While working with principals and coaches to develop their plans for the coming year, I identified that very often items that were listed as school improvement goals were really more of what I would call strategies chosen to obtain a goal. The problem was that the goal was often unstated. I suggested that this a problem because the teachers can be unclear as to why the strategy is being implemented.
When I requested sample goals in my session, one team shared that their goal was to have all teachers on the staff of their elementary school complete professional development around a particular math instructional strategy and to implement that instructional format in their classrooms.
My thinking is that the instructional program selected and the connecting PD are strategies to achieve some change in student achievement. It could be improved math test results overall or to have students become better math problem solvers and critical thinkers. The teachers attending the PD and perhaps working with an instructional coach in their classrooms should have a clear picture of the change in student achievement they are working to gain.
A middle school team shared that one of their goals was for all students to complete at least one substantial project working with technology in each core content class.
Again, I see this as a strategy designed to create some element of student achievement. My questions with the team explored whether the purpose was to increase student mastery of certain technologies or increase content mastery by adding the technology. Or was it to gain increased learning strategies like working independently or increasing curiosity or reflection? Once we are clear on the outcome, we can decide how we would assess whether or not the strategy was effective. If not, at the end of the year we “check off” that all teachers assigned the technology project but we are unclear about the value of the effort.
In some cases I found that goals were stated in student outcomes but the individual students whose performances were critical to the goal being met were not identified.
Example: We will raise the end of course passing rate from 82% to 87%.
My question; “Who are the students who must pass the course in order for this goal to be met?” (Students who might not pass without the team’s focus.) Now that we know who those students are, what student behaviors/actions must we gain from those students for them to be successful? What will teachers do? Coaches and administrators can be providing feedback by observing these students in learning settings. Teachers can continually assess students for indications of progress and modify instruction as needed.
Another problem I noted was with lack of specificity in goals such as having 90% of students score proficient or advanced. Without separating and identifying individual students, a team could meet the goal while students who previously scored advanced dropped to proficient.
See what you find exploring your school and team goals.