MSU Office of K-12 Outreach has worked with hundreds of schools throughout Michigan, many of them high-priority and low performing. Through this work, we have found that schools that made significant progress made high-quality teaching a priority and put systems in place to support teacher growth and development. Professional learning communities—when they were practiced with fidelity—were instrumental in helping teachers collaborate with colleagues to evaluate and improve their own teaching. Instructional learning cycles (ILCs) provided a structure that enabled teachers to frequently evaluate (and reevaluate) student growth and identify where they needed to try different instructional strategies to facilitate that growth. ILCs were also key to successfully implementing multi-tiered systems of support. The building leadership team was indispensable to making these structures work by providing feedback and support, as well as holding teachers accountable for implementing them with fidelity. The schools that were most effective in utilizing these strategies were located in districts that implemented these reforms in every school, provided extensive training and support to teachers and building administrators, and met monthly with building leaders to check on progress.

The articles in this category will explore multiple aspects of professional learning.

When participants leave Coaching 101 Foundations Training, they leave with a series of reflection questions to help them to guide their work. Questions might include: What might support look like? When do I transition to an expert and support the content,? How do I coach within the structures of the building? How do I network with the other coaches in the building? What will success look like for me? How do I foster continuous improvement of my skills? How does my coaching increase student achievement? How do I build a relationship with the teacher so that we see each other as partners in the work? The goal is to move from reflection to action to provide professional support.

The Office of K-12 Outreach of Michigan State University’s College of Education is enjoying the seventh year of the successful Fellowship of Instructional Leaders program. The Fellowship provides educators tools they need to foster systemic improvement in their schools. Through the Fellowship, instructional leaders build their capacity to develop and focus substantive initiatives that improve student achievement.

Franklin CampbellJones“MI Excel school improvement facilitators have to see themselves as an asset to schools, and the schools have to see them as an asset to them, not an impediment. And then the facilitators look at what the school team members need to do to for them to become facilitators themselves.”

These words were spoken by Franklin CampbellJones, Ed.D., a distinguished international school consultant who visited Michigan State University last month to speak with MI Excel’s staff members, school improvement facilitators, and field specialists about cultural proficiency. Building upon his broad experience as a teacher, administrator, and college professor, CampbellJones assists school districts throughout the country in applying the tenets of cultural proficiency to their policies and practices.

Cultural proficiency refers to the framework for school improvement, and requires school system members to critically reflect on the moral underpinnings of the school, and address and believe in educating each student instead of some students. The four tools—barriers, guiding principles, continuum, and essential elements—further assist district leaders and school principals in expanding their horizons beyond their own race, class, and gender, and better understand the perspective of others.

faces sharrattOntario’s education system is world-renowned for its focus on student achievement and strategic leadership. Evidence of their student success can be taken from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores. Canada ranks among the top 5 countries in the world and Ontario, being the largest province in Canada, accounts for much of those prestigious results.

Among the highest achieving districts in Ontario is the York Region District School Board which the CEO Bill Hogarth and Lyn Sharratt, then Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, led. Its improvement went from below-average scores to the top performing district in Ontario (using a standards-based measure, EQAO). “Align – Focus – Feedback” are 3 powerful words that they used to drive their district’s singular priority of literacy—that is, increased language and mathematical literacy achievement for all students, Kindergarten to grade 12.

Subsequently, Sharratt and Michael Fullan researched and wrote about this phenomenal improvement. What they discovered in their research became known as the 14 Parameters for System and School Improvement as captured in Realization: The Change Imperative for District-Wide Reform. (Corwin Press, 2009). The 14 Parameters are listed here:

  1. Shared beliefs and understandings
    • All students can learn
    • All teachers can teach
    • High expectations and early intervention are critical
    • All teachers and leaders can clearly articulate why they do what they do
  2. Embedded literacy coaches
  3. Time-tabled instructional blocks of time
  4. Principal leadership
  5. Early and ongoing intervention
  6. Case Management approach
  7. Literacy professional development at school staff meetings
  8. In-school grade/subject meetings for collaborative marking of student work
  9. Book rooms with leveled books and resources
  10. Allocation of district and school budgets for literacy learning and resources
  11. Action Research/Collaborative Inquiry focused on literacy
  12. Parent involvement
  13. Cross-curricular literacy connections in every subject area
  14. Shared responsibility and accountability for ALL learners

When all 14 areas are woven together – and implemented intentionally, they become the secret to increasing all students’ achievement and the “sandbox” for designing powerful, explicit professional learning, as discussed in their second book, “Putting FACES on the Data: What Great Leaders Do!” (Corwin Press, 2012).
What leadership dimensions does it take to do this work? In asking over 500 research participants, they discuss 3 things that Principals and district staff need:

  1. Knowledge-ability: what excellent classroom practice looks like and how to eliminate the obstacles to make it happen
  2. Mobilize-ability: how to create a “we-we” culture of learning as a lead learner
  3. Sustain-ability: how to leave great leaders in place to continue to do the work, long after they’re gone

A focus on student FACES is our work – every day, in every school, in every way. It IS possible!

Lyn Sharratt, Ph.D., is an Associate at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto (OISE/UT), where she coordinates the Ed.D. cohort in Theory and Policy Studies. She had worked as a teacher, curriculum consultant, teacher-trainer, public education policy analyst and superintendent of schools in the Ontario school district.

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