The school district’s big rocks
September 16, 2004
Stephen Covey, noted author of the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” spends a good deal of time discussing the importance of time management.
He developed an analogy that stresses the importance of doing what he calls, “putting first things first.” The analogy involves a jar and needing to get rocks, gravel, sand, and water in the jar.
Though it’s involved, the moral of the story becomes: if you don’t put the large rocks in first, you’ll never get them in the jar. These big rocks become the priorities and the lesser issues are the gravel, sand, and water.
Since we all have too many things to do and not enough time in which to do them, the things that may need to be left on the back burner are the gravel, sand, and water.
Each year during the summer there is a Leadership Team meeting consisting of site and district administrators to determine and discuss the “Big Rocks” for the upcoming year. These “Big Rocks” are directly related to the district’s Strategic Plan, the School Board/ Superintendent Goals, as well as school priorities.
The “Big Rocks” for this year at Douglas County School District are: supervision of instruction, lesson plans, teaching of critical content, as well as delivering on the goals of site School Improvement Plans.
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Again this year, principals are expected to be in classrooms on a regular basis observing instruction. All classes have been observed using the protocol known as “Teach for Success.”
“Teach for Success” focuses on such things as student’s active learning, students being engaged throughout the learning, the level of thinking expected by students, practices that help all students learn, how students are assessed, and creating effective, positive learning environments.
Each school has developed a School Improvement Plan that provide for staff development of the “Teach for Success” research and other effective teaching practices. The school district and each site will be offering staff development related to improving student learning in classrooms.
After all, if it’s not happening between teachers and students – it’s not happening. The district-wide inservice day scheduled for October 4, 2004, will focus on many issues that improve instruction and student engagement.
Another “Big Rock” for this year will be to stress the importance of planning and preparation for instruction. We have standardized common expectations for classroom lesson plans so that the lesson objective, instructional activities and assessments of student learning are all succinctly delineated in teacher lesson plans.
All the research shows that planning instruction is one of the most important activities that a teacher does to enhance student achievement.
Critical content is that curriculum that is directly related to the state standards and district competencies. The state standards have been developed to represent what is important for students to learn in the areas of reading, language arts, math, and science.
A school’s ability to make Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind program requires that all students do well relative to achieving the standards. High school graduation depends on successfully learning the curriculum tested on the High School Proficiency Exams. Students are depending on us to prepare them to be successful in meeting the standards, which in turn are quality indicators of the school and school district’s success.
The last of the “Big Rocks” is for each school to deliver on the goals and objectives of their School Improvement Plan. Each school has formed a plan using student achievement data, student, parent, and staff survey data, as well as classroom observation data.
School Improvement planning teams have taken all of this information and determined priorities for each individual school. Principals will be working hard with their staff, students, and parents to meet the school goals.
Of all of the things we can and must be doing, it’s important to keep our eye on the critical areas. In the Douglas County School District, we refer to those critical areas as the “Big Rocks.”