It’s no secret that changing the school climate in favor of embracing a successful model of the continuous school improvement process takes time, effort, and skill. However, when we take on the task of improving our nation’s lowest-performing schools, we can uncover a rewarding opportunity to re-evaluate the limitations of our current school improvement strategies that may not work for your school population.
If you are looking for guidance on taking your leadership to the next level to transform your school and accelerate learning, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we will discuss some of the most effective research-proven strategies that will help you create an infrastructure to improve the outcomes of all students.
What Does the Research Say?
There has been a lot of research and conversation about the connection between a growth mindset and school transformation. The first step in getting your school ready for change is to create a sense of urgency. School leaders must share the current reality using data to articulate why students are not making adequate yearly progress and include everyone in brainstorming what they are willing to do to change the trajectory of their students.
In order for people to adopt a growth mindset, they must have the opportunity to analyze and discuss assessment results to identify the barriers to student achievement. School leaders should facilitate laser-focused grade-level team meetings about the subgroup(s) of underperforming students to identify barriers, select resources, plan lessons, and create assessments to measure and monitor student progress.
There is a plethora of school improvement strategies, and quite often, school leaders are information-rich but don’t know what to do to turn around an underperforming school. In this article, we will share three research-proven school improvement strategies that you can explore to begin the school transformation process:
Encourage Feedback from Others
One essential element of effective leadership is directly tied to your ability to function as a team. This can make a dramatic difference when it comes to establishing priority goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive (SMART), identifying action steps and person(s) responsible for achieving the goal(s). The school improvement plan is a written document that must be measured and monitored to ensure that the school is on track to improve the outcomes of all students.
Embrace Strategic Thinking and Planning
When school leaders have an infrastructure that uses data to make instructional decisions, classroom observations, reflective feedback, and bite-sized actionable next steps, teachers will work on their professional growth goals to improve teaching and student engagement, which will have a measurable impact on student achievement.
School improvement does not require that you implement every new initiative and change everything at one time. This approach will lead to an overwhelmed and frustrated staff paralyzed by initiative fatigue. When you implement a few things well and provide your staff with professional development support, resources, and time to master and implement, not only will they feel supported, but your students will benefit because your teachers will have the tools and resources to address the needs of all students.
Sometimes you must slow down so you can retool to go further faster to transform your school.
Empower Educators to Communicate Openly
The first two steps are core components of the continuous improvement process, and school leaders should create or redesign the school improvement plan to reflect them. We all need a roadmap to reach our destinations; however, if you follow a faulty roadmap, you may never reach your destination. The school leadership team, teachers, and parents should all be included in the school transformation process because we get better when everyone unites and works together around a shared vision and school improvement plan.
The research and evidence are clear about the effectiveness of these three school improvement strategies and their impact on student achievement. We all know that all children can learn when instruction is provided in the way that they learn, not the one-size-fits-all approach.
In order for underperforming schools to change the trajectory and improve the outcomes for all subgroups of students, school leaders, and teachers must know and understand that assessment results are not the only data point that should be used to make instructional decisions because there is always information that is behind the numbers which must be included to effectively plan instruction, intervention, or additional support.
School Transformation Includes ALL Students
When school leaders, staff, and parents have a shared vision and common language about what it takes to create an equitable and excellent school, then every child succeeds. Based on this evidence, there’s no question that improving school performance begins with ensuring that school leaders understand that transforming underperforming schools is a process, not an event. Teachers must access high-quality professional development and coaching support to learn about the most effective high-leverage instructional strategies that accelerate learning and close achievement gaps.
By following these tips, you will be one step closer to achieving the balance between compliance and results, you can have a well-written school improvement plan, and you may not still improve student outcomes. The school improvement plan must be actionable, measured, and monitored to know whether your school is on track or off track and when to adjust so that all students are making adequate progress toward their growth goals.