With the completion of graduation ceremonies and various end of school year events, most school administrators take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief and a smile for a job well done. After the handshakes and “pats on the back,” the reality of reorganizing the district or school begins to set in.
In many districts and schools, this process was set in motion weeks before the closing or end of year ceremonies but fine-tuning the process begins in earnest at the end of the year. There are schedules to be developed or refined, teachers to be assigned or reassigned, teachers to be hired, bus schedules to be developed and mailings scheduled for delivery. Each activity has a timeline and is choreographed to reflect an organization that knows how to turn itself around for the next school year. Within each step, there is an inherent message that we’ve done this before and we know how to open and run a school or district. Way too often, it is simply replicating the status quo.
Again, while districts are excellent at opening the doors for another year and duplicating past programming, few schools or districts take the time to review how they can improve performance. Few take the time to have frank discussions with staff as to what worked and what did not. Even fewer districts and schools offer administrative, board and teacher retreats in the summer to discuss district goals, attainment of those goals, indicators of success or frankly how they can “tweak” instruction, policies or procedures that can ultimately make a difference between success or failure. Few take the time to locate the disconnections or obstructions that hinder student achievement and student success.
All too often the focus on the new school year is on important operational procedures such as lunch coverage, hallway duty, elective coverages, in-house suspension, staff coverage, assignments and disciplinary procedures that allow the school to run in a smooth manner but often performance issues, in the context of school reopening meetings, is not considered a priority. Rarely, do the organizational meetings address how children are learning, why they learned a particular concept or how we can engage them more effectively in the classroom. Even more rare at the secondary level are discussions about the number of students failing a particular subject and why. Overall, instructional discussions devolve into the number of times faculty will be observed, the procedures around observation (announced or unannounced) and possibly criteria for those observations etc.
Recognizing that Performance is Key, Cotter and Hassler developed the School Systems Crosscheck to assist in the identification of disconnections within a school or district that impede or hinder student achievement. The data from this instrument can stimulate discussions in the summer as to how to improve learning and ignite student achievement! Sometimes the difference between success and failure is simply found within the nuance of implementation but to find that nuance you have to dialogue about performance.