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Leadership for Learning 5


July 15, 2013

Capstone PortfolioYear One

OVERVIEW
This has been a whirlwind year. In addition to the usual bustle and excitement of
the life of an elementary principal, Ive had the added turmoil of meeting a new cohort,
squeezing in time for class and for assignments, and learning a lot about how much I still
dont know about being an effective Instructional Leader.
This Capstone Portfolio illustrates a baseline for my proficiency at the
Leadership for Learning Program Standards, and outlines some next-step beginning
activities for areas in which proficiency has not yet been attained.
In working through my self-assessment this year, I see the following growth areas
for me:
Differentiation in instruction
Fostering teacher leadership
Actively recognizing equity issues that may not be immediately apparent
Providing daily teacher feedback
Involving community

As I go about my work in Year Two, I will be mindful of all these areas.
However, I want to prioritize my learning experiences around teacher feedback and
involving the community.
I believe that as I conduct my regular work next year, I already have a structure in
place to help me become better at helping teachers with differentiation in their instruction
and in fostering teacher leadership. This structure is the Professional Learning
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Community, which Ive instituted in my building and will continue to foster throughout
next year and beyond.
I do not yet have a structure in place for actively recognizing equity issues that are
not easily apparent. I do believe that I am more aware that ever before of equity issues,
and how they are so readily dismissed or explained away in our society. I still need to
think some more about how to make staff more aware of these issues when it doesnt
appear to be a problem in our own building.
This brings me to my last two big growth areas: Teacher feedback and involving
the community. Regarding teacher feedback, this is an area that has always been difficult
for me. In my first principal job, I had a few early interactions with teachers in which I
gave negative feedback. They reacted poorly, with accusations that I hadnt built trust
and rapport with them yet.
At my current building, Ive built up plenty of trust and rapport, but I fear that my
feedback has been too general and too gently applied, giving teachers too much to infer
on their own. I have especially struggled with this with my mediocre teachers.
When a teacher is blatantly ineffective, it is easier for me to point to glaring
evidence when speaking with the teacher. However, it is much more difficult with
teachers who are not terriblewho appear to be good at first glance, but whose
students are showing mediocre achievement. And although I have successfully counseled
several teachers out of my building over the years when they refused or were unable to
improve, I have been less successful at providing effective feedback to the mediocre
teachers.
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As I worked through my Cycle of Inquiry this year, I really noticed the impact of
my too-subtle approach with teacher feedback. When I spoke to my first-grade teachers
about our disappointing reading scores, they failed to see their own responsibility. As I
proceeded further through the cycle, I could see that I had not provided adequate
feedback. Yet, even as I learned more and more that needed to be rectified, I still found
myself struggling with ways to provide useful feedback that seemed supportive and not
alienating.
My second big goal for the coming year is to become more proficient with
involving the greater community in my school culture. Our school is very isolated from
other businesses and community resources other than a few neighborhood churches.
Although I have contacted the churches in our neighborhood for possible community
partnerships, I have not been able to offer specific ideas other than a request for
individual volunteers. And despite my other various efforts to recruit more community
volunteers to help in my school, Ive been largely unsuccessful.
I provided a stipend for one of my teachers to serve as volunteer coordinator
this year, but she didnt really have the knowledge she needed to be effective, and I didnt
know how to help her.
Even if we had more volunteers, many of my teachers have been unenthusiastic
about welcoming volunteers into their classrooms. Part of this is due to an unwillingness
to open their practice, and part of it has been due to a perception that preparing activities
for volunteers would be inconvenient and more work.
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Of course, community involvement is more than just having volunteers at my
school. It also entails reaching out to community membersinvolving them in decision-
making and tapping them as resources.

SELF-ASSESSMENT

1. Equity & Excellence
When leaders demonstrate leadership along this standard they are able to:
(a) Identify how practices, policies, and systems, both presently and historically, have
created disparities in the quality of learning environments and student success,
particularly for traditionally marginalized students.
(b) Build policies and systems that support every student in success and learning to
high standards.
(c) Foster the collective responsibility, growth and capacity of others to reflect on and
enact equitable practice.
(d) Engage and empower multiple voicesboth professional and community in
key deliberations and decision-making.
(e) Facilitate explicit discussions about race, class, language, ability, and other group-
based disparities in the service of collective action to decrease them.

