Monday, February 25, 2008

My Report Card

Despite how focused I think I am and how much I preach focus in leadership, I find myself scattered as I try to juggle multiple initiatives. All of these initiatives are in addition to my standard work with other schools, presenting at conferences or hosting visitors. I launched these initiatives in order to meet needs of the school as I perceived them. I thought a report card on my self might be a helpful exercise. I need to figure out whether there's a pattern to those initiatives that fizzle out and those that get traction.

Faculty Evaluation – a year ago I attended the National Association of Independent Schools conference and ran across a form of faculty evaluation that focused on teachers setting their own professional goals. I adapted many of the forms and the approaches as I understood them.

  • Grade: C Despite having run meetings to focus on these goals, not a single person mentions these goals unless I bring them up. It doesn't seem to be meaningful to the staff.

Instructional Meetings
– I was tired of making up stuff to deliver some staff development. Like the faculty evaluation, there wasn't much demand from staff for anything in particular so I kept preparing topical sessions that were not part of a coherent plan as I would like. However, I was working to meet with smaller groups all the time. So, I proposed using this time to meet in groups.

  • Grade: C I thought more people would want to meet in small groups to work on projects they were already a part of . There's little to no response to joining various groups. So far, the meetings have fallen into two groups each time and they don't seem to be very effective. I give this initiative a B however with respect to how much I have to work on it in contrast to past PD.

Restorative Justice – instituted to stem the expulsion of students for breaking non-negotiables while also providing a community building ritual.

  • Grade: B+ Part of the culture, students expect to get restorative justice and we have a stable group of staff and students who can facilitate. Follow through is excellent. More trainings and reflection would move this to an A.

Fairness – in the spirit of restorative justice, I wanted to create a group that would deal with lower level behavior issues.

  • Grade: D Exists in concept only. I haven't figured out how to make it work and there's no demand for it.

Night Patrol– I proposed doing random night patrols to look into how well students were sleeping and hopefully act as a deterrent to late night misbehavior.

  • Grade: B+ Committed volunteers work on this. No complaints from students and some of them have reported their belief that it has been a deterrent. I feel really good about this initiative. Unfortunately we are short one or two volunteers to successfully fill all the slots.

Leadership Team Meetings – part of my earlier school critique was the lack of agenda and focus during leadership team meetings. I gathered all the items that people suggested we talk about and organized an agenda based approach to holding the meetings.

  • Grade: B+ ...maybe an A. Since proposed, we have never failed to have an agenda and minutes for the leadership team meetings. A digest of the minutes is provided to the staff and we have received great feedback on our greater transparency.

Power Standards – Some time ago I proposed we revise our curriculum guide to focus on fewer standards. Little to nothing was done on this work until there was a recent resurgence in interest. It may now be the focus of an all day instructional meeting.

  • Grade: C or B The resurgence of interest is welcome. However, staff seem real confused about how to proceed. I feel like there's a lot of work to do to make sense of this initiative for the staff.

Friday, February 01, 2008

How often are any of us guilty of this?

“One issue is denial within the school about what’s going on—or at least a lot of rationalization. Especially in a school where there have been consistent patterns of failure for certain kinds of kids, it’s often the case that people locate the source of that failure in the kids themselves, or in their culture, their community, or their parents. All of this means the school is unwilling to take responsibility for what it can do to address the needs of those kids. Getting people to the point where they’re willing to take some responsibility is an important step.

That’s where the research can play a role in challenging people’s assumptions and getting them to see how they can think differently about why kids succeed or don’t succeed. Some teachers are very willing to accept credit for success—the kids who go to good colleges—but they’re not so willing to take responsibility for the kids who don’t succeed.”

Pedro Noguera