Coaching With Glee Why Continuous Improvement Doesn't Improve Our Work
Coaching With Glee
Kathleen O’Connell Sauline
How to Strengthen Continuous Improvement Processes Without Spending an Extra Dime
Like most of you who have been educators over the last twenty years, I have sat at innumerable tables to engage in continuous improvement. What percent of these improvements, however well planned, came to pass?
Most improvement processes have major gaps in planning, implementing, monitoring, and revising for continuous improvement. More time is wasted in this process than any other at the administrative level. The reason is simple. The time necessary is not spent with the individuals responsible for carrying out the improvement. To change this process and the outcomes there are a few non-negotiables that must be adhered to for improvement processes to actually change classroom practice and therefore positively influence student growth.
1) Do not decide anything for those who are not at the table. Those at the table may decide to get those not currently at the table together for a practice discussion, for comprehensive training, to develop deep understanding of information and data, etc. Those at the table may decide to work with practitioners – bringing them together with those who hold desired expertise. They should be brought together with knowledge of constraints and parameters determined at the district or building level as appropriate. For example, if we are responding to reading data with an intention to move teachers toward guided reading practice, those classroom teachers, intervention specialist, Title teachers and others who will carry out the practice must be at the tables. If we are responding to research with a decision to move to full inclusion, those teachers who will carry out the practice of co-planning, co-teaching and co-assessing must be at the tables.
2) Do not waste time discussing what others should do: “…teachers should…”, “…parents should…”, “…students should…”, “…the board should…”, “…the state should…”, are all a waste of time unless these individuals are at the table.
3) Do not allow processes to be hijacked by those who would offer solutions for which they are not responsible. With all due respect to state, county, university and other experts, the ideas that will result in actual student growth and implementation guidelines must come from the practitioners. This does not mean practitioners resistant to change or evolution of practice. This does not mean practitioners without expertise for guidance and challenge. In other words, the teachers of the teachers must be present to provide, prod, produce, and protect practitioners.
4) Do not allow resource allocation decisions to be made in an administrative vacuum. Practitioners will engage more willingly in improvement processes when they see that they will be included in resource allocation decisions (time and money).
5) Do not allow outside entities to waste your practitioner time.
6) Do not say: “we don’t have time to do this with teachers”. If we are not with teachers we are not doing it at all. If we added up the cost of the administrative time wasted in unfulfilled planning and processes that fall short of transforming our schools and redirected that to best practice teacher development, we would have the time and money we need to make a real difference for students.