Thursday, 17 August 2017

School Effectiveness Criterion #15

"Criterion #15  Our School Focuses On Change That Improves Student
                              Learning (Aligns with SDP elements #s 9, 15, 20)
One important area that Tom felt had not been well understood in the sphere of formal schooling was the process of change.  He had seen millions of dollars wasted over the years because of this.  In the early 1980s he had tried to educate principals under his superintendency about the change process. He accepted that he had failed through no fault of the principals but in an era of central education departments telling its subjects what to do it was not a fertile context within which to attempt such in-service.  Also Tom conceded that the expert he called in had minimal theory to work on.  Tom was fortunate in the mid 1980’s to be able to study the work of the change guru Michael Fullan.  Essentially the Fullan process canvassed a need for and introduction of the change sourced from a variety of motivating avenues such as a teacher with an innovative idea or a learned professional group.  Staff then needed a period to absorb and practise what the change required with some form of peer support, interaction and advice as they all came to grips with the new.  This was to be followed by a full embedding of the change in the culture of the organisation, but in some cases rejecting the change as unworkable after trialling it.  For Tom an effective school had to be prepared to evaluate the effectiveness of any changes it had engineered as they were usually sapping of valuable resources of time, money and expertise.  Above all fads had to be avoided.   Attempting too much change too often caused pressures and discontent that were an anathema to effective teaching and learning.  The timing of a change was also important in respect of staff being tired at certain times during the year such as nearing the end of a busy semester. A vital thing Tom learned long ago was the danger of an overenthusiastic principal driving change.

Tom now turned his attention to communications.  He knew how easily things fell apart in a school organisation if communications were faulty."

I do hope that some of this stuff is helpful.  As I have said before I love sharing it.  I loved being a school Principal.

May the Force be with you!


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

School Effectiveness Criteria #s 13 & 14

More bread and butter stuff:

"Criterion #13  We The School Staff Are One With The School Board (Aligns
                              with SDP element #12)

With School Boards having become an integral part of government schools Tom wanted the whole staff to be able to demonstrate how they work effectively with the School Board and the parent body at large.  The students belong to the parents and there was to be no preaching to them on how to bring up their sons and daughters. It had all gone well beyond the old P & C-as-money-maker mentality.  The School Board members needed to know that they were a vital contributor to the decisions within their brief.  The parents at large should feel that their views about their student child’s schooling were valued through regular consultation and the provision of participatory opportunities.

Criterion #14 Our School Has Reassuring And Necessary OHS Procedures
                             (Aligns with SDP element #20)

An effective school had clear and efficient occupational health and safety policies and evaluation processes to ascertain whether these work.  Tom knew from experience that the OHS policies needed to cover local council building requirements; building evacuation plans; managing crisis events like fire or earthquake; first aid and sick bay provision; excursion policies; workers’ compensation; drug and alcohol policies; fire precautions especially smoke alarms and working fire extinguisher equipment; easily accessible emergency service contact numbers; allergy precautions; canteen hygiene and food quality and all equipment being in good working order."

Next post will be about change within a school community, which over the years, has been a big issue for Tom and GD.

May the Force be with you!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

School Effectiveness Criterion #12

This is real bread and butter stuff and educators trained in other than accounting skills need to be on top of such necessities.

"Criterion #12 Our School’s Budget Spending Is Focussed On Improving
                             Student Learning  (Aligns with SDP elements #s 15,16,19)

 With one line budgeting for independent government schools there was an increased principal responsibility for how the money was spent.  For Tom the golden rule was to spend always with a view to improve student learning.  The medium term projections for spending should be reflected in a School Development Plan for say the next three to five years. This would also include processes for auditing the spending from an accounting point of view and evaluating the effectiveness of the spending for improving student learning.

Budgeting had also to take into account the projections for student numbers in the future.  An increasing student population placed pressure on building space, sufficient outdoor areas and of course staff numbers.

In respect of official accounting audits of the school budget there had to be total transparency to indicate compliance with accounting standards and to ensure honesty and integrity.

