Seven Steps to a Higher-Achieving School
School leaders are always looking for strategies to increase student achievement and make a positive impact on the lives of students and teachers. Our school raised student achievement and improved the quality of instruction by following seven simple steps.
Step One: Use Data to Drive Discussions
When educators hear the word "data," they typically think "testing and accountability," but data can be used in many other ways. You can have one-on-one conversations with teachers and other school stakeholders using attendance data, benchmark testing data, and discipline data as the foundation for your discussions. Focus on strengths, weaknesses, and patterns as you work with individual teachers in one grade level or content area to discuss the applicable data.
In the long-term, use the data as a springboard for change, to assess where you are and where you need to be.
Step Two: Ask Students
We often fail to give credit where it is deserved. Students can offer some of the best ideas to help improve the school. Ask your students questions about the classroom, safety, your facilities, and extracurricular activities. By asking students what they think, you automatically increase their buy-in.
Step Three: Expect the Effective Use of Instructional Technology
Settle for nothing less than quality instruction that incorporates the effective use of technology. Help teachers use technology in ways that engage and motivate students. A SMART Board is more than a glorified overhead projector and laptops are effective for more than word processing.
If funding is a problem, explore grants, parent organizations, textbook funds, community resources, and student groups to obtain instructional technology.
Step Four: Incorporate the Voice of Teachers
Give your teachers a voice about their professional development. Differentiate the staff development as you would expect teachers to differentiate instruction for students.
Survey teachers and other staff to find out what topics they are interested in and whether they prefer morning or afternoon sessions. Use the expertise of administrators and lead teachers to differentiate professional development offerings.
Step Five: Focus on Human Resources
Do not allow students to be taught by ineffective teachers. Support struggling teachers in any way you can; however, if teachers are not improving or resist doing what is best for the students, step in.
Offer ineffective teachers support, create a plan for accountability, discuss a possible move in placement, or counsel them out of their position.
Step Six: Think Outside the Box
Be willing to meet any need that arises for your students and your school community. For example, if parents are unable to attend open houses due to work schedules, transportation issues, and other constraints, create a video that includes pictures, student excerpts, and general information about the school. Post the video on the school's website and send an individual DVD home with each student.
Step Seven: Focus on Relationships
Encourage those around you. Students, teachers, parents, and administrators all need encouragement to do well. Handwritten notes, e-mails, and cards are great ways to show you care about relationships.
Call staff members' homes during the school day and leave a complimentary message. After a tough day at work, it's nice to hear kind words from the school leader.
James Davis is the principal at China Grove Middle School in North Carolina. E-mail: email@example.com