If efforts are to be made to address performance gaps at the level of primary, secondary and secondary education, it is essential that improvement efforts focus on the implementation of a range of initiatives. The initiatives should aim at achieving a targeted degree of implementation in a targeted and progressive effort. Periodic assessments of progress towards new standards help determine when the various elements of the plan are in place and functioning reasonably well. Periodic visits to the schools allow inspectors and employees of the central service to estimate the extent of work in each area. For example, if a district has already implemented a curriculum that aligns instruction and instruction materials, the supervisor may find that no additional work is required at this time. On the other hand, if the curriculum has been aligned but no calendar or schedule has been established and implemented for topics and skills, it may appear under the “Next Step Action Plan”.
Options for assessing progress
In addition to the periodic visits by the inspector and the staff of the central service, a number of other options may be considered to assess the achievement of the indicators. For example, in a team approach, an overseer may incorporate part of his staff, directors, or teacher representatives to make judgments about progress or needs. The team approach provides a more thorough perspective for deciding where work is needed and in what order of priority. A different approach, contracting an independent, external consultant, may reveal some needs that have not been identified by the team approach, but this approach must be carefully and thoroughly implemented, delivering results to the leaders of the central agency or other team members working on the ward’s school improvement plan for the year.
Barriers to Success
Teachers and school leaders often struggle to close the performance gap if they don’t really believe it can be achieved. The real challenge for school district leaders who believe their students can perform at a high level is to help others share the same view. Of course, a wide range of evidence now strongly indicates that given the high-quality learning opportunities, poor and minority students can succeed academically, so district leaders should instill this understanding and their vision of success among all stakeholders. If district leaders can overcome this initial barrier to success, they must then remain enthusiastic about change, often over a long period of time. Administrators can remain enthusiastic about their own ongoing commitment to change, but they also need to create structures and policies to support reforms. No significant improvements in student performance will take place until the district is well on track to provide its staff with the necessary training and implement the changes that will follow the adoption of these measures. In addition, school systems have only so much capacity to make real changes in a year. Central bureau leaders will always have to assess how far they can go in a year and which areas should be prioritized.
Use the guideline
An accurate map will easily inform leaders if, for example, training has been given in a particular area and reveal the extent of implementation among district / school staff.
I. Standards and Assessment. The Standards and Assessment section contains five measures: (a) Key indicators for success, (b) Curriculum alignment, (c) Management information system, (d) Benchmark tests and (e) Use of item analysis data. Many districts are working hard to provide staff with educational strategies, only to find that test scores remain low because the curriculum teachers used was not measured by the standardized tests the district had chosen or required by the state education agency. Perhaps the Education Council had also not articulated the main indicators of success, let alone how to assess these indicators. Key indicators of success can be scores on state assessments, but most boards are also likely to be interested in student performance in untested areas such as art, citizenship and health.
Developing a good management information system that reliably informs school and district staff about student progress and provides a basis for planning improvements takes time and the collaboration of both school and district information system staff. If test data coming back from the state or other standardized testing agencies is not broken down to show how different student subgroups are performing, the district agency should do this before the data is distributed to the schools. The data should then be used to provide corrective instructions that address students’ weaknesses.
II. Restructuring for accountability. The accountability restructuring includes four measures: (a) accountability restructuring, (b) site-related budgeting, (c) team planning for improvement, and (d) central service leaders facilitate processes.
Central office leaders have shifted their focus to improving those processes that contribute to higher performance rather than focusing on more traditional roles of control, resource allocation and oversight. Their job today is to help clients and others achieve results. A common strategy is site-based budgeting, but even if a district decides against a truly site-oriented budgeting plan, clients still need discretionary resources to respond to immediate and changing needs.
It goes without saying that schools should be “data-driven”. In many schools, teachers are also deeply involved in the responsibility for improving learning performance. However, many faculties require training to work effectively as a team. Just acknowledging that meetings are held periodically by groups of people does not guarantee that a clear agenda is followed, data is used, decisions are made and broad participation is guaranteed.
In facilitating the restructuring of districts and schools for more accountability, some districts have provided more support than others, including district-wide staff development in teaching strategies, using data to plan improvements, identify best practices and help the system maintain his focus on improving student performance.
III. Use research-based teaching strategies. By restructuring the schools and districts, responsibility for achieving the students is precisely defined, and the standards and assessments must be clear from the outset. But in the end, students need robust and appropriate learning experiences that are more effective than their previous experiences or else there will be no performance improvement. As there is a significant body of evidence supporting the gains attributable to improved classroom management and instructional skills, the use of research-based learning strategies is therefore one of the priority areas of the benchmarking processes.