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In the EL Education model, school leaders carefully set priorities and then keep their focus squarely on those priorities until they are achieved. To do this, they engage their school community in a strategic improvement process that identifies a limited number of high-priority goals, strategies, and a clear timetable that will guide actions as they work toward the vision. Leaders then deliberately and creatively align available resources (people, time, money) to fulfill the vision.
School leaders using the EL Education model respect teachers and other staff members as creative agents in their classrooms and as professionals continually seeking to improve their craft. The EL Education model supports leaders to demonstrate a growth mindset and a commitment to continuous professional learning in themselves and all faculty members. School leaders build capacity in teachers in order to improve student achievement and to sustain teacher commitment, motivation, retention, and performance. Leaders establish and communicate high expectations for learning in the classroom. They conduct classroom learning walks to ask “what’s working?” and use evidence from their observations to inform professional learning, formal coaching cycles, and evaluation systems. They conduct regular walk-through observations to assess whether professional learning is being applied effectively and continually improve professional learning systems to impact student achievement.
Students are introduced to the idea of improving efficiency by examining a setting that is familiar to many teenagers fast food restaurants. More specifically, they learn about the concepts of trade-offs, constraints, increasing efficiency and systems thinking. They consider how to improve efficiency in a struggling restaurant through delegating tasks, restructuring employee responsibilities and revising a floor plan, all while working within limitations and requirements. Finally, students summarize and defend their suggested changes in argumentative essays.
A growth mindset is critical in establishing a data-driven culture. Often data surfaces realities that are uncomfortable. Students might not be achieving after long months of teacher and student effort. Teachers who feel powerful due to their positive, productive classroom culture might not see data results. Students often arrive far behind grade-level in their skills and knowledge. Teachers who see the expected level of rigor and who become aware of how students align (or don’t) to these high standards may look at the gap and see a chasm – leading some educators to blame students, the system, the test, or be self-critical in unproductive ways. This ailment is a huge obstacle in a data-driven culture.
Though we constantly hear the refrain, “there is no silver bullet,” many teachers, coaches, school leaders, researchers, and organizations dedicated to educational improvement are susceptible to seeking out simplistic answers to the question, “How can we improve student achievement?” When seeking effective strategies for improving student achievement, researchers caution educators to be critical consumers of research, aware of the limitations and dated nature of studies. They urge teachers to “rely on their knowledge of students, their subject matter, and their situations to identify the most appropriate instructional strategies” (Marzano, et al, 2001). What follows is a brief synthesis of relevant research to spur rich dialogue about what it takes to improve student achievement. We urge readers to delve into original texts cited in this document, as well as to reflect on their own experiences in their own contexts.
As a nation, we strive continually to improve America’s schools and do a better of job of preparing students for success in college, career, and life. We mandate new policies, new structures, and new standards. But none of this will matter if we fail to make changes in the classroom, where learning actually takes place. Educational research has made it clear: the quality of teaching is the single most important factor in student success. But we cannot mandate great instruction. We need to inspire it and shepherd it.
It's one thing to determine the areas in which your students are struggling. It's another thing all together to figure out what to do about it. Looking at data once or twice a year isn't enough. Using data to improve student achievement requires a commitment to ongoing cycles of data analysis, action planning, collecting evidence, and using it to adjust instruction. Monitor and adjust.. Monitor and adjust... You've heard that one before, right?