Snapshots: January/February 2016
Building Literacy Capacity
For the past several years, schools and districts across the nation have been diligently ushering in new standards. How has the implementation process fared? The National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) recently conducted an online survey of teachers, with the goal of understanding the commonalities in schools that experienced success in implementing new literacy standards. To summarize their findings, NCLE released Building Literacy Capacity: The Conditions for Effective Standards Implementation.
Overall, nationwide, implementation of new literacy standards, Common Core or otherwise, is going well, agreed 69 percent of the survey’s respondents. Since a previous NCLE survey in 2013, the percentage of teachers who agreed that new standards would improve their classroom practices increased from 65 percent to 78 percent. Only 11 percent reported new standards as having a negative effect on student success. The researchers found the following five commonalities among strong implementation schools.
1. Assessment. A major finding is how successful implementers approached the bevy of new assessments that have come packaged with the standards. Teachers at strong implementation schools felt that curricula and materials were well aligned with the assessments they encountered at year’s end. A primary sign of successful implementation is teacher preparation and classroom practice that sets students up for success with assessments.
2. Instruction. Along the same lines, strong implementation schools were more likely to give teachers proper time to adjust to new standards, work collaboratively with their colleagues, and practice new approaches.
3. Leadership. In strong implementation schools, administrators and teachers worked collaboratively to prepare students for the new standards. Administrators often formed the vision for the implementation, but they were willing to hand off a lot of the day-to-day decision-making to their teachers. This fostered ownership of the process across the entire school.
4. Professional learning. The NCLE survey made one point abundantly clear: There was a strong correlation between the time teachers spent working collaboratively to improve practice and the success of the school’s implementation. But collaboration is not just a series of meetings. Teachers needed to collectively study up-to-date research, plan lessons, and analyze student data and artifacts.
5. Curriculum. A successful implementation of new standards cannot be bought. Although states often purchased new materials and curricula to reflect standards, in successful schools teachers often worked collaboratively to fill the gaps between the new curriculum, their previous ways of work, and the new standards. That process is key in a successful implementation. Without it, there will inevitably be a disproportionate amount of growing pains.
This brief is the first step in NLCE’s work regarding standards implementation. They plan to release more in depth reports based on each of the five commonalities in the coming months.
Be a Champion for Creativity
Exceptional school leaders provide a well-rounded education for their students, which should include the arts and 21st century learning skills. Boost communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity at your school through NAESP and Crayola’s signature Champion Creatively Alive Children grant program.
If you have a great idea for infusing arts in your curriculum, we want to hear it! 20 grant winners will receive $3,500 each. This is the opportunity to lead your school toward a creative renaissance. Applications are due June 20.
Read the most recent Champion Creatively Alive Children special supplement for inspiration on innovative project ideas.
Getting the Best from Teachers
I realized early on as a principal that I did not need to be the sage on the stage every week. As such, much of the teaching during this time is provided by our instructional coaches and classroom teachers. Several years ago I began having teachers who attend conferences come back and share the learning they received at the conference. It gives teachers an opportunity to experience some leadership responsibility as well as provide some accountability to folks that attend these trainings.
—Brenda Creel, principal of Alta Vista Elementary School in Cheyenne, Wyoming At Flandreau
Elementary, we have implemented several strategies to help engage parents and community members to assist us in educating the children of the Flandreau community. As principal, one of my main points to staff members throughout the year is building relationships, not only with students, but with parents and community members as well. It is stressed heavily for teachers to make parent contacts for negative situations, but more importantly for the positive happenings that are going on in the classrooms as well. Teachers are required to document parent contacts on a communication log, which is submitted to me quarterly.
—Brad Olinger, principal of Flandreau Elementary School in Flandreau, South Dakota
Schools in the South provide, on average, approximately 3 weeks more learning time per year than schools in the West.
—Government Accountability office, November 2015
My Two Cents
How do you recharge staff—and yourself—after winter break?
At the end of every faculty meeting I present “Wildcat Paw Pride” awards. I give this to staff members, along with a “WWIS PRIDE” pin, to celebrate going above and beyond. I have been told that it is very fulfilling to know that they are appreciated and celebrated. As leaders, it is our responsibility to create a positive school culture for students AND staff. When you have this, colleagues recharge one another…including the principal!
—Robert Shappell, Burlington, New Jersey
We celebrate accomplishments in PLC team meetings and in faculty meetings no matter how small. When teachers feel successful, they are energized and willing to persevere through the rough times.
—Lynley D. Schroering, Louisville, Kentucky
Providing guest speakers to give inspirational words has helped recharge our staff after our break. We’ve had former state teachers of the year and local motivational speakers inspire teachers and help focus on our mission to help all students succeed.
—Claire D. Thompson, Chapin, South Carolina
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