Note for new readers: Our team member, Dr. Amanda Sailors, actively serves as a district administrator for a public school system as well as a LifePlan Labs blog contributor.

As a school administrator, I enjoy this season.  I enjoy the excitement as students discuss their holiday plans and wishes.  I enjoy the crispness in the air, the sparkle in the eyes, and the little bit of extra kindness and joy that seem to come along with the season.  Also, as an educator, how could I not enjoy the actual days off during the holiday season.  While many weeks have been spent focusing on the children and families that I call my own because they are a part of my school, I cherish the few weeks that I have during the holiday season to focus on my own children and family.

The holidays are truly a special time for me, but they are also a gentle reminder that the 2017-18 school year is nearly half over!  I could wonder where the time has gone, but that does me no good.  Instead, I like to spend time reflecting on the first few months of the school year and progress toward the goals that we set as a school before this year began.

School Leadership: Measure for Success

As school leaders, we engage in a process of strategic planning and improvement planning each academic year.  This process helps us to set a vision for where we would like to be as a school and to think about the small steps that we need to take along the way to get there.  Just as we ask our students to set goals for their academic paths, we set goals as a school and began working toward them together.

So, how are we doing?  If the year is half over, it’s a good time to think about those goals we set, where we are in our progress toward meeting them, and think about any changes that we need to make now to ensure that we are still moving toward those goals. Like most high schools, we have a goal of increasing the graduation rate.  We also set a goal this year to implement a social-emotional curriculum (SEL) for students.  We are at the mid-point, so how do we take stock of our progress toward those goals?

One way that we look at our progress on increasing the graduation rate is to review early warning data for our students at all grade levels.  At the end of each grading period, we use data related to course failure or completion, attendance, and behavior to determine which students are “on track” or “off track.”  When students are “off track,” interventions are put into place.  This year, I am interested in knowing if we have fewer students who are “off track” than last year, and I am especially interested in which of my seniors might be off track.  The important piece of the puzzle is matching the intervention to the students’ needs.  For example, a senior who is off track in class because he is tardy every morning needs a different intervention than the student who is off track because he has failed every test in his senior math class.

Reflecting on SEL Implementation

The school we partnered with will also spend some time reflecting on our SEL curriculum implementation.  We will look at data related to lessons delivered for the first semester and we will gather feedback from faculty and students to guide implementation as we move into second semester.

As you enjoy the holiday season, how will you reflect on the goals you set for this year?  What data sources will you use to measure your progress?  What changes will you make to ensure that you are continuing down a path that will help you achieve your vision?

We at LifePlan Labs believe in the power of planning, but we also believe in the power of reflecting on our progress.  This belief is reflected in the curriculum that we build for students, but we hope that the educators who implement the curriculum embrace the power of planning ahead and reflecting on progress as much as we do.

Happy Holidays from all of us at LifePlan Labs!