In this three-part series, I write a lot about three of my favorite educational words and concepts: PREVENTION, INTERVENTION, and INTENTION. Each represents power-packed strategies that are a result of my research, evidence, and experience; they are the ‘how tos’ that finish incomplete, well-meaning educational advice telling us ‘what’ to do. In this series, Part 1 is PREVENTION: Data Walls Reveal ‘the Real Story’ of System, School and Student Performance; Part 2 is INTERVENTION: Case Management Meetings Provide System and School Knowledge-Building Forums; and Part 3 is INTENTION: System and School Learning Walks and Talks Answer: ‘How Do You Know All Students Are Achieving?”
Part 2: Intervention
Case Management Meetings Provide System and School Knowledge-Building Forums
We cannot say we’re putting FACES on our data unless the Data Wall co-construction and conversations are accompanied by follow-up Case Management Meetings (CMMs). By responding to conversations at Data Walls, the Case Management Meeting (CMM) process offers systems and schools a systematic way of providing precisely differentiated support to each school, teacher and student. Schools and systems that I work with consider this process very valuable because it focuses on learning and improving; it is understood to be in situ support; and it develops shared beliefs and understandings, especially Parameter #1 (mentioned in my last post) (Sharratt & Fullan, 2009, 2010) that addresses what the critical foundational beliefs are in moving system and school improvement forward.
School Level CMM
At the school level, teachers most often make their own adjustments to instruction by gathering evidence of learning while they are teaching or by gaining helpful insights through informal conversations with colleagues. The need for intentional intervention for specific students becomes highly visible to everyone at the Data Wall. The immediacy generated by the centrality of co-constructed Data Walls is key to promoting meeting spaces that focus on solutions to persistent puzzles of practice. Glued to the Data Wall approach in knowing all FACES are Case Management Meetings that offer CLARITY of instructional practices about what works best in classrooms. Discussion relating to a specific student FACE on the Data Wall, for example, may resonate with other teachers who have students with similar learning needs or may just seem like a new, impactful teaching strategy to be tried.
It is my experience and research-supported belief that, while leaders in schools support and participate in informal and ongoing conversations generated by the Data Wall, it is critical to also embrace formalized Case Management Meetings for every noticeably trending student, student group, class, year level across the school. Case Management Meetings offer a forum where the expertise of teachers and leaders come together to collectively problem-solve the most challenging issues in moving all students’ forward.
System Level CMM
Many leaders of the higher achieving systems begin their weekly leadership meetings at the system Data Wall with a discussion of the schools that appear to be causing concern and need assistance in leading improvement. The evidence on their Data Walls is provided by on going system data collection. From those discussions emerges a need for deep conversations about a school or group of students in need across schools. The formalized discussion following this realization is a Case Management Meeting as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: All System Leaders Own the Presented ‘School of Concern’
Source: Lyn Sharratt, Brisbane Catholic Education, 2017 in CLARITY, Sharratt, L. Corwin 2019.
Details of the CMM Process
At the school level, the Case Management Meeting is a formal decision-making meeting, purposefully built into the system or school calendar for follow-up improvement moves or instructional strategy suggestions leading from Data Wall discussions. It is not a supervisory or evaluative forum; it is truly a group of educators, including the school supervisor in System CMMs and the school principal in School CMMs alongside a Knowledgeable Other, who provide support and instructional advice. A community of trust is built through sharing their concerns and feeling confident in seeking the expertise of colleagues. This is a reciprocal process, as a teacher may struggle to meet the instructional needs of one of her own students and in another Case Management Meeting may have exactly the right strategy to support a colleague’s student. At the school level, teachers come to the Case Management Meeting in two ways: 1. through a student concern raised at the Data Wall; or 2. teacher self-nomination to seek help with an issue of instruction. At the system level, the Data Wall information or a school supervisor can determine a school to be presented.
Key attributes of the CMM include:
- Operating norms established and a protocol used (Sharratt, 2019);
- School data or a student’s work sample are the data presented;
- CMM is short, sharp and shiny: 20-30-minutes focused on help requested; Sharing of what has already been tried,
- Group assembled recommends strategies for consideration.
- School supervisor or class teacher selects one arising from the discussion;
- Time needed within which to honestly try the strategy recommended is determined; and,
- Date set to report back to the same team in a follow-up Case Management Meeting.
