A Leadership Toolkit: Ways to Improve Rigor in Your School


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Positively impacting the achievement of students is the principal’s most important role. This session will introduce participants to ten tools that they can immediately work with teachers and others in school-wide efforts to improve instruction, enhance academic engagement, and increase rigor. Participants will develop a plan for the use of these tools upon return to their school.

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A Leadership Toolkit: Ways to Improve Rigor in Your School

  1. 1.     -­‐  1  -­‐   A  Leadership  Toolkit:  Improving  Rigor  in  Your  School     Ronald  Williamson     Eastern  Michigan  University   web:  www.ronwilliamson.com   e-­‐mail:  rwmson214@aol.com   blog:  www.effectiveprinciapls.blogspot.com               C   Culture     O   Ownership  and  Shared  Vision     M   Managing  Data     P   Professional  Development     A   Advocacy     S   Shared  Accountability     S   Structures        Leadership  Tools:     Culture:       Conduct  a  Cultural  Audit           Self-­‐Assessment  of  Your  School’s  Culture     Ownership  and     Formation  of  Collaborative  Teams   Shared  Vision:     Fist  to  Five             Managing  Data:     Student  Shadow  Studies  and  Focus  Groups             Professional     Book  Study   Development:     Lesson  Study     Advocacy:       Elevator  Talk           Advocacy  and  Emerging  Technology             Shared  Accountability:   Learning  Walks           Credit  Recovery     Structures:     Collaborative  Teams           Providing  Collaborative  Time©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  2. 2.     -­‐  2  -­‐     Culture    Strategy  1:  We  suggest  a  good  place  to  begin  is  to  conduct  a  quick  assessment  of  your  school’s  culture  by  talking  with  both  students  and  staff,  observing  patterns  of  behavior,  or  considering  your  own  behavior.       •  At  a  staff  meeting  ask  each  person  to  list  five  adjectives  that  describe  the   school’s  culture.  Organize  the  words  into  common  themes.  Discuss  their   meaning.   •  Walk  the  halls  of  your  school.  What  do  you  see?  What  artifacts  are  visible   that  convey  messages  about  student  success?  About  the  value  of  rigorous   work?  About  a  commitment  to  no  accepting  failure?   •  Talk  with  a  cross-­‐section  of  teachers  or  students.  What  gets  them  excited   about  their  work?  About  their  learning?  What  do  they  find  joy  in?   •  Consider  the  last  three  months.  What  have  you  done  to  show  your   enthusiasm  for  learning?  For  student  success?  How  have  you  recognized   and  rewarded  students  and  staff?          Elements  of  Culture:     Rituals  and  Ceremonies         Heroes  and  Heroines         Stories  and  Tales         Rewards  and  Reinforcements        ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  3. 3.     -­‐  3  -­‐  Strategy  2:  Leadership  Self-­Assessment:  You  may  also  want  to  assess  the  indicators  of  culture  in  your  school  (Bolman  &  Deal,  2003).  What  do  the  indicators  say  about  rigor  in  your  school?       Guiding  Questions   Examples  from  Your  School         Rituals  and   •  What  are  the  routines  and  rituals  in   Ceremonies   your  school?    What  values  do  they   represent?   •  Are  there  special  ceremonies  or   events  at  your  school?    What  do   they  celebrate?     •  What  messages  do  you   communicate  in  your  daily  actions,   classroom  visits,  and  other   interactions  with  members  of  your   school  community?         Heroes  and   •  Who  are  the  heroes  or  heroines  on   Heroines   your  staff?  Why  are  they   recognized?   •  What  ways  do  you  identify  and   celebrate  people  who  contribute  to   the  success  of  every  student?  Who   have  high  expectations  for  student   success?         Stories  and  Tales   •  How  do  you  communicate  verbally   and  through  your  actions  with  your   faculty  and  staff?  What  underlying   messages  are  represented?   •  What  are  the  stories  you  tell  about   your  school,  its  students  and  staff?   What  stories  do  you  encourage   others  to  tell?         Rewards  and   •  How  do  you  recognize  and  reward   Reinforcements   teachers?  What  values  are   recognized  and  rewarded?  Are   these  strategies  successful?   •  Do  you  routinely  reward  teachers,   staff  and  students  who  make   exceptional  efforts  to  improve   student  learning?    ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  4. 4.     -­‐  4  -­‐     Ownership  and  Shared  Vision    Strategy  1:   Formation  of  Collaborative  Teams         __________   Is  the  purpose  clear?  Is  the  role  well  defined?       __________   Is  membership  representative?  Is  membership  appropriate   to  the  task?       __________   Are  there  agreed  upon  norms  for  operation?  For  decision-­‐ making?       __________   Is  there  a  mechanism  to  communicate  with  the  larger   school  community?  With  other  decision-­‐making  groups       __________   What  is  the  process  for  concluding  the  team’s  work?      Strategy  2:   A  Tool  for  Building  Consensus:   “Fist  to  Five”  Consensus  can  be  powerful  but  sometimes  difficult  to  achieve.  One  tool  we’ve  found  helpful  to  move  a  group  toward  consensus  is  the  “Fist  to  Five.”  It  is  an  easy  way  to  determine  the  opinion  of  each  person  and  is  a  visible  indicator  of  support.  Use  of  “Fist  to  Five”  can  help  a  group  seek  common  ground.  Many  groups  we’ve  worked  with  continue  the  process  until  everyone  holds  up  a  minimum  of  three  fingers.  Ask  every  participant  to  raise  their  hand  and  indicate  their  level  of  support,  from  a  closed  fist  (no  support)  to  all  five  fingers  (it’s  a  great  idea).           Fist   No  support  -­‐    “I  need  to  talk  more  on  the  proposal  and  require   changes  to  support  it.”       1  Finger   No  support  but  won’t  block  -­‐  “I  still  need  to  discuss  some  issues   and  I  will  suggest  changes  that  should  be  made.”       2  Fingers   Minimal  support  -­‐  “I  am  moderately  comfortable  with  the  idea   but  would  like  to  discuss  some  minor  things.”       3  Fingers   Neutral  –  “I’m  not  in  total  agreement  but  feel  comfortable  to  let   this  idea  pass  without  further  discussion.”       4  Fingers   Solid  Support  -­‐  “I  think  it’s  a  good  idea  and  will  work  for  it.       5  Fingers   Strong  Support  –  “It’s  a  great  idea  and  I  will  be  one  of  those   working  to  implement  it.”     Adapted  From:     Adventure  Associates  ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  5. 5.     -­‐  5  -­‐     Managing  Data    Strategy  1:   Student  Shadow  Study  Originally  developed  by  NASSP  a  shadow  study  charts  the  experience  of  students  throughout  a  school  day.  Observers  follow  randomly  selected  students  and  record  the  ebb  and  flow  of  activities  every  five-­‐to-­‐seven  minutes.  Of  course,  students  quickly  figure  out  that  something  is  going  on.  I  suggest  talking  with  the  student  you  shadow  before  you  begin  and  explain  that  you  are  not  evaluating  them  or  their  work.  Its  also  a  good  idea  to  talk  with  the  student  at  the  end  of  the  day  to  gain  additional  insights  into  their  experience.  Shadow  studies  work  best  when  several  observers  collect  data  by  shadowing  students.  The  December  2009  issue  of  Principal  Leadership  provides  more  detail  about  this  approach.         Comments/   Time   Specific  Behavior  at  5  Minute  Interval   Impressions                    Strategy  2:   Focus  Groups  One  strategy  for  gathering  data  about  your  school  is  to  hold  a  series  of  focus  group  sessions  with  students,  parents,  teachers  or  other  interested  people.    A  focus  group  is  a  group  of  individuals  brought  together  for  a  more  or  less  open-­‐ended  discussion  about  an  issue.  They  are  one  way  to  gather  information  about  people’s  beliefs  and  attitudes.  These  sessions  consist  of  structured  discussion  and  are  generally  most  useful  when  conducted  by  an  outside  facilitator.  This  encourages  participates  to  speak  more  feely  and  discuss  difficult  issues.  The  information  that  emerges  should  be  scripted,  analyzed  for  patterns  and  themes,  and  publicly  reported  and  discussed.      There  are  several  advantages  to  a  focus  group  meeting:   •  Participants  can  learn  more  about  your  school  during  the  meeting.   •  You  gain  a  deeper  understanding  of  how  participants  perceive  your  school.   •  These  small  group  meetings  provide  data  that  may  be  helpful  in  working  with  larger   groups.    Additional  information  about  focus  groups  is  available  from:   National  Association  of  Secondary  School  Principals  (2009).  Breaking  Ranks:  A  Field  Guide  for   Leading  Change.  Reston,  VA:  Author.    ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  6. 6.     -­‐  6  -­‐     Professional  Development    Strategy  1:     Book  Study   Book  Study  Protocol     •  Membership  should  be  voluntary  but  inclusive.   •  Decide  a  meeting  schedule,  meeting  place,  length  of  book  to  be  read  and   what  will  happen  after  the  book  is  read.  It  is  recommended  that   meetings  last  no  more  than  one  hour  and  be  held  at  a  consistent  time   and  place.   •  Select  a  responsible  facilitator  to  keep  the  group  on  task  and  help   manage  the  meetings.   •  Select  a  book  with  a  clear  objective  in  mind.  For  example,  use  Rigor  is   not  a  Four  Letter  Word  with  teachers  to  launch  the  conversation  about   rigor  or  use  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way  with   school  leaders  or  your  school  improvement  team.   •  Conversation  is  important  in  a  book  study.  Members  of  the  group  share   insights,  ask  questions  about  the  text,  and  learn  from  others.  It  is   important  to  talk  about  how  the  ideas  can  be  applied  directly  in  the   classroom  and  how  to  overcome  any  potential  obstacles.   •  Journaling  is  a  useful  way  for  members  to  think  about  their  reading  and   reflect  on  how  it  might  be  used.    Strategy  2:     Lesson  Study   Lesson  Study  Protocol   •  Participants  should  be  volunteers  but  the  invitation  to  participate   should  be  inclusive.   •  While  working  on  a  study  lesson,  teachers  work  together  to  develop  a   detailed  plan  for  the  lesson.   •  One  member  of  the  group  teaches  the  lesson  in  a  real  classroom  while   other  members  of  the  group  observe  the  lesson.   •  The  group  comes  together  to  discuss  their  observations  about  the   lesson  and  student  learning.   •  The  group  works  together  to  revise  the  lesson.   •  Another  teacher  teaches  the  revised  lesson  while  group  members   observe.   •  The  group  reconvenes  to  discussed  the  observed  lesson.   •  The  revision  process  may  continue  as  long  as  the  group  believes  it  is   necessary.   •  Teachers  talk  about  what  the  study  lesson  taught  them  and  how  they   can  apply  the  learning  to  their  own  classroom.  They  may  prepare  a   report  to  be  shared  with  others.    ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  7. 7.     -­‐  7  -­‐     Advocacy    Strategy  1:   Elevator  Talk  An  elevator  talk  is  a  30-­‐60  second  story  that  includes  three  elements.   1. Your  name  and  what  you  do   2. Your  key  issue   3. What  you  would  like  the  person  to  know  to  do    Identify  the  key  elements  of  an  elevator  talk  about  your  school.                          Strategy  2:   Advocacy  and  Emerging  Technology       Strengths   Opportunities   School  Website       •  Does  your  school  have  a  website?  If  so,   how  frequently  is  information  updated?   •  Does  it  include  your  vision  of  a  more   rigorous  school?   •  Does  it  provide  information  families  can   use  to  work  with  their  children?   •  Does  it  provide  ways  families  can  become   involved  in  your  school?         Social  Media  Sites   •  Does  your  school  have  a  presence  on   social  networking  sites  (Twitter,   Facebook)?   •  If  so,  how  do  you  share  information  about   school  events  and  successes?   •  Do  parents  know  your  school  has  a   presence  on  these  sites?      ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  8. 8.     -­‐  8  -­‐   Shared  Accountability    Strategy  1:   Learning  Walks     Learning  Walk  Protocol     1. Work  with  your  staff  to  identify  the  purpose  of  the  learning  walk.   2. Determine  the  process  including  length  of  classroom  visits  as  well  as  what   will  occur  during  the  visits.  Develop  and  use  a  consistent  tool  for   participants  to  use  to  record  their  observations  and  collect  data.   3. Inform  staff  when  the  learning  walks  will  occur.   4. Conduct  a  pre-­‐walk  orientation  for  those  participating   5. Conduct  the  learning  walk  and  spend  no  more  than  5  minutes  in  each   classroom.  Depending  on  the  lesson  talk  with  the  teacher  and  students,   look  at  student  work,  and  examine  the  organization  of  the  classroom.   6. Immediately  after  the  walk  ask  participants  to  meet  and  talk  about  the   information  they  gathered  and  how  to  share  it  with  the  faculty.  They  may   develop  questions  that  they  would  ask  to  learn  more  about  what  is   occurring.   7. Develop  a  plan  for  sharing  the  information  and  for  using  it  to  guide  your   continued  school  improvement  work.      