Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What gets monitored...Gets done

Going to Disney for vacation, it becomes immediately clear that tourist are made to feel welcomed, relaxed, and promised a wealth of memories to treasure when they leave. There are, of course, exceptions. Speaking purely from my experiences (2 visits in 4 years) and that of those who I've swapped stories, positive memories was common. I have no insider knowledge for how this phenomenon is successful. But, an educated guess would be that the training is a major reason for such success and consistency. Another critical component would be monitoring. I'm not talking Big Brother 1984 style, although that is a possibility; rather, it's the idea that consultants, coaches, and/or leadership observes, gathers data, and provides ongoing support to the employees to maintain the Disney experience.

Classrooms and school districts focus are similar. With so much pulling at educators, identifying and implementing systems for supporting student achievement is high stakes in an intensely pressurized environment. What I've noticed in successful schools and poorly performing schools is that what gets monitored, and supported, gets done.

In a classroom, students learn early on what work is important by what the teacher reviews and returns with feedback. Notice, I did not say "by what's collected and graded." One can argue the point, but when we look at quality levels, what gets returned with feedback carries more value. It sends the message, "This work is so important that I've taken the time to review it so as to support your growth and continued success."

Sound strange? Consider the messages transmitted in a building. Staff receive professional development on writing strategies or a character program. PD takes one to three days to complete prior to the start of school. The principal informs the staff that on submitting lesson plans, the PD focus must be included somewhere, "x" amount of times. A recipe for success or failure could turn on what happens next. If the collected artifacts is put into storage, a vague message of "Nice Job" is returned, and/or feedback comes a week or more later if at all, not much will take hold. What was learned in PD will not take root in a systemic format. Veterans will teach the rookies the adage, "This too shall pass." Another PD checked off, and forgotten.

If instead, the leadership team reviews artifacts and provides timely feedback--written or verbal. If time on a regular basis (can we strive for weekly) is used for sharing of successes, assisting frustrations, and next steps, the focus has greater chance for embedded success. The message is that the system focus is so important that leadership provides time and direction for shared learning and collaborative support. The expectation is that staff implement the initiative with support of colleagues and leadership through reflective dialog.

In successful classrooms anywhere, where students are largely experiencing consistent success despite struggles, the teacher(s) monitor, coach and facilitate feedback support so that students' experiences meet set expectations. Schools where staff by and large are having consistent success with student achievement, share experiences, ideas, and support for themselves and their colleagues, which leadership (administrative and teacher) monitor, coach and facilitate feedback based on their efforts.

Wouldn't it be great if you could walk into any school and feel the electric excitement for learning success in a community of stakeholders (inside the building). The demographics, pedagogy, and culture would be widely different; but there would exist a common sense that all students can and will be successful and prepared for their future. There are schools in diverse settings and challenges that have this kind of success--through monitoring what needs to get done.

So how do we spread the Disney Magic? What's Best 4 All...

Authors to Study
Robert E. Quinn, Stephen Covey, Susan Allan & Carol Tomlinson, Richard DuFour, John C. Maxwell, James Kouzes, Carolyn Downing, and Michael Fullan