Earlier this week the Florida Department of Education released school rankings for schools statewide across five categories: elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and combination elementary/middle and middle/high schools. Rank was calculated by points earned for the 2010-11 school year and were earned differently depending on type of school. For example, elementary and middle schools earned points based on FCAT scores, while high schools were awarded points by FCAT, graduation rates, accelerated coursework participation and performance, and postsecondary readiness (FDOE, 2012).
An article in the Orlando Sentinel online titled “Educators criticize latest Florida School Rankings” quoted Florida’s governor saying that “Floridians care about education and it is critical that our students have access to world-class schools that will give them a pathway to a successful career. Measuring each school’s performance helps gauge our progress toward that goal.” However, Florida’s teachers union responded to the rankings as “misguided” with the union’s president saying “Any attempt to reduce learning to merely numbers is misguided.” One principal highlighted in the article echoed the concerns of the rankings stating “It’s just not that simple. Nor should it be, because our students are far more complex…” Meanwhile, a second principal stated while she is very proud of her school’s accomplishments she knows “all schools are putting forth great effort to help their students achieve… Schools across the state are digging deep to help all students have access to a quality education.”
In response to the school rankings, the superintendent of Santa Rosa County School District, ranked 2nd in the state, noted “In our schools, it’s consistent that learning is a high priority” (see article in the Pensacola News Journal). A parent interviewed for the article celebrated the strength of teachers “know[ing] all the students and their strengths and weaknesses.” A principal highlighted both great teaching and parental involvement noting “We go to school to learn. If our staff continues… to teach, our students are going to perform. If we do that, the [FCAT] scores will take care of themselves.”
Through years of research and experience in the educational field we know that great teachers make great schools. Teachers are the ones who work tirelessly to help students learn, grow, and achieve, and the ones who make sure parents are satisfied with their children’s learning experience. But what role do great leaders play? They create the conditions that allow for a school full of great teachers. What does this mean in terms of these rankings? According to Pilcher and Largue (How to Lead Teachers to Become Great: It’s All About Student Learning) leaders must coach and support teachers to:
Know that student learning results must be transparent to students and their parents.
Partner with parents and evaluate parent satisfaction levels. Gather parent satisfaction data from parents at the end of every 30 days and share the collective results with them.
Analyze student learning results to determine what is working and what is not working in their classrooms. In performance-driven classrooms, teachers constantly reflect on how well their students are learning. These data help teachers know if and when they need to re-teach the content, provide more practice, and coach more.
Realize that rolling out data and making those results transparent gives teachers an opportunity to modify their practices (per above) and to harvest wins with parents and students. Teachers also realize that they get wins when students learn and when parents are satisfied with their children’s learning experience.
Great leaders provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. To do this they work with teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders to get the best student learning results and create results-oriented school cultures.
Florida Department of Education (FDOE). http://www.fldoe.org
Learning Gains Criteria. http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/pdf/1011/Guidesheet2011SchoolGrades.pdf
Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved January 31, 2012 at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-florida-school-rankings-20120130,0,239306.story
Pensacola News Journal. Retrieved January 31, 2012 at http://www.pnj.com/comments/article/20120131/NEWS01/201310326/Beach-school-ranked-among-state-s-best
Pilcher, J. and Largue, R. (2009). How to Lead Teachers to Become Great: It’s All About Student Learning. Gulf Breeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.
Our mission at Studer Education is all about providing students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. To do this we teach teachers and leaders how to get the best student learning results and create results-oriented school cultures. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com to learn more about Studer Education Teacher Development Institutes (TDIs), Leader Development Institutes (LDIs), and Evidence-Based Leadership.