4.  Leadership - The Backbone of Our School.

 Before we even look at the organization of a school that is
expected to meet the needs of a very diverse population of
students, we must first understand the requirements of a school
when it comes to Leadership.

 Principals and assistant principals must have the skills needed to
solve problems in all school situations. Public schools face a
shortage of school leaders. As of the 2015-20016 school years,
approximately 35 percent of the school system's school principals
and vice principals have five or fewer years of experience.

 With this crisis in leadership comes an intricate set of challenges.
Not only has finding qualified candidates to succeed outgoing
school administrators become increasingly difficult but current
superintendents, who are themselves, inexperienced, are finding it
increasingly difficult to provide a comprehensive professional
development program for newly hired principals.

 To meet these challenges, states must establish local centers
which will oversee and facilitate a range of efforts to recruit,
develop, and retain school leaders. These initiatives include
coaching new leaders and providing qualified mentors and technical
training to them.

 How can we expect teachers to effectively improve instruction
when our educational leaders, the professional mentors of our
teachers in many cases have served less than ten years in a
classroom? Federal and state designed standards for school
leaders should insure that professional development and
implementation of research-based programs will set the standards
for evaluating the effectiveness of all administrators.

 These standards are associated with the following areas of
Leadership:

 •        Strong Instructional Leadership
 •        Organizational Leadership
 •        Staff Development
 •        Student Support Services
 •        Community Relations and Communication
 •        Observing teachers to improve instruction.
 •        Balanced Literacy to improve student achievement.
 •        Meaningful Academic Intervention Services.
 •        Using technology to improve instruction.
 •        Developing a realistic Professional Development Plan.
 •        Conducting meaningful faculty conferences.
 •        Building an effective PA/PTA: with successful parent
          outreach.
 •        Looking at assessments and how to use them to improve
          instruction.

 Today when we look at administrators, we understand that their
main role is to be instructional leaders of the school. Their role as
instructional leaders is to foster a vision and mission that
advocates, supports, and sustains a standards-based culture
focused on improved student achievement.  It is the administrator’s
values and beliefs that will identify student learning as the
fundamental mission of schooling, ensuring the right of every
student to an education of the highest quality in the least restrictive
environment.

 It is these values and beliefs that will create a standards-based
educational program in which all students can learn and teachers
will recognize the specific knowledge, skills, and values that
students need so as to become successful and productive adult
members of society.

 By providing mini-schools within the school, principals will not only
ensure success for their students, but they will also create the
opportunity for the students to show improved attendance,
behavior, satisfaction and greater self-esteem which many
educators feel is the backbone for student success.

 These small school models also let teachers create their own
learning environment in which their visions of successful schools
can be realized. By allowing teachers to generate distinctive
environments where there can be greater student success, we will
also allow all students to feel greater self-esteem which is the
number one factor for improving instruction, and enhancing morale.

 A child’s emotional life strongly influences his behavior, and
learning. A child with a healthy sense of self-esteem feels that the
important adults in his life accepts him, and would go out of their
way to ensure their safety and well-being. A child with a low self-
esteem or a child who feels unwanted, unloved, and unaccepted will
often develop learning disabilities, disciplinary problems, and
depression later in life.

 Schools can foster positive self-esteem in their students by having
at least one reliable, responsive adult connected to each and every
student and be available to them for the long term. Many consider
this fostering of self-esteem in students is the first step in creating a
school culture. A warm and caring adult can sometimes tip the
balance between a child who learns and a child who fails.
Communication is the vehicle for intellectual development,
exchanging information, sharing feelings, and developing strong
emotional bonds. A teacher who chats encouragingly with a child
about many of the things he is doing, thinking, and feeling helps
him build confidence in his pursuit of independence.

 When teachers are humanized by effective administrators, who do
not criticize and condemn but give honest and sincere appreciation
will produce a culture where the teachers will see the school as a
family. Since brain power is not a function of economics, an
emphasis on developing self-esteem and character can create a
school that fosters both intellectual and emotional growth.

 First we must understand that all students no matter what grade
they are in are going through an intense biological and
psychological period that taxes their ability to work at their full
capacity. And too often the schools fall far short of meeting the
educational and social needs of millions of these students. But,
when the most important factor a teacher must strive for is looking
at the emotional needs of children, the school will create a
community of adults and young people linked together with a
network of support which will enhance the commitment of students
to learning.

