Game-Changing Ideas From Award-Winning Principals

Session notes from “Game-Changing Ideas From Award-Winning Principals,” led by Carol Leveillee, Kirsten Jennette, and Laura Schneider.

What was the speaker’s main message?

Schools can improve dramatically with a focus on school culture, the use of data to inform instruction, and reducing absenteeism.

What were the top ideas from the session?

  • Game Changing Idea 1: Mastering Motivation and Maintaining High Expectations. Consider using a house system to build the sense of community and belonging, with monthly house meetings, different mascots, and friendly competition for points between houses. 
  • Game Changing Idea 2: Culture Matters. This includes everything from student led morning announcements, student leadership opportunities such as ambassadors and safety patrol, town meetings, and spirit days. 
  • Game Changing Idea 3: Tackling Chronic Absence. Communicate to families and staff in a variety of ways, through emails, flyers, posters and visuals, etc to reinforce the importance of attending school each day. Include it as a separate section during parent-teacher conferences, have students chart their own attendance each day on a monthly graph. For students needing Tier 2 and 3 supports, develop personalized outreach and individual student attendance plans. 

What are strategies that you will implement immediately?

  • Read and Ride: stationary bikes in a quiet spot where kids can expend gross motor movement and read, either to help them re-regulate or as a reward. Students get themselves back to being ready to learn after 10-15 minutes of riding the bike. 
  • Create attendance graphs! Compare it to previous years, disaggregate by month, grade, and demographics and communicate this information to the whole school community.

What is one strategy that will help you with instructional leadership?

  • Increasing our focus on absenteeism by sending out a statistic or quote in my weekly communication with parents and staff. Keeping it relevant all year long and showing the data as the year progresses. Perhaps hosting a Spirit Week to boost attendance, and develop a form to hold ourselves accountable for attendance and outreach to families for the top 15-20% of students who need additional layers of support. 

What are resources you will check out?

  • RCA House Points app that keeps track of points electronically and parents can receive notifications if their child receives a house point to further celebrate at home
  • Leader in Me
  • Attendance Works

Notes by Jennifer DeRagon, principal of George Hersey Robertson School in Coventry, Connecticut.