All of us like good food. But, on certain memorable days, good is not enough. We want great food that defines the whole experience which we can remember forever. What makes a good and a great dining experience different? Is it the skill of the chef, the ingredients, the presentation of food (plating), the atmosphere, the service, or everything put together?
Great schools that everyone talks about are different from good schools. Every educator can name a few such schools. And, every school management wishes to create such a school. But, what makes a school great? More importantly, how can a good school transform into a great school.
This article shares 6 steps to build great schools. Any school leader who follows all the 6 steps can easily transform a good school into a great school.
Step 1: The Vision Statement
A ‘vision’ is a clear statement of what the school is trying to achieve so that all stakeholders – teachers, students, their families and community members – are working together.
The vision statement of the school is the foundation for strategic planning and actions toward school transformation. A vision is important because it:
provides the focus for all aspects of organizational life,
informs planning and the development of policies,
clarifies and prioritizes work of individuals,
helps to articulate shared beliefs and develop a common language, thereby securing alignment and effective communication, and
characterizes the organization to the rest of the world.
The transformation process of the school begins with defining the vision statement.
It is the school leader's responsibility to lead the effort to define the vision statement. But representations of every stakeholder (management, teachers, students, parents, and staff) must be involved in creating the vision statement. You must create a "vision team" and then enable them to come up with a vision statement that everyone needs to believe.
Defining a vision is a serious activity that may take as long as a couple of months. But, this investment is justified considering the impact that the vision statement has on the future of the school To define the school's vision:
create a vision team
explain the benefits of the vision statement to the team
explain the features of a good vision statement
ask everyone to create and submit a vision statement
compile and circulate all vision statements without names of people
ask all members to submit a revised vision statement
organize a deliberation session to discuss and evaluate each vision statement.
define the vision statement that has everyone's consent
circulate the vision statement to different stakeholders to get their feedback
finalize the vision statement
2. The Seven Domains
School transformation must be focused on delivering better learning and improving performance of all students. This requires a holistic approach that addresses all seven domains of school leadership.
The performance of a school depends on a variety of diverse factors. Even a minor change in any one of these factors can have a long-lasting impact on student learning and engagement. To lead the transformation, school leaders must develop a thorough and deep insight into the seven domains:
Mastering these domains is an ongoing process that requires school leaders to allocate a few hours each week to study the effect of these domains on students' learning and achievement.
Apart from the school leaders, key members of the management and faculty must engage in mastering these domains. This will ensure that the planning, implementation, and monitoring of the development plan in uniform and consistent.
School leaders must make efforts to master these domains at both the individual and institutional levels. One of the best ways to do this is to organize a 10-minute presentation at the start of each weekly faculty meeting. The presentation should be given by one of the faculty members on a specific issue from any one of the seven domains.
3. Transformation Team
School transformation effects multiple stakeholders. Each stakeholder must be represented on the transformation team and contribute actively
School transformation affects students, parents, teachers, and staff. It needs to be wholeheartedly supported by the members of the school management. To increase the commitment toward transformation and increase the probability of success, school leaders must form a balanced transformation team that represents all stakeholders.
build a consensus for the need to transform,
conduct a school self-review,
create a school development plan (SDP),
implement the SDP, and
evaluate the SDP.
The core transformation team consisting of 6 - 8 members must be created as a first step of the process. Each member should have a clear role and responsibility area. At the various stages of the transformation process, more members can be added, if required, for specific tasks.
School leaders must initiate the process of identifying the best transformation team members. This should ideally include:
Representation of both genders
Representation from primary, middle and senior school faculty
The Head Boy and the Head Girl
A few resistors of change to play the devil's advocate
To identify the right team members, the school leader may use his/her intuitive opinion or conduct a short online survey among all stakeholders. Read the blog school leaders must build teams to succeed.
4. School Self-review
Quite simply, school self-review is about looking at how well a school is performing to achieve its vision. It can be time consuming, but it is a critical element in school leadership.
School leaders need to evaluate and make judgments to understand how the school is performing, and how to improve it. It is important that these judgments are based on robust evidence.
Self-review – a school looking critically and systematically at its own practices – has emerged as a ‘best practice’ based on the recognition that if schools themselves identify the things that they need to get better at, they are much more likely to do something about it.
Done properly, a school review is part of the daily work of the school leaders. Much of the data will be collected routinely. The analysis is both interesting and informative to focus their energy on the areas that will make the greatest difference. It takes time, but it will ultimately make the school leader’s job easier.
Although a school self-review is led by school leaders, the process can involve anyone. In some schools, students are key players in review – after all, they see more of the teaching and school organization first-hand than anyone else and, when suitably prepared, can play a valuable role.
The process of self-review needs to be managed well so that stakeholders are clear about the process and the purpose. They are then more likely to contribute to the process in a considered and constructive way. The process needs to be positive and open – it is not about finding out what is wrong and attaching blame. The process should also be realistic and focused in terms of what is reviewed and how much time is spent gathering information that will make a difference to outcomes for students.
5. School Development Plan
A school development plan (SDP) provides the basis for school improvement and should reflect the school’s philosophy and vision.
School development plan lists the priorities and actions for the next period of time – many schools make a general three-year plan that is supplemented by a more detailed yearly plan. The purpose of the SDP is to help you be strategic and to prioritize and identify actions that will ultimately lead to improvements in teaching and learning. The development plan will help all of you to remain focused on longer-term goals and prioritize tasks that will help you to achieve those goals. The SDP is the principal tool for planning ongoing school improvement. It is now part of educational legislation and is a central element in the government’s approach to decentralising decision making to schools through the Right to Education Act 2009 (RtE).
School Development Plan is created after analyzing the priority areas for improvement as indicated by the school self-review.
Under the RTE 2009, every school must establish a school development committee that can act as an executive body of the SDP. The committee should comprise school administration, teaching and non-teaching staff, and community members.
After the school leaders and the transformation team creates the SDP it should be approved by the management committee and all stakeholders. Post this, it is important to assign a timeline and responsibility to specific people to be accountable for each task in the plan.
6. Monitoring and Evaluation
The quality of implementation of a plan is directly impacted by the quality of monitoring and evaluation processes.
Even the best of plans, need to be monitored closely during execution to determine if tasks are being completed as desired within the required time frame. An unmonitored plan is just like a boat without sails in an ocean. Monitoring the plan helps you re-configure the tasks and the team to make sure the plan achieves its purpose.
SDP should be monitored on a daily basis. Each person responsible for the task should submit a weekly progress report and the whole transformation team must evaluate the progress on a monthly basis.
Each task in the plan must define the success criteria that will be used to evaluate the completion of the task. The monitoring team must focus on these success criteria. If there are reasonable doubts that the success criteria will not be met within the stipulated time, the team may increase resources, increase the time frame, or redefine the task suitably.
About the Author
Dr. Atul Nischal is the Founder of the International Council for School Leadership (ICSL) and serves as the Program Director of ReSET, the 3 week online certificate program for educators.
ICSL is a not-for-profit organization on a mission to inspire, empower, and enable school leaders and educators. You can support us by becoming a member, participating in our programs (Friday@5, ReSET), and spreading the word amongst all educators in your network. Your support is very critical for our mission.