of the book and are organized according to the chapter sequence.

Table A.1: Sample Size Chart

Table A.2: Gap Analysis Survey

High School Climate Survey

Table A.3: Runs Table

Figure A.1: SMART goal tree diagram for climate

Figure A.2: SMART goal tree diagram for elementary reading.

Figure A.3: SMART goal tree diagram for middle school analytical thinking.

Figure A.4: SMART goal tree diagram for high school writing.

Table A.4: Sample School Improvement Annual Planning and Reporting Document

SMART School Improvement Process Planning Guide

Table A.1: Sample Size Chart

Table A.2: Gap Analysis Survey

Grade: (circle one)     9      10      11      12

Gender: (circle one)   Male           Female

 

Appendix B Reproducibles

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Random Number Table

Template for Organizing Staff Research Findings

Template for Planning Professional Development

The SMART Schools Self-Assessment

Team Charter

Meeting Agenda Template

Meeting Evaluation Form

Meeting Record

Meeting Skills Self-Assessment

Decision Matrix

Responsibility Matrix

Worksheet for Computing Control Limits

Collaborative Action Research Guide

 

A random number table is a survey tool for helping select a sample from a population so that each member of the population has an equal opportunity to be selected. By using a random number table, you can have greater confidence that the results you receive from the sample are similar to those you would get if you sampled the entire population.

 

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