How Do Schools Get Better? (Part 3)

jarmoluk / Pixabay
jarmoluk / Pixabay

**Doing the right thing…knowing the right thing to do. This is a question that we ask ourselves everyday as school leaders. Richard Elmore, professor of Educational Leadership at Harvard University, published a paper with this title through the NGA Center for Best Practices (can be found here). He offers suggestions and practical advice on how schools can get better. After reading Elmore’s article graduate students in the Dordt College School Leadership program blogged similar advice, written specifically for Christian school leaders. Our second guest blogger is Mark Huberts, Athletic Director/PE & Shop Teacher at Unity Christian School in Chilliwack, BC .**

Improving our education system is a very important question with a very complex answer.  The goal of education is student learning and from our readings and current research we understand that many schools are doing a poor job of completing this task. Many schools are failing to recognize the connection between student performance and teacher accountability in my opinion.   Richard Elmore in his essay ” Doing the right thing, Knowing the right thing to do”, explains that our current accountability system in education is fundamentally flawed.  He explains that we have failed to “bring capacity-measures into alignment with performance measures” and teachers today are not meeting the educational expectations due to the fact that they lack the knowledge to bring about improvement.  We can no longer expect things to improve in our school systems without recognizing the problems and developing a clear vision and path for improvement.  Teachers can not solve the problem without being equipped with the resources and knowledge needed to solve the problems.  This needs to be the first step in making our schools better.  Teachers can only teach what they know how to teach.  As an administrator I better make sure my staff members are able to teach what is required of them to teach.

When we realize that we need to align capacity and performance we can then start looking at how we can make our school better.  I love the analogy Elmore (2004) uses of the extreme mountain climbing team.  They do not head straight up the mountain in one continuous assent.  They carefully plan the route and are constantly re-evaluating the progress of the group in the journey.  This needs to be evident in the school as the staff work together to make the school better.  The process is not going to be quick and easy but will be more effective if everyone is working together on the same goals.

Accountability is key in order for schools to get better and to bring about improvement.  This accountability needs to be clearly understood and clearly facilitated by the administration of the school.  If teachers are not being held accountable for what they are teaching how can we hold our students accountable for what they are learning?  We need to make sure teachers are being supported by our administration with consistent observations, continuous feedback, and clear goals and expectations.  This role is often over-looked by administrators due to a lack of time and or effort.  I feel this needs to be made a higher priority in schools today.  We need to invest in our teachers and make it a priority to encourage continued growth and development.  This can and should be seen in a restructure of current professional development opportunities and a continued emphasis on personal growth.

In 1 Peter 4:10 it states, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”.  I believe that in order for schools to become better we need to be searching out God’s will in our school.  We need to be in tune with what God wants to show us and make sure we are encouraging our staff members to continually use their God-given talents and gifts to serve him.  If we are all using our gifts our schools will become a better place of learning, and students will be encouraged to do the same.

In conclusion, the only way for schools to improve and become better is to bridge the gap between capacity and practice.  We have to hold each other accountable for student learning and performance and be willing to put in the time and effort to see improvement.

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