The other day I talked about getting students to grow, not maintain, by changing what’s done in classrooms. But it’s funny how when conversations start happening about improving student achievement and growth, we often start with things that are too far away from the classroom. Often schools and districts start with structural changes and surface changes…changes where there may be a change for administrators and teachers, but that change won’t translate into upgraded learning experiences for students.
I know why districts start with these far away changes–because they’re easier to visualize and put into action. But we have to determine if students will grow from those changes.
It’s kind of like running a marathon. (I’m a runner, so you’re going to get a lot of running analogies. Just an FYI.)
To accomplish your marathon goal, you work up a training plan that consists of things like writing your own training plan based on outside advice, strength training, walking, elliptical training, and watching marathons (real ones, not Netflix ones) on TV. Oh, and you also do a little running every once in a while when you can squeeze it in.
But, when you get to race day, you crash and burn by mile 9 (if you’re lucky) and you’re left wondering why you didn’t grow as a runner by doing what you did to prepare. Well, the reason is that all the efforts you made gave you growth in areas other than the one that mattered most to be successful–running.
To get students to grow, start with what matters most-the classroom. Start with teachers working collaboratively to generate student-friendly learning targets that are guaranteed and viable across a grade levels or course. Have them create summative and formative assessments that show what it looks like when students have mastered those learning targets, and then plan instruction to help students get to mastery. Then have teachers measure how effective their instructional decisions are using carefully crafted and aligned formative assessments and change/differentiate their instruction to support all learners. Feedback should be given to and acted upon by students, and students should be empowered to learn how they learn and fix their own learning.
After a grade level gets this down, then set up time for different grade levels/courses in the same subject area to sit down and develop a good vertical picture of where their students have been and where they need to be going. Keep these lines of communication open and happening on the regular.
To get students to grow, start in the classroom. Start with what matters.