As a classroom teacher, every year I had a small handful of self-imposed goals that I chose in order to fill in my gaps. Some of these goals included: becoming proficient in the teaching of inquiry-based mathematics, engaging my students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) units on an ongoing basis, and better use of essential questions throughout our project based learning (PBL) experiences.
Now, as an administrator, I still have these same types of self-imposed goals, but I also have three “official” goals that are monitored on a regular basis.
Here are my three goals for this school year.
Goal #1: Elementary Level – Data-Based Decision Making
Official wording: Work with Elementary School Principals and elementary school educators to promote data-based decision making.
A little history: Last year at the elementary level we gained two valuable forms of data for our students. The first is the Writing Workshop on-demand performance prompts, which are administered before and after every instructional unit – about four per grade level. Last year we hit the ground running with Writing Workshop, so teachers already have a year’s worth of experiences (and on-demands) under their belts. The second form is the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (BAS), which is used to determine student’s independent and instructional reading levels. We’re giving these at least twice a year (along with running records), and last year we started with a trial run in the spring.
Along with the on-demands and the BAS, other formal forms of data include our universal screener, Star, and our state standardized tests, the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment). All data is compiled in spreadsheets, which are used during data meetings.
My next steps: The crux of this goal involves (1) teacher ownership of data, and (2) practical use of data to drive teaching and learning. And, to determine what shifts might need to be made in order to hit these targets, I first need to assess where we are. So, I’ll start by regularly attending data meetings at both of our elementary schools, and from there I’ll work with others to decide on next steps. Two deliverables will eventually include (1) a data-based decision making protocol for data meetings, and (2) a more objective, multiple-criteria based process for referring students for academic intervention. To inform my practice, I’ll be reading Driven by Data and LAUNCH (because the design thinking process might help us to rethink our data protocol). Finally, what is learned at the elementary level can hopefully be used to benefit students at our middle school and high school.
Goal #2: Middle Level – Standards-Based Grading
Official wording: Work with Middle School Principals and middle school educators to promote a culture of standards-based learning and grading.
A little history: Two summers ago we started to examine our assessment and grading practices with a Fair Isn’t Always Equal book study, which included teachers from our middle school and high school. Around that time we purchased a copy of this book for all district administrators. And, last year, a large group from our district attended three all-day standards-based grading sessions, facilitated by Tom Guskey and Lee Ann Jung. This group consisted of teachers and administrators from our middle school and one of our elementary schools, and also central administration. Middle school teachers met throughout the year to discuss and reflect upon how they could move forward with their practices.
My next steps: At the middle school, each grade level team has the luxury of meeting on a daily basis for about 40 minutes. This year, every team’s Tuesday meeting is based on assessment and grading, and I’m going to attend as many meetings as I can. (I have a reoccurring event in my calendar as a reminder.) And, much like our situation with data-based decision making, I first need to have a clear view of our point A before determining how we’re going to get to point B. At the same time, in a few weeks I’ll be working with our Middle School Principal, Ken Parliman, to create a prototype of a sixth grade standards-based report card (with the help of Tom Guskey’s, Developing Standards-Based Report Cards). Although this report card won’t be used anytime soon, the hope is that a visual of what this document can look like will help to relieve some anxieties and also spark valuable discussion.
Goals #3: Project Based Learning
Official wording: Work with principals and educators, across all levels, to move towards systemic project based learning and inquiry.
A little history: I began my own project based learning journey about seven years ago. Then, two years ago, soon after I arrived in my current district, I led a three-part series on PBL through or Innovate Salisbury initiative. (Part 1 was an introduction to PBL. Part 2 focused on student-created rubrics. Part 3 was when participants had time to plan their projects.) During that time we were looking for a practical approach to PBL, and this need ultimately resulted in Hacking Project Based Learning, which I coauthored with Erin Murphy. As a result of writing the book (and everything else PBL related in which we’ve been engaged), I’ve been able to flesh out my PBL thoughts and ideas more than ever!
My next steps: Our Innovate Salisbury initiative is still alive and well, rebranded as #YourSalisbury. We’ll continue to have whole-group sessions related to project based learning, and participating teachers will be asked to create their own personalized project proposals that focus on the implementation of innovative practices. If/When these teachers choose to tackle PBL, or components of PBL, I will be ready to offer support as needed. Also, at our middle school there have been some early talks about establishing a PBL school within a school, and I look forward to helping out this venture however I can. Two deliverables will eventually include (1) curation of PBL resources, possibly in the form of a website, and (2) the creation of a customized template/process to promote PBL. Finally, to learn from others, I hope to visit some schools/districts that focus on PBL and inquiry.
In the End
Prioritizing is never easy, and on any given day there are countless areas of need that can grab our attention, which is why I believe we should maintain a laser-like focus on topics (and goals) that have the potential to make systemic and sustainable impacts in our organizations. (Hopefully I have chosen wisely.)
I look forward to experiencing the ways in which this work benefits our students!
What are your goals (official or unofficial) for this school year?
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