Doing the Right Work

I’ve been reflecting on my school year so far, more so now than ever because we are coming to the close of our first semester.  After analyzing some of the data that we’ve gathered over the past couple of months, I’m able to see that there is still a lot of work to do for the students for which I am responsible.  This has caused me to go into research overload mode, and I know there are definitely some changes that I need to make as we go into our second semester.  These changes can play a huge role in my students making improvements, and  I’m confident that they will have an impact on the students’ overall achievement.

Right now, I’m reading, School Leadership that Works: From Research to Results by Marzano, Waters, and McNulty.  Chapter six of the book talks about doing the right work and selecting an appropriate focus to help move students’ success rates.  Marzano, Waters, and McNulty (2005) state:

“…the downfall of low-performing schools is not their lack of effort or motivation; rather, it is poor decisions regarding what to work on.  So the problems in low-performing schools is not getting people to work, it is getting people to do the ‘right work.'”

This resonated with me and right now we are focusing on literacy, personalized learning, instructional technology, and professional learning-all of which I truly believe are the “right work” to get us where we need to be.  We’ve set the initiatives, goals, and created the action steps.  I reviewed what we have right now against the factors the authors noted as necessities for designing a school approach to address issues.  There were three levels of factors: school-level factors, teacher-level factors, and student-level factors.  The first of the three factors operate within the school’s initiatives, the second involve what teachers can address effectively, and the third involve matters of the home environment.  The breakdown of those factors look like this:

I love that the list incorporates things that are doable, and the text lists action steps one can take to ensure these things are prevalent in the school building.  At our school, we have many of these things in place, but the action steps that the authors outline cause school leaders to step back and view what is happening in the building without any bias.  The great part about being a leader who is observant is that it will create the possibility to see where growth areas lie and enable the capability to address them with a sense of urgency.  That’s my second semester goal- to focus on the growth areas and address them with a sense of urgency– consistently!

In viewing some of the most recent data, I’m able to see that there are students who have performed low, not only during this school year, but some of those students have performed low consistently.  At Model Schools this past summer, I had a chance of visiting a session where the presenter stated:

“There are students in your building who are not going to be on grade level and who will need numerous interventions to help them improve.  You know this already because it happens every year, so stop waiting until they get to you to figure out what you’ll do for them.  Go ahead and plan it now!”

He was right, and after conversations with other leaders, I see CLEARLY that formative assessments and clear, focused feedback are the key to helping our students get where they need to be.  As a leader, I don’t administer the formative assessments to students, but the practices that I put in place to help teachers view and use the data could be the determining factor in my students’ success.  As leaders, sometimes we get communication from teachers that students aren’t motivated or won’t do anything, but we have to fix it, and to be honest one of my pet peeves is educators complaining about what students will and won’t do.  If we make it an expectation, the students have to do it.  Anything else isn’t acceptable, and we have to work even harder to make sure that compliance and initiative is there.  If we look at it from a business perspective, Wal-Mart, which is responsible for an exceedingly large amount of jobs in the United States, can’t say that customers aren’t motivated to buy their products because the retailer would go out of business.  As a former member of a Wal-Mart leadership team, I know that store leaders have weekly meetings to analyze trends in sales, and they make adjustments to ensure sales continue to increase.   We have to use the same rationale as educators.  Going out of business isn’t an option for us!  Thinking about it while going into this Christmas break is giving me some additional perspective, and increasing the measuring and monitoring piece for the students will be key as I align my daily practice to doing the right work.

As I’ve visited schools, I’ve been able to see that there are some students and schools who will make progress and meet targets because they don’t lack much in their student-level factors.  Those factors play a huge role, and those students, honestly, would meet minimum goals with or without a teacher.  Other schools face challenges in those areas, but the great thing is that a dedicated and focused staff can implement proficient practices to ensure the entire “What Works in Schools Model” is where it needs to be.  It takes a bit more work, but no one ever signed up to teach because it was easy, right?  The race is won by he who endures to the end, and that statement defines who we are at Carver- we endure to the end.  We strive to make a difference because that’s what we’ve signed up for.  We’re at the halfway point.  And I’m motivated more than ever to get all of my students to the finish line!  Anything else wouldn’t be aligned with our #2185Pride.

Dr. G.

Marzano, R., Water, T., & McNulty, B.  (2005).  School leadership that works: From research to results.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


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