The strategic planning process begins in the spring for many schools. It can be challenging for school leadership teams to shift their thinking from closing out the current year to preparing for the next. In April, I reviewed The School Improvement Planning Handbook by Duke, Carr, and Sterrett. Their seven-step plan for developing and implementing school improvement plans is a good place to start. They recommend the following steps:
- Data gathering- use multiple sources, anecdotal, formative, and summative
- Diagnosing- examine the data to pinpoint concerns
- Assessing context, constraints, and capacity- what factors will impact your efforts?
- Focusing- decide your focus, align your goals, and provide a rationale
- Determining strategies- what will you do and how will you measure it?
- Developing the plan- what resources will you need and how will you fit it all in?
- Managing and monitoring the plan- when will you review your plan’s success?
Whether you follow these steps exactly, or modify them to meet your needs, the strategic planning process requires great thought by school leadership teams. More than likely, your plan will be a combination of continuing some practices, deleting some, and strengthening others. Arguably, the most important aspect of strategic planning is that it is done collaboratively. The likelihood for success rises when strategic planning is a shared practice.
I asked several of my principal colleagues to share how they begin the strategic planning process in their schools. Here is what they said:
We are in the process of looking at the work each grade level has done related to the school improvement plan. We are determining the next level of work for each grade level and for individual teachers by examining progress over time through the lens of the action steps selected as an area of focus. We will work vertically to determine grade level and school “next steps” based on commonalities of student “data,” student work samples, and teacher needs.
–Walter Reap (@WalterReap)
I am currently planning an all-day school improvement team meeting with 20 staff members. We will examine all the data we have: math, reading, behavior, walk-throughs, observations, science, social studies, writing and work together to begin identifying priorities. We will then work through the action steps. We used our last SIT meeting to have teams discuss the current plan and assess where we are and modifications that need to be made.
–Cheryl Cox (@CoxCherylcox628)
I sit with my leadership team to analyze data and determine how we are doing with current goals and establish 2 or 3 big rocks for future goals. Then, with the SIT, we look to see how these rocks can be monitored through daily classroom instructional practice.
–Jeffery S. Haynie (@crazydukie)
We’re looking at where we want to be this time next year and how we are going to get there.
–Pat Keffer (@psikeffer)
We have been reviewing and analyzing data throughout the year to identify areas in need of growth and successes. We have used administrative walk-throughs to collect data to make decisions about the next school year. We look at the positive growth areas so we can expand on them as well as areas of needed improvement. Our leadership team determined a need for more collaborative planning and team teaching. I also find opportunities to talk with my colleagues about what they are doing at their schools. There is power in collaboration and much to be learned from other principals.
–Sue Myers (@SueMyers1984)
As Sue Myers suggests above, collaboration among principals in a district supports the strategic planning process. It is a model that easily translates to the school level. When everyone contributes to the instructional vision of the school, only good things can happen!