Practice Activity: Examining Your Monitoring Data
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Plan for data dialogues

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In a JSD article entitled, In the Right Context, Rick DuFour, superintendent of Adlai Stevenson High School District 125 in Illinois, charges principals with providing a school context that fosters job-embedded professional development and with creating in their schools the collaborative culture of a professional learning community. However, he says that creating an appropriate structure for teacher collaboration is vitally important, but also insufficient. Principals must do more than organize teacher teams and hope for the best. They must provide the focus, parameters, and support to help teams function effectively. More specifically, principals who are staff development leaders must:

  1. Provide time for collaboration in the school day and school year. Providing time for teachers to work together does not require keeping students at home and/or an infusion of new resources. Principals as staff development leaders work with staff to identify no-cost strategies that enable teachers to work together on a regular basis while students are on campus.
  2. Identify critical questions to guide the work of collaborative teams. The impact of providing time for teachers to engage in collective inquiry will be determined to a great extent by the nature of the questions teachers are considering. Principals must help teams frame questions that focus on critical issues of teaching and learning.
  3. Ask teams to create products as a result of their collaboration. The best way to help teachers use their collaborative time productively is to ask them to produce and present artifacts in response to the critical questions they are considering. Examples might include statements of student outcomes by units of instruction, development of new units to address gaps between state standards and local curriculum, creation of common assessments and rubrics, articulation of team protocols or norms to guide the interactions of team members, or formulation of improvement plans based on analysis of student achievement data.
  4. Insist that teams identify and pursue specific student achievement goals. The driving force behind the effort to create a collaborative culture must be improved results. Principals foster improved results when they ask teaching teams to identify and pursue specific, measurable student achievement goals.
  5. Provide teams with relevant data and information. When every teacher has access to information on his or her students performance in meeting agreed upon standards, on valid assessments, in comparison to other students trying to achieve the same standards, both individual teachers and teams improve their effectiveness.

This then is the principal's challenge. What expectations can you give your instructional teams that will ensure they use student data to make the kinds of instructional decisions that would result in improved student achievement? How do you expect these teams of teachers to collaborate in this effort? What do you want the end product(s) to look like? A data dialogue should result in teachers using the information gained from that examination to improve the student s performance. How can teachers demonstrate that they have used this information to inform instruction?

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