Yesterday I participated in a webinar through ASCD hosted by Steve Gruenert. School Culture Recharged: Strategies to Energize Your Staff and Culture focused on the book by the same title and presented strategies for making school culture an ally.
One question from the webinar keeps nagging at my brain: how does your school define the concept of “improvement?”
School improvement is one of those phrases that gets thrown around a lot lately. Mostly in regards to test scores, school grades, etc. But, it is much bigger than that.
The question of how a school defines improvement got me thinking and wondering about the structures schools build to ensure everyone is working under the same assumption when it comes to improvement.
Is improvement continual or is there a set end point? Is it a mixture of both? Where does everyone fall on a continuum of improvement? Does improvement apply to just teachers or just students or both? And what does improvement look like? Is it driven by mission and vision? Or by themes or grade levels? How is improvement prioritized? What are the benchmarks for improvement? How will we measure it?
I believe improvement looks different for everyone based on individual goals. But, within a school it is important to have some unifying umbrella under which all that improvement falls. And, more importantly that unifying umbrella or idea needs to be explicitly communicated to all stakeholders.
When we are not clear on what improvement looks like and how we define it as an institution, opportunities for improvement are muddled, actual improvements are disguised or thrown aside, and we run the risk of sabotaging the school culture.
I think most educators want a benchmark when it comes to improvement. They want to be able to highlight or check off the improvements they have made and the improvements of their students. There is a lot of satisfaction in that process, and a sense of calm that comes from knowing where the path leads.
So, I am left considering another question.
How can I be more deliberate in making improvement transparent?