2012 SCORE Prize Winners: Cultivating Strong Leadership (excerpts) - Page 5

CULTIVATING STRONG LEADERS Teachers at John Sevier widely praise their strong principal and assistant principal, describing them as knowledgeable, fun, and focused on all the right things. Principal Wilson and Assistant Principal Boles have an efficient division of labor, with Wilson overseeing operations, school management, attendance, and behavior management and Boles supporting curriculum, instruction, use of data, and work with parents. Even though they each have specific responsibilities, they collaborate and contribute to each other’s work at any time as needed. The two try to complete their administrative work before or after bells ring so they can attend to students and teachers during the day. Wilson and Boles are also supported by a school leadership team, composed of teachers and other staff members, who aid in the school’s decision-making processes. “John Sevier Promising Practice: School Leadership Team” http://www.tnscore.org/scoreprize/ downloads/2012/John_Sevier_Elementary_ Promising_Practice.pdf Student-centered decision making. John Sevier Elementary weighs every practice and every decision to determine its impact on children. The school has several non-negotiable practices: The choice of topics for collaborative sessions also depends on what students need. For example, leaders asked teachers to select a focus topic for the summer and fall, with each teacher reading a book and sharing information in his or her professional learning community (PLC) based on student challenges that surfaced from the previous year’s data. The objective is to help teachers improve in areas in which they may not feel strong. Last year, the teachers researched 10 areas: 1) phonemic awareness, 2) phonics, 3) vocabulary, 4) fluency, 5) comprehension, 6) boys and literacy, 7) raising rigor/Common Core, 8) integrating reading instruction into all content areas, 9) literacy in the early years, and 10) student academic engagement. The effort to dig deeper into these topics was reflected in new activities. For example, from August through October, the teachers discussed the research and how it affected their teaching. In October, the school sponsored Literacy Share Days during which members of each PLC trained others in best practices during 30-45 minute sessions. “The intent is to build the toolbox of all teachers with strategies that tend to come with time, training, and experience,” Boles said. “The topics selected address a key area of concern in our building and will serve to increase student performance across all grade levels and for all teachers.” • All teachers teach the Common Core State Standards at the level of rigor expressed in the standards. • All teachers use the Quantum Keys of Excellence. • All teachers enforce “zone zero” in the hallways. • All teachers use common assessments and follow the testing schedule, and all engage in continuous improvement efforts. Above all, school leaders make their decisions within the context of what is best for students. For example, the leadership team often makes decisions about resource allocation—after consulting with teachers and staff—in terms of student success and well-being. They frequently discuss the relative benefits of spending money on different needs, such as technology, the playground, celebration, or books for the library. Pathways to the Prize Lessons from the 2012 SCORE Prize School Winners 14