38 Chapters
Medium 9781936763009

Chapter 7 Examining Data to Improve Learning

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

7

Examining Data to Improve Learning

Exploration is the engine that drives innovation.

Edith Widder

If collaborative common assessments are not improving the core of instruction, then they are not working. Assessment must be a diagnostic process that provides teacher and learner alike with clear next steps. In many teams, data-based conversations are stilted formalities in which learners are sorted into groups based on their test results for other experts, such as intervention specialists or gifted and talented specialists, to teach, support, or ultimately fix. The findings of such data meetings are relevant to fixing others, but irrelevant to fixing self. When teams sidestep the opportunity to strengthen the core of their individual and collective knowledge and skills, the learning aspect of professional learning community work is missed altogether. In these teams, data conversations are mechanistic, obligatory, and cumbersome.

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Medium 9781935542292

Chapter Eight Developing Leadership Capacity in Self and Others

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

—Ralph Nader

After we began writing this book, one of us had the opportunity to work with a wonderful educational leader, Jeff, who had done phenomenal work in transforming two different schools to function as PLCs. In each of those two schools, Jeff and his staff achieved incredible student achievement results while operating as PLCs. Though he had since retired from his role as principal, it was quickly evident that he was loved and respected by his peers, as virtually everyone in the room—teacher and administrator alike—flocked to greet him when he entered the training space in which we would be working. During a break, I shared my observations with Jeff that everyone there clearly respected and admired him. “Well,” he said, “that’s easy to explain. Each school here has a leader at their table right now who I worked to develop into a leader when we worked together in my first school—and they are each remarkable leaders in their own right.” At that point, he was able to highlight the strengths of each of the leaders with whom he had worked, and it was immediately evident that the respect and admiration were mutual.

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Medium 9781935542292

Chapter Three Aligning Systems

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

Have a simple, clear purpose which gives rise to complex, intelligent behavior, rather than complex rules and regulations that give rise to simplistic thinking and stupid behavior.

—Dee Hock, founder of VISA

Effective leaders know they must help align all systems to support the work of its vision, mission, values, and goals, or the work of PLCs cannot succeed. If any internal system is not aligned to these key focal points, then the overall work might be impossible to start, slow to proceed, or unlikely to maintain early changes along the way. Moreover, when leaders align systems to enact the organization’s vision, mission, values, and goals, they send the clear message that the organization’s guiding statements are more than words on a page; instead, they are actionable agreements.

The leadership practice of aligning systems is most certainly recursive (it is addressed repeatedly) and iterative (each effort builds on and refines previous efforts). It might seem that once an organization’s or team’s internal systems are aligned, the work could be considered done. Systems are dynamic, however, so there is no such thing as “done,” as leaders interact with and improve them.

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Medium 9781934009369

7 Responding When Students Don’t Learn

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

Read the mission statements from schools throughout the world and they exude high expectations. They promise that all students will learn. However, the best evidence of high expectations in any school is not revealed by reading the verbiage of its mission statement but by observing what happens in the school when some students do not learn.

We have asked thousands of educators to consider the following series of if/then statements.

1. If the mission of our school is to ensure all students learn, then our policies, practices, and procedures should align with and support that mission.

2. If all students are to learn, then we must acknowledge that some students will need more time and support for learning than others.

3. If some students will need additional time and support for learning, then we must create schedules and adopt systematic procedures that ensure those students receive additional time and support in ways that do not remove them from new, direct instruction.

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Chapter 8 Responding With Instructional Agility

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

8

Responding With Instructional Agility

Power has to be insecure to be responsive.

Ralph Nader

If collaborative common assessments are not improving the core of instruction, then they are not working. Teachers cannot remain steadfast in their instructional practices while making the learners adapt. Assessment must be a diagnostic process that provides teacher and learner alike with plausible next steps. Sometimes it feels as if organizations collect and display data for the simple reason that it’s expected. Collecting data for the sake of data is a waste of everyone’s precious time and resources. If learning communities are going to take the time to gather data, it must be for the purposes of answering the difficult questions What will we do for the students who have not yet learned it? and What will we do for the students who already have it? Teams must use common assessment data to support their individual and collective mastery, to make program improvements, and to respond in instructionally agile ways.

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