School Leadership Reimagined - If you want everyone doing the right thing the right way, don't skip this step!

If You Want Everyone Doing The Right Thing The Right Way, Don't Skip This Step! 

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You’re listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 52.

Welcome to the school leadership re-imagined podcast where we rethink what's possible to transform your school if you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stayed tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now here's your host, Robyn Jackson.

Hey builders, 

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson and today we are going to continue our journey through the six stages of transformation. Today we're going to talk about the evaluate stage, and again, this is the stage that everybody wants to get to. In fact, when most people plan transformations, they go from idea to evaluation in 30 seconds flat. They skip all the other steps.

It's what makes the evaluation stage so excruciating for everybody. 

For the builder. Well, builders don't do that. So for the leader and for the teachers involved. It's kind of like if you had a teacher who taught a lesson and immediately after going through the lesson one time they announced a major test, told everyone to clear their desk and immediately issued the test to students. Students haven't had time to digest the information.

Students haven't had time to study. Students haven't had time to ask questions or to practice. They just go straight from lesson to test. It's something that we would never allow a teacher to do and yet for many of us, that's how we roll out in our initiatives. We announced that things are changing and a lot of times they're not even our ideas. They are the district ideas. The district comes down the pike with something new. We feel it's our duty to announce it to our staff and then two seconds later we're in classrooms with clipboards, checking to see if everyone's done it or we're asking people to submit lesson plans or unit plans and we fully expect to see the changes instituted right away. That's not the way builders do it. Builders or different builders launch initiatives in the way that we expect teachers to prepare students.

Imagine that a teacher teaches a new unit, the teacher gives students time to practice it, to adjust, to get feedback. 

That feedback is non-evaluative and students get to practice again and apply the feedback to their practice. And then before the test, the teacher reviews all of the information explains the students exactly how they're going to be evaluated. At that point, we feel comfortable with the teacher issuing the test because the teacher has set students up to take the test. Well, that's the way the builders initiate transformation. They don't go from idea to evaluation right away. Instead they take some time to prepare their staff. They take time to help their staff get used to the idea, to practice, to get some non evaluative feedback to adjust their practice. Then in only then are they showing up and evaluating. So today we're going to talk about how you can evaluate your staff like a builder, and we're going to also talk about why it's important that you lay the groundwork first.

You can't just go from idea to evaluation. You have to follow the other steps in the transformation process first so that people are ready. But once people are ready, then you can go in and evaluate and people are excited to see you. They're not threatened by your coming in. They're not worried about what you're going to ding them for because you've set them up, they're ready, they know exactly the criteria and in a lot of cases they are excited about you coming into the classroom because they want to show you that they've gotten it. They want to show you how well they are now implementing after all of your support. So let's talk about the evaluation stays, but before we do that, I do have a couple of reminders for you. So first reminder is that the builders lab, 2020 dates have been released now.

Last time I gave you the dates and I gave you locations and some of the locations have changed since then.

So for the most UpToDate information on the dates, you need to simply check Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. That's Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. Our next builders lab is happening right here in the Washington DC area in January and I would love it if he would join us. In fact, I think January is like a perfect time to step away from your school for a little while and come to build his lab because you know what happens in the summertime, you make all of these plans and then about October or so, those plans start fading out. Things change in the district. I was just talking to a district the other day and all the principals made plans with the assumption that the district was going in one direction over the summer and the district changed directions after the summer was over and effectively rendered a lot of those summer plans.

Now because of the changes, so things happen, you plan over the summer, things happen during the year, you get distracted and January is the perfect time to refocus. In fact, if you come to builders lab in January, you're going to get a double benefit because there are things that you can implement that year that will have a dramatic effect on your results that year, but there are also some things that you're going to learn that will set you up to have a successful next school year. Things that you can be putting into place right now so that your, the following school year is going to be amazing. When you call back and over the summer and you start planning for the, for the 2020 2021 school year and you start thinking about the laying the groundwork for that, you are going to see just tremendous, amazing results. We have had people who have come to build his lab in January and shift their focus in the middle of the school year. Not like in a dramatic way where like, okay, Oh, we were focusing on rigor. Now we're gonna focus on differentiated instruction. I'm not talking about that, but what I mean by shifting their focus is instead of trying to do everything they maybe I should say narrow their focus. I think that's a better way of saying it. They narrowed their focus on the thing that matters most.

That's what we teach you at builder's lab. 