 This partnership of adults with children will foster a shared
community of adults with a common interest in the student’s
success especially if he is at risk of being left behind. When
children are in school we see a time when rapid physical,
intellectual and emotional change takes place. Children at all ages
go through emotional peaks and valleys, students are vulnerable to
emotional hurt and humiliation and they are exploring their new
identity and social roles and trying to develop a code of ethics to
guide their behavior.

 Even confident children may experience a severe drop in self-
esteem. Children will compare themselves to their peers, and may
decide that they just don’t measure up to others whom they believe
to be smarter or more popular. But, with a responsible caring adult
to help these students through a difficult time, self-esteem will
resurface once they feel like they have safe classroom environment.

 By understanding the concepts presented on this web site,
principals will have the ability to reach their teachers by
transforming their teaching environment. By understanding how
different students learn and applying this knowledge to classroom
instruction, teachers will be able to teach to the different learning
variations of their students. And, principals will ensure success for
all students in their school.
3.  The School's Professional Plan and its Ten
Essential Practices.

 Our greatest challenge in our schools is to encourage innovation,
experimentation and creativity to foster a shared vision which will
create a community of life-long learners who will be the leading
citizens of tomorrow.

 In order to meet these challenges, we must have a successful
professional development program in all of our schools.
Professional development starts where the new and experienced
educators are now and where they will need to be to meet the new
challenges of guiding all students to higher standards of learning
and development.

 This approach emphasizes collaboration through leadership
teams, respect for the knowledge base of the professional staff
through their understanding of the literacy framework and the use
of curriculum integration through all subjects and the participation
by all through shared decision making and school based
management.

 High quality professional development refers to rigorous and
relevant content, strategies, and organizational supports that
ensure the development of teachers and others who influence the
teaching and learning environment. The mission of your
professional development plan is to prepare and support educators
to help all students achieve these high standards of learning and
development.

 Adherence to this principle ensures that professional development
is relevant. When teachers help design their own learning, they are
likely to feel a greater sense of involvement in the professional
development experience. Without collaborative problem solving,
individual change is possible but school change is not.
Collaborative problem-solving activities allow educators to work
together to identify both problems and solutions.

 Activities may include interdisciplinary teaming, curriculum
development and critique, and study groups. Teachers learn from
their work. Learning how to teach more effectively on the basis of
experience requires that such learning be planned for and explored
in a real context. Curriculum development, assessment, and
decision making processes are all occasions for learning. When
built into these practices, professional development addresses real
needs. Professional development must also address teacher’s
beliefs, experiences, and habits. When teachers have a good
understanding of the theory behind particular practices and
programs, they can adapt the strategy they are learning to the
circumstances in which the teacher is trying to use it.

 Teachers must be ready to use assessments to guide their
instruction. They must have the instructional knowledge and skills in
how children learn and an understanding on how interdisciplinary
teams work. Teachers must also have an understanding on how
young children and adolescents develop and their needs for
emotional stability. Finally, teachers must be willing to participate in
the school’s governance system with the knowledge to support a
safe and healthy school environment which will engage parents and
the community in supporting all students of the school.

The mission of professional development program includes:

 1. Focusing on teachers as the center of student learning, yet  
     includes all other members of the school community.
 2. Expecting outcomes on individual and organizational
     improvement.
 3. Using available research and practices in teaching, learning,
     and leadership.
 4. Planning collaboratively with those who will participate in and
     facilitate that development.
 5. Evaluating teacher effectiveness and student learning by
     creating assessment guides to be used for subsequent
     professional development.

This professional plan should be developed to address nine
areas. By understanding these essential practices teachers
will be able to address the real needs of all children in the
school.

 1. The Literacy Framework
and its instructional strategies: All
schools must successfully implement the Literacy Framework and
continue to support the use of the Literacy Framework instructional
strategies throughout each classroom. Collaboratively, staff
developers, language arts and guided reading teachers evaluate
standardized test scores as well as holistic, alternative assessment.
Using these assessments, teams of teachers will identify students in
need of remedial reading or additional academic intervention
services. The school guided reading program should supplement
and provide these students the additional services when needed.

