Interviewee & Highlights
My professional learning community (PLC) partner, Colleen Barrows, and I recently took a look at our school improvement plan (SIP) looking for action steps we can take as a PLC. Colleen is a seventh-grade language arts teacher and has been teaching for 18 years. While our SIP has improved over the last few cycles with all departments being part of analyzing root causes and writing outcomes, there are needed improvements such as addressing equity and the relationship between home and school.
Summary of Interview Findings
According to Cameron Pipkin of the School Improvement Network, there are five key elements of an effective SIP: starting with a vision, conducting a needs assessment, identifying goals, creating action steps, and involving stakeholders. Our SIP process effectively carries out the first four elements, but we see a need for involving all stakeholders (families and community members).
Strengths of the SIP
- Strong PLCs work collaboratively to interpret student data and decide on next steps
- Written collaboratively with all departments having analyzed data and identified underlying causes
- Use of student data in creating action steps and growth outcomes
- Targeted interventions for subgroups of students
Weaknesses of the SIP
- Little to no communication about SIP to students and parents
- No connections between school and home listed in the SIP
- Equity is not addressed
- Teacher mentoring is not addressed
Recommendations & Action Steps
Our first recommendation is a recommitment to professional development that will help all staff members learn equitable practices and the various conditions needed for learning to happen. What conditions must exist in the brain for the body to respond in a learning manner? How do current social and economic trends affect learning? How does implicit bias affect our practice and interactions with students? Colleen and I founded our Equity Committee five years ago, and including this work on the SIP will give the committee the support it needs to continue this work.
Our second recommendation is job-embedded professional development for creating peer learning rounds for PLCs and departments. On-going peer observations and study lessons between PLC partners will assist teachers in using data to support instruction, reflecting on the impact of current practices, and sharing the responsibility for all students in their PLC. This type of relationship between PLC members also sets a cycle of teacher mentoring where each member is at times a mentor and mentored. Colleen and I began peer learning rounds with the language arts department two years ago. Our work this year will be tightening the link between peer learning and the SIP and hopefully involving co-teachers and other interested staff in creating peer learning rounds that work for them.
Our last recommendation is to include all stakeholders, not only teachers and administrators, but also students, families, and community leaders. Listening to what they have to say can creating a plan with them will help ensure full involvement in carrying out the action steps and meeting objectives.
Pipkin, C. (2018, December 27). How to craft an effective school improvement plan – Edsurge News. EdSurge. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-09-09-how-to-craft-an-effective-school-improvement-plan.