New Principal Post: Lessons From the First Half of the School Year?

Principal

Halfway into my first year as a new school principal, what have I learned? First, there is No Power in the Principalship, only in relationships.
Although I felt there were many things that needed to be changed, if I did not build trust and relationships with my staff, nothing could be accomplished. Over communicating and distributive leadership are not just theoretic words, they are words to live by for a new Principal.
Treating everyone with dignity and respect and making sure your staff does the same can save you a lot of headaches.
Dr. William Sterrett, Professor at UNC-Wilmington has a great book out, Short on time, “How can we find time to meet students’ and teachers’ needs, foster ingenuity and innovation, and apply best practices when so much is demanding our attention right this minute?
This is a perfect read for new school administrators. He has a FREE 100 point, Getting Ready to Lead, Action Step Guide. This guide is intended for those thinking about and those who are preparing to become School Administrators.

Principal

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Click here to get your FREE copy. Extremely helpful!

Goal Achieved! 1st Year Principalship, SLLA exam practice Paid Off

My last post, I spoke of 2012-13 school year being my leap year. This year 2013-14 I made the transition from Assistant Principal to Principal. With alot of hard work, prayer and staying abreast of current trends in school and instructional leadership has finally paid off. Read more here. Roxboro is in Person county,a small district about 30 miles from Durham,NC. It was a 3 year quest that was full of hard challenges,happy celebrations, difficult conversations and courageous decision-making. My last year as an assistant Principal was focused on high-level teaching & learning for students and teachers. Professional development and honest feedback helped solidified my my vision of school leadership. I also had some Principal preparation training that was very beneficial. Slla practice exam also helped. If you are just starting your journey to school leadership, I got good news for you. I’m gonna tell you how I did it in the hopes that you can get some take aways and make the leap yourself>
It’s a different view from the Principal’s desk! Stay tuned.
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Analyzing Data and Driving Instruction & Student Engagement

Data-Analysis-Model_Complete_large2nd Qtr assessments are in and there’s some data to go through. What I’m looking for here are trends in student performance and item analysis. Conversations with teachers are centered on What instructional strategies were being used and what do we need to do differently to get better results. The district is pushing the research-based strategy of Summarizing to improve literacy. Our 4th grade teachers have been trained, and I am monitoring it’s implementation. There’s also information about focusing on the “Tested 7”. Seven Reading Comprehension Strategies?
1. Activating background knowledge to make connections between new and known information. In many classrooms, this instruction is divided into three categories of connection as defined by Colleen Buddy – text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world (Buddy quoted in Keene and Zimmerman, 2007).

2. Questioning the text. Proficient readers are always asking questions while they read. Sticky notes (post-its) have become ubiquitous in classrooms in part because they are such a useful tool for teaching students to stop, mark text, and note questions as they read.

3. Drawing inferences. Proficient readers use their prior knowledge about a topic and the information they have gleaned in the text thus far to make predictions about what might happen next. When teachers demonstrate or model their reading processes for students through think-alouds, they often stop and predict what will happen next to show how inferring is essential for comprehending text.

4. Determining importance. In the sea of words that is any text, readers must continually sort through and prioritize information. Teachers often assist readers in analyzing everything from text features in nonfiction text like bullets and headings, to verbal cues in novels like strong verbs. Looking for these clues can help readers sift through the relative value of different bits of information in texts.

5. Creating mental images. Readers are constantly creating mind pictures as they read, visualizing action, characters, or themes. Teachers are using picture books with students of all ages, not necessarily because they are easy to read, but because the lush and sophisticated art in these books can be a great bridge for helping students see how words and images connect in meaning-making.

6. Repairing understanding when meaning breaks down. Proficient readers don’t just plow ahead through text when it doesn’t make sense – they stop and use “fix-up” strategies to restore their understanding. One of the most important fix-up tools is rereading, with teachers demonstrating to students a variety of ways to reread text in order to repair meaning.

7. Synthesizing information. Synthesis is the most sophisticated of the comprehension strategies, combining elements of connecting, questioning, and inferring. With this strategy, students move from making meaning of the text, to integrating their new understanding into their lives and world view.

Goal Achieved 80+ % Proficiency!

Our 4th qtr end of grading testing results indicate 80+ % of our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders are proficient. That may not be a big deal to some school leaders, but it is to us. We are a urban magnet school with 80+ percent of our student receiving free or reduced lunch. What we just accomplished kills the notion that poor students cannot learn. What it took was innovative teaching & learning combined with focused leadership, dedication and high expectations for all. Now we begin a new quest, The Common Core. I am excited as this will include more rigor and relevance. We will also implement a heavy dose of tech integration, to promote and demonstrate those higher order thinking skills. Sorry for the delay in post, but I will try to update more frequently. A lot going on, you know I’m sure. Feel free to leave a comment!

End of 3rd Quarter, where are we?

Spring break is here, and the testing season is upon us. We’ve had several things to celebrate, but now comes the final test. Doesn’t matter how many awards you’ve won, or how many visitors from other schools who’ve came to see what it is your doing. According to our quarterly assessments, we are about 68-70% proficient in our testing grades of 3rd-5th. Our goal started out as 80%, but we recently adjusted that goal higher? We are getting started early in our test prep, and have instituted a new strategy. I will tell you how successful this strategy is, when we get our final results in 7 weeks. On a brighter note we did win a National award for Urban Schools. You can read more about it here. We have a Ipad cart of 20 Ipads, which the students are really excited about. I am researching the effectiveness on student achievement, by how often they are used by teachers, students and the use of certain applications. I am also continuing to strengthen my skills as a Instructional Leader. I attended the ASCD conference in Philly last week, and returned with some new skills and strategies I plan on implementing at RN Harris. Lastly, in whatever free time I have left, I am developing some new mobile applications that hopefully increase student engagement with literacy. I will keep you posted.

Summer Planning

Another first, this summer I am planning with our Principal for the upcoming school year. Getting class list together, cleaning and maintenance schedules,and Interviews and hiring new staff.
A couple of staff members have asked, “Mr. Williams, when are you gonna take a break?” I smiled and told them “this isn’t work. I’m having a break right now.” Seriously there is a lot to get done in the few weeks we have until school opens in August. I am learning much about putting the right pieces together at the right time, to ensure a successful and smooth school year. So what worked last year? A collaborative vision of high expectation. This translated into the school working together as a unit to make the vision a reality. Another factor that played a role in our success was the emphasis on the school as a family. There was alot of cooperation between teachers, parents, students and administration. Teachers voiced their concerns and we listened. Same was true for parents and students. There was also a little friendly competition between another elementary school. Add this all together and we were the 3rd highest in our district in terms of proficiency. Next up, preparing for some PD with Staff before school opens.

Preliminary Results….

We received our preliminary results last week , and we are right at 77.8 % proficiency. Our goal was 80 % , and we are hopeful for a few more percentage points. Out of 28 elementary schools we rank 3rd highest in proficiency. We also made High Growth ( 60% of students making a year’s growth). Quite an accomplishment for two rookie admins, as this was Ms. Pugh’s first year as principal, and my first year as assistant principal. Also to mention we are 85% Free & reduced lunch, and a Title I school. Who said economically-disadvantaged students can’t perform academically. I know these standardized exams don’t mean that students have learned anything, but this is the measure we are being held to. Until they change the rules of the game, we are playing this game to win! Next up figuring out what worked well this year , and planning for next school year.