During the intervening time, members from the Case Management Meeting team do regular Learning Walks and Talks (discussed in Part 3 of this series) that include this classroom to support the teacher before the follow-up Case Management Meeting. School supervisors and teachers should never feel alone in this journey as the Case Management Meeting outcome is for the team to “take on” the responsibility for helping each school supervisor and teacher with improvement strategies. “We all now own this student.”
System leaders and I who have implemented system and school Case Management Meetings across contexts have been extremely successful in providing CLARITY of vision and practice to teachers and to school leaders. In the process, we have also learned the following lessons:
- Time. System and School Leaders must schedule the time for these critical Case Management Meetings and never cancel them. The number one reason for ‘being there’ is to model the belief that all leaders can learn to lead to ensure that all students can learn and that all teachers can teach.
- The Answer is in the Room. The brilliant underlying foundation of the Case Management Meeting is that the shared strategies to assist leaders and teachers with one school and one student will inevitably help other schools and students. Further, while a teacher may one day require or request assistance with a student, on another day that same teacher may be the pedagogical specialist to whom everyone is listening.
- Commitment. Intentionality within the Case Management process and ‘closing the loop’ involves teachers or system and school leaders returning and reporting on improvement (or not) within a specified time frame. The returning report and presentation of work done, or documented progress, is an assessment of the suggested strategy, not of the teaching done, nor of leadership skills at the system level. If the strategy recommended is not successful – the team doesn’t give up, but continues until a successful solution is found. The integrity of the purpose for the process – learning for all – is vital to the usefulness of the Case Management Meeting.
- Collaboration. Leaders and teachers are reminded that they are not alone. Providing ongoing support between the meetings sends the important message that ‘we all own all of the students.’
- Integration. All 14 Parameters weave together (Sharratt & Fullan, 2009, 2012). System and school leaders and teachers who attend Case Management Meetings must go into classrooms during their regular Learning Walks and Talks (Part 3 in this series), in the intervening weeks to look for evidence of the suggested strategies being employed. By asking students in the presenting teacher’s class the 5 Questions, Walkers continuously gather data to understand impactful teaching and learning approaches, and are leading by example.
- Instruction. The CMM discussion is only about instruction. It is directed by evidence of school data and student work to consider support for school improvement practices and to help teachers with instruction. There is no attempt in this meeting to discuss responses to or referrals about behavioural issues, truancies, or family issues, for example. These important issues that have other pathways for discussion and decision-making. This meeting is only about instruction for improvement.
- Descriptive Feedback. What we have been discussing in Case Management Meetings above is a series of opportunities for Descriptive Feedback. Coaching the principal and teacher through new strategies and coaching a student through new learning can be influenced dramatically by enabling all learners to self-assess and adapt their work based on effective Descriptive Feedback. The CMM is an opportunity to provide constructive Descriptive Feedback to leaders and teachers at every level.
All students and schools must achieve – some against seemingly insurmountable odds. As educators, we can provide for students when they are with us – that time being often defined as “between the bells”. Likewise, in systems, we can accomplish amazing things, with the time we have and within the resources most schools and systems can afford to provide, through ‘precision-in-practice’ using co-constructed Data Walls as Prevention, and problem-solving Case Management Meetings, as Intervention. I consider both processes to be collaborative knowledge-building forums for teachers and leaders. Teachers and leaders need to use the information gleaned in both forums to create inquiry questions to deepen understanding of practices that will empower each learner and build the capacity of each teacher and leader. This leads me to consider what tool we have to assess if all learners in our care are learning, growing and achieving? What tool do we have that demonstrates our INTENTIONALITY to learn to improve alongside each other? That tool, and the subject of Part 3 in this series on ‘Remarkable System and School Improvement Practices’, is Learning Walks and Talks.
For more information about Case Management Meetings, you can see Lyn Sharratt’s website, www.lynsharratt.com.
Sharratt, L. (2019). CLARITY: What Matters MOST in Learning, Teaching, and Leading. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Sharratt, L. (2008–2018). Learning walks and talks [Training materials]. Australia, Canada, Chile.
Sharratt, L., & Fullan, M. (2009). Realization: The change imperative for deepening district-wide reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Sharratt, L., & Fullan, M. (2012). Putting FACES on the data: What great leaders do! Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Sharratt, L., & Harild, G. (2015). Good to great to innovate: Recalculating the route to career readiness, K–12. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Sharratt, L., & Planche, B. (2016) Leading collaborative learning: Empowering excellence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.