School Leaders: How Do You Make Sure Your Students Have Individual Performance Goals?

Monitoring student achievement doesn’t have to be an impossible task.

From Domain 1 of the School Leader Evaluation Model, we know it’s important to ensure that there are goals for the performance of individual students. We also know that this task can seem daunting, particularly if you’ve got a large building with more than 500 students, or an even larger comprehensive high school. And if you’re under the impression that it’s the school leader’s job to know the individual performance data of each student, the task can look downright impossible.

So let’s take a step back from the edge and start by considering what the purpose of individual goals might be. What is our overall student achievement?
Knowing the percentage of students who are proficient on an assessment is primary-level data analysis. We can look for discrepancies in skill areas or by subgroup. This is a basic understanding of how many students are hitting the mark for making student achievement. From this analysis, we can establish overall student achievement goals.
At this point, we can dig a little deeper by considering what aspect of learning we must change in order to improve the number of proficient students or decrease those who are not proficient.

What we can learn from a summative assessment

For example, we may notice on a summative reading assessment administered by our state that our students show weakness in both discerning the author’s purpose and identifying the implied main idea — which are very similar cognitive processes. So, as a team, we set a goal of increasing the number of students who can accurately identify the implied main idea. As a faculty, we decide to use written content in our own subject areas to work together toward improving overall student performance in this skill area. To that end, all teachers in all classes — not just our English Language Arts classes — require students to identify the implied main idea in their subject-area content. By extending our students’ instructional time in this skill area, we hope to see increases on future assessments.
  This work relates to our overall student achievement goal. Consider what might increase the likelihood that we would reach these increased performance percentages.

How to establish and work towards improvement in overall student achievement

  To increase the likelihood that students will understand a particular skill, we provide learning experiences that allow for students to see this skill area used flexibly across subjects. Skill acquisition research tells us that a learner must be aware of a skill first and then, to solidify or deepen understanding, must be able to apply it successfully to several varied contexts. Our example of presenting this skill in multiple subjects increases the likelihood of developing that deeper understanding.

What does secondary data analysis show us?

Another way to promote skill acquisition is for teachers to make sure students know their current level of performance and see that performance over time. Secondary data analysis involves knowing who is proficient and in what area. It can be thought of as knowing each child by name rather than having general sense of the overall proficiency level. Administrators can make sure this occurs, but the real work lies in the classroom and with the teacher, who must provide the learning conditions that facilitate students’ individual improvement.
Individual goals are created by teachers and students and the documentation is kept by teachers. Teachers may log their students’ information on databases, they may chart performance, or they may have data walls for the classroom. Students can graph their own performance, take time to set their own goals, and examine subsequent performance in comparison to prior performance. This process further increases the likelihood for improved student achievement, as research tells us that having students set goals and track their own progress increases future performance.
In our school leader’s example, the teachers in these classrooms not only provide learning experiences but help students examine their own performance and compare it to prior performance. These skilled educators have methods for students to track their progress — likely with scales and rubrics for academic performance. They ask students to reflect on their learning experience and identify what helped them be more successful in identifying the main idea and what helps them learn. The artifacts for these teachers’ work become the evidences of this practice for Element 3, Domain 1 in the School Leader Evaluation Model.

Notice the sequence and interconnectedness of our work as described in the example: We began with a larger scope for measuring student achievement and reduced it to an application that was more specific and student-centered. Also see that this is different from our traditional view of identifying the next quantifiable target for a larger group of proficient students.

The bottom line: It’s not just about the bottom line

Instead of making it our goal to achieve a higher percentage on a test, we should identify the teaching and learning aspects that would lead us to that higher percentage. With just a tiny shift in our thinking, then, we make sure that our teachers set and monitor goals for individual students, which increases the opportunity for all students to learn key skills and reach goals that are focused on critical needs.

For your reference: We have published a whole series of blog posts on the School Leader Evaluation Model. Browse to your heart’s content.


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