Part of making for a safe environment in a school was the need to spend on ensuring plant compliant with mandated Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations.  It was also important to have essential OHS policies and procedures."

May the Force be with you!


School Effectiveness Criteria #s 10 & 11

Might be deemed to be stating the obvious here but Tom felt he needed to record as follows:

Criterion #10 My School Relieves Me Of The Stress Of Severely Disruptive
                             Students (Aligns with SDP element #21)

Tom was determined that an effective school would have realistic processes for dealing with students who were disruptive to the point of adversely affecting the learning of their classroom peers and at times being threatening towards teachers.  He knew that despite the best efforts of the teachers this behaviour can at times occur.  He was committed to the view that each teacher should walk through the gates every morning knowing that they have nothing to fear in seeking help with a particularly recalcitrant student.  Each student is being who they are at any point in time given all the current circumstances of their life inside and outside the school. There could be complex reasons why a particular student is acting up to the point where they are constantly disrupting a whole class and maybe physically threatening teachers and students.  It may be that they need to be removed for a time out with others best placed and trained to mentor the student over this period.  The student then is welcomed back into the classroom situation.

Criterion #11  We The School Staff Accept Responsibility For Keeping Up To
                              Date (Aligns with SDP elements #s 6 and 22)

Tom focussed his thinking on staff professionalism having the view that a true professional happily bore the responsibility of ensuring that they were qualified and up to date in the knowledge and processes that defined their profession. This applied to members of the school’s administrative hierarchy, the teachers and the counsellors.  He had confidence that the mastery standards discussions provided one source of excellent updating amongst the teachers.  There would also be the programs that Principals and their staff members initiated apart from the latter vital in-house work.  Tom expected that the school staff members administrative, teaching and non-teaching should be able to provide a convincing array of in-service training that showed they were working hard to be up to date in the various facets of their particular professional focus.

May the Force be with you!


Sunday, 13 August 2017

School Effectiveness Criteria #s 8 & 9

"Criterion #8  My School Was Rigorous In Taking Me On (Aligns with SDP
                           element #17)

The first step for Tom in ensuring effective teachers was to have a viable process for employing new staff.  It should stand up to any scrutiny by authorities, who are expert in these matters.  This was going to be an added responsibility and testing task for principals of the emerging independent government schools.  The first essential would be that an applicant for a teaching position is registered by the appropriate quasi state authority such as a Teacher Registration organization.  It could thus be expected that the applicant would have verified teacher qualifications and the necessary criminal and working with children clearances.  If there were any concerns there would have to be a check of original documentation or JP verified copies of the original documentation.  For non-teaching staff it was likely that the principal would have to carry out the qualification and police clearance documentation checks.  Tom expected that any applicant would be fully briefed on the school culture prior to application.  There would be an interview by a select panel and the outcome of referee contacts would be crucial.  The contract structure under which employees worked must be watertight and would be governed by Education Department regulations for government schools. When employing contracted staff like cleaners and gardeners the principal would need to be convinced of the bona fides of the private company inclusive of the necessary criminal and child safety clearances and the insurance cover carried by the contractor(s).

Criterion #9  My School Gives Me Leadership Opportunities (Aligns with
                           SDP element #3)

Tom knew that the more teachers within a school are given leadership roles to establish standards of student mastery as outlined above with the concomitant opportunity to share best pedagogic practice, the less there is a need to worry about their performance dropping off.  The teachers as true professionals are being given the opportunity to monitor the standards of their own professionalism.

Tom had watched with interest the emergence of the notion of ‘distributive leadership’.  He thoroughly approved of the practice and wanted principals fully prepared to practise distributive leadership that identified the person for the job rather than being always tied to leadership from within the administrative hierarchy of the school.  For example, in the discussions for standards/mastery moderation in English, mathematics and digital skills, various teachers could be identified to lead the discussions.

Tom the realist also wanted teachers to feel confident that they did not have to put up with severe class disruptions from recalcitrant students. (Coming up as SE Criterion #10)"

May the Force be with you!