In a recent post, I discussed the importance of sticking with an innovation for at least three years so that the benefits of the change will be noticeable and ongoing. Continuous communication is required to create this kind of persistence. It’s also important to recognize that change that lasts is built on a deep understanding of our current reality.
Too often, schools completely alter their course rather than making minor corrections that can result in major improvement. Imagine a train leaving town and taking a branch off of the original track. Initially, there are only a few feet between the old track and the new – but the further and further the train is from the branch in the tracks, the more those tracks diverge. This image demonstrates how even small pedagogical changes, if they are maintained, can result in significant improvement.
Rather than making drastic course corrections, appropriate adjustments are suggested through careful data analysis. We can look at standardized test scores from a variety of perspectives. What does it tell us about advanced students? About those who are below proficient? What can we learn about traditionally underserved populations? To get a more complete picture, we should take a look at all kinds of data, not just standardized test scores. Samples of student work provide insight. Observations verify, clarify, or refute data from other sources and give us new questions to ask. Surveying people who care can give us data about specific practices. Deep data dives help schools understand and develop their own capacity.
When my district was preparing to upgrade our literacy curriculum, we noted the progress students were making in schools that had guided reading groups. Knowing that some schools didn’t have access to books appropriate for guided reading, we put this on our wish list for things to change. Knowing what was working at some schools helped to guide our vision for change.
In education, we are always looking to improve. We want to do better for all our students. Finding a balance between new ideas that may be successful in the future and expansion of practices that have been successful in the past supports improvement and creates sustainability. When decisions about change are guided by many kinds of data, we are able to identify both areas where change is needed and things that are working that should have ongoing support. Small course changes based on our understanding of our current reality can lead us to the future we’ve envisioned.
This week, you might want to take a look at:
Classroom arrangements and the social brain:
Thought-provoking ideas about what reading is and how we can help students grasp that idea:
Ways to support the development of executive functions:
ABC’s of Effective Coaching:
Protocols for student-led discussions:
That’s it for this week. Happy Coaching!
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