I facilitated a K-5 elementary leadership team’s work this week as they explored school goals to increase student achievement. On the team were the principal, reading, math, and writing coaches, special education coordinator, guidance counselor, and school psychologist. Here is the process and outcomes of the meeting. I hope that it provides a framework that might be useful to you.
I began by selecting one target area…math performance of 5th grade students. My question, “What do fifth grade students need to know and be able to do to be successful in math?” generated these responses:
Visualize math problems
Explain math thinking using math vocabulary
Read and understand word problems
Filter distracting information from problems
Analyze and discover math patterns
Understand base 10 system
I then asked, “What do students need to do and experience that would lead to gaining these desired outcomes?”. The team identified that students needed to…
Hear math thinking processes
Talk and explain math to each other
Experience and practice math vocabulary
Draw, touch, do…create concrete representations of math problems
Share different approaches to solving the same problem
Estimate…does my solution make sense?
Solve real world math problems
Struggle, grapple, persevere with “start overs” when initial strategies fail
We then considered what was currently happening in third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms throughout the school. They placed each classroom on the following continuum regarding the extent to which students were experiencing the desired learning activities. This illustrates their assessment as to how many classrooms were at low, medium, and high levels of implementation.
We then began a discussion of what teacher practices would increase the likelihood that students would experience the necessary learning activities. A realization occurred that teachers needed to invest more in designing learning activities rather than “teaching”. Another realization was that while we began exploring what was needed for increased math achievement, we really had discovered what was needed for increased student achievement across the board.
The team set a goal to move all classrooms one step across the continuum in the coming months.
Next, we identified what leadership behaviors would support the necessary changes in teachers’ practices. Two next steps were agreed upon.
#1 All members of the leadership team will teach a classroom lesson designed to maximize the identified student behaviors. These lessons will be observed and coached by two other members of the leadership team. (I believe this will have many payoffs including a buzz throughout the school.)
#2 At the next faculty meeting teachers working in grade level PLCs, facilitated by a member of the leadership team, will complete the same backwards planning activity. A collated list from the faculty will be compared to the list that the leadership group developed.
I will be at the school for that faculty meeting and will debrief the leadership team’s teaching/coaching experience. I’m anxious to see first hand the results of the team’s energy and commitment.