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Thursday / December 1

Inconveniently Simple and Complex: A Path to Sustained Improvement

Many highly successful systems and schools across the globe have implemented the 14 Parameters and have been rewarded with consistently improving student results. We developed the 14 Parameters from our research into why similarly-supported schools in the same system showed two different trajectories: one being dramatic, sustained improvement in achievement; the second being slow and low improvement. The most successful schools were assessed as being “highly focused” against the 14 Ps, the less successful as being “low focused”. Following is a brief synopsis of each Parameter.

  1. The Vision: Shared Beliefs and Understandings

It is difficult to lead a school or system team without first establishing a common vision. The vision must be revisited and reinforced at every opportunity. The Vision is Parameter 1 for a reason. System and school leaders and teachers must be driven by a deep belief that all students can achieve high standards given the right support. Similarly, leaders must believe and expect that all teachers teach to high standards, given the right assistance. Importantly, ALL leaders, teachers, and students can articulate why they do what they do, and, why they lead, teach, and learn the way they do.

  1. Embedded Knowledgeable Others

An expert teaching team is necessary to do this work. Leaders and teachers must Velcro themselves to a Knowledgeable Other. Every school must have at least one respected and respectful master teacher who has time – during the school day – to co-teach alongside classroom teachers, serving as mentors to implement evidence-informed practices.

  1. Large Blocks of Time Focused on Assessment and Instruction

Evidence-proven, high-impact practices like ‘ongoing assessment data that differentiate instruction’ are embedded in planning for daily, uninterrupted large instructional blocks across all learning areas. Thus, ‘data today informs instruction tomorrow’.

  1. Leaders Are Present and Participating

System and school leaders work alongside teachers always modelling and monitoring effective and expected practices as learning leaders, asking questions to become more accomplished themselves, and always searching for evidence of those practices that most benefit student learning.

  1. Early and Ongoing Intervention

Intervention is not a purchased program. Intervention(s) must be seen by the system and schools as ongoing, as another central resource in every school – resources that are timely and at students’ point of need.

  1. Case Management Approach

Putting FACES on the data using the Case Management Approach is two-pronged: 1. the co-construction of Data Walls to reveal students’ FACES in a private place, and 2. Case Management Meetings in which a teacher brings one student at a time, with a student work sample, to a problem-solving meeting that is purposefully focused on supporting the classroom teacher with instruction of that student. The collaboratively developed strategies suggested as ‘necessary for one but good for all’.

  1. Embedded Professional Learning at Staff Meetings

Embedded Professional Learning builds teacher and leader capacity to teach ALL students and becomes a platform for infusing common language across all learning areas to support shared beliefs and understandings. Knowledgeable Others, leaders, and middle leaders strategically use meetings to model the development of a culture of learning. Operational issues can be communicated via memos/emails.

  1. In-School Grade/Subject Meetings to Collaboratively Assess Student Work

Evidence of learning demonstrated by student work samples is used in regular, ongoing teaching team conversations when teachers collaboratively determine how to sharpen their instructional repertoire to move students from one level of work to the next.

  1. Multi-Modal and Multi-Leveled Resources Are Accessible

High quality resources are easily accessible and close to the point of need to support teachers’ implementation of the curriculum. Learners need to see themselves in resources selected. Collaborative processes are established to regularly audit resources to quantify and sustain quality and refresh understanding of what is available.

  1. Allocation of System and School Budgets Focused on Learning

Equity of outcomes for all learners is assured through budget resourcing (human and material) to support learning. Capacity and flexibility are retained centrally so that data-determined urgent needs can be collaboratively triaged and differentiated support allocated in line with the shared vision.

  1. Collaborative Inquiry (CI) Is Focused on Students’ FACES

Every system or school meeting must begin with a review of data searching for impact of actions taken on identified needs. Based on data, developing and processing the CI question is deliberate. The CI Learning Cycle in this 10th anniversary edition is a model for collaboratively interrogating the data in a knowledge-building process. This iterative model results in a Case Study to be shared widely.

  1. Parental and Community Involvement

System and school plans for continuous improvement are developed by listening to parents, caregivers, and community influencers, then shared with them. Parents and the broader community are seen as partners with a seat at decision-making tables.

  1. Cross-Curricular Literacy Connections

System and school improvement requires a focus on literacy skills woven into rich, cognitively demanding performance tasks in all subject areas. This is accomplished by leaders who are consistent, insistent, and persistent.

  1. Shared Responsibility and Accountability

Everyone is responsible for every learner. Everyone knows and can articulate system, school, and classroom priorities because they are aligned, clear, precise and published. Strong procedures and processes encourage system- and school-wide ownership for student learning. Acknowledging shared responsibility and accepting accountability for student learning develops a culture that encourages continuous professional improvement.

The 14 Parameters continue to be a powerful and comprehensive framework for practitioners and decision-makers in system and school improvement. As we have presented them, in the new 10th Anniversary edition of FACES, they serve as a practical, powerful model for changing systems and schools. Engaging in the 14 Parameters may appear to be daunting; however, once underway, those using them find they offer a ‘simplexity’ of collaborative opportunity that will deliver well-being for all.

Given what we know and the evidence of improvement we have examined, we propose that systems and schools focus and align their work with these 14 areas that make a difference to increasing students’ achievement – how can we not afford to spend the time?

Written by

Lyn Sharratt is a practitioner and researcher working in remote and urban settings worldwide. Lyn is an Adjunct Professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada; a Fellow at University of Melbourne, Australia; an author consultant for Corwin Press; an advisor for International School Leadership with the Ontario Principals’ Council; and consults internationally, working with system, school, and teacher leaders at all levels in Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Lyn focuses her time and effort on increasing each student’s growth and achievement by working alongside leaders and teachers to put FACES on their data, taking intentional action to make equity and excellence a reality for ALL students.

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