"A new Corwin publication in February 2012".
Real World Experience leads to real world solutions
Lyn Sharratt taught elementary and secondary school students, in regular and special-needs classrooms for 22 years in 3 jurisdictions in Ontario before beginning her career in educational administration. Lyn was administrator and associate professor at York University's Faculty of Education; an executive assistant responsible for professional development at the provincial teachers’ union; and the director of curriculum and program for the provincial trustee association, Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA). In 1995, Lyn became a field superintendent for York Region District School Board (YRDSB) and in 1996 earned her doctorate from Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto. (OISE/UT). From 2002 until 2008, Lyn served as Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Services for YRDSB - a district comprised then of 197 schools, 117,000+ students and 8,800 teachers. From this real world practitioner experience, Lyn draws content which when viewed through the eyes of an academic, becomes very useful strategic information – not “flavour of the month”.
Lyn continues to learn and teach, now as an Associate at OISE/UT supervising doctoral students in the department of Theory and Policy Studies. As an international consultant, she delivers keynote speeches, conference presentations and workshops, and strategizes with District leaders on programs to increase all students' achievement and to help guide their reform processes. True to her collaborative leadership style, she maintains contact with teams with whom she is working with via regularly scheduled personal visits and updates and/or by video teleconference. In this way Lyn and her contacts continue to learn from them the successes and new concerns identified along the way.
The K-12 Literacy Collaborative as a Successful System Reform Strategy:
From experience and research, Lyn knows that implementing district reform requires significant patience, focus and cooperation from elected officials, union leaders and senior leadership colleagues. Her role in YRDSB’s Literacy Collaborative (LC) – a Literacy/Numeracy focused program – resulted in the district becoming a top student achievement performer in provincial standardized assessments. Working with the Director, the Chair of the Board of Trustees and elected trustees, with Michael Fullan as external consultant, Lyn and her team designed, implemented and continuously improved the (LC) strategy using input from field superintendents and principals. The program won the support of the teacher unions whose leadership recognized it was not to assess teacher performance but to provide teachers with new tools with which they could positively extend their professional practice and raise student achievement levels in all classrooms.
Lyn and Michael Fullan first presented the story of “The District that Did the Right Things Right” in published papers which identified 13 Parameters. Then, they followed up with step-by-step details and further anecdotal evidence in the 2009 Corwin publication "Realization: The Change Imperative for Deepening District-Wide Reform". There they describe Realization – the 14th Parameter – a state of self-renewing, self-sustaining deep knowledge and its resulting energy in every school and classroom. In “Realization” you will see the results of the multi-year turnaround and how scores of the district's students on the province’s standardized Grade 3, Grade 6, Grade 9 Math, and Grade 10 English Literacy and Numeracy assessments dramatically improved and were sustained at those higher levels.
Now the K-12 Literacy Collaborative concept has been replicated successfully in many locations with one of the strategies for launching a deep understanding of the student achievement data, such as is discussed in “FACES”.
An integral part of the LC program was analysis of each student’s progress. How well were students learning what was expected of them? Were all students learning? How could they identify those students who were not learning and what interventions could they supply to assist teachers to facilitate all students learning? One answer to those questions clearly was to have daily assessment data available for every student, ongoing measurement that could inform instruction and point diagnostically to where help might be required.
Since leaving YRDSB, Lyn has analyzed system data from a number of districts and states as leaders began to think about intentional student achievement improvement strategies. Some leaders report results in a self-congratulatory manner, for example, “We have 75% of students achieving state expectations”. Others understand what that really means. They “get it” that 25% of students are not achieving expected levels and are determined to rectify the situation. But Lyn goes even further than 25% – how many actual students, i.e. what is the actual number of student FACES represented by that 25%. What schools are they in? What classes in those schools? What does this class look like as it moves through the years as a cohort with no interventions for the 25%? What does it mean to a student’s future to not achieve standard in the very earliest years? Can they recover from this start?
The short answer is that failing to meet expectation in the early years, failing to read by the end of grade one is a sentence to a less than successful adult life. The data prove it. The remedy is high-yield assessment and instruction strategies used in every classroom to reverse the trend for every individual student. Importantly in this global economy which is becoming more competitive the suggested focus on assessment and instruction, and leadership creating ownership by all staff for all students can improve the probabilities that the entire national economy will be positively impacted as these children move into jobs or professions where the ability to read and to think critically will be required.
What are the elements of remedial action? As FACES outlines, it starts with very good first instruction, is supported by supportive and escalating levels of intervention with individual students and assistance for teachers who are struggling, and involves leadership strategies to share and own all student results.
And that simply means the return on the investment of public money into education will be positive for society in general. Isn’t that what the investment in education is supposed to do? Supposed to deliver? Isn’t public education funding supposed to deliver more than teaching jobs and warehouse style day-care for 5 to 16 year olds?
But FACES recognizes that using data is not that easy for most people. Assessment data can bury you, confuse you, or give you a focused direction. Great leaders know how to effectively use data for system and classroom improvement – ultimately to reach and make a difference for every student in every classroom.
Of the 4 pillars in education that support high standards and continuous improvement – assessment, instruction, leadership and ownership – instruction often gets the least attention, or is often defined without first explaining how to develop intentional instruction from what is often a faceless glut of information that most educators face daily.“Putting FACES on the Data – What Great Leaders Do” takes the approach that setting high standards demands follow-up in ongoing assessment that informs daily instruction in all classrooms. Further, the book demonstrates in detail how developing a common language across a system and sharing all students’ progress with all teachers by all leaders, ownership of students’ increased achievement becomes attainable, do-able and sustainable.