By Brian Whiston
A big Detroit parade, a classic football game, and a traditional family dinner; these are just a few November events that I enjoy. However, events like these don’t just happen, they require planning. Even a big family meal must be planned in advance. Great events, big achievements, and sustained traditions don’t just occur, they require a process to ensure they happen and keep getting better each year.
In Dearborn, we too have a process in place to make sure that the long tradition of excellence in the classroom continues. The School Improvement Plan is a year long course of action that all schools embark on in the fall and complete in the spring. Because one size doesn’t fit all, students learn differently, and for every student who needs extra help there is a student that needs to be challenged beyond the curriculum; a School Improvement Plan, that utilizes data and other indicators of student performance, is a proven method to describe how a school will address the different learning needs of each student.
The first part of the school improvement process is the evaluation of goals. School goals for the year are determined by a team consisting of the building principal, teachers, para-pros, and, in most cases, parents. Each school improvement team meets with the district school improvement team, which is a group of central office and building administrators, to present their plans and goals.
Mid-year the district school improvement team will visit each school to talk with staff and visit classrooms. They will look for evidence that the school is working toward the goals set in the fall. If needed, goals are adjusted to better meet the academic needs of the students.
Finally, in the spring, a celebration takes place as all school improvement teams gather at one location to showcase their accomplishments to the Board of Education and community. At the celebration, schools will share ideas and programs that helped them meet their goals. They will also discuss practices or challenges that kept them from meeting a goal either in part or in full.
After summer recess the process begins again in the fall. This continuous cycle of school improvement has been going on in the district for five years and has had positive results in the classroom.
Great success happens when there is great planning. In classrooms throughout our district students are making academic gains because a dedicated staff is actively involved in a system of planning. A system that keeps our schools improving and student achievement the focus of all staff members.