2012 SCORE Prize Winners: Cultivating Strong Leadership (excerpts) - Page 12

es became the implementation of a “no excuses” culture and a culturally responsive approach to working with each individual student. She changed the purpose of the professional development teams, asking teams to engage in deep data analysis, focusing on determining the specific knowledge and skills that students had acquired and what they had not. She asked teachers to view their practices differently, examining the progress of each child, applying their resources strategically, and providing high levels of feedback and support for student learning. She reminded them that instruction is not just about seat time, but mastery of standards. Murdock also strongly encouraged teachers to be culturally responsive to students, understanding their home environments, individual strengths, and needs for receiving rigorous and relevant instruction. She asked teachers to take into account the types of out-of-school influences on students’ lives. Murdock expects teachers to use this information to counsel students and to use the influences as assets. She wants teachers to help students see how well they meet the challenges in front of them and use that to inspire them to work hard and set goals for the future. New approaches to discipline. Another unique leadership strategy initiated at the school was a new approach to discipline. Murdock believes that students should be given a chance to improve and that past behavior should not inhibit future potential. She and her team address disciplinary issues immediately and students face consequences for their actions, but if they improve their behavior, they do not continue to be penalized. “Today stays today,” Murdock said. “Students need to fix things but there is no reason discipline issues should carry over into tomorrow.” The principals also provide immediate counseling to students experiencing social, home, and economic difficulties that might impact student achievement so that issues can be addressed and mitigated. Supportive leadership. Murdock realizes that she asks a lot of her staff, so sh e offers a good balance of support and accountabili ty. She and her assistant The leadership team sets the standard and the model for a strong work ethic and for following through on a job from beginning to end. principals are routinely visible in every classroom. The leaders use walkthrough tools that examine student engagement, teacher proximity to students, clear communication, explicit instruction, effective use of instructional time, effective classroom management techniques, and classroom climate. Some tools have explicit “look-fors” to ensure that the observer monitors specific practices such as respectful teacher-student interactions, posting of student standards for conduct, use of wait time, and other aspects of instruction and classroom environment. Leaders provide teachers with specific constructive feedback on their practices and emphasize student-centered instruction. They help teachers improve their practices by providing tools and training. The team meets daily to review progress and address any issues of concern. The leadership team sets the standard and the model for a strong work ethic and for following through on a job from beginning to end. School administrators will not ask their teachers to do something if they are not willing to do it themselves. Murdock also believes in constant visibility because it establishes an environment of recognition and trust. She has found that students and teachers are more willing to come to her with concerns and issues when they understand that she and the other principals know what is going on and are active members of the school community. Teachers have responded positively to the new expectations and the reorganization. They say they appreciate the respect they receive as professionals and the support they are given to become more reflective and effective at their craft. Pathways to the Prize Lessons from the 2012 SCORE Prize School Winners 40