School Leadership Case Study: Implementing Effective Teacher Feedback to Exceed Growth Goals

When Zach Marks first transitioned from elementary to middle school principal, he walked into a complex post-COVID environment.

Deciding what to tackle first should’ve been a challenge, but Zach looked at the data and identified almost immediately what he wanted to address: instructional improvement.

As a new principal in the building, he knew he needed to ensure teachers felt safe. Because of the changes COVID brought on, there were many new teachers in the school who were beginning new careers. He wanted to provide simple and intentional teacher feedback to new educators to help them grow. With his veteran teachers, he wanted to identify simple tweaks they could make, and to instill a culture of constant improvement in the school overall.

To jumpstart his instructional improvement initiative, he called in the experts at Learning-Focused.

School Improvement Coaching
Why Learning-Focused?

Zach was familiar with Learning-Focused principles and learned a great deal from his previous role at a local elementary school. As part of a Learning-Focused district, they received visits from Consultant Don Marlett, who would model walk-throughs and teacher observation.

Zach brought in Learning-Focused specifically to support him and his admin team in providing feedback to his teachers. He intended this “teacher feedback” engagement to be a growth opportunity not only for teachers in the building, but also for Zach and his administrators. Feedback would be given to both the teachers and the admins holding the conversations.


School Leader and Teacher Feedback Implementation

TThe team scheduled three 2-day sessions throughout the year. The two days consisted of:

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    Day 1: 10-minute teacher observations of classroom instruction

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    Day 2: Within 24 hours, holding a teacher feedback debrief

Overall, the schedule was designed to provide an opportunity for open coaching conversations focused on improving teachers throughout the building.

Teacher Feedback

Coaching and feedback sessions for the teachers provided:

  • Brand new teachers with the tools and strategies to implement high-impact instruction.
  • Veteran teachers with feedback through coaching conversations on ways to fine-tune instruction.

A foundation of honest, candid teacher feedback was established early on. The educators were always given 1-2 small things to tweak or add to their lessons to make them more effective.

School Leader Feedback

From the school leadership perspective, the admin team was coached on how to give teacher feedback more effectively. Initially, Don Marlett of Learning-Focused demonstrated the conversations and then began coaching APs on giving impactful feedback to teachers.

Continuous staff monitoring ensured these strategies remained in place and became second nature.

“getting comfortable with being uncomfortable”

Zach Marksl, School Principal


School Growth and Results of the Teacher Feedback Initiative

Fast forward to 2024, and Zach and his team have completed five cycles total over the last two calendar years. The feedback initiative was incredibly effective, resulting in positive changes in classroom instruction. They:

  • Exceeded growth two years in a row despite numerous roadblocks.
  • Were in the top 5% of all schools in growth in 22-23.
  • Became a “C” school.

Zach attributes a big piece of this to feedback.

“When we first started, the teachers were nervous to have admins popping into their classroom with a notepad and jotting stuff down,” explains Zach. “It took getting through a good round of feedback before our teachers understood this was truly a growth and improvement tool and not a punitive evaluation they needed to be wary of. The coaching has led to great conversations and a culture of constant dialogue.”

Zach shares this for school leaders and principals trying to implement a more effective teacher observation and feedback loop: “I emphasize to my teachers that these feedback sessions are as much for me as an instructional leader as it is for them as teachers. That has been key. They know I’m not asking them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself and that this is a way for me to improve as well.”

“After 5 rounds and two calendar years, the teachers have understood and embraced the concept. Our veteran teachers will even tell new teachers it’s a positive experience. It is getting more comfortable having these conversations.”

Zach continues to walk the talk of always looking for improvement and ways to get better. He sums up by sharing, “You don’t have to have it all figured out. As a leadership team, we discuss being all in and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. As a school and a team, we’re either getting better or getting worse.”


Interested in Enhancing Academic Achievement at Your School?

Discover how improving feedback can improve student outcomes and create a culture of learning. Get in touch with Learning-Focused to find out how we can assist your school, teachers, and students in achieving academic excellence.


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