As I look at Standard 1, I have made progress in Components (b) and (c).
In my previous building, I crusaded for equity for my ELL students in terms of
their educational program (including the classroom where they received pullout
instruction) and discipline. I made strides toward this, but did not achieve full compliance
with my vision before I changed jobs.
Five years ago I began my work at my current building by articulating my vision
of a school with fair discipline practices coupled with the belief that all students can learn.
As I had witnessed some unfairness in my previous building, this had seemed like an
important place to start in a journey toward equity. More recently, I went through a
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lengthy process with my staff to develop a Mission Statement that truly spoke to the
responsibility of all staff to ensure high achievement for all our students.
Once I was armed with an appropriate Mission Statement dedicated to student
achievement, I worked at my building to institute Professional Learning Communities as
a fundamental part of the school culture. Teachers work in grade band teams to assess
student learning, and to analyze their own practice. The music teacher, PE teacher,
librarian, and principal all participate in one of the grade band teams.
Each team uses the following essential questions of learning:
1. What is it we expect them to learn?
2. How will we know when they have learned it?
3. How will we respond when they dont learn?
4. How will we respond when they already know it?

Using these questions as their guide, the teams take ownership for all the students
at their grade band. They write common assessments and use these assessments to assign
the students to 30-minute daily intervention groups (in math or reading), called Learning
Groups. Periodically, they reassess to see how the students are doing, and as necessary
make adjustments to the groups and/or to instructional methods.
As a result of our PLC teams, teachers have become more aware of the
responsibility to differentiate for the their students, and have begun to harness the power
of their teams for professional learning. In addition, theyve begun to streamline their
curriculum in order to focus their instructional time on the skills and knowledge their kids
really need. There is still more work to be done here, and the need for vigilance on my
part continues, but for the most part I am pleased with the progress our school has made
in this area.
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As I began the Leadership for Learning program this year, a growth area for me
has been to learn more about Components (a) and (e). Although I had been aware of the
existence of the Achievement Gap, I have not had knowledge about what caused it or
possible ways to combat it.
Through our assignments in Instructional Leadership, I have learned how the Gap
is perpetuated through racist practices that have been built into our society and into our
school systems. Ive also learned to recognize it within my own school district, although
in that context its more difficult to spot. Ive learned that I need to be a voice for
underrepresented groups, and work for the changes that need to happen.
I still feel I dont know enough about how to eliminate the Achievement Gap. In
my building, I continuously work with my staff to improve instruction. Weve studied
several theories in our class sessions, and weve talked a lot about good teaching. But
how do we make sure all instruction is gap closing? Weve learned about the
importance of relationships, opportunities, and high expectations. But I wonder why so
few schools are able to make this happen. With limited resources, how will we EVER
make this happen? This continues to be a struggle for me.
Lastly, Component (d) has been a relative strength of mine in terms of having
systems in place to empower voices among my staff. Through staff norms, decision-
making processes, staff meetings, a representative Leadership Team, etc., staff members
feel empowered to participate in decisions. However, in terms of the greater community,
this is a growth area for me.
When I was the Educational Associate (assistant principal) early in my
administrative career, the building had a site-based committee that included two parent
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representatives. However, the parents didnt really have much to offer at meetings
because they didnt truly understand the issues that were brought up. These meetings
were not effective, and I have therefore not seen a good example of a way to use
community members in such decisions.
Naturally, I do have a close, positive relationship with the PTA at my school, and
we consider their input in decision-making. Likewise, on the rare occasion that Ive had
a neighbor come to me with a concern or issue, Ive worked to address it. However, I
recognize the need to learn more about this component.

2. Inquiry-focused Practice
When leaders demonstrate leadership along this standard they are able to:
(a) Engage in cycles-of-inquiry processes in the moment and over time, including:
(i) Using evidence to understand problems of practice, and specifically the
student, teaching/other adult, and leadership dimensions of those
problems.
(ii) Constructing theories of action that: Rest on a solid evidence-based
rationale for how pursuing those actions may shift adult practice and
ultimately student learning and show a clear through-line from changes in
adult practice and other conditions to improvements in student learning.
(iii) Acting in ways that reflect engagement with the theory of action or
strategic deviations from it.
(iv) Continuously assessing progress.
(b) Support the learning of other adults to continuously strengthen their practice in
ways that promise to improve results for all students.
(c) Communicate from a teaching and learning stance-- in ways that help other adults
deepen the extent to which they are engaged with and value strengthening their
practice.

