School Improvement is hard work, but if implemented with what research tells us what works, it's becomes the right work. Lyn Sharratt & Michael Fullan remind the reader about how much more meaningful this work can be if you associate the names and FACES of our students. Looking back at our first year of implementation of our own school improvement process, it just makes sense. Betty, George, Carter, and Savannah and all of students have their own set of data. "Building the bridge from data collection to improved instruction" (back cover) are what Sherratt & Fullan say "What Great Leaders Do!" (front cover).
Sherratt & Fullan shared their research "about how the use of student achievement data is a powerful tool for improvement at every level--especially if improvement is noted and monitored on the basis of drilling down in that data to individual student names and FACES in individual classrooms" (pg. 6-7). They looked at 17 schools in improvement and identified nine schools who were able to continue and sustain their achievement efforts. 14 Parameters were identified as commonalities in these schools and Sherratt & Fullan have established these as "drivers of reform and practice in successful school districts" (pg.10).
It would be tempting to start with this list and move on with developing your school improvement plan, but Serratt & Fullan drilled down even deeper with further research to determine, "which practices are so effective they become nonnegotiable" (pg. 29) in every classroom? Specially, how do they make the overwhelming amount of data relevant so we can have a greater understating of what to do and where to start.
At this point I made the connection to Simon Sinek's work, "Start with the Why." and possibly Sharratt & Fullan were thinking this as well when they developed their research questions to "cluster the parameters" (pg. 41). To zero in on putting the faces on data, these are the important things (questions/drivers) great leaders do" (pg. 41).
Why do we put FACES on the data? -- All students have the right to learn.
How do we put FACES on the data? -- Assessment & Instruction
What leadership skills are needed? -- Knowability, Mobilize-ability, Sustainability
Where does this happen? -- Ownership with students, teachers, parents & the community
This should be a must read for every principal in school improvement. If anything just to frame ones comprehensive achievement plan and to support the intense focus needed for equitable growth and achievement for both students and staff. Here are some of my favorites on what Sharratt & Fullan learned about Assessments, Instruction, and Leadership from their case studies:
- Learning Goals & Success Criteria
- Thick Thinking
- Descriptive Feedback
- Questions for Students
- Data Walls
- Components of an Effective Literacy Program
- Authentic Tasks Defined
- The Power of Writing
- Staff Data Binder
- Co-Teaching Cycle
- Collaborative Inquiry Cycle (PLC's/Data Team)
- HIGHLIGHT: Core Principles for School Improvement
Sharratt profoundly stated "Data today is instruction tomorrow" (pg. 89). I would add our students today are our future tomorrow.