By Martin Silverman

This is the second article in a series. Read the first article on school culture.

Ask any school administrator what their favorite part of the job is, and most likely you will get few responses that say “accountability.” There is just something so unnerving about trying to quantify this thing we call teaching and learning. Distilling these abstract acts into a number is not an easy thing to do! However, school accountability is a large part of what we do as educators, and it will help if we look at this issue through the lenses of both the heart and the mind.

Leading School Accountability with the Mind
As school leaders we are inundated with data from so many sources. Most obviously we have test scores, student grades, interim progress reports, etc. Initially it’s most important to know how to read the data we collect and know where it fits into the whole scheme of response to learning. Beyond just the colorful charts however, there are some vital steps we need to take to think about not just accountability but school improvement with the data we collect. Ask yourself:

  • What are the trends we see in data by student, teacher, grade level, subject, etc.?
  • How do we use this trend data to not only predict student outcomes but, more importantly, to design instructional strategies to improve the outcomes?
  • How well do we understand the standards and how they connect and build across grade levels?
  • How do we design lessons that explicitly use the information we gather to improve outcomes?

As an experienced administrator, I will tell you that this is one of the times you need to be vulnerable if you do not have the answers to these questions. There are tons of resources and people who absolutely live for the numbers and trends. Use your resources to learn how to interpret the numbers!

Leading School Accountability with the Heart
You might not think that something as seemingly finite as accountability has anything to do with leading with the heart. However, I want you to remember that teaching and learning are, in their essence, abstract ideas and also exist in the heart-realm. There is a deep psychology (and sociology) of test-taking that must also be considered when leading a school through accountability. Think about the people you know who are capable and intelligent but are just not good test-takers. Our schools are full of these people, both adults and students, and so the consideration of the effective part of accountability is important! Consider these points:

  • We need to strongly consider where a child is on the Maslow hierarchy; this will affect how they will perform on assessments.
  • Students will go the extra mile (and more) for people they care about and who care about them. A great deal of relationship-building goes a very long way in creating a culture where performance is valued.
  • Consistently living in the deficit-model world will not create the mindset needed to improve and grow. Instead of constantly focusing on what students can’t do, shift the thinking to improving what they can do, and do it better. In our state accountability system that would be moving students from Approaches→Meets→Masters.
  • The same materials in the hands of different teachers will have different outcomes. Putting effort into the how will likely give us better results than just purchasing the latest test prep materials.

When we endeavor to lead with both the mind and the heart, we set up the best opportunity to be successful in our school accountability!

Judson ISD principal, Martin Silverman is committed to providing the best educational experience for students and families at Salinas Elementary. His interests are in creating and nurturing school culture, providing enriching experiences for students and families, and developing future teachers and administrators. He hosts a podcast called “The Second Question,” which highlights educators and provides them a forum to discuss ideas and to honor the teachers who have influenced their lives. A longtime TEPSA member, Silverman is also part of a trio of Texas educators who host the podcast “The Texan Connection.”

TEPSA News, May/June 2022, Vol 79, No 3

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