What matters most?

I received an email today from a colleague that went something like this. . . “What is the one thing that works at Rolling Ridge that has helped turn the school around? Or what AHA moment did teachers have that has helped Rolling Ridge move forward?”  As I sit here and write this post I have to say that I have yet to respond to his email.  It got me thinking, what is the one thing . . . the AHA moment?  . . .   I think it has to be staff buy-in.  After the initial shock, my leadership team and I joined together and made a commitment to the process.  Our meetings were positive and efficient and every member of the team shared in the development of the instructional practices that would become the heart of our Indistar school improvement plan.  If I can make one suggestion to you it would be to choose your leadership team carefully.  Your team should be made up of your game changers.  People who keep you on your toes, not because they are complainers or slackers, but because they challenge you to be a better instructional leader.  Your game changers are the ones who don't waste time resisting, but rather spend their time figuring out how they can incorporate research based strategies into their practices to get better results.  They are the ones who know exactly what their kids know at any point and can prove it to you based on data.  

Let me guess, you all have those teachers that tell you, "I know exactly what 'Jose' can do."  Yet when you ask him or her to show you what math standards Jose didn't master last month, how he or she provided second teaching, and the results of that teaching, they can't.  Actually a lot of teachers would look at you like you were crazy. . .   So that brings me to my next point. . . your teachers must use data to help them differentiate their core instruction.  If they rely solely on whole group instruction it will be very difficult for them to provide the differentiated instruction that students need to succeed at all levels.  Taking consistent data using simple ongoing formative assessments will help them to differentiate their lessons in order to provide targeted instruction based on each students' individual need.  I know. . . we all know that our teachers should be differentiating and we read all about it in EL magazine and The Principal magazine, but are your teachers really doing it every day?  Especially in reading and math?  If not, you have to start there.  You all have a great teacher who is very effective at differentiation.   Video lesson segments on your iPhone or iPad and show your staff.  Have him or her share their lesson plans or have him or her work together with others to identify simple ways to incorporate differentiation strategies into every lesson.  Get your staff talking about the right stuff.  Stop talking about why Jose didn't do his homework and start talking about how the team will work together to build a remediation rotation into their math block so that Jose can get more explicit instruction and guided practice.  As you get your staff talking and working together, their collective efficacy will grow.

So what is the theme here?  People. . . . team. . . . working together to establish consistent research based strategies, moving in the same direction. . . . My close friend and colleague likes to say, "there are lots of buses moving in every direction, so if you aren't going to move with us on our bus, then its time to find another one moving in a different direction."    Get the right people on the bus and then move together!!  Going it alone just doesn't cut it anymore. . .  

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