Posted on July 5, 2019 by Marcus Jackson, Ed.D © 2019

Failed TestIt’s July and that’s an indicator that many districts will be receiving their results from the state assessments taken in the spring. Unfortunately, for many principals and teachers, this is a very frustrating time as the results can be dismal. This is a critical point for administrators, as their reaction and action will have an impact on the results a year from now. As a principal, what do you do at this point? Here a 5 tips on next steps for principals.

#1 Be Disappointed, Be Excited, & Be Prepared to Go to Work

DisappointedDon’t ever discount your feelings on being disappointed. However, don’t hang around in the valley of disappointment too long. Next, you should be excited as this is an excellent opportunity for you and your staff to grow and improve your school.  Finally, you have a detailed analysis on the deficiencies of every student, every teacher, and every grade level, now it’s time to put your hard hat on and go to work.

# 2 Reflect, Reflect, Reflect

ReflectReflecting is a critical next step. After taking over the third lowest performing school in the state of Georgia years ago, I knew it would be an uphill battle. After not reaching our goals the first year, we analyzed the data and realized we did not have a strong literacy plan and students had major issues with decoding and vocabulary.

Bus DutyAt this point, D.E.A.R DAY (Drop Everything and Read) was implemented. During our deep reflection, we even restructured bus duty and how we exposed students to Tier II and Tier III vocabulary. Every morning during as students exit the bus and or entering the building, they are introcduced to Tier I and Tier II vocabulary words. It’s very important that students have a knowledge of the vocabulary within the standards as they will see them on the assessment. This worked very well for me when I was a principal, as when students saw me in the hall they would always ask “Do you have some vocabulary words?” It’s pretty cool.  There should be no stone left uncovered during the reflection process. 

# 3 Prepare for Your Message to Your Leadership Team & Staff During Pre-Planning

Preparing MessageYour message to your leadership team and staff is critical. They have put in hardworking efforts all year, but did not see the results on the state assessment. Unfortunately, this is the world that we live in, but it doesn’t have to be. During my 2 day leadership summit after receiving dismal results, I entered into the session pumped up and filled with energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. The staff was perplexed! The first thing I did was highlight 40 things that went well that year; the number of times the buses arrived on time, the number of times teachers got to work on time, the decrease in the number of office referrals etc.. I highlighted every single thing that went right that year as opposed to focusing on the one thing (test scores) that went wrong. The rest of the day was filled with leadership development, team building, self-awareness, meeting the social and emotional needs of adults while working in a challenging environment, and designing a wellness plan with an accountability partner. This was the only focus on day one, as I didn’t mention anything about the state assessment. According to my leadership team and staff, “this lifted a weight off of their shoulders as they were expecting a negative tone during the summit and pre-planning, but my approach was inspiring.”

#4 Design Your Plan of Action

ArchitectThe next step is designing your plan of action. There are four critical areas in every school. These areas are: Curriculum, Operations/Logistics, Assessment & Data Analysis, and Culture & Collaboration. This is my organizational framework which we entitled COLA-C (Curriculum, Operations & Logistics, Assessment & Data Analysis, and Culture & Collaboration.

5-whys-analysis-training-presentationDuring day two of the leadership summit we took a deep delve into each area, beginning with the 5 Why’s to determine the root cause of the deficiency. After determining the root causes a plan of action was designed and prepared to be presented to the staff during pre-planning for their input.


# 5 Be Positive, Be Ready to Shift, & Be Intentional

In conclusion, it is imperative that you as the leader remain positive and confident during this transformational process. During this process, it’s important that you and your staff prepare for and are knowledgeable about the stages involved in the shift of team development and transformation. These stages are discussed in detail in Bruce Tuckman’s “Stages of Team Development.” The stages are: 1) forming; 2) storming; 3) norming; 4) performing; and 5) adjourning. It’s critical for the staff to be cognizant of these necessary and inevitable stages.

Percentages and PointsFinally, please remember your teachers are not microwaves and your students are not popcorn. In an era of accountability, we have forgotten that we’re dealing with people. Let’s not make the mistake of reducing our students and teachers to points and percentages.