School Improvement Plans: What’s Good For Students is Good For Teachers

For my previous module of my course, we were asked to reflect on School Improvement Plans (SIP) and make connections to student learning. I began to reflect on my district school board’s strategic directions (Achievement Matters, Engagement Matters, Equity Matters). Student engagement, achievement, and equity should always be at the heart of of every SIP and it should be linked to the Ontario School Effectiveness Framework since its main purpose is to “function as a tool for schools to identify areas of strength and areas requiring improvement in order to reach all students and improve student achievement”.
However, as I continued to reflect on the implementation and continuation of school improvement planning I began to realize that in order for school administrators and staff to achieve the goals of any SIP, they must take a closer look at their classrooms’ best practices that increase student achievement, engagement, and equity and apply it at the professional level. In other words, I realized that what’s good for the students is also good for the teachers. For instance, we know that learning in the classroom must be authentic and that students are more likely to be engaged if they are active participants in their own learning. This same thinking can be applied to the development of a SIP which must also be authentic to staff and parents in order to be a living document. It cannot be perceived to be a top-down initiative or a model replicated from another school. Additionally, if we know from research and teaching experience that differentiated instruction which focuses on student readiness, interest, and learning profile allows more students to be successful, then staff (who are at different levels of professional learning) would also benefit from differentiated professional learning opportunities related to the SIP as well.
I strongly believe that the importance of student voice, collaboration and making student thinking visible is equally as important to teachers with respect to school improvement planning. Teachers can feel very isolated in their classroom (especially if they`re in a portable!) and they need to be provided with opportunities to network and collaborate with each other in both physical and virtual environments. Teaching practice needs to be deprivatized and teacher thinking needs to be visible and shared with their colleagues. Often, it is through teacher dialogue and discussion that great ideas come to fruition. SIPs are rarely set in stone and require tweaks along the way and in order for SIPs progress and evolve. Therefore, reflective practice must be a habitual behaviour with staff and administrators. I often see large percentages of release time devoted to planning which is definitely important for any positive change to occur. However, I think that an equal amount of attention should be focused on reflective practice where teacher reflection and moderation can occur as well. Every school improvement plan should find ways to create the conditions for teacher reflection and sharing of best practice that occurs in their classrooms, grade levels, or divisions.
The goal of every school improvement plan should be to reach every student. In order to accomplish this, school administrators and staff must focus on student learning and the best practices that they wish to see in their classrooms and implement these best practices at the professional level.

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