Jack B. Boerman
Gull Lake Middle School
1) ‘Best practice’ is an educational catch-phrase used often in our work environment. The first element of best practice at Gull Lake Community Schools is not only the element of being a data-driven school distinct, but it is our district’s desire to understand the why behind the data. The consistency of inquiry exists from our early elementary schools to our high school and also includes our central administration leadership. Priority is given to understand the why behind every major decision at both the building-level and at the district-level. Being data-driven is embedded in the culture of our district. Our district may look conservative and cautious from the outside, but the installation of being a data-driven district before decisions are made has made us one of the strongest school districts in southwest Michigan and our district’s reputation is something I am proud of. Family surveys and input help drive district decisions and assists us in areas to focus our energy that will improve the overall school experience for our families. Family input and feedback helps the district decide what we can do to enhance the culture of all students in our school system.
State and local assessments assists our building leadership and where we need to focus our support and make adjustments with our master schedule. Student and parent input help us make decisions to enhance the culture for students and how they spend their day at Gull Lake Middle School. Being a data-driven school district is a best practice that I don’t take sole ownership of, but I am part of a leadership team that makes decisions based on data and understanding the why behind the data’s results is how we conduct business at Gull Lake Community Schools.
2) Best practices have to fit the dynamics of the district in order for these best practices to be successful and become embedded in the way we run our school district. The second example of best practice that easily comes to mind is the element of strong leadership. The educational leaders in our district have set high expectations for ourselves and we hold each other accountable. Strong leaders put themselves out there to the staff they lead and become the example of a continuous learner. Our district’s administrative team annually takes part in educational book studies. Each month we hold administrative meetings with our central office administration. One hour prior to our monthly district meetings. our principal leadership team have agreed to meet and hold our own book study meetings. Our principal leadership members understand the importance of being continuous learners and have taken these practices to the building level.
In addition to our distinct book study meetings, our middle school holds their own voluntary book study group that read and discuss books that pertain directly to current trends that address or impact middle school student needs. The latest book our middle book study started to read was A Repair Kit For Grading – 15 Fixes for Broken Grades (O’Connor 2011). Our building analyzed our trimester grade distribution as a building. by grade. and by department. We want to understand the reasons behind or trimester grade results and what our staff can do to improve on how they determine grades within their own classrooms.
We began the practice of reading this book in late-winter of 2020 prior to the COVID-19 shutdown of schools. We have suspended the organization of our book study until the 2021-2022 school year so our staff can focus on teaching and supporting students during a pandemic. We will be ready to reestablish our book club meetings in the fall of 2021.