Guest post by Jenny Roberson, Principal at Judy K. Miller Elementary in Mansfield ISD.
I think I’m of that age….as I enter my 40th year in public education…the age of accountability. All of my years have been at the elementary level. In Texas, our state accountability has certainly evolved over the years. We moved from banners placed outside our school indicating our rating of exemplary, recognized, etc. Now our rating is based on the A-F rating and is posted on every possible social media site. Everyone in the world now has access to very specific data from every school. This transparency can lead to a lot of emotions including a sense of competition between colleagues, pride and just simply put a sense of vulnerability. As principals, we address this accountability system in different ways and with different styles.
The approach that I have adopted is “data-driven”. Although looking at data isn’t my favorite part of the job, I think it is one of the most crucial. Our measurement tools aren’t “rocket science” but include the typical district required curriculum assessments, reading levels, math assessments, etc. My assistant principal and I regularly meet to look at data with our teachers. We address specific standards and study trends. We always to listen to teachers and sometimes hear the traditional, “That question wasn’t worded correctly or was tricky”, “That child can do better…he/she got mixed up on ————.” We always redirect and say we need to look at the facts. We look at the standards that were not mastered. We “plan the work” and “work the plan”. We group students based on their specific needs/deficits, the groups are very fluid and specific content areas are addressed.
If you haven’t read any of Paul Bambrick Santoya’s books – I recommend them. Leverage Leadership is a great introductory book to jump start ideas. He emphasizes how the “right actions” can lead to exceptional results.
Whether you are starting your leadership role or winding up a long career, I encourage each of you to build the habit of looking at data, have high expectations and build a school culture that is all about being the best for your students. The ratings are sort of like that famous saying in the movie, “Field of Dreams”: “If you build it – they will come”. Set your goals and work towards a growth mindset of improvement. Your school rating will come!