School improvement. School transformation. School reform. Call me old fashioned, but I believe in the antiquated notion that if you ground your teachers in a collaborative culture with leadership that is focused on the specific needs of a school- teaching improves. When teaching improves, student learning improves. That’s it.
I’ve had the good fortune of committing myself to two different schools, under two different principals where this “theory” has proved successful. In all candor, there have been instances where the qualitative data has outweighed the quantitative data of success. And, so it was with great anticipation that I waited to hear my school’s grade. Legacy Labels now a distant memory, our letter grade would be the only thing that mattered.
Through the roller coaster of adjustments to the grades, the final grade was released, an “A.” As word spread of our grade, I thought that perhaps confetti might fall from the sky, or fireworks might spontaneously explode. Neither occurred. Truth be told, when my principal announced our grade to the staff, I had goosebumps, and my eyes welled up with tears. In that moment, I thought about the extraordinary teams and their committment to improving student learning, but beyond our site it seems as though the excitement around our grade dissipated quickly. It was almost the exact same scenario when our English Language Learner reclassification rates were announced. The highest in the district. End of story.
As we began the 2012-2013 school year the only thing that has changed is an increase in mandates. Strange. In fact, speaking to my colleagues in schools that are B’s, C’s, and D’s, what my site is experiencing is what their site is experiencing. This reality causes me to ponder…could it be that extrinsic measures of school success really don’t matter? Is it really about fidelity to directives, consultants, programs, checklists, and compliance measures that determine success?
Therein lies the problem. My school believes in fidelity to teachers’ and student learning. The audacity.