December Imperatives for Academic Leaders – Preparing for the Calibrating Period

From the start of school through December, the focus for academic leaders has been the development of proficient learners. Ed Directions coaches emphasize that during the Formative Period, student potential can be increased dramatically if they are taught how to learn and not just what to learn. Academic leaders were expected to build efficient management and academic systems, use data to monitor systems/teachers/students, and oversee the development of appropriate climates and cultures. Their job was to enable and support the development of teacher/learner teams that could make all students proficient learners.In January, the focus changes to emphasize building proficient performers (i.e., students who are proficient test takers and users of learning in real-world situations). Students will continue to learn but their work as learner, as test-taker, and as user of learning will escalate in duration, rigor, and complex thinking. Preparing proficient performers requires a significant amount of prior planning and preparation by academic leaders to make sure that the calibration takes place in every classroom. For the academic leader, December can be a time when the focus is on maintaining order and preparing an exit plan for the winter break, or it can be a time of extensive data collection, data analysis, and strategic planning. Ed Directions coaches emphasize that using a plan developed in July to decide what teachers and students will do in January is very similar to driving down the highway using only your rearview mirror. School has changed, classrooms have changed, and most importantly, the students have changed. Ed Directions coaches emphasize when working with a school that academic leaders need to review multiple data collections, reestablish priorities, and develop and market a new plan that reflects current priorities. Ed Directions coaches utilize a number of “best practices” for academic leaders who want to be intentional and their preparation for the Calibrating Period.

1.     Assess the current plan – The school’s SIP needs to be tested for signs of life. It has been in place for half the year and academic leaders need to know:

o   Are all stakeholders aware of the plan? Was a plan marketed and turned into tactical plans by all staff?

o   Was the plan enabled? Were management and academic systems improved? Were teachers and students given the training and materials needed for classroom success? Were adequate technologies and data management systems in place?

o   What is the plan implemented by all staff? Was implementation monitored? Was there proactive intervention if the plan was not being implemented effectively?

o   Did the plan have the desired impact on students? Are all of the students successful learners? If they’re not successful, were support plans in place that addressed their priority needs?

2.     Assess the school climate and culture – Data indicates that for students to reach their potential, they need to perceive school as safe, welcoming, and student-focused. Is the climate/culture of the school seen by all stakeholders as positive and student           friendly? Are all classrooms safe, welcoming, and learner-focused? Ed Directions coaches use a collection tool like the one below to do quick observations of classroom climate and culture.

 

Teacher:                      Period:                         Class:                               Time:

Culture

Climate

Student Engagement

o   Academic rituals

o   Academic visuals

o   Flexible organization

o   Proficiency displays

 

 

 

 

o   Welcoming

o   Positive rapport

o   Checks for understanding

o   Multiple opportunities to attend

o   Optimum learning environment

o   Proactive to assist for inappropriate behavior

o   Supportive exiting

o   All highly engaged

o   All highly engaged or engaged

o   All engaged

o   Most engaged but some off task

o   All off task but some disruptive

o   All disruptive

o   Dangerous misbehavior

 

Beginning in January, school and classroom cultures and climates become even more critical than they were during the Formative Period. If the climate and culture are restrictive or even toxic, many if not most students will fail to reach their potential as either learner or performer. If academic leaders leave students in a classroom that has a climate or culture that prevents them from reaching their potential, then the academic leader must accept some responsibility for the failure of those students to maximize their growth as learners and performers. Culture and climate need to be evaluated closely in December and changes need to be made before school starts again in January.

3.     Assess the current performance status of our students – Hopefully all students have grown as learners and performers from the opening of school to the end of the Formative Period. One indicator Ed Directions coaches check in December is attendance.  

Attendance begins to have a negative impact on student performance after five absences and has a significant impact after 10. At the beginning of school, we identified students as “at risk” if they had missed more than five days the year before. How many of those students continue to miss school? In December, Ed Directions coaches use the chart below to identify students who need attendance intervention before school starts in January.

Teacher:                           Class:                       Attendance at risk identified in class

Student

Days missed last year

Days missed so far this year

Next steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While attendance is important during the Formative Period, it is critical during the Calibrating Period. Beginning in January, attendance must be a top priority. Ed Directions coaches emphasize that staff attendance needs to approach 100% and student attendance needs to exceed 95%. If teacher or student attendance falls below that criteria, the loss of learning and performing momentum will cause many students to fail to reach their potential. Attendance plans need to be reviewed and revised if formative performance did not indicate strong commitment to attend school. 

