In Topeka, they have hired a new Superintendent for the main city schools. (USD 501) The challenge she was given was to improve the standards for the schools and work on ways to make our kids perform better on the State's Standardized Schools. The challenge is one that is large and one hairy monster to get everyone to help solve. Having been in those shoes, I have several recommendations to help get that enormous task done.
The first thing is that the system needs to ensure that the resources are provided at the worker level to help develop a plan to get there. Edicts from the top down is just more of the same. The next time they have a teacher work day, the system needs to have the message of improvement delivered to the teachers, and then they need to have time to work together (I would start at the grade levels) on improvements. The teachers need to put together a straw man for improvement and present it to the Principal. I would hire substitute teachers for the half day to present the plan and do two grades each day. Like any plan, they need to be realistic, measurable and easily understood. This School Improvement Plan (SIP) would be something that would be published and the superintendent of the schools to sign off on. The Principal and the Superintendent performance for the year would be based on how they helped make the plans work.
In that, did you notice that I built the plan from the bottom up and the only way for the principal to know what the heck is being done is for him to get into each classroom and see for him/herself. At least once a month, the teachers would have a substitute for half a day to hold grade level meetings. There would not be all done on the same day, but staggered one per week. I think that each district has enough substitute teachers to make that happen. In my school, one Master teacher would work with the teachers to help them enrich the curriculum. That person would go to other schools during the first week of school to steal/share/learn new techniques to improve the school. If we are going to improve the schools, it must start at the bottom after there is a clear discussion of the goals and then resources provided. It should be mandatory for at least one grade to think outside the box to try different things.
It really makes me wonder when the wife and I walk away from a discussion and seem to agree. On at least this issue and one or two more we had a great discussion this morning. There have been a lot of times that we didn't. In fact, there are times that I feel a lot like Grandpa Pickles.
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