on team-developed assessments, they
become curious about the conditions
and practices that led to those better
results. Further, if a team is consistently
unable to achieve its goals because the
students in a team member’s classroom
are repeatedly unable to demonstrate
proficiency, there’s more pressure on
the teacher in that classroom to try new
So what’s a principal to do when
confronted with state or district policies
that mandate a more stringent approach
to evaluation? Although principals may
be stuck with punitive accountability
policies, they don’t have to be stuck
with a punitive mind-set (DuFour &
Fullan, 2013). A highly effective principal will look for ways to align the
process to a culture of collective responsibility for learner-focused outcomes.
For example, the principal can
repurpose the individual teacher goal-setting process to focus on team goals.
Rather than establishing goals for individual teachers that focus on teacher
activities (“I will improve my ability
to use differentiated instruction”),
they help teams establish collective
goals that focus on student learning
(“Last year, 84 percent of our students
demonstrated proficiency on the state
assessment. This year, we will help at
least 90 percent demonstrate proficiency”). These results-oriented goals
help create the interdependence and
mutual accountability vital to effective
Principal observations can provide
feedback to team members who
implement new strategies as part of
their action research. For example, a
team may decide that members need to
focus on checking for student understanding more frequently and effectively
to improve achievement in a unit that
has traditionally proven difficult for
the students. The principal could focus
on that aspect of instruction during
observations and work with teachers
to expand their strategies in that area.
Five Steps to Success on the PLC Journey
1 Embrace the premise that the fundamental purpose of the school is to
ensure that all students learn at high levels and enlist the staff in examining
every existing practice, program, and procedure to ensure it aligns with that
2 Organize staff into meaningful collaborative teams that take collective
responsibility for student learning and work interdependently to achieve shared
goals for which members hold themselves mutually accountable.
3 Call on teams to establish a guaranteed and viable curriculum for each unit
that clarifies the essential learning for all students, agree on pacing guidelines,
and develop and administer common formative assessments to monitor each
student’s learning at the end of each unit.
4 Use the evidence of student learning to identify
n Students who need additional time and support to become proficient.
n Students who need enrichment and extension of their learning because
they’re already highly proficient.
n Teachers who help students achieve at high levels so team members can
examine those teachers’ practices.
n Teachers who struggle to help students become proficient so team
members can assist in addressing the problem.
n Skills or concepts that none of the teachers were able to help students
achieve at the intended level so the team can expand its learning beyond its
members to become more effective in teaching those skills or concepts. The
team can seek help from members of other teams in the building with expertise
in that area, specialists from the central office, other teachers of the same
content in the district, or networks of teachers throughout the United States
that they interact with online.
5 Create a coordinated intervention plan that ensures that students who
struggle receive additional time and support for learning in a way that is timely,
directive, diagnostic, precise, and most important, systematic.
Finally, many new evaluation tools have
components related to teacher collaboration. An effective principal will use
that aspect of evaluation as a catalyst to
strengthen the team process.
Asking the Right Question
If current efforts to supervise teachers
into better performance have proven
ineffective (and they have), the solution
is not to double down on a bad strategy
and demand more classroom observa-
tions, tighter supervision, and more
punitive evaluations. The effort to
improve schools through tougher super-
vision and evaluation is doomed to fail
because it asks the wrong question. The
question isn’t, How can I do a better job
of monitoring teaching? but How can
we collectively do a better job of moni-
toring student learning?