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Book:  Leading a High Reliability School

Author:  Robert Marzano, Philip Warrick, Cameron Rains and Richard Dufour

Purchase:  PrinteBook

Citation:  Marzano, R., Warrick, P., Rains, C., Dufour, R. & Jones, J. (2018). Leading a high reliability school. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. The most effective schools minimize the importance of a school leader’s personal characteristics and maximize critical, data-informed actions a leader takes. (pg. 24)

  2. Evaluators should not conduct observations uniformly across all teachers. Instead, they need to deploy their time where teachers need it most in order to address different needs and levels of teacher growth in their school. (pg. 93)

  3. If 90% of the teachers in a school rank as “high performing”, then student data should show trends of growth and improvement in student learning. However, given the same teacher evaluation results, if a school’s student achievement data have dropped or show little or no growth, then the results do not accurately represent the quality of teaching occurring in classrooms. (pg. 94)

Other Key Ideas:

In most instances, faculty members are not able to answer questions about specific data and metrics within their building.  If they don’t have a clue about their current reality, they find it difficult to improve on that reality in any coordinated way. (pg. 3)

Should should focus on the purpose of school by addressing these four pillars: Mission (Why does school exist); Vision (What must we become as a school in order to better fulfill our fundamental purpose); Collective Commitments (How must we behave); and Goals (Which steps will we take and when). (pg. 4)

A school will struggle if a faculty persists in believing that its job is to teach rather than help all students learn, and if staff members have no idea where the school wants to go in its improvement efforts. (pg. 4)  

The PLC process calls on Collaborative team members to make these decisions collectively rather than in isolation. The entire team decide what students must know and be able to do for the entire course and for each unit within the course. It establishes the contents sequencing and the appropriate pacing for each unit. The team develops common formative assessments for each unit and agrees on the criteria it will use in judging the quality of student work. The team identifies students who need intervention or extension, and the school creates the systems to ensure  students receive this additional support in a timely manner. (pg. 5)​

The ultimate criterion for successful teacher is student learning, rather than any particular teacher moves. (pg. 13)

The following elements of the PLC process must remain tight: 1) The structure of the school is collaborative, in which members work to achieve common goals and take collective responsibility of student learning, 2) Each collaborative team creates a guaranteed and viable curriculum, uses frequent common formative assessments, and uses transparent evidence of student learning to inform collective practice, and 3) there is a schoolwide plan for intervention that guarantees students who experience difficulty receive additional time and support for learning. (pg. 15)

Leaders who create artificial teams do damage to the PLC process.  We have witnessed principals create the leftover team - team of singleton teachers - where it remains unclear to both the principal and the team members exactly what the teachers should accomplish. (pg. 17)

Ineffective or unproductive PLC meetings create cynicism and only serve to sour teachers’ attitudes toward teaming up while simultaneously reinforcing the norms of isolation so prevalent in our schools. (pg. 18)

What leaders pay attention to can powerfully communicate their priorities.  Leaders who simply urge teams to “go collaborate,” and then have no process for monitoring the teams, send the message that they don’t really find teams’ work that important.  (pg. 19)​

Teams should have digital folders that contain artifacts of each collaborative team’s work throughout the year that school administration can periodically audit as well as celebrate when artifacts of outstanding practice are produced as a means of reinforcing the right work. (pg. 58)

School leaders must explain to their staff that they considered their new ideas and provide their rationale for why they implemented, modified, or declined the ideas.  This practice completes the cycle of communication. Too often, full communication does not occur, which creates the perception that school leaders do not value teacher and staff input. (pg. 61)

Instructional leadership research explicitly supports the importance of having a clear vision and a common language and model of instructional practice in a school.  (pg. 77)

School administration must function as the lead learners and develop a strong understanding of the instructional strategies they expect to see. This does not mean school leaders must grasp all pedagogical knowledge in the language of instruction, but they do need to know how to successfully speak about the expected instructional strategies with confidence and understanding.  (pg. 79)​

As a best practice, administrators should block out specific chunks of time teach week designated for teacher evaluation.  When they do not have this practice in place, administrators quickly lose potential evaluation time to a host of other issues. (pg. 95)

A guaranteed and viable curriculum suggests that no matter who teaches a specific course or specific content at a certain grade level in a school, students should have the opportunity to learn the same content. (pg. 107)

The most effective school districts do not rely simply on site-based management or top-down approaches.  Instead, the most effective school districts have moved to an approach of defined autonomy. In a defined autonomy approach, school districts set district-level goals and non-negotiables, and monitor progress toward those goals. (pg. 170)

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