I am frequently reminded that what I do as a principal determines the future of my little ones. At the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools conference this summer, Jaime Casap from Google made a statement that I can’t seem to get out of my head. He said, “Education disrupts poverty.” This statement can only be true if the education is “good”.
I want to make sure I have afforded my students a “good” opportunity to escape the poverty that surrounds them. We must offer them the right information (curriculum), the right way (instruction), at the right time (when it’s appropriate). We know that each student in each classroom is on a different academic level. In a 4th grade classroom, it is very likely to have students on K-6th grade levels. Unfortunately, we have no control over how students come to us, but we must reach each student and propel them to the next level.
How do we do that? Our instruction must be as individual as possible… we must meet each student where they are. This leads us to a discussion of data. We have lots of it, but do we know what to do with it to improve student achievement? Help is here!
In this week’s blog, I will address the first aspect of data and how it can help meet our students’ needs. I will continue this dialogue in the next few blogs, so stay tuned!
Data is important for three groups of people: the principal, the teacher, the student and parent. This week’s blog will focus on the importance of data to the campus principal.
Principals should use student data to determine these three areas.
1)Determine effectiveness of curriculum and instruction
If all (or most) grade levels and subjects on your campus are low-performing, it is not the individual teachers. More than likely, it is either what you’re teaching (curriculum) or how you’re teaching it (instruction)… and those are campus or district-based decisions.
Principal Action: Spend time in each classroom each day to determine if the curriculum adequately addresses state standards at a high level. Also look at the delivery of instruction. Are teachers delivering the instruction in a way that is easy for students to understand? Once you determine the underlying challenges, get to work improving it.
2)Determine effectiveness of teachers
Look at your data by teacher. Do you have some teachers who are performing much lower than their colleagues? If so, it becomes your job to determine why.
Principal Action: Spend time in their rooms to identify why they are lower. Once you can identify the “why”, you can provide the support needed to help them grow. Also, if you see a trend on your campus… many teachers are lacking a certain skill set, that becomes the focus of staff development.
3)Determine effectiveness of programs
Look at the data by student. Are students improving from benchmark to benchmark? If students are not improving, it might be cause for concern in your intervention programs. Are the students grouped appropriately for after-school tutorials and intervention time during the day? Are the students receiving appropriate instruction during after-school tutorials and intervention time during the day? Are the students who need to be in after-school tutorials actually staying after and receiving the help they need? For students who are not in intervention groups during the day, are they engaged in meaningful instruction while teachers are working with small groups?
Principal Action: Become more involved in determining who needs extra support, decide when they’ll receive it (after-school tutorials or interventions during the school day), and who will deliver the extra support to each group.
Reflect on these three points of how data should be used by the principal. Based on your reflection, which areas need to be addressed on your campus next year and how do you plan to address them?
Paula Patterson is a former principal who shares practical points on the principalship.