During a conversation with a staff member the other day I was surprised and enlightened that they really didn’t have an understanding of the size of our school community. We’ve had an influx of change and population increase over the last couple of years. I’d allowed myself to assume that everyone had a knowledge of these changes and understood how it impacted us an organization. After discussing it further with this person it was clear that I needed to share some information that might be considered basic to some with the entire staff. I immediately started putting together a presentation for our next staff meeting about “who we are.”
As part of our goals this year we are taking a hard and solid look at the realities of our school around the achievement gap. Sharing who we are as an learning organization tied right into this conversation. I began with the following information:
- Statistics – I included stats on free and reduced lunch percentages, teacher-student ratios, teacher-admin ratios, state averages compared to our school, number of students accessing breakfast in the morning, total student numbers, class sizes in other grade levels…you name it, I put it in there.
- Reflective Questions – Laced throughout the presentation I included questions meant to take educators beyond the information…questions that help them interact with the details about the school.
- Socio-Economic Information – After including information about our school and population I began to define our “achievement gap.” We’re looking at areas of poverty and impact upon students as learners. Using Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen (and the study guide questions) I outlined a lot of the basics of how poverty can impact students. I also structured an understanding that Free and Reduced qualification only measures one of the multiple socioeconomic determinants…something that decision making bodies sometimes glance over.
I ran the draft by a few folks and they shared that they were excited by it and felt that the time spent on sharing who we are as an organization would be helpful. Many educators said that their view is often limited to their classroom or grade level. Leaders need to make sure to take time to share school-wide realities with everyone. This also serves as a great way to address myths and misconceptions that may exist about schools. Combine this with a solid shared mission and vision and you’ve got a powerful combination of factors toward school improvement.