The Academic Leadership Year – Part 4

When working with underperforming schools, Ed Directions’ coaches always emphasize that a school cannot improve scores by setting out to improve scores. In our approach to school improvement, we emphasize that to improve scores, you must improve individual students as learners and performers.

This is not an attempt to de-emphasize the importance of state test scores. The test scores are used by states to “measure” the school success in preparing students to perform proficiently at the level of state assessments. They are the vehicle that the state uses to hold schools “accountable” and so they are an important data point. They are not, however, a “decision point” for strategic or tactical planning or for designing support systems. Building intentional school improvement plans requires the focus to be on building more proficient learners and performers. This requires more information than we can derive from test scores or even a “red flag” analysis of those scores.

To develop plans for school improvement that are both strategic and student focused, school leadership must extend its data search. Intentional plans require that academic leaders not only know the scores but establish what the scores mean. In Ed Directions’ workshops, we refer to this process as pre-planning, and it includes three types of analysis – quantifying, identifying, and analyzing. The Ed Directions coaches encourage school leadership to complete this during the July Period so that pre-planning and prioritizing can take place early enough to allow the development of true strategic and tactical plans and the marketing of those plans to all staff.

·      The quantifying step involves examining the real numbers behind the state labels and percentage statements. Whether a school is successful or unsuccessful according to its state accountability score, the stated goal for states is 100% proficient and the school improvement goals represent the expected year’s progress towards that goal. Therefore, it is important that schools quantify the extent of student, and therefore, school, under performance as a preliminary step to identifying performance concerns and priorities.

Tested Area

Goal

The number of proficient students needed to reach the school goal.

The actual number of students performing at the proficient level.

The difference between the number required and the actual number performing proficiently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·      The second step quantifies the distribution of students performing at different levels on the state test (e.g., exemplary, proficient, approaching proficiency, novice, etc.) and this varies from state to state. In some states, these are named, while in others, students are given a numeric grade. In Ed Directions workshops, our coaches group students as “exemplary” (significantly exceeding the cut score), “proficient” (safely above the cut score), “bubble +” (only one or two questions above the cut score), “bubble -” (one or two questions below the cut score), and “at risk” (significantly below the cut score). This type of analysis enables school leaders to establish how the school score was actually earned and the level of confidence that the school score was a true representation.

Academic Year:

Tested area

Number needed to reach school goal

Exemplary

Proficient

Bubble +

Bubble –

At risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the actual number of successful students are all exemplary or proficient, the school’s score can be considered confident. If there are large number of bubble + students, the level of confidence in the score can be questionable. If there are large number of bubble – students, they represent a missed opportunity for the school. This activity can yield a number of “red flag” cells that need further investigation.

 

·      In most cases the Ed Directions coaches extend this analysis to tested grade levels.

Grade Level:                       Total Number of Students Tested:         

Tested area

Number needed for school goal

Exemplary

Proficient

Bubble +

Bubble –

At risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The expectation is that proficiency will increase from entry grade level to exit grade level. Again, the chart can be analyzed to identify “red flag” areas that need investigation.

 

·      The analysis can also be extended to analyze distribution by teacher.

Teacher:                                   Grade Level(s):                Tested Subjects:

Tested area or grade

Number in class

Number needed for school goal

Exemplary

Proficient

Bubble +

Bubble –

At risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ed Directions coaches do not encourage the use of this chart for evaluation purposes. Rather, they use it to identify areas for further study and to begin individual and PLC discussions about school priorities and next steps.

 

·      Since schools are required to address performance gaps between and among accountability groups identified by the state, this this type data set can be extended to begin the analysis of accountability groups (e.g., special education, ESL, racial/ethnic, poverty).

Accountability Group:         

Tested area

Number in group

Number of proficient needed for school goal

Exemplary

Proficient

Bubble +

Bubble –

At risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·      This type analysis can be extended to accountability groups by grade level.

Tested Area:                                  Grade Level:

Group

Number in group

Number of proficient needed for school goal

Exemplary

Proficient

Bubble +

Bubble –

At risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·      It can also be extended it can also be extended to teachers who have accountability students in class

Teacher:                             Grade Level(s):                  Tested Subjects:

Tested area

Number of accountability students

Number needed for school goal

Exemplary

Proficient

Bubble +

Bubble –

At risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·      In some states, non-academic factors can be figured into school scores. This type of analysis can be extended to quantify the issue in students who exhibit “at risk” characteristics (e.g., attendance issues, serious behavior problems, poverty, etc.) as identified by the state. To begin an assessment of the impact of the characteristic on performance, the Ed Directions coaches use the chart below.

At Risk Group:

Test

Total in school

Proficient

Bubble +

Bubble –

At risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·      This chart can also be used for grade level analysis.

At Risk Group:                                                    Grade Level:

Test

Total in grade

Proficient

Bubble +

Bubble –

At risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point, school leadership could take a highlighter and highlight areas of significant concern. The highlighted areas could then be prioritized and provide a scaffold for the school improvement plan. This will enable the school to establish tentative goals for the academic and nonacademic accountability factors, quantify the goals by establishing the number of exemplary and proficient students, and define this year’s tasks numerically. This process of summarizing the quantifying/preplanning phase of school improvement planning produces a summative look at the task ahead.

School Goals for Academic Areas

Last year’s school score goal:

 

Last year’s score:

 

This year’s school goal:

 

Tested area

Goal

Number to be tested

Number of proficient needed for goal

Number expected to be proficient to be proficient based on last year’s scores

Difference = goal – expected

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        

 

The same process can be used for nonacademic areas. 

School Goals for Non-Academic Areas

Non-academic indicator

Number of students at risk last year

Number successful last year

Number identified for this year

Number of proficient needed to reach this year’s goal

Priority

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The quantifying process enables school leadership to begin identifying the scope of their strategic plan, but they still need to know more before they can finalize that plan.  Ed Directions emphasizes that planning with abstract numbers tends to be accidental in terms of the real students represented by those numbers.

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