Leaders and educators in school systems are challenged to look for leading practices and solutions that move them beyond thinking that their district or their issues are unique, so that they can work towards providing every child with an opportunity to earn an excellent education. This challenge is sometimes difficult and the methods school leaders use to address the challenge often fall short of systems thinking or what Senge describes as “the art of seeing the forest and the trees” (1990: p. 127).
What happens when educational leaders and school system employees execute measurable and aligned evaluation systems focused on students improving their achievement levels; employees believing their leaders provide a best place to work environment; school system employees providing service excellence; and parents feeling satisfied with their 22child’s education?
A school system (or school or department within a school system) can achieve systemic improvement when leaders apply systems thinking to solve difficult problems that influence student achievement, employee engagement, and service excellence outcomes. Specifically, when leaders implement an evidence-based framework aligned to the school system’s strategic plan, aligned behaviors, and core metrics and formative/summative assessments for evaluating performance, they create a process to accelerate improvement in the school system.
What is an evidence-based framework?
An evidence-based framework provides an operational framework to improve execution and achieve outcomes. That is, the framework creates a culture of execution within the organization and empowers leaders to develop and coach employees on tactics and behaviors to achieve outcomes. It introduces consistency and accountability within an organization by defining a structure focused on aligned goals, aligned behaviors, and aligned processes.
The aligned goals component included district leaders identifying key (aligned behavior) performance measures aligned to creating a best place to work environment. Data and feedback from these measures coupled with aligned processes (strategies and tactics) for improving internal processes and making strategic changes that accelerate employee engagement and district support services across all district departments and schools.
When leaders in organizations and school systems apply the framework they initiate a dynamic way to respond to their unique challenges. For example, if a school district is challenged with teacher turnover or not attracting the best candidates for its leadership pool, the framework provides guidance for the process of establishing smart goals, measures, and strategic actions, for achieving improvements in these areas. At Hunt Elementary School, Principal Raczkowski-Shannon focused her colleagues on one item:
Our lowest score on the [Parent Satisfaction] survey was we didn’t send positive notes or make phone calls to parents. And, we didn’t; the only time we called home was if it was a problem… there were only negative phone calls. So we said, ‘What can we do different?
When teachers and leaders focus on one item, they can make concerted efforts to achieve the results they want, in this example, increased parent engagement through positive notes or phone calls to parents. At Hunt Elementary, teachers completed five (5) positive phone calls home per week, logged the calls, and included the call logs in their evaluations. At first the teachers were resistant; but, they completed the calls with fidelity. Raczkowski-Shannon shares:
There’s not a day that goes by that a teacher doesn’t come up to me with a story. They say it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever done. That parents are now answering the phone. And one of my favorite stories is ‘Danielle.’ She is a first grader and is very, very, very active. She had terrible behavior at the beginning of the school year and we were constantly calling home… Behavior improved and the teacher made a phone call home. By the end of a positive phone call home, the Mom was crying and said, “I have never received a positive phone call.”
The important take-away is that Positive phone calls home reach beyond the framework and reach beyond the survey numbers; that is, connecting with parents through the phone calls is one way Hunt teachers let students and parents know that they care about them. This is one way Hunt Elementary recognizes the importance of parents as a teacher and supporter of their children.
Hunt Elementary School is home to the Junior Vikings! Its mission is to teach all students basic grade level skills and promote social, emotional, physical and academic growth. Check out “Hunt Happenings” and enjoy a virtual tour of Hunt Elementary here.
Our mission at Studer Education is to help education systems achieve measurable results that produce positive outcomes in student achievement, employee engagement, support services, and financial efficiencies and productivity. Our goal is to help school systems provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Follow us on Twitter at @StuderEducation and visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the seventh straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
Filed under: Our Partners, Who’s Engaged? Tagged: Employee Engagement, Evidence-Based Framework, Improved Performance, Jackson Public Schools (MI), Parent Satisfaction, Service Excellence, Systems Thinking