Katherine Altman

Henry E. Warren Elementary School
Ashland, Massachusetts

Best Practices

1) Instructional Leader: It is critical for administrators to become instructional leaders so they can improve student learning by improving the quality of instruction provided by teachers.  In order to accomplish this, administrators must coordinate curriculum among grade levels, effectively evaluate instruction, continuously expose and educate staff on evidence-based best practices, and focus on improving student academic outcomes by conducting thorough analyses of student data.

Throughout my five years as assistant principal, I have personified what it means to be an instructional leader.  I led a district-wide literacy initiative intended to set clear goals and ensure that teachers focused on the quality of their instruction. After convening a committee to select a literacy program, I hired a literacy consultant to provide professional development for teachers.  But I did not leave it in the hands of the consultant alone.  I felt it was critical that I also have a thorough understanding of the curriculum, so I could ensure teachers were providing high-quality instruction, guide them in implementing the new evidence-based practices, and support them when questions arose.  I therefore immersed myself in course work to understand the new curriculum.  I then proactively used what I had learned to help teachers achieve their goals.  Each week I sent an educational article or a video of evidence-based teaching practices to the staff to reinforce the new methodologies they were learning and provide them with insight into how their instruction could be improved.  I created presentations, which provided additional professional development for both teachers and teaching assistants.  By educating our teaching assistants, I empowered them to take greater ownership of student learning and embrace the concept that they too could provide high-quality instruction and impact students’ academic success. A large emphasis on the quality of instruction through teacher evaluations became the focus when conducting classroom observations. It was also imperative that grade-level teachers have common planning time to discuss best practices and analyze student data.  I therefore built a school schedule that gave teachers the opportunity to collaborate as a grade, share ideas, and discuss student data.  Finally, I spearheaded the implementation of data team meetings, occurring five times a year, to drive decision-making. In leading these meetings, I facilitated conversations on how to analyze student data, worked with teachers on setting student learning goals, and educated them on a variety of instructional interventions.  The data-analysis cycle has been critical to improving students’ academic achievement.  The initiatives I spearheaded and continue to oversee exemplify what it means to be an instructional leader.

2) Transformational Leader: A transformational leader is a best practice that I have evolved into throughout my administrative career.  When I became an assistant principal, five years ago, I entered into this new role with a clear vision. I knew that I needed to lead with empathy, set direction, support and empower my staff to take on leadership roles in order to improve student performance. To be successful I needed to create a positive school culture, build close trusting relationships at an emotional as well as intellectual level and support and develop teachers into being effective educators at impacting student achievement.

It has always been my vision to transform a school and its community into believing all students can learn and to ensure they do so at high levels.  Because of this vision, the staff spent countless hours learning new methodologies, analyzing data, setting individual student learning goals, and adapting instruction to improve student achievement among all students.  Teachers have embraced the change, even when change can be difficult, and educated themselves on new pedagogy by trusting my recommendations.  Under my direction, many staff members took their new found knowledge and became leaders in driving the new methodologies by creating educational videos that modeled effective approaches to educating students.  Teaching assistants stepped into new roles as educators; learning how to teach in small groups with a variety of curriculum that would impact student achievement and progress them toward achieving their individual learning goals. Reading specialists have gone beyond their traditional role of supporting struggling readers to become consultants for classroom teachers, providing them with tools and interventions to support student achievement.  Staff became eager to create a book study on the latest philosophies for how to teach reading based on the science of reading.  The staff developed a stronger belief that in order for students to be successful we must share responsibility for all students.

In order to transform a school into ensuring all students are successful, teachers must be empowered.  When I started, five years ago, I was asked to lead the district wide literacy initiative.  This entailed changing the way teachers thought about reading, taught reading, and understood the best practices to ensuring all students learned to read.  The initial change began with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of our current program and programs we wanted to consider. This analysis provided the teachers with an opportunity to lend their voice, be heard and know their opinions were valued.  Empowering the staff ensured the initiative was a success.  Five years later, staff embraced the change and successfully implemented the program with fidelity; ensuring that all students are making progress toward their individual reading goals.  It is without a doubt that my clear vision of leading with empathy and supporting staff allowed me to establish, the trusting relationships I created. It also empowered staff to make decisions and become leaders themselves, which transformed the school into an environment where we all have one goal, all students will succeed.