How do you figure out what is your next best move and then they start implementing that 90 day plan and three months from leaving builders lab. They are already seeing dramatic results and by dramatic results, I mean dramatic results. I'm talking about, you know, double digit jumps in test scores. I'm talking about taking a school whose culture was crumbling and turning that culture around so that by the end of the year, people are not only United, but they are excited about returning to the school in the fall.

So coming to builder's lab in January, Willie does pay double dividends. It gives you on a time in the middle of the school year to pause and get refocused on what matters most and the tolls that you get at builders lab will serve you in laying the foundation and the groundwork for an amazing school year for your next school year. So again, to get those tickets go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. Okay, let's talk about the evaluation stage now. The goal of the evaluation stage is now it's you're trying to get everyone implementing the change that you want implemented with fidelity. You see during the expect stage you are just getting everybody implementing. There are a lot of people are stuck. They've been sitting at sending things out on the sidelines.

The purpose of the expect stage is to get everybody off of the sidelines.

Everybody implementing and everybody kind of implementing consistently and pervasively. But that implementation is not going to be perfect. And so during the evaluation stage you're providing people with additional feedback. You're providing people with additional support, maybe additional resources so that they can implement with fidelity. And the evaluation stage is now where you're going to come in and say, okay, now I'm not just coming in the classroom to see do I see it or do I not see it? Now I am looking to see it implemented with quality. Now a lot of people, they are so exhausted by this point that they just get to the expect stage and they give up. So I got everybody doing it, whatever it is and so you know I'm done, I'm tired and that's a mistake because you don't want people just implementing Willy nilly. You want to make sure that people are implementing with quality, and I go into a lot of schools and I can see remnants of past initiatives where they got everybody implementing by the implementations all over the place.

You've got pockets of excellence, but you have a lot of people who are implementing and playing lip service to the idea. You have other people who are implementing and they think they're doing it correctly, but they're really not. You have other people implementing pieces of it but not other pieces of it. You have other people implementing and they've kind of put their own spin on it so it's unrecognizable from the initial initiative. So without this evaluation stage, if you just kind of say, while I've got everybody moving, they're all implementing, it now needs to move on to the next step and you don't give people feedback around the quality of their implementation and you don't hold people accountable, not test for implementing, but implementing with quality, then you're not going to realize the results that you're hoping to realize from that change. And frankly this is the reason why a lot of change efforts, the vow people will tell me all the time, Oh yes we did that.

All of our teachers are planning in this way, or all of our teachers are now using the new curriculum. 

Not all of their teachers are using the new curriculum or planning in a particular way with quality. And so the evaluation stage is necessary if you want to make sure that you realize the results that you're trying to get from the change that you're implementing. You don't want people just doing something for the sake of doing it or doing it because it's required. You want people to implement something in a way that really is going to render results in a way that is done with quality. So that's why the evaluation stage is so important. Now, the first step in the evaluation stage is you have to evaluate. It means that you're going to have to collect data. If you are looking for a change in teaching behavior, it means that you need to get into every single classroom.

Yep. You heard me every single classroom, you can't just cherry pick which classrooms you're going to get into. You need to go into every single classroom, whether that's through a walkthrough where you're, you know, kind of visiting a lot of classrooms and spinning five to seven minutes in those classrooms to kind of gauge the quality of implementation. Or it may mean formal and informal observations so that teachers can get feedback from you about how well they're implementing and you're, when you're doing these classroom visits, you are not giving them generic feedback or global feedback. You're giving them specific feedback around their, the quality of their implementation of the change that you're asking for. Now a lot of people have already stop listening. What do you mean? I can barely get into classrooms as it is and you now you're asking me that to get into classrooms.

Yes, I'm asking you, if you really want this change to stick, you need to be in every classroom.

Here's what else the classrooms you need to visit first are the classrooms of the people who have been dragging their feet the most. Now, this is not a gotcha thing. This is not about, you know, I'm finally gonna make you do, right. What this is really about is if those people are dragging their feet, they're going to need more than one visit. So you need to get to their classrooms first. You need to give them the evaluative feedback and then you may need to circle back around and revisit their classrooms to make sure that they are doing what they're supposed to be doing. So you're going to have to get into classrooms, but the instrument you use, the evaluation instrument you use is something that you have cocreated with the teachers during either the explore stage or the expect stage.

