Leadership through a Vision for High Student Achievement
What Do School Leaders Need to Think about When Realizing a Vision for Student Achievement?
School leaders have the ability to create a school where all students, particularly federally designated priority student group members,2 can improve their academic performance and reach ambitious learning targets. Central to the realization of a universally shared vision of high student achievement is the establishment of meaningful achievement goals and expectations; respectful and trusting relationships among and between the adults and the students; and effective programs and practices based on both evidence and research and on the commitment of staff, families, and the community. Leaders can act to ensure that this vision is reflected in both the school’s instructional program (curriculum, instruction, and assessment) and its culture.
School culture has three components: (1) the professional learning culture (teacher- teacher relationships), (2) the student culture (teacher-student and student-student relationships), and (3) the culture of family and community engagement (school staff, family, and community relationships). For a positive school culture that promotes learning, all three components must be actively promoted and maintained, and are to be addressed in this Task.
Task 1 assesses the capacity of school leadership candidates to develop a vision of high quality student achievement and a plan for improving student learning in a priority academic area. A priority academic area is an area in which improved student performance is desired based on input from staff at the school and district level, and with attention to federally designated priority student groups or other groups that are a priority in the school. Candidates are required to provide evidence that demonstrates the chosen subject or academic performance area and target student group are priorities. As an example, a candidate might designate 4th grade ELA close-reading skills for ELL students as a Task 1 priority academic area after carefully analyzing ELA MCAS data, as well as 4th grade first term common assessment data and school and district improvement plans, and consulting with the 4th grade PLC teachers. The following are not acceptable priority academic areas because they are not sufficiently focused on
2 Students with disabilities; English language learners; African American, Hispanic, and Native American students; low-income students; and students performing below state proficiency levels.
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specific student learning performance and subject area: attendance, absenteeism, discipline or behavioral issues, graduation or retention rates, or AP enrollment. While these concerns may be a secondary issue related to a priority academic area, they cannot be the primary focus when developing a vision for high student achievement.
To begin this task, you must analyze relevant school-level student performance and school context and culture data to identify (1) a priority academic area where student learning needs to improve and (2) an underperforming student group to target. Then you will solicit additional information from students, teachers, staff, families, and other stakeholders in order to acquire explicit information and knowledge about factors contributing to the student group’s low performance in the priority academic area. Consider the following: The ways that performance and school experiences may differ among students within and across grade levels and, in particular, for federally designated priority student group(s).
The school’s context and culture.
Existing school practices and programs for improving the performance of all students
and evidence of fidelity in their implementation and effectiveness.
You should also review the Massachusetts Professional Standards and Indicators for
You will be asked to gather and evaluate input/feedback from stakeholders at two separate and distinct times during Task 1. First, input/feedback should be gathered to help identify and justify the selected priority academic area and target student group. This aspect of the data gathering process should be completed prior to the development of the plan vision, strategies, or implementation details. After you have developed a plan, you will be asked to solicit additional feedback from school leaders and other stakeholders regarding the plan’s relevance, quality, and feasibility, as well as any suggestions for plan revisions.
What Do You Need to Do to Complete This Task?
Access, collect, and analyze three to five years of quantitative student performance data, qualitative data on school culture and student learning, and overall school context information.
Identify a priority academic area where improved student performance is desired, with attention to federally designated priority student groups, based on the information collected and analyzed.
Collect additional quantitative and qualitative information about the student group’s Copyright © 2022 Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 12
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performance in the priority academic area that clarifies factors contributing to the performance problem, including findings from observations and staff and student interviews, focus groups, and/or surveys pertaining to student and teacher cultures and to the school culture overall.
Document existing school programs, services, and practices that are relevant to the student group’s performance in the priority area and identify the gaps in effectiveness and opportunities for improvement.
Solicit input from school leaders, teachers, and other relevant stakeholders throughout the inquiry and planning process about the student learning needs, priorities, gaps, and opportunities for improvement. Also solicit proposed improvement strategies.
Develop a vision, a set of action strategies, and a proposed detailed plan to improve the student group’s learning in the priority academic area, based on the data and input you collected and analyzed.
Solicit feedback about the need for addressing the student group’s performance in the proposed priority area and the relevance and feasibility of the proposed plan from school leaders and key stakeholder groups in the school and its community.
Evaluate the feedback and make appropriate revisions to the plan to reflect the feedback.
Summarize and constructively critique the leadership skills and practices that you used or developed in completing this task.
What Questions Do You Need to Consider to Complete This Task?
What school and district data exist about student performance, school context, and school culture?
Which individuals at the school and district level are best informed to advise you on the selection of a priority academic area?
What clarifying information, relevant to the selection and improvement of the priority academic area, can be obtained from observations and interviews with stakeholders?
What sources of evidence make an argument compelling when advocating for educational changes on behalf of the targeted student group(s)?
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Each school has a unique set of attributes that defines its context, including grade span, size, staffing composition, resources, attrition rates, and the demographic characteristics of students and staff. Consider the elements of the school context that are relevant to the priority academic area and targeted student group you select and the school vision and plan you develop.
Component 1: Investigate
Task 1 begins with an investigation of a priority academic area for a group of students where the school’s approach—through programs, services, and policies—needs to be improved. First, review available data to identify a priority academic area and targeted student group. A group may be all the students in a grade or content area; a subgroup would be a subset of this group based on demographic attributes or educational needs. For purposes of this task, you are encouraged to focus on different educational needs within a group of students, particularly giving attention to those who are part of federally designated priority student categories. For purposes of this task, the whole group (such as grade or subject area) and the priority subgroup selected for this task will be identified as group(s). The subgroup selected as a focus for this task is termed the target student group.
Next, collect additional data and information that justify why the academic area and student group(s) are being selected as priorities, and explain potential causes of or contributing factors to low performance. Your investigation should progress through the inquiry and planning process illustrated in Figure 1.1.