4.     Assess student behavior in classrooms and common areas – Student behavior is an important factor for planning the Calibrating Period. The goal for the Formative Period was to develop an optimum learning environment. Optimum learning behaviors are a part of that learning environment and negative behaviors not only break the continuity of the lesson but also undermined the culture and climate of the classroom.

Serious disturbances can impact individual students by causing a “fight or flight” reaction in students not involved directly in the disturbance and make learning for the students impossible until emotions return to normal.Ed Directions coaches facilitate PLC discussions using artifact analysis and classroom observation collections to determine the status of the school/classroom behavioral environment. In December, the focus is on evaluating the success of the school plan for behavior on producing optimum behaviors in the classroom and identifying students who continue to disrupt classrooms and determine the causes and impact of disruptions. Ed Directions coaches use several tools in these discussions. One tool focusing on the current status of students who were determined, at the beginning of the year, to be “at risk” because of behavior issues is included below. In our blogs we try to include a variety of tools – some for academic leaders and teachers to complete that would be used by academic leaders to facilitate PLC discussions about what students need. The next sets in this blog follow the latter category. 

Teacher:                             Class:                                     Behavior at risk in class

Student

Referrals last year

Referrals this year

Impact on student growth

Impact on class progress

 

 

 

o   No effect on learning

o   Reduced learning

o   Serious reduction in learning

o   No impact on performance

o   Reduction in performance

o   Serious reduction performance

o   No impact on class continuity

o   Some disruption of continuity

o   Serious disruption of continuity

5.     Assess the status of learning – By mid-November, Ed Directions coaches would expect almost all students to have made progress towards mastering proficient learning work. Students who are not learning need to be identified before the end of the first semester and provided with support systems that include “Band-Aid” strategies for improving learning work and/or for specific learner skills. Ed Directions coaches use multiple tools to develop interim learner profiles on all students to identify students who need support before they can become independent, proficient learners. Two of the tools are included below. The first is a classroom summary that is used for each class.

Teacher:                                    Class:                                                     Period:

Student

Learner Supports

Attending work

Acquiring work

Organizing work

o   Knowledge

o   Attitude

o   Perceptions

o   Thinking

o   Equivalent experience

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Knowledge

o   Attitude

o   Perceptions

o   Thinking

o   Equivalent experience

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Knowledge

o   Attitude

o   Perceptions

o   Thinking

o   Equivalent experience

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Knowledge

o   Attitude

o   Perceptions

o   Thinking

o   Equivalent experience

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Knowledge

o   Attitude

o   Perceptions

o   Thinking

o   Equivalent experience

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Knowledge

o   Attitude

o   Perceptions

o   Thinking

o   Equivalent experience

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

o   Exemplary

o   Adequate

o   Nearly adequate

o   Seriously inadequate

The second tool is used to evaluate student learner work samples. In December, PLC discussions can use this “artifact” analysis in conjunction with the student paper and relate to missed questions to the related student learner work.

Teacher:                             Class:                            Period:                 Unit:

Critical learnings:

Student

Student product

Product quality

Student engagement

Weakness in student work

o   Complete

o   Mostly complete

o   Elements missing

o   Inadequate

o   Equivalent experience

o   Excellent test prep

o   Adequate test prep

o   Inadequate test prep

o   Unrelated to test

o   Exemplary effort and engagement

o   Adequate effort and engagement

o   Inadequate effort and engagement

o   Seriously inadequate effort

o   Attending

o   Acquiring

o   Organizing

Both of these tools relate to three levels of student work – attending work, acquiring work, and organizing work – because these three levels are absolutely critical for a successful transition to the calibrating Period. Meaningful work and equivalent (to the rigor of the test) should also have been developed but will be the focus of student work as we calibrate their work to the test and to real-world applications.

There are other areas of concern for academic leaders during December. Ed Directions coaches have a number of other tools that they use but it is critical that academic leaders assess the status of their SIP, the status of the school/classroom climate and culture, and the current status of their students as learners and performers. If the current SIP has not been implemented successfully or if it has not had the desired impact on the growth of all students that was intended when the SIP the was developed, then academic leaders need to lead a review and revision of the SIP early in December so that supports can be designed and marketed to students before they leave for winter break. Failure to do this means that much of January will be accidental in terms of student development and much of the first stage of calibration will be accidental instead of targeted to student priority needs. This will have a negative impact on student growth during the Calibrating Period and either delay the transition to the Testing Period or make successful transition into testing impossible. Inadequate data analysis and planning in December can exacerbate performance gaps and cause even successful students to perform below their potential.

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