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How to Build Your Dream School: An Article for School Administrators and Aspiring Leaders
Dear educator, before you read any further, we’re going to ask you to stop for a moment and think about the perfect school. This could be the school you had in mind when you decided to go into administration. This could be the school you’ve heard about but have never seen in action. This could be the dream school you are building right now.
Take a Moment and Dream Big
At this school, what are the students saying and doing? What are the teachers saying and doing? What are you saying and doing?
We bet it probably looked and sounded something like this…
If we popped into a classroom, we’d hear students explaining what they were learning, why they are learning it, and what ultimate success looks like. We’d see students working in groups and helping their classmates understand the work. We’d read individual reflections about how they learn and what they do when they struggle.
If we dropped into a different classroom, we’d hear the teacher clearly articulating the skill that the students would be learning that day, what mastery looks like, and when students can expect it to occur. We’d see the teacher offering feedback to students, modeling how to support each other in groups and how to take academic risks.
If we spoke with students, they’d be able to tell us how they will use their learning in the future. We’d see kids who love learning and are achieving higher and higher year by year.
If we spoke with teachers, they’d be able to tell us the school-wide initiative to increase achievement and their specific role in that.
If we attended a meeting, we’d see educators working with their colleagues to clarify their understanding of the initiative and we’d hear them ask the principal for help and support. We’d see teachers who own their role as the professional decision-maker whose job is to ensure student success.
And what are you doing in this perfect school?
If we visited the front office, we’d meet a principal who sees the teachers as individual learners.
If we asked, we’d hear the principal explaining the long-term goal for increasing student achievement, the current initiative to support this goal, and the criteria of successful implementation.
If we looked at the professional development calendar, we’d see the plan of support for the teachers, including learning opportunities and monitoring.
If we sat in a classroom observation debrief, we’d hear the principal asking the teacher a series of questions to fully understand their decision-making. We’d see a principal that supports and respects the decision-making abilities of their teachers.
In this dream school, we’d be seeing and hearing an example of support for all stakeholders. We’d be seeing and hearing the actions of instructional leadership.
Make Your Dream a Reality
Now, back to reality. How close is your current school to your dream school? Is your dream a pipe dream? And in this time of uncertainty, do you even believe you can build your dream school?
We do because we know that you are the key to whatever school you want to have.
Now, we aren’t saying this is something you can do overnight, but the research bears out that you have the power to turn your school into your dream school. According to Edutopia’s “Teacher Development Research Review,”
“Leadership is second only to teaching among school-related factors that can improve student achievement, and it tends to show the greatest impact in traditionally underserved schools” (Vega, 2013).
Of all the skills a principal needs to succeed, the most vital, in terms of increasing academic achievement, is that of instructional leadership. And the skill of instructional leadership is made up of actions that can be seen and heard. We believe that the actions of instructional leadership can be developed.
That’s why we wrote our book, Developing Instructional Leadership, for you. It is your blueprint for creating a culture of achievement with explicit actions of instructional leadership in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and climate, real-life examples of what these actions look and sound like, prompts for self-reflection, and best practices for adult learners. When you finish this guide, you will know HOW TO:
- Determine the goals of an initiative focused on student achievement and lead its implementation
- Support your teachers in the implementation of the initiative
- Monitor the implementation of the initiative
- Build school-wide collaboration around the implementation of an initiative
In other words, we show current principals, assistant principals, and future administrators how to turn your dream school into your reality. You have the dream. We’ll show you how to make it a reality.
See the authors explain it
Vega, V. (2013). Teacher development research review: Keys to educator success. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/teacher-development-research-keys-success
- Related blog post: Strengthening Instructional Leadership: 6 strategies to promote a culture of continuous improvement, close COVID gaps, and increase principal retention
- Related blog post: Growing Data-Informed Leadership During Virtual Instruction: 5 Tips for Coaching School Principals for Accountability and Growth
- Related blog post: How to Use Virtual Classroom Walkthrough Tools: 7 Best Practices for K-12 School and District Leaders
- Webinar: 6 Strategies for Strengthening Instructional Leadership
About the Authors
Robert Crowe is one of the co-founders of Elevated Achievement Group, a professional development company dedicated to helping educators develop student ownership at all grade levels and at all types of schools. He has worked extensively across the United States supporting district administrators, school administrators, teachers, students, and parents at the elementary, middle, and high school levels to implement standards-based curriculum, instruction, and assessment. He is the author of Developing Instructional Leadership and Developing Student Ownership with Jane Kennedy.
Jane began her career over 25 year ago as a self-contained classroom teacher in an inner-city, urban setting with the majority of her students receiving Title I support and free-and-reduced lunch. She has since consulted with all types of districts – urban, suburban, and rural – as they implemented the latest curriculum, managing a team that worked directly with administrators and teachers, and developing processes that successfully supported the implementation of research-based reforms. Jane is now Chief Financial Officer of Elevated Achievement Group. She is also the author of Developing Instructional Leadership and Developing Student Ownership with Robert Crowe.
Our vision for education is to close the achievement gap. Equip all students with the social, emotional, and cognitive skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. Expand equity by giving every child access to rigorous core instruction that empowers learners to free themselves from generational poverty.