Thursday, November 25, 2010

School Improvement Plans Suck! (And why they don't have to)

All right, I am going to give a name to the white elephant in the room by saying that I believe that School Improvement Plans SUCK.  They suck! I am going to argue that in many instances, most 10 (yes, they are out there), 5, even 3 year plans are not worth the paper they are written on.  Douglas Reeves, renowned educational researcher, agrees with me (well, maybe not about the “suck” part—he would be much more scientific).  In his book Transforming Professional Development Into Student Results (2010), Reeves talks about the inverse relationship between elaborate planning documents and student results.  So there you go, it’s official, School Improvement Plans suck.

Let me guess--your plan is glossy, has your logo on the front, boasts your mission statement that promises cures to the ills of society, has pictures of kids being happy and doing happy things, is littered with SMART goals, contains a multitude of strategies so innovative you can barely explain them, documents the process of how you engaged your entire staff (please...), how you got input from the parents (the handful that came to a PAC meeting), and how your students were intimately involved in making your school a better place for future generations.  Barf.  If you actually did all of this, barf again. (I am jealous barfing...)

Why the invective?  Why this rant?  Because I looked at the last School Improvement Plan that I wrote four years ago, it sucks, and it is MY fault.  This is not to disrespect my School Improvement Leader who helped create the plan--he worked incredibly hard.  But it was me who responsible for getting stakeholder involvement, and I didn't do a good enough job of it.  I put the glossy pictures of happy things and happy kids and happy logos, I wrote the SMART goals and presented them to staff (and to their credit, they mostly went along with them), I engineered the plan!  What a backwards way to do things: it is little wonder why I had limited buy-in to the plan.  It was (and still is) a static, lifeless document with justifiably little commitment from the very people that were meant to implement it.

So, I have decided that School Improvement Plans don't have to suck. but I have to make changes so that our plan is "suck-proof".
With the help of my PLN and Twitter, as well as my outstanding School Improvement Leader (who is just as nerdy about this stuff as I am!) we are completely changing our approach toward the development of our School Improvement Plan (SIP) for 2011-2014.  We believe that we can use 21st Century Learning methodologies and technology to take School Planning to a new level.  At the 21st Century Learning Conference in Chicago this October, I heard Cheryl Lemke say “We are moving from an era of using processes to teach content to an era of using content to teach processes.”  This resonated with me, and I am committed to doing things differently, and going to USE our SIP (content) for several purposes (processes):
  • To hear the voices of our students, and to integrate their talents into the creation and execution of this plan
  • To connect with our parents, and to involve them in the creation and execution of this plan
  • To engage our faculty in a Problem-Based Learning model so that they are committed to the creation and implementation of this plan
  • To use the process of making our SIP a learning tool to teach our students, parents, and staff Web 2.0 tools and 21st Century Learning Skills that they can apply to their own situation (and this is probably the coolest part)
  • To tell our story (and this is just the beginning) so that other schools can give us ideas or perhaps get ideas on how to use technology to increase engagement in the School Planning Process.
And ultimately, to create a plan that demonstrably improves the academic and social achievement of our students!

Our first step towards this has been to create a public blog for our SIP. Please check it out at

Within this blog, we have:
  • Used Google Docs to create online surveys (with help from parents, students and staff members) for a large sample of our student body, our parent community, and our entire staff (here is a sample of our student results)
  • Utilized Wordle to create word clouds that allowed us to quickly establish trends from open-ended questions
Wordle: SKSS Lesson

  • Used Synreweb in conjunction with BCeSIS (our provincial student information management system) to send out a link to our parent survey to more than 2000 emails of our parents to increase parent involvement
  • Provided links to the tools that we have used to begin the process of engaging our staff in developing our mission for what we would want for our children if they attended our school
  • Included skills that we have modelled (and will continue to model) for each of our stakeholder groups (such as the use of Web 2.0 tools and collaborative learning tools--a list that will continue to grow) so these skills can be incorporated into the classroom to increase student engagement
  • Created a working digital timeline with artifacts that will allow us to reflect upon this process and keep to our production deadlines in the Spring.

And in the end, we hope that we will have produced a PAPERLESS, DYNAMIC document known as our School Improvement Plan that will, in many ways, present itself to our school trustees and senior administration.


PS. If you have a minute or two, I have included a Screenr cast that describes a few of the first steps that we have taken in the development of this blog, as well as the web tools (including surveys made in Google Docs, that we have used to help us model the use of technology for our students, parents, and staff. If you have suggestions or ideas to share, please collaborate with us!

1 comment:

  1. As a parent SPC rep, I love this. 3 cheers for nerdy edu-techie type parents! Thanks so much for sharing.


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