|Colleagues & Friends,School leaders are in a tough position. On one hand we have been “encouraged” to use scientific, research-based strategies in the classroom while we are being asked to improve student learning by implementing mandated reforms. That sounds good if it were not that these reforms have been proven to be largely ineffective in raising student achievement (as stated by Dufour and Mattos, 2015, in an Educational Leadership article).
OK, let’s move on to the more intensive evaluation of teachers to improve school performance – that should drive a teacher’s professional development, right? These intense evaluations should reward highly effective educators and remove those deemed ineffective, right? This should work since research does say that teacher quality is perhaps the most significant factor in student learning. But then there’s almost universal agreement that the current system of teacher evaluation in the US – while more intensive – is ineffective. Three of four teachers report that their evaluation process has virtually no impact on their classroom practice (Duffett and others).
In a Marzano 2005 synthesis of research that identified 21 different responsibilities that principals must address, the author found that the observational responsibilities are often relocated to the back burner by a one school crisis or another that we – as school leaders – have little control over. Sound familiar, Leaders?
So, what have I seen that works well? What I observed while acting as CEO of the nine (9) Algiers Schools was school significant. Consider, a master teacher or two at each school, several mentor teachers, all of whom had common planning time and spent 90 minutes weekly in teacher team meetings. One master teacher and at least one mentor teacher attended each team meeting which were the best examples of teacher efficacy I have ever seen. That means that teachers took responsibility for their learning and the learning of their students. They felt that the effort they put into these meetings and their planning and teaching really mattered to the success of their students. In these meetings, student data was paramount with new teaching strategies and their success with students opening discussed. They talked about the achievement (or not) of their students and how to help it improve. The master teacher selection and the mandatory 90 minutes were the keys. Additionally, the master teachers were well trained for a week in the summer. Mentor teachers received a small stipend but were classroom teachers themselves and helped the master teachers drive the meetings.
The cost for the master teachers was the big expense. All other costs are naturals for Title funding. Picture yourself for two days before teachers report pouring over your school’s test scores with master and mentor teachers devising a plan that included students’ deficits and improved teaching strategies to focus on during the year. The’ less is more plan’ can work – with only a few things to focus on and then pointing the entire school toward those goals in your pre-school meetings.
Now you have a vision based on student needs and a road map to get there. You also have a few map readers to guide your journey and help make the course corrections you’ll need to make. It’s not easy and your job is making sure the focus remains the focus. There will be ups and downs; expect that. But transforming your school is, in the end, a journey – not a destination.
Be Well, Do Good Work, & Keep In Touch,
Creating Teacher Efficacy