Education Week - June 13, 2018 - 18
About This Special Package
A busy principal at a bustling
high school challenged by his
schedule is not an unusual scenario.
Shortly after Ron Myers became
the administrative head at Byron
Nelson High School in a DallasFort Worth suburb, it became clear
that he had
IMPROVEMENT capacity to
work with his
teaching staff on instruction.
He knew he needed to do
something more to give his teachers
the kind of support they were
seeking. So he sought research
and professional development,
and considered his on-the-ground
experiences as an administrator of
30 years. An action plan surfaced.
feedback loop that helps groups of
people set goals, identify ways to
improve, and evaluate change-has
been gaining in popularity as a
framework for school improvement
in recent years. And it's a model
that Myers turned to in 2015. With
the assistance of two instructional
coaches, Myers empowered his
educators with instructional
decision-making. The path has
been anything but easy-and only
some of the teachers at his school
are currently using the model's
In this special Commentary
project, Myers, an assistant
principal, the instructional coaches,
and a teacher offer their perspectives
on the difficulties and the benefits
of implementing the continuousimprovement model.
Coverage of continuous-improvement
strategies in education is supported
in part by a grant from the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation at
Education Week retains sole
editorial control over the content of
A Team Approach to Problem-Solving
By Maggie Norris
s an assistant principal,
my role is largely about
but my main objective
is to always help our
teachers grow in their
profession and practice.
At times, it can be challenging to balance both. I have discovered
that building trust is the key to succeeding
in this endeavor.
To establish a culture of continuous
improvement, we first have to create an
environment that both allows and encourages teachers to be vulnerable and take
risks. It is important that the teachers I
work with not see my presence at their
professional-learning-community meetings as a threat, but rather one of support
Through collaborative effort, PLCs can
bring out the best in teachers and, ultimately, our students.
For example, as our biology PLC planned
for targeted tutorials to help students pre-
"Through collaborative effort,
PLCs can bring out the best
in teachers and, ultimately,
pare for their upcoming state assessment,
teachers explained that it was challenging
to get certain students to attend, even when
the tutorials were mandatory. I was able
to provide them with ways in which our
administrative team could offer support,
and we successfully established a team approach to solving the problem.
Being a campus leader does not mean that
I have all the answers, or that I must solely
develop solutions to the challenges our
campus and teachers face. In fact, such an
approach would be ineffective and a waste
of our teachers' talents. As a former classroom teacher, I know what good instruction
Assistant Principal Maggie Norris
tackles paperwork at her desk.
Photos by Brandon Thibodeaux
for Education Week
18 | EDUCATION WEEK | June 13, 2018 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary
looks like, which helps me to be an effective
campus leader, but I have to trust in the
professionalism and expertise of our teachers.
As the educator and author Peter DeWitt
observes, "When the leader's voice is the only
voice, we end up enabling teachers to wait
for the right answer instead of empowering
them to help find the best answer together."
My job is not to simply deliver directives to
teachers for purposes of improvement, but
rather to provide them with opportunities to
learn from each other. In doing so, they can
create instructional opportunities that will
allow all students to thrive.
There are times, of course, when my
managerial role means I must have critical conversations with my teachers or give
directives. However, although I can say with
all honesty that I work with an amazing
group of teachers, I do believe that my collaborative relationship with my PLC team
has significantly helped to make these occurrences few and far between.
Instead, I am able to use questioning
techniques to prompt teachers to make
these necessary changes.
As a result, the teachers I work with have
evidently grown more reflective and developed a greater intrinsic motivation to strive
for continual growth.
I recognize the need for differentiating
feedback between teachers and even PLCs.
Because I truly believe in their desire to be
the kind of teacher their students deserve, I
am always happy to work to meet teachers'
Unfortunately, my many responsibilities
pull me in various directions, often preventing me from spending ample-even
adequate-time with our teachers and