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With a few colleagues, we’ve started reading Leverage Leadership. Here’s a little about the book:

Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (Managing Director of Uncommon Schools) shows leaders how they can raise their schools to greatness by following a core set of principles. These seven principles, or “levers,” allow for consistent, transformational, and replicable growth. With intentional focus on these areas, leaders will leverage much more learning from the same amount of time investment. Fundamentally, each of these seven levers answers the core questions of school leadership: What should an effective leader do, and how and when should they do it.

I like the fact that it starts out with formulas and recipes for success. You know, “Do this and you’ll get these results.” Who wouldn’t like to be told what to do, and then what results to search for? I hope you’ll join me as I take notes on this book.

My Notes

Chapter 1 – Data-driven Instruction (DDI)

  1. DDI begins with and is sustained by meetings at which principals or other designated instructional leaders create the highest-leverage, most game-changing 30-minute conversations possible–conversations that lead to results.
  2. It’s not about “Did we teach it?” but “Did students learn it? And, if they didn’t, how can we teach it so that they do?”
  3. DDI depends on 4 keys:
    1. Assessment – roadmap for rigor.
    2. Analysis – determine where students are struggling and why
    3. Action – implement new teaching plans to respond to this analysis
    4. Systems – create systems and procedures to ensure continual data-driven improvement
  4. Standards are meaningless until you define how to assess them.
  5. Teaching to simple standards leave students unprepared for higher-level questions/standards.
  6. College-ready assessments are the guide toward rigor.
  7. If assessments define rigor, then they must be common across all classes and grade levels…otherwise, equal rigor cannot be guaranteed in each classroom.
  8. “Measuring outcomes is only useful if you know what the target should be. If the target is different in each classroom, then we have no way to know how students are doing across the cohort relatively to each other. The students are stuck with varying degrees of rigor depending on which teacher they have. That’s not fair to our students.”
  9. Levels of alignment:
    1. State test-aligned
    2. College ready-aligned
    3. Curriculum sequence-aligned
  10. Change your curriculum sequence to match that of the interim assessment or change interim assessment to test standards in the same chronological order as you curriculum.
  11. DDI isn’t about teaching to the test, but rather, testing the teaching.
  12. Weekly observations of all teachers allow a window for viewing 1 percent of instruction, while data analysis meetings allow 80% of student learning to be assessed.
  13. Great data analysis starts from clear and intuitive data reports:
    1. One page summaries, in table form, of each student’s performance on the assessment and show class performance at 4 levels:
      1. Question level – how students performed on each question and what wrong answer choices they made.
      2. Skill or standard level – how they performed on each standard
      3. Student level – how well each individual student performed
      4. Global/whole class level – how well the class performed.
  14. Assessment reports should be prepared within 48 hours of the assessment’s distribution.
  15. Leaders must model how to analyze data.
  16. Going Deep: Effective Analysis
    1. Make a solid hypothesis based on questions
    2. Test your hypothesis
    3. Make explicit action steps
    4. Repeat the process for struggling and special education students
  17. Highly effective leaders guide from the back pocket…keep your answers in your back pocket and lead by asking questions so they can independently reach and embrace the solution.
  18. Even for school leaders who have learned to analyze data closely, guiding teachers to do the same can be quite difficult. Try this:
    1. Analyze teacher’s results before the meeting.
    2. When needed, get help with content expertise.
    3. Assessment is useless until it affects instruction…set clear dates to ensure this happens.
  19. Steps:
    1. Make assessment an ongoing process.
    2. Use schoolwide systems to support change.
    3. Make accountability easy.
  20. Fundamentals of data-driven instruction:
    1. Interim assessments
    2. Analysis Meetings 
    3. Time to implement action steps
  21. In regards to school calendars, put the assessment cycle in first and learning will take priority.
  22. Implementation rubric includes these components:
    1. Data-Driven Culture
      1. Highly active leadership team
      2. Introductory professional development
      3. Implementation calendar
      4. Ongoing professional development
      5. Build by borrowing
    2. Assessments
      1. Common interim assessment 4-6 times per year
      2. Transparent starting point
      3. Aligned to state tests and college readiness
      4. Aligned to instructional sequence of clearly defined grade level/content expectations
      5. Reassess previously taught standards
    3. Analysis
      1. Immediate turnaround of assessment results within 48 hours
      2. User-friendly, succinct data reports (item-level analysis, standards-level analysis, bottom line results)
      3. Teacher-owned analysis
      4. Test-in-hand analysis
      5. Deep (answers about why student got it wrong)
    4. Action
      1. Plan new lessons colalboratively
      2. Implement explicit teacher action plans
      3. Ongoing assessment
      4. Accountability
      5. Engaged students know the end goal, how they did, and what actions they are taking to improve.
  23. Until you achieve proficiency with the data-driven instruction lever, none of the other instructional levers will work effectively. 

My Questions

  1. Will interim assessments need to be developed?
  2. If every teacher teaches any lesson they deem appropriate, and each campus has autonomy, how will we have consistent outcomes?
  3. If currently students have inconsistent outcomes, then can we really compare students from one campus to another?
  4. DDI presupposes a consistent curriculum that all teachers follow. Is this a pre-requisite that prevents going forward? In other words, will we need to develop a curriculum guide–sequenced appropriately–before we can move forward?

My Reflections
I appreciate the forum for discussing questions about the “Leverage Leadership” text. Two key points jumped out at me because they appear to be pre-requisites to moving forward. Please be aware that you may be aware of details that make my contribution inaccurate (e.g. CSCOPE provides end-goal assessments that could be used, so it may be inaccurate to say end-goal assessments don’t appear to exist classroom to classroom).

Key Point #1 –  If assessments define rigor, then they must be common across all classes and grade levels…otherwise, equal rigor cannot be guaranteed in each classroom. “Measuring outcomes is only useful if you know what the target should be. If the target is different in each classroom, then we have no way to know how students are doing across the cohort relatively to each other. The students are stuck with varying degrees of rigor depending on which teacher they have. That’s not fair to our students.”

The questions that come to mind include the following:

1) Will interim assessments need to be developed district-wide? Since I imagine the answer is YES, how will these interim assessment be deployed? Developing interim assessments can be a tough task and having seen large districts struggle with developing valid, reliable interim assessments, it seems worthwhile to invest in a “bank” of assessments rather than try to develop in-house. Whether that’s a point of agreement or not, another issue is how to administer interim assessments.

School districts can spend a lot of money administering interim assessments, not just funding on creating them. Even if you are paper-n-pencil based, it could cost a lot of money. Since the goal is to move towards paperless, what digital management system for interim assessments would be put in place? Without a digital system, it may be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the 48 hours between administering an assessment and getting the results.

2) If every teacher teaches any lesson they deem appropriate, and each campus has autonomy, how will we have consistent outcomes?
Without a curriculum scope-n-sequence in place, and articulated end-goal assessments, how will consistency be achieved across classrooms, from teacher to teacher, campus to campus?

These are two questions that come to mind.

Key Point #2 – DDI presupposes a consistent curriculum that all teachers follow. Is this a pre-requisite that prevents going forward? In other words, will we need to develop a curriculum guide–sequenced appropriately–before we can move forward?

Since data-driven instruction is the first lever–“Until you achieve proficiency with the data-driven instruction lever, none of the other instructional levers will work effectively.”–does this mean we will need to develop a consistent curriculum scope-n-sequence with end-goal assessments and interim assessments before moving forward with implementation?


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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