What do you bring to the process that no one else can? Why you? What can you have others do?
Effective principals are strong educators, anchoring their work on central issues of learning and teaching and continuous school improvement. According to Mike Schmoker in his book Results: The Key to Continuous School Improvement, the combination of three concepts constitutes the foundation for positive improvement results: meaningful teamwork; clear, measurable goals; and the regular collection and analysis of performance data. Principals must lead their school through the goal-setting process in which student achievement data is analyzed, improvement areas are identified and actions for change are initiated. This process involves working collaboratively with staff and school community to identify discrepancies between current and desired outcomes, to set and prioritize goals to help close the gap, to develop improvement and monitoring strategies aimed at accomplishing the goals, and to communicate goals and change efforts to the entire school community. Principals must also ensure that staff development needs are identified in alignment with school improvement priorities and that these needs are addressed with appropriate professional learning opportunities.
The following five performance areas are critical leadership skills a principal must demonstrate to effectively lead a school in improving student achievement.
- Promote collaborative problem solving and open communication
- Collect, analyze, and use data to identify school needs
- Use data to identify and plan for needed changes in the instructional program
- Implement and monitor the school improvement plan
- Use systems thinking to establish a clear focus on attaining student achievement goals
These five areas are not a chronology of what a principal must do first, second, and third, but rather are cyclical in nature and must be demonstrated continuously throughout the school improvement process. The end product of this process is the school improvement plan, whereas the end goal for the process is improved student achievement.
You may want to listen to Lorraine Costella, former superintendent of Kent County Public Schools, describe how she used data-driven decision making to lead her school district through the school improvement process. Though the state used a different assessment at the time she was superintendent, the data analysis strategies she used would be applicable to any state assessment.