Without an unshakable commitment to implementation with fidelity, even the best-laid plans can go astray. Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen.
In previous articles, we’ve described three of the four elements needed for successful school improvement: a strategic plan, an educator effectiveness process, and technology to support your plan and process.
The fourth element is persistent follow-through, which might be the biggest challenge of them all. While most school improvement initiatives start out with strong support, too often enthusiasm wanes as other priorities vie for attention; ultimately, the commitment to achieving your carefully established goals disappears.
Here are three keys to ensuring that doesn’t happen in your schools.
1. Communicate constantly.
Persistent follow-through requires constant communication with your staff to keep them working toward their objectives.
Develop a system of clear, honest, and frequent communication. It should reinforce your plan, make sure staff understand their roles and responsibilities, and solicit feedback and status updates from them regarding their progress and any complications that are standing in their way.
And because staff morale is essential to success, it’s vital to recognize everyone’s accomplishments—no matter how small. When you’re starting at point A, you’re not going to move to point Z right away. You’re going to move to point B, then point C, and so on. It’s important to acknowledge every milestone along the way.
2. Maintain your focus.
Persistent follow-through also requires a laser-like focus to make sure you aren’t sidetracked by competing agendas. Effective leadership means knowing how and when to say “no,” and being able to stick to your strategic plan.
Your priorities are reflected in your actions as well as your words, and nothing will cause more confusion among staff members than you saying one thing and doing or prioritizing another. It’s not the speeches, the mission statement, or the core values poster that communicate your priorities; it’s what you do day in and day out and where you focus your time and resources that reveal the true values of your school system.
“Too many leaders think their defining moment for effective change will be their speech to employees, their ‘state of the schools’ address to the community, or their remarks to the board of education,” education researcher Douglas Reeves wrote in his book Leading Change in Your School. “But the most important are their thousands of moments of truth when their actions speak louder than words.”
3. Assess, analyze, and adjust.
Once your plan is under way, it’s important to assess and report progress at regular intervals. Tracking and reporting teacher and student progress, both individually and collectively, will help you maintain a level of accountability critical to achieving your objectives.
As you assess progress toward your strategic goals, convene leadership teams to review the data together. What does this information tell you about what’s working and what isn’t? Use this information to evaluate your approach and make adjustments as necessary.
Integrating tracking, reporting, feedback, and analysis into your plan creates institutional structures that help ensure your plan is implemented consistently year after year. This is critical, because research shows that the most dramatic improvements occur in schools that consistently implement their plans over the long term.
A study published in the Journal of International Education Research tracked the gains in student achievement over time in schools that used Edivate, a professional learning platform with tracking, reporting, feedback, and analysis functions, as well as a deep library of resources and support structures that facilitate long-term usage. The results revealed that schools with consistent follow-through not only were more successful in the long run, but their rate of student achievement gain increased over time as well.
Edivate, School Improvement Network’s professional learning platform, can help you achieve these same positive results. Edivate is a simple yet comprehensive tool for managing the school improvement process. It provides a single online location where teachers can access their professional growth plan, view their classroom observation results, and find resources to help them attain their goals. Edivate also provides administrators with a detailed view of each teacher’s history of professional learning, including a direct correlation to their students’ levels of achievement.
Visit us to learn how schools across the country are using Edivate to increase student achievement.