Archives for the month of: April, 2012

Educators spend so much time educating, we forget to get educated. Of all the efforts that schools put into increasing student achievement, professional development has one of the best return ratios. The problem that schools have, is that we don’t know how to choose and implement professional development very well. In this post, I examine how professional development impact students achievement, and what can we do to ensure professional development is working for our school.

Good teaching starts with good learning.

In 2007, the American Institute for Research found that teachers receiving at least 49 hours of professional development in a six to twelve month span could expect to increase student achievement by approximately 21 points. This is a staggering figure. There isn’t a school in this country that would not want to increase student achievement by 21 points. So, what is holding us back?

Below are some tips for making professional development work for your school.

1. Make learning part of the school culture. Professional growth should not be an afterthought. It should not be something that is done once a month to meet the district requirements. Every adult should be expected to, and desire to grow for the sake of helping the students. School leaders need to make this part of the vision of the school, it should be central to everything that happens on a daily basis.

2. Make it work for everyone. If we are to shoot for 49 hours, then we need to be proactive in helping teachers find the time. Schools would have to dedicate 1.36 hours per week (in a 36 week school year) to meet the 49 hour goal. One way that our school is creatively meeting the needs of our teachers is by moving our professional communities online. Using Edmodo, we have given our teachers the ability to use any available time to connect with others and grow.

3. Remove the obstacles. The time that teachers have with others is limited, don’t fill that time with mundane details. Use department and staff meetings to learn and grow together. When you have your staff together use the expertise in the room to help everyone grow. If you are standing in front of your staff giving information that could be sent via email, you are wasting a precious commodity, time together.

4. Make it relevant. Ask teachers what they need to become better. Then ask your teachers what training/expertise they can offer to the staff. Encourage teachers to try new things, become experts, then train others. The extra incentive/pressure of teaching others is a great motivator.

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It is easy to point to the teachers as the main force behind student test scores and achievement. But what effect does the principal play on student achievement within his or her school?  There have been many articles and studies done over the past twenty years that have investigated the relationship between good leadership and student performance.  It is my intention to highlight a few of the findings.

When I was in the classroom, I felt as if my students’ scores were solely my responsibility. I put a lot of pressure on myself to prepare my students. Now, as an administrator, I feel the same pressure for my students to do well on the upcoming state assessments.  In both cases, I was correct. Teachers and school administrators play significant roles in student performance. Walter, Marzano, and McNulty found that principal impact accounts for 25 percent of the student learning.

As school leaders, we must do all that we can to grow professionally so that we take full advantage of the 25 percent impact that we have.

In a recent publication, the CALDER Urban Institute published a study on principal effectiveness.  They condensed their findings into five key points.  I would strongly recommend reading the entire article (it can be found here).

Because I’m passionate about working is high need schools with a high population of at-risk students, I found point five extremely compelling.  It stated that the variation in principal effectiveness is roughly twice as large in high-poverty and low-achieving schools.  This means that my role as a school leader is much more needed and influential at a low performing school.

The Wallace Foundation released a study in January that outlines the role of school principal as leader (it can be found here).  The authors listed the five functions that a good school leader does successfully.

  • Shaping a vision of academic success for all students.
  • Creating a climate hospitable to education.
  • Cultivating leadership in others.
  • Improving instruction.
  • Managing people, data and processes to foster school improvement.

They found that the real payoff comes when individual variables combine the above functions harmoniously throughout the school.  When all these factors combine, the school and students will be successful.