A new year always holds the promise of a fresh start. Consider how you might reinvigorate your district’s commitment to student achievement, and jump start 2015 with a school- or district-wide needs assessment—with success in mind.
Launch your effort to alter the status quo with a specific plan that’s grounded in student data and collaborative faculty work sessions. We recommend a four-phase needs assessment and strategic planning process that draws upon the best practices and innovative approaches that characterize successful initiatives across the country. For a breakout year, consider these steps:
1) Analyze your data.
While we educators may be collecting data fast and furiously, we don’t always take the time needed to analyze and understand the story it’s telling us. Slow down and take a step back. Drawing from your range of data:
- Look for evidence of student engagement and instructional effectiveness.
- Search for indicators of rigor and relevance across your curriculum.
- Gather quantitative evidence to help you identify strengths and find areas in need of attention.
2) Align around a need for change.
Once you have a clear sense of your triumphs and challenges, check in with your stakeholders—students, teachers, school leaders, parents, and community members. Make sure they understand:
- Your aim to target student achievement.
- What your analysis yielded—identified areas of need as well as success stories to build on.
- What it will take to tackle the needed change.
3) Plan for success.
Student performance is the goal, rigorous instruction is the way, and when you focus your energy on instructional effectiveness to improve student achievement, it unifies your efforts and guides the work that ultimately leads to system-wide transformation. It also yields the data that enables you to track your progress:
- Cultivate shared understandings that will enable you to build shared goals.
- Craft a plan that gets right to the heart of your specific needs.
- Work together to build a long-term plan for success that’s not just sustainable but also scalable.
4) Measure your progress.
Are you making progress? How do you know? What performance indicators do you use? Make sure yours are reliable and point the direction toward success:
- Use your plan to check up, check-in, and continuously monitor your progress.
- Work in collaborative teams to study and make sense of your data. What story does it tell?
- Adjust your course as your data guides you.
As you immerse your faculty in student work samples and data collected from multiple sources, you’ll begin to see patterns of progress and understand what’s working well. Cultivate a culture of success that engages your entire school community. Together, with a strategic plan in place drawn from your needs assessment, you can make 2015 your best year yet.