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
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
team sets the
standard and the
model for a strong
work ethic and for
following through on a
job from beginning to
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