Often when meeting with principals and coaches I am presented their school improvement goals as a starting point for developing a coaching plan for the school. This is a great place to begin as it starts with student achievement at the center.
Pulling out the goals, I often read something like this.
87% of students will score proficient or advanced on the state standardized test.
My first question is often, “What were last year’s results?” I might get a response of 82%. My next question is, “How many students in 4th grade scored proficient and how many advanced?” Too often someone has to look those numbers up which tells me “being proficient” has been the goal. I might be told that 70% were proficient and 12% advanced. I’ll then ask, ”How would you feel if those students as 5th graders had 80% score proficient and 10% advanced?” With that question, folks realize that they could reach their goal (87%) with a result that was not what they wanted (a drop in advanced).
A strategy that some teachers may use is to now engage the students in the goal setting, planning and, most importantly, the work of making the goal a reality.
Imagine that a teacher has decided that several capable students, who are underperforming in her course, need to be challenged and encouraged more directly. She asks her principal to stop by and observe for short periods whenever possible during the next few weeks. Each time recording whatever the selected students are doing and any interaction the teacher has with them. This data provides the teacher important feedback to check her awareness of what is happening and how she is responding.
This kind of planning, identifying the necessary teacher and student behaviors, can turn school improvement plans into results that get celebrated. If the change in behaviors is not observable, it is unlikely the goal will be met. The coaching feedback provides encouragement that changes are underway or signals that additional support for the teacher or students is required.