So the teachers already know what they're going to be evaluated on. It's not a gotcha. It's not a surprise. You've given them support, you've given them informal feedback using the same criteria in the past, in earlier stages. So it's not even new. They they, they're expecting it. They recognize that you're coming in to do this evaluation so you need to get into every single classroom. It's the only way that you're going to know whether or not people are implementing the change with fidelity. Now the other thing is that if it's not a classroom initiative, so we're not looking at a particular teaching style, but it's more about you know, teachers spending time and teams unpacking standards for instance, or teachers using a different lesson planning format, whatever that is. Then it's going to mean you need to collect artifacts to make sure that every teacher is implementing the new strategy or the process with fidelity.

You are looking and giving teachers feedback around the quality of their implementation.

 So you're not just saying, Oh yeah, they did it or they didn't do it. No, it's about how well they did it. And if they're not doing it well, what do they need to do in order to make it work in order to make it align with the standards of quality that you've already laid out in earlier stages of this process. So that's the first thing. Now the second thing is you also want to look at student data. I am really surprised at how often schools and districts have a new initiative and they only look at the teaching behavior and they never examine whether or not that teaching behavior is having an impact on students. So if you were implementing rigorous lessons, you need to be looking at students benchmark test scores or you need to be looking at the quality of students' written essays or you need to be looking at how well students are doing on the new rigorous assessments.

If you're implementing a new grading and reporting policy, then you need to check to make sure that the new grading reporting policy is manifesting better results for students. Now, there are a couple of ways that you need to evaluate the impact on students. One way is to look at the student achievement data and that's what we typically do and a lot of us stopped there, but that only gives you part of the picture. I also like to conduct student focus groups with students to find out what they think about the changes. Do they notice the changes. In fact, when we first started at Mindsteps and we were doing a lot more teacher training, if we had any kind of longterm contract with a school or district, part of that contract was that midway through their training process, I needed to sit down with students after teachers had been implementing and I wanted to hear from students whether or not the changes that we were helping teachers make in the classroom actually were benefiting them.

I don't care what the school said or the teacher said about how well things were going. The kids always told me the truth. 

I've been in schools where kids have said, you know, the teachers, they pretend to plan but they phone it in and they're not really planning or the, you know, recycling lessons. Or I've heard kids say that the new assessment practices have been amazing. I mean, when was the last time you heard a kid prays a test? And yet when we've helped these schools develop these new assessment practices, the kids really love it. So don't just depend on student performance data to test or evaluate whether or not the changes that you've been implementing are actually making a difference in the lives of kids. Talk to the kids, ask them how it's going, how do they enjoy it, how do they feel about their learning?

If it affects parents, then you want to check in with the parents too and find out how things are going as far as the parents are concerned. You need to make sure that you are evaluating beyond jazz, getting in the classrooms and checking behaviors off of the list. Are those behaviors making a difference in the lives of kids? That's what you want to be interested in. So after you've collected data, the next step is that you need to examine the results. And I know that sounds like duh, but a lot of people collect data and they're like, yep, there it is. There's the data and they don't really interrogate their results to figure out what their next step should be to figure out what's working and what's not working.

If you skip this step, why are you collecting this data? 

So you get into classrooms, you see that most of the teachers are implementing with fidelity, but some of the teachers are not implementing with real quality there. They're paying lip service to it or, or they think they're doing a good job and they, they're not really catching onto the nuance of that. So that tells you a couple of things. It tells you that some teachers who are going to need additional support, but you're not going to give them random support. You're going to look at where they're struggling and give them very targeted support. You're also going to talk to your teachers, what is the impact? What impact are they seeing? What is their interpretation of the impact or their own struggles that you have to not just collect the data. You need to examine it and find out what it's really telling you about the change process. In general, what it's telling you about the health of your culture, what it's telling you about the impact on students. Do you know a lot of times you will fix one aspect of your instructional program only to find out that when you fix that one aspect, that aspect is a masking, a deeper problem.

And if you don't evaluate the data, you don't know that there's a deeper problem that you've now uncovered that now needs to be addressed in the next transformation cycle. So what you are doing now is you're not just kind of collecting the data, but you've really need to spend some time and I don't just want to, I don't just want you to examine it. I want you to interrogate the data, really ask the data hard questions you want to ask the data things like, okay, what is the real impact on students? How well did we implement the change? What were some things that that we could have done better in the whole process that might've made it easier on teachers? How well are teachers implementing? Where are the holes? Are there holes individual or are there some global holes in our implementation that really reflect on the training and the support that we've been giving teachers?

You want to ask , what's the number one thing that worked and what were the things that played a supporting role? 

