How to Become an Effective School Leader
- Book Sample /
Are you new to your administrator role and want to make a great impact at your school? Or are you looking for different techniques to improve your leadership skills? If you’re looking for additional resources, look no further than Leading with Administrative Clarity by Marine Freibrun, Carin Fractor, EdD, and Sandy Brunet. Practicing administrative clarity, or the idea that transparent expectations lead to fairness and achievement, has never been easier. They have spent decades as educators and have helped people improve their position as decision-makers and positive role models for their schools through their own experience, and, now, their new book.
The excerpt below is from Chapter 5, “Creating and Implementing Meaningful Goals.”
There is no perfect way to begin this work, but they have the tools for each step along the way. Pick up where you feel comfortable initiating the process. Read on to find out how you can implement effective change at your school.
Step 1: Start with the End in Mind, and Use Data as Your Guide
What is the goal for your students this year? If students have experienced unfinished learning because of the pandemic, what areas of growth does your school need to focus on in order to achieve results for students in their future learning? What skills can you leverage so students have the requisite content knowledge to be successful next year?
What does your school-wide data tell you about student achievement? Are there systemic barriers that are disproportionately impacting specific groups of students? Do not gloss over your data. Take a deep dive. Drill your data down.
As a reminder, keep it simple! There is no perfect science to identify where to begin and what goals to generate. However, there are important things to consider:
1. Do the goals impact student academic and personal achievement and growth? If the answer is no, keep looking. You need to pare down to the most critical needs if you want to have true Administrator Clarity.
2. Are the goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound? Get where we are going here? Yes—our goals must hit the mark on every letter in our SMART acronym. Otherwise, what’s the purpose?
3. Are the goals aligned with your organization’s goals? Be sure that your goals connect with your district or organizational mission and vision.
Step 2: Articulate the Goals to Everyone
Goals for the sake of checking an accountability box are meaningless. Goals have a purpose, and when they are developed intentionally and communicated with those involved, the results can be transformative. Sharing school-wide goals not only increases accountability but also generates a wider range of collective responsibility.
With that, we say communicate! Your goals need to be shared with anyone involved—this includes teachers, school staff, parents, district employees, and students! Often, we input our school-wide goals on forms, have them approved by a representative group of stakeholders, and then revisit them at the end of the year. We are here to tell you that is not enough. Everyone needs to know the goals, live the goals, and feel connected to the goals.
Step 3: Create the Plan
Think systematic and think long-lasting. We strongly believe that as long as you have a data system that can give you immediate feedback on formative and summative assessments and the data is arranged in a manner in which teachers can pinpoint specific target areas that were met or not met and have student names attached to those areas, you can lead the way to the finale.
Instead of being distracted by the shiny new program, try our suggestion for making systematic improvement. It can be added to any plan aimed at increasing student achievement. If you do not know where to begin, start with these foundational components:
• Learning targets identified (essential skills and priority standards)
• Common formative assessments created
• Content taught through evidenced-based strategies
• Common formative assessments administered
• Data analyzed
• Targeted interventions and extensions implemented
Step 4: Implement the Plan and Lead
Now that you have a clear path toward your goal, the fun begins! This is the heart of the work we do to impact student learning. Your role as a school leader during this time is critical in meeting your school-wide goals.
We believe in the idea that now, more than ever, teachers need ongoing professional development focused on the daily actions that they are taking to support student learning and growth. When we say “professional development,” this includes coaching and time to complete the following:
• Dive into data analysis to drive instruction
• Plan out fluid interventions focused on specific target skills to create meaningful SMART goals
• Generate pre- and post-assessments to measure learning progress
We view these learning growth opportunities as something being done for our staff rather than to them.
Our teachers deserve more than just managers of contract tracing and public health protocols. Our teachers deserve someone who continues not only to celebrate them but to lead them. They need more than words of encouragement that they are amazing educators and little treats to keep up their spirits. They deserve connection to a leader who believes in and builds on their efficacy in the face of the most impossible of situations.
Step 5: Stay the Course
As school leaders, our role has always been defined by our ability to keep student and staff learning at the forefront. In a typical year, we expect the variety of challenges and curveballs to temporarily distract us from our purpose. As an intentional leader, you need to fight the urge and stay the course.
Here are three tips we recommend to help you stay the course:
1. Plan, plan, plan. Create a learning plan for staff and students. Ask yourself where your school should place its focus during a set time (e.g., the whole year, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter Break, the last month of school). Assessments? Interventions? SMART goals? Make a plan to ensure that one of these goals happens. Set dates. Backward map from your goal.
2. Articulate the goal. Publicly share the goal with students, staff, and the community. Research shows that the more one publicly shares specific goal-oriented plans, the more likely one is to achieve them.
3. Iterate. Monitor your goal and iterate as needed. Don’t believe that changing your path to your goal is failure—it is just another way to get to your destination.
Step 6: Monitor the Progress, Not Just the Outcome
Just as teachers consistently monitor their students’ progress toward learning targets, as administrators we need to monitor our teachers’ progress toward the school-wide goal. Do they have the structures and skills to meet that goal? Do we need to intervene and provide some targeted support to keep them on track?
Here are some quick tips to help you focus on this process as a means to support your teachers in finishing this school year strong.
As a leader, put agreed-upon assessment dates that grade-level teams have committed to on your calendar. As principals, when teacher teams identified when they were going to administer a common formative assessment on comprehension of informative text, we would add that date to our calendars so that we knew when to follow up with the team. We would intentionally ask them about their data and how their students were progressing. This was one of the key areas our schools had focused on, so we made it a priority to know what was happening within the classrooms, not just at meetings. Teachers shared with us how much they appreciated the involvement and the fact that we made this a priority for the students, the teachers, and our administrative team as well. Following up with your grade levels before and after their assessments is an easy strategy to get a pulse for what learning is happening throughout the year.
Be sure when you check in that you are focused on the learning. Ask team members about their goals and about the growth toward the goals. What do they need from you to support their students in achieving these short-term goals?
Step 7: Celebrate Success
Celebration of the process is critical in motivating all those involved and letting them know that they are on the right path. Teaching and learning are arduous and exhausting. School leadership should be highlighting the celebrations and the path forward. Efforts on the part of students and staff should be genuinely recognized, and celebrations of student learning and success should be ongoing throughout the entire school year. This is the fuel that helps you stay the course and achieve your goal.
Looking for more info on administrative clarity? Check out Marine, Carin, and Sandy’s book below, or visit their website The Intentional Principal.
Leading with Administrator Clarity
This resource, made just for school principals, superintendents, and other administrators, will help you lead your school with organization, intention, and fairness—and create lasting success. Practicing administrative clarity, or the idea that transparent expectations lead to fairness and achievement, has never been more accessible. As aLearn more