Archive for January, 2011

It’s Not The Numbers That Will Change Schools: Principles for Principals

January 8, 2011

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” Albert Einstein

Just imagine you are a school principal and you attend a meeting with the superintendent and other principals across your district.  You learn from the “accountability person” that a KPI (key performance indicator) for your district is attendance and that the “numbers don’t look good.”  Every principal is charged with “improving attendance.”  As a principal, you “run a school”.  You will be “held accountable” for your attendance rate and know someone in “central office” is monitoring your data, your progress, and perhaps even your process.  What happens next?

On your drive back to school, do you call your secretary and ask him or her what your attendance rate is or whether or not attendance calls have been made for the day yet?  Once back at school, do you convene your teacher leaders and tell them that the district is tracking attendance and that the “numbers don’t look good”?  Do you look at your calendar to see when the next school improvement team meeting is?  Do you look at attendance reports by grade level and by teacher to see if you can find “where the problems are”?  Do you do the things that might help you “become a (wo)man of success” with respect to this KPI?

Or, do you do the things that might help you “become a (wo)man of value” with respect to this KPI?  That is, do you ask yourself questions like:

  • Why are some kids not coming to school?  Why don’t some kids want to be at my school?  Read William Glasser’s The Quality School
  • What happens to students when they don’t come to school?  What are the consequences?  Are they the right consequences? See Douglas Reeves’ Leading to Change: Improving Student Attendance
  • How do we respond as a community when a student doesn’t come to school?  “It’s important to let students know that you’re aware of their absences and that you care that they’re in school,” Wisconsin Department of Instruction’s AYP Handbook section on Improving Attendance and Graduation

How principals respond to directives from central office as well as how they respond to other “pings” is critical in determining how those inputs will impact the classroom or not.  George Couros speaks to this a bit in his Are we connectors? blog post as does Matt Landahl in his It’s all about building culture post.  How do you respond to directives and pings?  Do you check them off of a list when they are minimally satisfied or do you learn from them to ultimately add value for your students?