Your Reflections + Insights

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I read The Martian (awesome!), then saw the movie a couple of weeks ago. Seems to me there are many parallels between the tenacity of the hero and the work of leadership teams.  The book and movie are full of quotable lines- here are a couple that I think apply in space, and to our beloved schools:

  • “They say no plan survives first contact with implementation. I’d have to agree.” 
  • "At some point, everything's gonna go south on you and you're going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home."

The work of sincere leadership teams is routinely difficult, involving the risk of being exposed as imperfect, requiring ingenuity, patience, and nimble minds ready to take responsibility for improvement.  At times, a little like being stranded on Mars, perhaps.


 

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This set my mind to wheeling. What if…WHAT IF our teachers, principals, and YES especially students felt this way every day they walked into their school building? WHAT IF teachers felt inspired to teach and knew that their creative ideas would be supported by, not only the principal, but the entire school community?
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Well, I've been with school improvement for a full six weeks now and am excited about being a part of this important cause! I've been compiling the data for several recently identified schools in academic distress. I know the data doesn't give the complete picture but it speaks volumes! The data can't be disguised and digging into the information certainly gives another perspective. 

I look forward to working with my own schools soon.  Statistics and mathematics are my areas of specialty and so much work needs to be done to improve academic performance!  I'm reaching out to anyone who can offer some direction and advice on how to interact with the leadership teams to effectively coach and monitor their progress.

I am certainly looking forward to hearing from others as I begin my school improvement journey.

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Bright Lights

Maybe you'd like to chronicle your journey to improvement. Maybe you'd like to help others in theirs. Maybe you'd like a place to think and reflect out loud about how Indistar is supporting your efforts to focus, improve, and communicate. Maybe you'd like to do all of the above. Maybe  none of the above.

Whatever your motivation, we're glad for it. Because everyone here wants to listen to what you say. We all have something to learn, a fire to ignite (your post might just be the spark we need), a suggestion to share. Feel free to use these prompts or to just tell us, whatever it is, in your own way.

You can either reply in the comments. Or hit the plus sign (upper right hand corner) and write a fresh, new post. We are listening and we are grateful.

  • What do you love most about your work?
  • What are you proudest of when you think about the improvement journey and your implementation of Indistar?
  • What do you and your colleagues spend the most time working on?
  • What would you like to spend more time working on?
  • What is working really well for you, your team, and/or your school right now?
  • What could be working better?
  • What is the biggest change you have noticed (behavioral, operational, organizational) related to leading, teaching, or learning?
  • What else would you like to share about what you've learned, where you persist, how you and your team are making it happen?

Shine on.

photo credit: __MaRiNa__ via photopin cc

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Seasons of Change - Work Yet to Be Done

The day finally arrived. . . the day I would leave the school that I have led for the last six years as its principal.  The school where I had worked so passionately to reshape the culture of the school to one that was built upon student success, collaboration, positivity, and community.  As is the case in any position, we had our ups and downs, but when I reflect back on the work that we did, I can't help but smile.  I'm smiling because of the incredible individuals that I had the privilege of working with.  I'm smiling because of the beautiful children from all over the world who brought me such immeasurable joy.  But mainly I'm smiling because 'we did it!' What do you mean. . . 'we did it', what exactly does that mean?  As educators we are charged with 'educating' children.   I would love to go into that loaded statement, but at this moment, I don't have the time.  Suffice it to say, it takes a great deal to 'educate' children.  This is even more significant when you throw in the 'Title 1' label, as well as a predominately Hispanic student population.  To get to the point. . . we officially closed the achievement gap at Rolling Ridge Elementary School.  That means that every one of our various subgroups; to include Hispanic, special education, black, asian, white, English language learners (ELL), and economically disadvantaged, all achieved at consistent rates, rates that officially met Virginia Accredidation and AMO measures for two years straight, earning the right to say goodbye to the title of 'focus' school! WE DID IT!!So you might ask, 'Why in the world would you walk away from that?'  You have a staff that is working at high levels of efficacy, who are committed to the students they serve.  You have surrounded yourself with an outstanding team of educators.  Well, I have my reasons, one being that I have an incredible opportunity to take an award winning school of excellence and lead it to becoming a school that others want to immulate.  A school where the teachers are lead learners, striving to prepare their students for an ever changing world - the 21st century!!  A school where students are empowered and engaged to take charge of their learning by teachers who understand the power of curiosity, exploration, and discovery, but who also ensure that the foundational building blocks are in place.  Round Hill Elementary is that place and my hope is that together, I can use the gifts and talents bestowed upon me by my creator to INSPIRE them to BELIEVE that this is possible.  I hope that I can share my passion and energy for the success of every child in our school so that no child fails to make appropriate gains.   Why. . . .because every child who I've been tasked to serve deserves the right to succeed and feel proud of the things that are achieved.  Let's face it, if they don't BELIEVE in themselves. . . then how far will they get?  WE DID IT. . .yes we again proved that 'it coud be done!'  Now, I hope to do it again. . . with a different group of dedicated professionals and with a different group of INCREDIBLE students.   Lets get started!!
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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

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