School Improvement Planning: A Strategic Guide to Using Learning-Focused Newsletter Articles 

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The Learning-Focused Newsletter continues to be an invaluable resource for district personnel, school administrators, instructional coaches, and teachers throughout the academic year and into summer planning. The newsletter’s articles are versatile and useful for incorporating high yield strategies throughout all lessons. The articles can guide collaborative planning, serve as the agenda for team meetings or professional learning communities (PLCs), support lesson studies, and inform summer planning sessions to address areas of need.

During the summer months, when schools evaluate past performance and prepare for the upcoming year, these crucial articles can pinpoint specific areas for improvement and development.

Tips for Effectively Using Learning-Focused Newsletter Articles for Summer Planning

  • Review School/District Data and Observations: Before summer planning begins, a school administrator or district personnel member should analyze student achievement data, classroom observations, and any other relevant information to identify areas for improvement.
  • Find Matching Content: School administrators or instructional coaches can search the “Learning-Focused Blogs” for articles targeting specific needs after identifying a focus area. You could also reach out to your Learning-Focused Coach, and they can help you determine an article that aligns with your focus area.  For example, the article Retell, Recount, and Summarize: 3 Essential Reading Comprehension Skills could be used to understand the vertical progression within the standards, set grade level expectations, review curriculum documents or individual lessons for improvement, and improve summarizing across the school.
  • Select and Share Articles: Curate a selection of articles that align with the identified focus areas. Share the chosen articles with teachers before the summer planning sessions, either electronically or in print format. Make sure you provide a goal for the articles they are reading so they have a focus.
  • Prepare for the Discussion: Anyone participating in the meeting should read the newsletter articles before the session. Everyone should consider how the information in the articles can be applied to their classrooms and curriculum. They should record any questions and notes based on the content and be ready to discuss how these insights can be integrated into summer planning and next year’s strategy.

Summer Planning Discussions

  • Guide Discussions with Articles: Use the newsletter articles to guide discussions, focusing on how the strategies and insights can be applied to address identified goals. Many articles include “Questions to Ponder” and “Actions to Take” that will support the discussion.
  • Provide Examples and Evidence: Share specific examples or pictures of quality implementation of research-based strategies or instructional practices, especially those that can be planned over the summer for the next academic year.
  • Action Planning: Based on the discussions, develop a summer action plan that outlines the steps teachers will take to address the identified needs. This plan may include participating in professional development workshops, developing new curriculum materials, or piloting new instructional approaches.

After the Conferencing or Planning Session:

Follow-Up and Observe: The school administrator/district personnel should plan consistent and pervasive walkthroughs (both “look for” and “ask about”) during the early part of the next academic year, observing the implementation of the strategies as determined from the summer planning.

Benefits of this Approach

  • Targeted Professional Development: Using the articles to identify areas of need, summer professional development can be more targeted and relevant to teachers’ needs.
  • Improved Curriculum: Teachers can use the information from the articles to improve their curriculum materials and lesson plans.
  • Enhanced Instruction: The articles can help teachers learn about new research-based instructional practices that can improve student learning.

This approach enhances the effectiveness of conferencing sessions and enriches summer planning, ensuring that schools are proactive in addressing areas of need and setting the stage for a successful year. In addition, Teacher Reflection Meetings can focus on the follow-up implementation of the strategies discussed. This is just one example of how newsletter articles can be a cornerstone for planning immediate and long-term improvement.

Questions to Ponder

  • How can choosing articles systematically reflect your school or district’s specific challenges and goals?
  • What strategies can be implemented to encourage active participation and thoughtful preparation among all staff members before the summer planning sessions?
  • How can we measure the impact of using these articles on summer planning and the subsequent academic year’s outcomes?
  • How can the articles from the Learning-Focused Newsletter be integrated into ongoing professional development beyond the summer?
  • What challenges arise when using newsletter articles for planning, and how can we preemptively address these issues?

Ideas for Leaders

  • Develop a Thematic Focus: Leaders can enhance the effectiveness of summer planning by establishing a clear thematic focus for each session based on the articles. This helps ensure that discussions remain targeted and relevant.
  • Facilitate Collaborative Workshops: Organize workshops where teachers can collaboratively dissect the articles, discuss their applicability, and brainstorm implementation strategies. These workshops can be facilitated by instructional coaches or peer leaders.
  • Create a Resource Hub: Build an online resource hub where teachers can access the selected articles, additional reading materials, discussion guides, and a forum for pre-session questions and reflections. This encourages a deeper engagement with the content and facilitates a more informed discussion.
  • Institute Reflective Practice Sessions: Schedule regular check-ins or reflective practice sessions throughout the year where teachers can share their experiences, successes, and challenges in implementing the strategies discussed. This fosters a culture of continuous improvement and collective learning.
  • Use Articles as a Springboard for Innovation: Encourage teachers and administrators to use the articles not just as guides but as springboards for innovation. Leaders can challenge teams to develop new strategies or modify existing ones based on the insights gained from the articles, promoting a culture of creative problem-solving and innovation.

Don Marlett

Don has been an educator for 20+ years. Before joining Learning-Focused, he taught High School and Middle School Science and was a school administrator. Don has participated in school evaluations focused on implementing High Yield Strategies. In addition, he partnered with various state DOE to support leaders as well as present at numerous conferences hosted by multiple leadership organizations in Florida, NC, Ohio, WV, TN, and KY Don leads product development, provides leadership training and coaching, and coaches educators in the implementation of the High-Yield strategies.

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