School Improvement in Maryland

A Principal's Role in Improving Student Achievement

Though we have a good deal of research to draw on in identifying what effective leaders do, translating the research into concrete, practical actions has been more elusive.

  • What exactly does a principal need to know and do to be successful in meeting their State Accountability target?
  • How do they find out where their students are on the content standard indicators?
  • How do they lead their staff in examining student work and assessing for learning?
  • What can they do that will produce the greatest gains?

If our end goal is to improve student achievement to meet State Accountability, then a critical intermediate goal is to determine where each of our students is in relation to the state content standards. While the logic is clear, most schools do not collect evidence of or for learning on an ongoing basis. We don't know what to teach students to take them to proficiency on indicators/objectives without knowing where they currently are on those indicators/objectives.

Principals need to understand where their school is relative to the State Accountability target, how their teachers assess for learning and monitor student progress, and how they use the data to adjust instruction based on student needs.

To accomplish these ends, principals need

  1. To understand and communicate their student achievement target
  2. To engage staff in analyzing state assessment data to determine whether there were any gaps between the State Accountability targets and their performance
  3. To evaluate school processes to ensure that teachers understand the target and have aligned their teaching and assessments to those standards they are responsible for teaching
  4. To structure time to regularly examine student work to inform instruction
  5. To have teachers collect and analyze formative assessment data to monitor student performance on the content standard indicators on a daily basis
  6. To keep their school focused on their student achievement goals as the primary work of staff

Action steps 2 and 3 provide the data to direct your school improvement goals and strategies. Action steps 4, 5, and 6 give you the data to direct classroom instruction on a daily basis.