The inquiry process has been a big growth area for me this year. Id heard about
the inquiry cycle before, and had even written assignments about it. Yet, Id never
actually applied it to a real problem of practice in my own work. Through our
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assignments this year, I conducted a Cycle of Inquiry at my building around a problem of
student learning: 17% of my first graders were not at standard for the Individual Running
Record administered in the fall.
Through the Cycle of Inquiry process, I looked at test data and gathered other data
about how reading is taught in first grade at my school. Now that I had more information
on what was happening in the first grade classrooms, I formed my hypothesis for the
Problem of Teaching Practice: Both first grade teachers provided only whole-group
reading activities with no differentiation for student needs. In addition, some literacy
time was spent on non-literacy activities.
As I continued the Cycle of Inquiry, I was forced to look closely at my own
leadership practice. I concluded that my Problem of Leadership Practice was: Although
reading professional development had been provided last year, more was needed. Having
the principal teaching reading during much of the reading block this year, and not
checking for compliance with research-based reading program, resulted in teachers
neglecting to teach all the components of the reading program, and in using instructional
time unwisely.
I then developed my Theory of Action:
If the leader: (1) Provides resources/PD for teachers to learn more about balanced
literacy; (2) Helps teachers structure the day to build in plenty of direct instruction in
reading and eliminate undirected seat time; and (3) Monitors and provides feedback
to ensure compliance with research based reading strategies,
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Then teachers will: (1) Make time for direct instruction in literacy, particularly in
guided reading; (2) Commit to using instruction time efficiently; and (3) Provide
effective reading instruction,
Then well see these specific outcomes for students: 100% of 1
st
graders will be at
standard on June IRR.
I have begun working on these action steps, and I plan to continue working on this
as part of my second-year Cycle of Inquiry. As I continue throughout the program, I
hope to become more proficient at collecting and analyzing data in order to continuously
hone our instruction for maximum student achievement.

3. The I mprovement of Teaching & Learning
When leaders demonstrate leadership along this standard they are able to:
(a) Articulate a theory-based vision of deeply engaging, culturally responsive, and
intellectually challenging instruction and adult professional learning.
(b) Construct/adapt/select and use instructional frameworks and other leadership tools
to optimize student and adult professional learning.
(c) Engage relevant players collaboratively and draw from school-based and
community expertise and resources in instructional improvement work.
(d) Fashion and enact systems to support and sustain instructional leadership, inside
and outside of schools.
(e) Craft/adapt instructional visions, practices, and other supports appropriately for
meeting specialized learning needs (e.g., of ELLs, students with identified
disabilities).
(f) Analyze assessment practices and use assessment data of various kinds to
improve instruction.

For Standard 3, I feel I am most proficient in Components (a), (b), (d), (e), and (f).
My work in this standard has been primarily around the Professional Learning
Community work in my building. Through the PLC process, we work to analyze
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assessment practices and use assessment data to improve instruction. We also use the
PLC as a platform for instructional leadership, as this gives me a systematic way to
interact with all my teaching teams and engage with them around student learning.
I particularly enjoyed our work this year with instructional frameworks. This has
been an element that Ive found immediately applicable to my current work situation,
with the introduction of the new teacher evaluation system. My district has adopted the
Danielson framework, and I spent many, many hours taking the Teachscape online
training and passing the test.
In addition, the class session we spent observing classroom instruction at Odle
Middle School was a valuable use of time; especially in the conversations we had with
colleagues and the follow-up assignment.
Now that I am so familiar with instructional frameworks, and the Danielson
framework in particular, I look forward to using it in my discussions with teachers about
teaching and student learning. It has already come in handy once this year already, when
I was able to clarify for a teacher (who didnt see a problem with her lesson) that
according to the Danielson framework, the evidence I collected indicated a Basic level of
performance. The framework then gave us a common language to use for discussing the
evidence and talking about strategies for improvement.
I hope to use the frameworks as a starting point for my goal of becoming
proficient in providing effective teacher feedback.
My work with Instructional Leadership assignments on shadowing a student with
special education was very informative for me this year. Through the shadowing process
(and particularly the interviews of the classroom teacher and special education teacher
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regarding my shadowed student), I was made much more aware of the lack of
communication between the general education and special education programs. This is
something I hope to rectify as I continue working with my staff.
Five years ago I was principal in a building with a higher percentage (36%) of
English Language Learners. At that building, despite my relative lack of training and
experience, with ELL, I worked to make the staff more aware of inequities that had
existed at that building, with teachers frequently excluding ELL students from classroom
activities, and with the pullout ELL program located out in a dank portable with bars on
the windows.
In my current building, we have very few (3.5%) English Language Learners.
Because they are relatively invisible to my staff as a population, a growth area for me
will be to work on making their situation more visible to staff and to help them take
responsibility for specifically addressing the needs of English Language Learners.
I will also need to work with staff on ways to work with ELL. There is a
tendency to claim that good teaching is good teaching. This is true in the sense that all
students benefit from excellent teaching. But it is not okay to use it as a copout by
claiming that youre already providing good teaching. Most teachers at my school are
not providing the kind of good teaching that an ELL student needs, and it wont
suddenly start happening unless teachers receive the training they need to make it happen.
Finally, component (c) is an area for me to grow over the next year. As stated in
my discussion of Standard 1, I have much learning still do around tapping community
resources.