Strategy  2:   Credit  Recovery    Elements  of  Instant  Credit  Recovery  Model:   1. Teachers  no  longer  assign  grades  below  a  C.   2. Eliminate  the  use  of  zeros.   3. Late  work  is  late,  but  it  must  be  completed  if  teachers  are  to  correctly  determine  if   students  know,  understand,  and  are  able  to  do  whatever  the  verb  within  the   standard  calls  for.   4. Students  must  be  given  extra  help  opportunities  (required)  to  learn  the  information,   skill,  or  concept  to  complete  assignments.   5. Students  must  retake  tests  that  they  fail  and  redo  all  assignments  they  earn  less   than  a  C  grade  on.   6. Consequences  change  for  students  not  having  work  ready  to  turn  in  on  time.   7. Grading  systems  change  from  zeros  or  failing  grades  to  “I’s”  or  some  other  form  of   non-­‐grade.   8. A  few  students  will  still  fail  no  matter  what.  The  goal  is  to  get  MORE  students  to   complete  MORE  assignments  and  assessments  to  the  proficient  level  of  the  standard.    From:  Southern  Regional  Education  Board  (www.sreb.org)  ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  9. 9.     -­‐  9  -­‐     Structures  to  Support  Success    Strategy  1:   Types  of  Collaborative  Teams             Option   Description   How  this  option  could   Advantages/   address  student  learning   Disadvantages   needs           Faculty-­‐wide   Participation  of   teams   the  entire  faculty   on  teams  focused   on  the  same  issue.           Interdiscipli Teams  across   nary  teams   grade  or  content   areas  or  who  share   common  planning   time  or  the  same   students.           Grade-­‐level   Focus  on  students   teams   at  a  single  grade   level.           Vertical   Working  together   teams   across  grade   levels.           Subject-­‐area   Focus  within  a   teams   single  content   area.           Special  topic   Teams  formed   teams   around  topics  of   interest.           Between   Teachers  from   school  teams   different  schools   work  together.    Adapted  from:  Team  to  Teach:  A  Facilitator’s  Guide  to  Professional  Learning  Teams.  National  Staff  Development  Council,  2009.    ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  10. 10.     -­‐  10  -­‐  Strategy  2:     Providing  Collaborative  Time     Strategy   Description       Common  Planning   When  teachers  share  a  common  planning  period  they  may  use   some  of  the  time  for  collaborative  work.       Parallel  Scheduling   When  special  teachers  (PE,  music,  art,  etc.)  are  scheduled  so  that   grade  level  or  content  area  teachers  have  common  planning.       Shared  Classes   Teachers  in  more  than  one  grade  or  team  combine  their  students   into  a  single  large  class  for  specific  instruction  and  the  other   teachers  can  collaborate       Faculty  Meeting   Find  other  ways  to  communicate  the  routine  items  shared  during   faculty  meetings  and  reallocate  that  time  to  collaborative   activities.       Adjust  Start  or  End   Members  of  a  team,  grade  or  entire  school  agree  to  start  their   of  Day   workday  early  or  extend  their  workday  one  day  a  week  to  gain   collaborative  time.       Late  Start  or  Early   Adjust  the  start  or  end  of  the  school  day  for  students  and  use  the   Release   time  for  collaborative  activity.       Professional   Rather  than  traditional  large  group  professional  development  use   Development  Days   the  time  for  teams  of  teachers  to  engage  in  collaborative  work.     Ways  We  Currently  Provide  Collaborative  Time:             What  IS  Working  with  our  Collaborative  Time:           What  IS  NOT  Working  with  our  Collaborative  Time:             Adapted  from  Williamson  (2009)  and  DuFour,  DuFour,  Eaker  &  Many,  2006)  ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).        
  11. 11.     -­‐  11  -­‐       ACT  Follow-­Up        A  –  What  is  the  first  ACTION  you  want  to  take  when  you  return  to  your  school  to  apply  this   information?                C  –  What  is  one  strategy  you  CURRENTLY  use  in  your  school  that  others  would  like  to  hear   about?                T  –  Which  strategy  or  strategies  are  you  most  likely  to  TRY  with  your  faculty/staff?      ©Ronald  Williamson  (www.ronwilliamson.com)  &  Barbara  Blackburn  (www.rigorineducation.com).    From  Rigorous  Schools  and  Classrooms:  Leading  the  Way;  Rigor  in  Your  School:  A  Toolkit  for  Leaders;  and  The  Principalship  from  A  to  Z  (Eye  on  Education,  www.eyeoneducation.com).