Principal - Wallace Supplement - May/June 2018 - 6

SHAPING A VISION

handshakes Martin gives students at
arrival and dismissal, and the college
pennants hanging in the halls. It's the
foundation of the school's catchy slogan,
which adorns uniform shirts, faculty lanyards, and even stair risers: "Commodore
to College-100% for 100%."
"It's our North Star," Martin says.
"If every single student, teacher, staff,
and family member follows through
100 percent, then 100 percent of us
will achieve."
Like Martin, many principals agree that
setting a high bar for students is critical
to raising achievement. Through their
words and actions, effective principals
work tirelessly to get everyone to believe
that all students can and will succeed. If
they sound like a broken record, so be it.
"You have to get staff, students, and
parents in the boat with you," says
Pam Williams, principal of Bethesda

Becoming
"College Material"
At Commodore John Rodgers
Elementary/Middle School, the
goal is to make 100 percent of
students eligible for college. It's
a big deal to be recognized as a
Commodore Collegiate for consistently displaying the school's core
values, or Five Promises:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

6

Commitment to Quality
Honor and Integrity
Perseverance
Gratitude
Contribution

Elementary School in Lawrenceville,
Georgia. "They won't get in if they don't
know where they're going and that
they'll be safe along the way."

Rerouting Your Course
Teachers at Bethesda thought their
school was headed in the right direction
when Williams became principal in 2013.
Indeed, she found a hard-working staff
and students who were eager to learn.
The staff believed students were doing
well, based on their classroom assessment results. However, the problem was
that students weren't working on material aligned to grade-level standards.
Shortly after arriving, Williams convened a faculty meeting and shared the
startling news: The school wasn't performing up to districtwide expectations.
To drive home the point, she compared
Bethesda's scores on districtwide tests
with those of similar schools that were
higher-achieving. The teachers sat up in
their chairs. "It built a sense of urgency,"
she recalls. "It was like, 'Hey, our students are the same as theirs. If they can
do it, we can, too.'"
That eye-opener sparked the beginning of Bethesda's transformation.
Weekly staff meetings, which used
to focus on building logistics and
administrative paperwork, pivoted to
discussions about best instructional
practices. Teachers, who once operated
in silos, started meeting twice a week
to analyze grade-level standards and
began using common lesson plans. A
team of 30 staff members developed
a research-based guide for teachers
that dissected the standards used to
evaluate them and described effective
classroom practices for each one.

PRINCIPAL * Special Supplement - May/June 2018

Bethesda's collaborative efforts
transformed student achievement: For
the past two years, it has been among
the top 10 percent of Georgia's Title I
schools, making the most progress in
improving the performance of all students on statewide tests.

Resetting the Culture
Teachers at Fairview Elementary School
in Denver had a more lukewarm reaction
to new principal Antoinette Hudson's
high expectations for student learning. The struggling school serves 220
students, all of whom qualify for free or
reduced-price lunch. Before Hudson
arrived in 2013, teachers managed
classes on their own with little oversight
or collaboration. Some children spent
more time in the office than in the classroom due to disciplinary issues. Student
achievement and growth were so poor
that the district designated Fairview a
"red" school, the lowest ranking possible. If the school didn't turn around, it
would be at risk of closing.
Hudson's first step was to reset the
school's culture to create a positive
learning environment for students.
Teachers, she believed, should be
role models for children and be seen
as professionals. As such, they should
look the part. So, she instituted a faculty
dress code: no more jeans and sneakers. Some teachers chafed under
the new rule and complained about
other changes, such as splitting their
instructional duties so some could
focus on reading while others concentrated on math. At the end of Hudson's
second year on the job, six of the
seven teachers in second to fifth
grades quit.



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Principal - Wallace Supplement - May/June 2018 - Cover1
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