You want to also ask what data are we not looking at? What data are we ignoring? What are the questions that we haven't asked that maybe we should ask? So you need to spend some time with your leadership team or your administrative team or even sitting down with teachers and really look at the data. Same thing is true for student performance data or focus group data. Where are the children still struggling? What did we think was going to happen and what actually happened and what can explain the difference between those two events? Those are the kinds of questions you really want to interrogate the data with. And if you do that, if you start interrogating the data, you're going to discover things that would have gone ignored, that are gonna feed into your next plan, your next transformation cycle.

So you really want to spend some time here and you're not just, again, crunching numbers and gathering percentages. You're asking the data to tell you what does this all mean? What does it mean for how well we have done so far and what does it mean for what our next step should be going forward? You're going to rely on this data in order to determine your next steps. You really need to spend time interrogating it. The last part of the evaluate stage that you really ought to focus on is you need to help everybody stay accountable. A lot of times, once you've come in and you've done some sort of evaluation, people relax a little bit. They breathe a sigh of relief. All good. I've passed the evaluation. Now I can focus on something else, but you have to really work hard to make sure that people continue to focus on this work.

If it's important enough for you to go through an entire transformation cycle, then it's important enough that people sustain it. 

You want to start embedding this into your culture. We're going to talk about that a little bit more during the extend stage next time, but this is where you start laying that groundwork during the evaluate stage. So you have to do things like once you've gone in and you've started giving people feedback around quality, what are some of the rewards? Now I'm not talking about carrots and sticks here, so I'm not talking about, you know, handing out Starbucks gift cards for everybody that implements with the quality, but you do want to start celebrating the people who are getting it. You do want to recognize the people who are implementing with quality. You want to find some intrinsic rewards that are embedded in the process and make sure that the people who are implementing with quality actually experience those rewards.

Let me give an example of what I mean. I worked with a school that was trying to implement rigorous instruction into the classroom and the teachers struggled with it. At first, the teachers were already overwhelmed. The school had a ton of other initiatives. Plus the teachers were getting a lot of feedback from a lot of different people and the school was failing at the time and so there was a lot of pressure. There was a lot of feelings of being overwhelmed. And when we first came in and we started asking teachers to change how they taught, a lot of teachers pushed back. We use the transformation cycle to kind of overcome some of that pushback, to use that pushback back to make our change process even better. And it worked.

When we got to the evaluate stage, the teachers were implementing and most of them were implementing with quality.

The school had an amazing, a team of instructional coaches and they also had a staff development coordinator who really invested in the teachers. And so most of the teachers were implementing with quality. And even the teachers who weren't quite there yet, we're on the way to implement it with quality and we wanted to reward the teachers for their hard work, but we didn't want to trivialize their hard work by, you know, having a cake at the staff meeting. Not that there's anything wrong with the cake, everybody loves cake, but we wanted to give them something that would feel their intrinsic motivation over time. And so what we started doing was we started visiting classrooms and giving them really positive feedback and then finding ways to make the process itself more rewarding. So one of the complaints that teachers had was that they were doing a lot of of extra paperwork, filling out the school mandated lesson planning format.

So one of the rewards that we gave them was that rather than having to fill out all of that paperwork, they started submitting unit plans rather than lesson plans. So less paperwork, more meaningful paperwork. And then instead of just collecting lesson plans as a school had done in the past, we started collecting the unit plans, but then giving teachers feedback on the unit plans, having conversations with teachers around their unit plans before they taught the unit. So the whole unit planning process felt more rewarding. It didn't feel like I just fill out this paperwork and send it into an empty void. They were getting feedback and reaction and responses to their units in time for them to change their units and make them even more effective with students. So that was one way that we made though entire process more rewarding because we took away something that was, you know, kind of a pain in their rear ends and we helped them engage in a much more meaningful process where we really could spend time talking about things that mattered to them that were interesting to them and it felt more collegial and so that became a reward. So you want to look for ways that you can now that people are implementing with quality make their implementation intrinsically rewarding.

How can you build rewards into it? 

Now there's, again, nothing wrong with Starbucks gift cards or cakes during the staff lounge. Certainly celebrate teachers who are implementing with quality because this represents a lot of hard work to get to this point. But you also want to try to find ways to build in intrinsic rewards into the process so that people will continue to engage in the process even after the initial launch of this change has concluded. By the same token, you need to put disincentives in place for people who may relapse into behaviors that are now undesirable. Again, we're not talking about punishment, we're not talking about, you know, dragging teachers behind the school and and beating them with a ruler every time.

