If you are anything like me, you prefer to seek ideas and council from others before establishing new procedures and practices. There is nothing better than learning what to do or what not to do from a friend or colleague. Some might call this . . . gaining insight. We gain insight from the experiences and wisdom of others so that we can make more insightful decisions about what might be best for our school. We live in the age of instant communications, so why not take advantage of that and connect with a mentor. You won't be sorry. From mentee to mentor . . . Here's my story.
Last year my school was required to establish a number of new procedures including the implementation of Indistar because we failed to meet all of the federal AMOs. Needless to say it was a challenging year although when I reflect back on it, I realize just how important others were to my success. I have been an elementary administrator for 10 years, and a principal for the last 5. I have the privilege of leading a Title 1 school of 600 diverse learners from over 50 countries. Needless to say, during my five years we have focused a great deal of attention on successful instructional strategies for ELL learners and my staff has embraced those strategies. Although when we failed to meet the mark for the first time ever last year, it was obvious that just working harder wasn't going to cut it. We already did that. . . we had to work smarter.
Beginning last summer I began to work closely with the director of instructional services and the director of research for Loudoun County Public Schools in order to implement the Indistar tool and to meet the required indicators set forth by the Virginia Department of Education (TA01, TA02, TA03). I leaned on the knowledge and experience of these two gentleman, as well as my fellow Title 1 principals, to establish more effective school wide practices to identify our struggling learners, ongoing intervention practices to provide second teaching to those students, and consistent monitoring practices to document progress in a consistent manner. Along with the establishment of those practices, my assistant principal and I began to do daily walk through observations using a consistent instrument that provided our staff immediate feedback. Data from those walk-throughs was then used to provide targeted professional development based on identified deficits (IE 08, IE09). Throughout the course of the year my mentors, colleagues, and I met monthly to share our successes and challenges, learning from one another.
So the question is, did it make any difference? I am proud to say that my school once again met all of the state and federal annual measurable objectives! Our mathematics scores jumped on average 17% with our special education subgroup jumping over 35%! We saw similar gains in reading when our scores are compared to scores across the state of Virginia. (VA rolled out a much more rigorous test in reading this year resulting in the state dropping the reading AMO over 20%)
Over the next few posts I plan to dive deeper into the specific practices that my school implemented in order to meet the mark! Join me as the mentee becomes the mentor. Allow me to share my experiences, both successful and unsuccessful so that you can gain valuable insight that will help you and your school more effectively meet the needs of ALL of the students and staff you are tasked to serve.
Andrew Davis, Principal, Rolling Ridge Elementary School