School Improvement Plan

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The No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) has brought about massive changes to public education across this nation. No Where Technical High School (NWTHS) is no different than any other public school. Data is a driving force within NCLB and at NWTHS. The school is publicly scrutinized based on the results of standardized tests such as the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) and the various tests from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI). Data is used to determine how well students and sub-groups of students performed compared with the “norm.” Because of the significance of these tests, it is important to understand how the data they gives can be used to drive instruction and realize the goal of leaving no child behind.

NWTHS is challenged with these tests. Many students perform well; however, more students need to succeed. Furthermore, it is important to remember that tests are only a snapshot of what a student knows, and other indicators of success must also be evaluated to determine who is learning. I would like to make sure all available data is used to maximize learning year-to-year. To accomplish this goal, I have developed the plan illustrated below. This plan has the following components: The problems, the plan, and the plan evaluation.

 

The Problems

NWTHS currently collects and analyzes past CAPT test data both individually by students and by various subgroups of students. The scores are analyzed together with CMT data for freshmen to identify areas of weakness mostly by department heads. Teachers are given the analysis, but little time is spent interpreting these scores. Teachers need skills at interpreting data scores or looking at what the scores mean for the curriculum. They also need to know how data relates to teaching.  There are expectations from administration that teachers will work with students based on this data, with little instruction as to how these expectations will be achieved. In addition, it is expected that teachers will look for school-wide trends in the data that need attention. Teaching strategies are then developed within the curriculum to address these trends.

NWTHS collects much more data besides standardized test scores, yet is ineffectively using this non-standardized-test-score-data. Each faculty member currently serves on a data team. Teams are organized around subject and trades. For example, all math teachers serve on one team, while all the construction trades serve on a different team. As evidenced by a survey of these data teams (see results attached), the majority of data utilized to make team S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goals is based on standardized tests. I believe to improve the school additional data should be collected and analyzed to effectively set and meet the S.M.A.R.T. goals. In conclusion I see two problems with NWTHS as follows:

1.      There is a focus on standardized test scores.

2.      Teachers lack data gathering and data analyzing skills for all types of data.

 

The Plan

To help refocus faculty off singularly looking at standardized test scores, the administration of NWTHS needs to provide examples of other data available and how to use it. The principal and vice-principals need to provide access to other types of data, and professional development time to work with the data. These steps will also help solve the lack of data gathering skills and provide teachers with additional data beyond what is already collected.

NWTHS regularly collects student data, and deposits that data into the student management software. Data that is collected ranges from free and reduced lunch information, to attendance, to final scores in all subjects as reported in the official school record. Teachers often create much of this data, yet they rarely use it as a means to evaluate effectiveness of curriculum at meeting standardized test needs. For example, looking at the passing rate together with free-and-reduced lunch status and CMT data could identify areas of weakness in the curriculum that could be addressed. Showing teachers that this data is available and giving them access to it, will provide a means whereby teachers can use more that one data point (the standardized test) to realistically think about who will pass the all important standardized tests. Identifying student needs beyond just curricula may also help teachers understand that curriculum does not need to be modified, but they need to struggle students other types of skills, strategies, or help.

A method of searching this data should be provided to the faculty. Teachers know their students’ scores for the subjects they teach, but it is important to look beyond just one domain to understand and find trends. For example, if a student is consistently missing only one class, then someone needs to figure out why they are missing that class. Moreover, the teacher of the missed class should know there is a problem. If teachers are not given access to this type of data, these types of analysis and questions do not arise.

Access to the needed data should be an electronic searchable database. The data should be easily accessed, searched, and sorted for teachers to look for trends and answer curriculum questions. I would recommend using a student management system that has the ability to query any student information and place it next to any other student information. To improve the school, at minimum administration and department heads should fully understand that they can get instantly electronic data on students. Any information stored in the student information system can be correlated and searched. For example, everyone should know that if they want sending school information from all their students, together with marking period grades for all classes, they can get it. By making this known, the faculty will have more data readily available to combine with teacher data (for example a score on a school-wide pre-assessment) to look for trends.

Professional development (PD) with all staff will need to be provided. They will need to know what data to store in the database, and how to extract the data for formative decisions. Providing examples of what data is available, giving access to a database (or at minimum a way to get the data from the database) are only part of the solutions for NWTHS. Professional development time must also be utilized for teachers to have a chance to practice looking at data. All too often in education great ideas are given to faculty, yet no time is allowed to implement the ideas. Within the PD schedule at NWTHS time must be given to practice gathering data. Time must also be allocated to develop and improve analyzing data skills. Some of this time should be with large group demonstrations, in addition to small groups and individual time to practice and use the skills.

 

Evaluation

Any school improvement initiative needs constant evaluation to be successful. Goals for the plan should be established with the administrative team and all participants. These goals should be S.M.A.R.T. with an emphasis on measurable. Administrators should measure and track the following:

·         the times the student management database is access to retrieve information by teachers and/or data teams,

·         the time in professional development teaching data analysis and collection skills, and

·         the amount of time spend looking at data.

Each data teams S.M.A.R.T. goal should also be monitored by a member of the administrative team to see a change reflective of looking beyond the standardized test scores. Monitoring of data team meetings should continue with appropriate help offered for teams struggling to move beyond looking only at standardized test scores.

To attain maximum improvement with respect to using data, all teachers, administrators, and staff should be aware of the evaluation of the process. They should also all be informed that this improvement process is ongoing and change is to be expected. All too often change is avoided for a variety of reasons. Changing direction of curriculum or the process of evaluating data should continue to be part of the evaluation program. For example, if it becomes evident that one specific data team is not functioning and making data driven decisions, additional resources should immediately be allocated to that team. Teachers should not fear the DDDM process, but should look forward to it; by creating the right evaluation of the process, linking the needs to move beyond simple data, real change can occur.

 

In conclusion, this school improvement plan involves the use of data at NWTHS. While the use of standardized test data is very important for improving a school, looking beyond this data for a rich description of a student’s abilities and accomplishments will yield a better use of data leading to school reform that will help all students at NWTHS.

This plan evolved from looking at how student data was used in data driven decision making teams, through a survey of each team. The results showed a lack of diversity with respect to the kinds of data used with teams. The plan recommends that administrators make data available to teachers on DDDM teams for deeper discussions and analyses of progress for specific students and departments in general. In addition to making the data available, there should be professional development provided for teachers in how to access and analyze the data. Teachers should then be given adequate time to practice new data skills.

These actions will assist the data teams of the school in creating better S.M.A.R.T. goals that will bring student achievement to new levels. Finally, the plan is complete with built in evaluation that allows the flexibility to monitor and adjust the plan according to successes and failures. NWTHS will benefit from following such a plan.

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