I began the school year with one term on my mind “focus school.” We had missed the target score for reading under the flexibility waiver for “No Child Left Behind.” Working to improve student performance is not a new concept for me, but doing so under the watchful eye of a Department of Education (DOE) facilitator is unnerving. The process was not well defined because before the summer it did not exist. To a large extent we were building the plane as we were flying it. As we finally began to get some needed information, we began to see that the DOE was relying heavily on the guidance used for schools that were in danger of losing accreditation. This helped with the structure, but was not a great fit for a focus school. Basically we needed to create an improvement plan by assessing indicators and listing tasks to meet those indicators. A team was established to help create the plan and monitor progress. At this point the plan is complete and the team is working with student achievement data to direct and monitor improvement. We meet very often.
Working with a team in the doctoral program has been a helpful experience in focus school process. Dividing work into manageable task that can be assigned to different people is central to the school improvement process. Having a trusted group where ideas can be tested is also important. Another school in the division has also been identified as a focus school. Although I would not wish this status on anyone else, I am thankful to have another administrator who understands my problems and can offer assistance. The process can be overwhelming, but we have reduced some of the stress by dividing certain tasks. Trading-off who takes the lead on a task reduces the learning curve and improves productivity.