Monday, April 22, 2013

Impacting Student Achievement

The mission of KASB can be described in simple terms, be a voice for public education, impact student outcomes and serve our members.  Our members are the elected educational leaders in each district in Kansas.  They represent the needs of nearly every child in the state.  With the goal of student success at the top of every school board’s agenda, boards are looking for ways to continually improve.  While school boards look for answers they often hear about the how difficult it is to” impact student learning.”  The leadership services department at KASB can’t think of a statement further from the truth.  Current educational research outlines some of the necessary steps to ensure improvement in student achievement, hiring highly qualified teachers, and providing ongoing professional development are some of the most frequently referenced practices.  But there is an often overlooked practice ignored, one of which is the most powerful means for improving instruction, the use of formative evaluation with high quality feedback (coaching).

As the entire nation has looked to provide a way to help students succeed we often find ourselves inspecting individual trees rather than surveying and monitoring the entire forest.  That has caused us to overlook the obvious model, help teachers improve their craft.  Take the two most famous “Bills” in the state of Kansas, Snyder and Self, they have established cultures that value formative evaluation with feedback.  When you consider the success of the their programs, and reflect on what is heard and seen from the stakeholders around those programs, you often hear phrases like, “we are just trying to get better each day,” or “we have a system that works, we each need to do our part to improve that system.”  Think of the power in the those phrases and the understanding by the players that they have to continually  improve individually to help the system improve collectively.  There is ample data provided related to their performance that allows them to monitor and reflect on the improvement process, as well as define goals and expectations.  We would argue that teachers and leaders have the same types of data available when their systems are engaged in formative evaluation.  The formative evaluation process produces many opportunities for individuals to analyze data as it applies to instruction and performance.  This ultimately results in an opportunity to impact student learning and overall student achievement.  Formative feedback helps teachers and leaders understand their personal obligation to continually improve to help students achieve.

The role of district leaders is to have high quality instruction with low variability within the system.  To accomplish the true goal of improved student achievement, leaders must develop the capacity of teachers and leaders to identify and monitor instructional improvements.  This capacity is developed through the use of the formative evaluation process, which in turn provides data to guide decisions about professional development and district wide programing.  We feel it should be a collaborative effort directed at improving our system.  The public education system will only be as good collectively as we are individually.  Shifting our models of evaluation through the use of coaching and quality feedback to improve leadership and instruction is at the core to combating complacency and the status quo.

If you are ready to take on the challenge,  let us help you and your district with the battle for continuous improvement.

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