 2. Curriculum consistent with standards becomes the focus of
classroom instruction. Your goal is to develop curriculum mapping,
to engage all teachers to look more closely at curriculum guidelines.
A monthly outline will include topics in the content areas,
instructional skills, and means of assessment. For the future, it will
allow teachers to modify curriculum to meet the needs of all
students.

 3. Thematic units provide an interdisciplinary approach to
instruction and will be introduced to your teaching teams. The
purpose is to allow students to draw connections from one content
area to another and to implement literacy across curricula.

 4. Print-Rich Environments include classroom libraries and
meeting areas, charts of books read, rubrics and process charts,
word walls that display strong images, original student work and
displays that are updated, published student books, and class Big
Books. Classroom environments must reflect the affective and
cognitive tone of the school and facilitate group and independent
activities. Learning centers become an integral part of instruction.
To complement this rich classroom environment, your library and
media center should reinforce the literacy initiative.

 5. Assessment as a daily, continuing process relates directly to
instruction. Modification in instruction and is the result of ongoing
assessment and moves beyond standardized tools and instruments.
Assessments through instructional activities involve student
portfolios, student teacher conferences, interviews, projects, logs,
journals, reports, writing samples, as well as tests. The school
should encourage teachers to engage students and parents as part
of their assessment team in evaluating student progress. Results
will be reported to all constituencies and results will continue to
drive instruction.

 6. Academic Intervention Services must be available for those
students who score below the designated performance levels on
State Assessments and should include those students with
disabilities and limited English proficiency. In addition, all students
who score in the lower half of assessments are eligible to receive
academic intervention services. These students must be recognized
and incorporated into a specific program in keeping with his/her
interests and needs. AIS services for LEP students are
supplementary and do not replace the bilingual and freestanding
ESL instructional programs.

 Students are identified and placed in mini-schools that provide AIS
by diagnostic assessment, assessment portfolios, classroom
performance and report cards. Teachers, administrators,
counselors, other school staff, and parents make recommendations.
Extra academic time during the school day is created in the mini-
schools that service these students. Through each mini-school,
individual guidance services are provided to utilize the strengths of
the teachers and the smallness of the programs in order to meet
the varied needs of the students.

 Academic Intervention Services include:
 •        Inclusion Program, Guided Reading, Speech and  
Language Remediation, Morning Reading and Morning Reading
Enrichment, Extra Help Math and Morning Math, Enrichment,
ESL Services, Resource Room Services, Tutoring, Peer
Coaching, Social Worker Counseling, Hearing Impaired Services,
Summer programs, Extended Day, Extended Year, Crisis
Intervention, Group and Individual Counseling (Guidance), Co-
teaching and Team Teaching within class staffing that reduces
student-teacher ratios, Saturday Programs, Instructional Blocks
(90 minutes), Computer Lab, Research Periods in School
Library, Support Services (guidance and attendance)

 7. Peer Coaching is a professional development plan that is
beneficial to new teachers as well as veterans. It creates a learning
culture where teachers collaboratively share their classroom
experiences. Through intervisitation, informal/formal evaluations,
veteran teachers, staff developers, and administrators will provide
the staff with a support system to foster effective teaching.

 8. Common Prep Periods/ Morning and After School
Meetings
must be scheduled for each grade or cluster, including
meetings for subject teachers. In addition, monthly meetings will be
scheduled for peer coaches and departmental leaders.
Professional Development Plans utilize resources within schools
combined with activities sponsored by the District, Central Board,
and the State Education Department. Funds through Title I, District
initiatives, and school grants will allow all schools to participate in
training activities that will support our teachers and meet the needs
of all students. Examples of initiatives are:

 •        Peer coaching where experienced teachers work with
          assigned teachers who are new to education or show
          that they need assistance
 •        Provide school-wide training and ongoing support  
          through classroom demonstrations, intervisitations,
          meetings, conferencing and ongoing dialogues around
          teaching methodology and curriculum
 •        Help teachers to develop curriculum units with
          appropriate resource materials
 •        Support new teachers in the use of Performance
          Assessment and the use of Standards
 •        Create a Teacher Resource Center
 •        Provide teachers with instructional materials in order to
          ensure continuity of instruction
 •        Schedule Teacher Study Groups
 •        After school, professional development for teachers
 •        Assign district staff developers working with teachers
 •        Link our school to exemplary models
 •        Expand the 90-minute literacy block
 •        Expand the mathematics block
 •        Hire guided reading teachers
 •        Involve instructional support team
 •        Involve child study teams
 •        Extend after school program
 •        Use DRA reading assessment as an indicator of student
          reading progress
 •        Create early morning reading and math programs
 •        Expand the inclusion program
 •        Include push in services using Title I funds
 •        Increase ESL services
 •        Increase guidance services
 •        Commit to school wide Literacy training
 •        Expand classroom libraries to support student reading
          across genres and curricula
 •        Engage parents to support student reading at home
 •        Establish and provide Academic Intervention Services
 •        Encourage a Parent Involvement Program
 •        Establish a School Leadership Team

 9.  Creating a Team Approach to Education to foster
supportive relationships between teachers and students.

 Creating these teams allow teachers and students to interact on a
formal and informal basis. Teams stabilize the environment making
it safe for all students. There are no rules for establishing teams but
they must meet certain criteria in order to succeed. First, they must
allow students to fit into their peer group successfully allowing them
to feel that they are accepted by a group that they themselves
value.

 The teams must have teachers who will become the school experts
who will act as advocates for a group of students on the team. This
teacher would become the contact to various other school staff
members and the contact between the team and the students’
parents.

 In order for the above programs to work, the district, principals and
all school administrators must be connected to each school
professional development process and be committed to a
comprehensive school change process focused on improving
student learning. This change process includes time and
opportunities for new practices, adequate funding, technical
assistance, and sustained district office follow-through. Thus,
unless professional development is designed as part of a larger
change process, it is not likely to be effective.

 10. Staff development

 Today teachers are not ready to meet the challenge of how to
educate all students to achieve their full potential. Just like we set
high standards for our students we need to also provide continuous
opportunities for teachers to learn. Teachers must learn how to
meet the learning challenges their students face with ongoing in
house support though competent administrative leaders and staff
developers in the school.

 Schools must hire staff specifically trained to meet the needs of
their students and they should engage these teachers in ongoing
professional development. A facilitator either full time or part time
should coordinate professional development by embedding it in the
teacher’s daily work. This professional development is a necessity
for the staff to develop the skill necessary to create success for all
students within the confines of a mini-school. By creating this
climate of intellectual development for the staff, we will create a
caring community with a common goal to see teams of teachers who
work together to ensure high standards for teaching and learning.

 Educators must also provide a reach out program to the parents to
help support student learning. This is achieved by collaboration and
communication between the home and the school to support
student schoolwork and provide opportunities where parents can
learn how to become part of their children’s education process.
These connections between the parents and the school will
increase opportunities for expanding learning inside the home and
beyond the walls of the school.

 The success of all students should include curriculum relevant to
how students learn yet connected to rigorous standards. Teachers
will become experts in teaching young adults through professional
development centered on learning through an interdisciplinary
curriculum. And finally, to ensure the success of all students these
mini-schools must involve the parents and communities in
supporting student learning and help provide a safe and healthy
mini-school school environment.

 I cannot emphasize enough that it is the culture of change that is
so important in making a school work. Many schools have made
enhancements in their educational structure. These schools have
created teams of teachers and students. They have created school
based decision making and created flexible scheduling where
teaching teams can vary the length of classes to accommodate a
range of teaching strategies. But if change is only created to
accomplish goals such as vary the length of a classroom to allow for
remediation then where is the school wide culture behind this
change?

 On the other hand, if the change is made to support more than
just a teaching strategy but to change a culture then the shift goes
from the teacher to the student. The change to flexible scheduling is
to allow more time for integrated curriculum, shared planning and
professional development. Notice when we create a culture of
change, the scheduling now becomes a tool that the staff can use
to address the learning needs of all students and provide for a
richer educational environment.
 Educational Issues Facing Our Schools……………………

 Anyone who looks at our schools can see many issues that need to be clarified as to their importance in
improving our schools.    By focusing on these issues or the deeper things that make a successful
school we will have a greater understanding of how these elements work together to create a school
culture that provides positive outcomes for all children.