They don't submit their lesson plans and that's not what we're talking about. What are some disincentives? So in the example that I just gave you where we talked about rewarding teachers or providing intrinsic rewards by lifting the burden of the daily lesson plan and having teachers submit rigorous unit plans. The built in disincentive was because they were submitting unit plans and because we were going over them and giving them feedback before they taught those unit plans, if those unit plans were not well thought out, we were having people resubmit unit plans to [inaudible] in response to our feedback. And that actually created more work when people were trying to kind of avoid the work of unit plans to begin with. So that's a built in disincentive. There are others that you can think of. These are not rewards and punishments. I just kind of want to emphasize that I am not telling you to go out and write people up if they're not implementing with quality at this point, but you can think through the process, think through what would feel rewarding to teachers about the process and build that into the process and also think about what are things that you can do to dissuade teachers from relapsing and build that into the process as well so that you are not running around chasing and checking and correcting people.

You are incentivizing people to do the right thing and disincentivizing people to do the wrong thing. 

Then the final step of this is that you need to share the story of your success and I don't mean you know balloons and celebration during the staff lounge and yay we did it. We are doing the thing and so we're so happy and we're so proud of you and that it's never brought up again cause we're onto the next problem. You need to repeat the story of success over and over and over again. We feel like once we get to a successful point in the school year where we've actually got the change working, you're starting to see results for kids. You feel like that success is obvious, like you shouldn't have to say anything because people should see it. People are commenting or remarking on the success already, so why do I need to continue to repeat it?

The reason you need to continue to repeat it is because, remember I've told you in the past, whoever controls the narrative controls your culture and so you want to make sure that you are putting out a narrative of success that makes people excited about the process, that sustains the process over time and that truly emphasizes and celebrates the successes that you are experiencing as a school. You need to tell stories about kids who engage in the process and they came out better for it. If you're doing student focus groups, you need to share what the students are saying about how they're benefiting from the changes in the classroom. If you go into classrooms and you see teachers doing things the new way and you're seeing how that's impacting kids, you should be celebrating that. You need to tell the same story, but give various and different anecdotes around the success so that people have a well rounded picture of the success and you need to keep repeating the story.

It doesn't mean that we're going to stop moving. It doesn't mean that we're going to lose momentum. 

Actually, that success is actually going to create momentum because success breeds success. So you want to be telling that story over and over again. Maybe you start out by telling something that happened with a kid. Maybe you then talk about something you saw in a classroom. Maybe you share something that a parent says about it. You want to continually tell that story. One school where I worked where we were changing the grading reporting policy, I don't know if you remember that story from path episodes. Well after we changed the grading and reporting policy and it was implemented, we told our success story for the rest of the year and I honestly believe that's one of the reasons why people were willing to be uncomfortable and do something that they were initially against because we kept telling the success stories.

We would talk about what was coming out of my focus groups with students and how students were talking about how they loved the policy. If a parent remarked on it, I would send an email to staff and say, I just met with a parent and she's talking about how amazing this new grading and reporting policy is. When we report cards and we saw that student achievement had improved, we published those results school wide. We celebrate it at our staff meeting. Individual teachers would stop by my office and start to share their success stories and I would ask their permission to be able to share it with the entire staff. Other people started creating their own success stories and that success, Brad success. And sooner or later people stopped talking about how hard things were and they started repeating success stories to each other. They started celebrating.

People want to be a part of something that is successful.

We don't spend enough time celebrating the things that we're doing that are successful. We spend all of our time talking to teachers about what isn't done yet or what we still need to do. Why aren't we telling stories of success that kind of get people in encouraged about the changes that we are trying to make in our schools. This is really important in the evaluate stage because you are going in, you're collecting data. Now your praise means something because you are now looking to see how well people are implementing and you're also looking to see how well the process is working. So tell that success story over and over and over again until it becomes the mantra. Until when people look back on this change, all they see are the successes and that's it.

That's the evaluation stage. Notice how each of these stages gets a little bit less complicated, a little bit easier as we go through the process. Those initial stages seem a little more challenging because that's what's laying the foundation. But if you lay the foundation correctly, by the time you get to these later stages of the transformation process, you can, you can ride on into the finish line.

It gets easier every single stage. 

So next time we're gonna talk about the extend stage, and I'd love the extend stage because this is the stage where it now you start taking this new change that you've been working so hard to implement in your school and you embedded into your culture. So I hope you'll join me next time where we're going to learn how to extend our success so that it's embedded in the culture and we're going to learn how to do it.

Thanks so much and I'll talk to you more next week! 

Bye for now. See you next time. 

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