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4. Strategic, Collaborative Governance & Decision-making
When leaders demonstrate leadership along this standard they are able to:
(a) Understand and develop coherent organizational structures and policies that
improve the equity and overall performance of the educational system.
(b) Generate, allocate, and manage resources in alignment with improvement and
equity goals.
(c) Identify, engage, and influence the broader policy, legal, and political
environment to strengthen supports that matter the most for learning
improvement.
(d) Build the capacity of educators and community members to collaborate in
ongoing systemic improvement to ensure a high-quality education for every
student.
(e) Develop and guide decision processes that maximize collaborative problem
solving and continuous improvement.
(f) Model transparent and ethical leadership and address sources of conflict
productively and equitably.

As I look at Standard 4, I am pleased with my progress in Components (a), (b), (e)
and (f).
When I started working in my current building, the school didnt have anything in
place for staff norms, decision-making, or budget planning. Nobody really knew how
decisions were made. They were a congenial group of people, and had not had serious
conflicts with each other in recent memory. However, theyd had serious conflicts with a
previous principal and had actively campaigned for her removal.
When I began my tenure there, I wanted to make sure that sort of conflict didnt
happen again. I immediately began a process to involve the staff in writing a set of staff
norms that we continually revisit. We also worked through a process to design a
decision-making model that everyone understands, as well as a clearly defined process
for making budget requests. Finally, we put all our agreements on these sorts of
procedures (along with safety information, school rules, and other important information)
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into a staff handbook that we update annually and go through with staff page-by-page at
the beginning of every school year.
These procedures have really helped my staff to feel like were all on the same
page with how decisions are made and what is expected. We have very few
misunderstandings about the day-to-day running of the school.
When making decisions, I am extremely mindful of checking with all building
stakeholders. While our decision-making model clearly defines the scope of who is
empowered to make which decisions at my building, I have found that there is no reason
for me not to include as many people as possible when seeking input. While not
everyone can actually make the decision, its critical to at least seek information from
everyone who may be impacted. This has been a strength of mine.
The last area of relative strength for me in this standard is Component (d), as I
have been working with my staff in collaborating on systemic improvement. However,
the community aspect of this component continues to be a struggle for me. As stated
above, working with community members as both stakeholders and resources is
something I will need to work on.
Finally, Component (c) is an area that I will need to strive for in future years. As
I am prioritizing my goals for next year, I expect the political component will likely
remain more of a back-burner issue for me. However, I expect to make some strides
toward this as I improve my community connections.


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NEXT STEPS
As outlined above, there are several areas in which I aspire toward improvement
over the next year, but my two priorities of teacher feedback and community involvement
will take up much of my time and effort.
For my goal of teacher feedback, I have already begun working to improve. As
part of my Cycle of Inquiry Theory of Action, I designed some checklists to help me be
more systematic in providing timely feedback. I shared these with my staff so they
would know to expect this and could hold me accountable.
Furthermore, as I plan for my back-to-school staff meeting this summer, I am
working on creating a PowerPoint presentation to share with the staff. This presentation
will outline the role of the Danielson framework in the new teacher evaluation system
that kicks in this fall. It will also explain how I intend to use this framework for
providing specific feedback. As I will point out, I too am now being held to a higher
standard with the AWSP Leadership Framework, and a big part of my accountability with
that is the need to hold teachers accountable for their instruction.
As I gain more fluency with the Danielson framework, I will be able to point to
specific evidence when giving teachers feedback. The framework will also provide
common vocabulary in discussions with teachers about instruction.
In addition, I expect to have many opportunities to learn about teacher feedback
as I complete my internship work with the BERC group. The BERC group has designed
its own Instructional Framework (the STAR Protocol), and I plan to work with that in
classroom observations and discussions with other consultants in the BERC group.
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Finally, I expect to gain more experience with feedback in my role as internship
advocate for a student of the Danforth Educational Leadership Program. An important
part of the advocacy experience is the training being provided by Ann ODougherty on
coaching techniques and providing timely, specific feedback.
For my goal of community involvement, I have some ideas for next steps.
I intend to connect with 3-5 people who are already proficient in the community-
involvement components of each of the four standards. How do they reach out to
community members and include them in decision-making? How do they seek
out community resources?
I plan to use interviews and observations of these people to identify up to five
strategies for community involvement, and then try out two or three strategies to
try out in Year Two.
I know I wont be able to reach complete proficiency with this very big (but oh-
so-critical) topic in one year, so I plan to start with a foundation for myself. I hope that a
few successful experiences will give me a good base for even more growth in Year Three
and beyond.

CONCLUSION
Over the next two years of the Leadership for Learning program, I expect to show
growth toward greater proficiency in all four of the program standards. I also expect to
recognize other areas in which I am not as proficient as I thought I was! It is the natural
state of human existence that as we learn more about something, we also recognize that
there is really so much more that we still dont know. Yet, with continued vigilance and
a dedication to being a lifelong learner, I hope to continue to always become more
effective as an Instructional Leader.