Principals’ 4Ps for School Improvement
Every school year means millions of things to do, but where to start?
TAKE AIM FOR RESULTS
A principal’s impact is greatest when there is alignment between one’s strengths and the school’s needs. The principal is one of the few people who cannot afford to be unaware of the future. To plan the future you need to determine the results you are aiming for. Yes, we are all incredibly busy, but if we are too caught up in the whirlwind, we won’t know what comes next. If we don’t know what comes next nor what the plan is, then we won’t be able to prepare others or communicate effectively. How is that leading? The solution is to enter the year with a collaboratively built school improvement plan based on the school’s needs and mission.
Know your PEOPLE
First, take a look at your PEOPLE because you can’t improve a school on your own. Your relationships with staff need to be nurtured and built on trust to foster their learning as professionals. Fear, threats, and intimidation from you or your leadership team bleed similar behavior into the classroom and produce environments toxic to learning. PEOPLE questions…
- Who are your people? Who are you directly responsible for evaluating?
- What type of personality and demeanor do they exhibit? What are their strengths? How long have your people been with the school? What have they achieved?
- How frequently do you communicate with your people one on one? How often do you meet with them as a team?
Review the PAST
Next, review the school’s PAST results looking for patterns and trends. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Try to pickup where last year left off both in terms of success and addressing weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to include your PEOPLE in this process. PAST questions to ask…
- What are our accreditation/inspection/authorization reports highlighting as strengths and areas for improvement? Why?
- What does our student assessment data show us about academic achievement or lack there of? Why?
- What have are our Teacher, Student, and Parent surveys indicating as priorities? Why?
- What did the previous school improvement plan focus on? Accomplish? Where did it fail? How many goals were listed? How many goals would have been more reasonable?
Build a Collaboarative PLAN
Third, present a summary of your findings of the PAST data to set some goals, then have your PEOPLE share suggestions for actions within these goals. The determining factor about what to include in the PLAN is whether or not the goals meet these criteria (below). Do the goals…
- address multiple areas of concern?
- address needs expressed multiple stakeholders in surveys (board, staff, students, and parents)?
- allow for the involvement of all stakeholders?
- attempt to build on current strengths and previous successes?
- Lastly, are the goals in light of the school’s mission?
Before moving forward, ensure that you have the school board’s approval to move forward. Have you determined the budget for this work and had it approved?
Make and Communicate PROGRESS
Now that a PLAN with goals and actions has been created collaboratively, it will need to be executed. Make PROGRESS by breaking the actions up into smaller pieces to allow yourself and your PEOPLE time to work on them piece by piece, step by step. Goals can be intimidating, but achievable if they are worked on weekly with consistency. You, dear Principal, are the one who needs to hold your PEOPLE to deadlines. This requires giving feedback (both positive and negative) in a polite manner. Help PEOPLE make their deadlines by offering support and removing potential obstacles to their success. Discuss and communicate about PROGRESS weekly to ensure that you keep your focus on school improvement. Document your PROGRESS and communicate it with all stakeholders to celebrate your efforts. Try to include students, teachers, or parents in creating videos, newsletters, ppt presentations, for the community on a quarterly or trimester basis. Communicating your PROGRESS will help you
- gain momentum,
- communicate success, hope, and change,
- prepare documentation ahead of future visits from accreditation or ministry teams,
- involve the entire community in school improvement,
- and demonstrate your ability to the School Board to get results.
School improvement is successful when it is built and executed together with all stakeholders.