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BASED ON AN INTERVIEW WITH ALICIA NOSWORTHY, PRINCIPAL OF
WALKER HIGH SCHOOL
WHERE DO YOU START WHEN CREATING A
• How do you improve
• No single answer
• Honor the staff’s previous work
• Take time to learn what’s been done
• What is the staff moving toward?
• Don’t jump in and start making big
changes right away. It leads to
rebellion from your staff.
HOW DO YOU WADE THROUGH ALL THE
• You are swamped with meetings,
commitments, paperwork, and a
million other unpredictable events
and tasks. How do you find the time
and energy to effectively collect,
analyze, and respond to data?
• Tow the line between delegating and shrugging
off your duties!
• Know the strengths of your staff
• Empower them to help
• Don’t “create monsters” by giving too much of
the decision making power to certain staff
• Make staff feel valued
WHERE DOES DATA COME IN?
• What kinds of data do you look at in terms
of your teachers?
• Prior training?
• Noticed a waste of teacher time sitting in
the OdysseyWare lab
• How can you jockey the schedule to
maximize the use of all teachers?
• Makes for a wacky schedule at Walker
• What student data do you look for first?
• Is that approach different at an alternative
school versus a comprehensive high school?
• Once you go through the data, what is
something you do to make improvements?
• Look at data points like attendance, graduation
rates, and credits accumulated per semester.
• Figure out what intervention classes are needed
• Support classes based on STRAND data
• Traditional student data is not very reliable for
• Kids have not been in school for years
• Perception data is better
THE HARD PARTS
• What is the hardest part about
trying to turn a school around?
• What are strategies you can
use to deal with that?
• Walker as a “credit mill” three years ago
• Kids able to take failed classes on
OdysseyWare instead of retaking them
• “packets” versus rigor
• “Graduate quickly” culture versus teaching
the “whole child”
• Push back from staff at first
• CHANGING A CULTURE TAKES YEARS
TRICKY STAFF: UNWILLING
• What happens if you have staff
members who are not willing to
support you with a CSIP?
• What strategies can you use to
respond to issues that come up
because of resistant staff?
• It is okay to encourage staff to look for
work elsewhere—no hard feelings or
• Remember, you can’t just fire a teacher
• Build relationships with staff
• Float ideas to key players first
• Know who likely naysayers will be
• Massage the idea before you assert it—
this will help with knee-jerk reactions
TRICKY STAFF: UNABLE
• If you have teachers who are not
skilled enough to implement a CSIP,
what do you do?
• How much of a negative impact can
weaker teachers have on the
implementation of a CSIP?
• What can you do to help with this?
• Must know when to give directives or agency
• Find ways to pair weaker staff with stronger staff
• Find opportunities to set up weaker staff for success.
• Visit their rooms and coach them.
• Ask them to think about what they did well and what
next steps they have
• Don’t throw in the towel just because they don’t
seem like a good fit.
ACADEMICS AND IMPROVEMENT
• We talked a lot about soft skills and
touchy feely stuff, but what about
academic improvement and data?
• Can you give an example where you
used specific data to implement
• A lot of test scores are “kid dependent” and not
reliable. (Kid doesn’t take the test seriously or doesn’t
understand some of the questions, etc.)
• Look at NORMATIVE progress.
• Look for deficits in strand data
• Worked with the math teacher and learned that kids
could do proofs but not statistics
• Able to tailor instruction accordingly
WHAT IF A CSIP BOMBS???
• So, you put all of this effort into a CSIP; you get
the staff on board, and then the thing tanks. . . .
• Now what?
• What does this mean for staff morale?
• Has it happened?
• They don’t fail. We revisit and revise.
• A living document
• You don’t admit defeat; you adapt.
• CAMP WALKER is an example
• Tried changing discipline formula
• Came up with it at the start of her second year at WHS
• Reduce the amount of time spent dealing with behaviors
• Improve student morale
• Have you ever felt that political pressure has
forced your hand to make decisions that go
against your personal philosophy or integrity?
• What do you do?
• How does staff respond?
• Graduation rates were big in first year at WHS
• Want kids to graduate, but want to hold them accountable
• Can’t suddenly force change. Focus on moving toward your
• Biology test example: I disagree with it—kids need different
skills, yet I have to play the game
• Look at the positives of “the test” when you have to teach to
it—there is some good stuff in there. . .
• If you “teach kids first and content second,” you can make
everyone feel that they are doing right by students
IS TIME REALLY OF THE ESSENCE?
• So, you get charged with the task of turning a
school around. There is money, reputation, and
maybe your job at stake. How long do you have
before you can expect to see real results?
• How much time can pass with no measurable
progress before you are in big trouble?
• Stress, anyone?
• Only the district knows, so it is stressful!
• It takes a MINIMUM of three years.
• Just now seeing big changes at WHS
• Patience. If you try to go too fast, you will be
• Believe that when you set your staff up with
important, challenging tasks, they will rise to the
• School is an experiment. You try different things; you
fail; you succeed; you make it work.