A Holistic Approach to Elevating Underperforming Schools
I propose a new strategy for school districts with underperforming schools: systematically evaluate the challenges plaguing your lowest-performing schools. My hypothesis is that these schools share common obstacles. Addressing these collectively could elevate their performance simultaneously.
Why this approach? In my consultancy with various districts, I've observed roles designated for campus leadership support. These positions usually have titles such as Executive Director of Campus Administration or Leadership Coach. However, people in these roles often juggle multiple responsibilities, and as a result have to offer support reactively rather than proactively. Rarely have I seen a district that systematically tackles the everyday challenges faced by campus leaders.
To illustrate, consider a district whose Leadership Coach is assigned to district committees that require them to attend multiple meetings week after week. This Leadership Coach also must work with specific principals who have different crises that need immediate attention, etc. This individual is often stretched too thin to provide meaningful, consistent support to campus leaders and as a result, the support becomes crisis-driven, rather than proactive and systematic.
So, what's the blueprint for a systematic proactive support plan? Imagine assigning a qualified observer to assess one school per day, focusing on four key areas: Systems Impacting Student Achievement; Instructional Leadership Frameworks; Climate and Culture Enhancements; and Communication Mechanisms. This observer could then identify the efficacy of these systems across the schools—what's working, what's failing, what's partially effective, and what's missing. These common areas would then be addressed systematically instead of one leader or school at a time. This process would need to be routine and consistent throughout the year in order to elevate a number of schools simultaneously.
A structured approach to bolstering campus leadership is not just beneficial—it's essential. All it requires is a committed, strategic effort. I truly believe that all parties want to improve underperforming schools to better the lives of the students and staff.