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A Message From Executive

Improving Math Teacher

High School Feedback Re-

GLISI Welcomes New Staff Mem-

Director Gale Hulme


ports Featured at BCLS


Leader Profile

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GLISI News & Events

The Leader ISSUE 2

FALL / 2013

GLISI’s mission is to develop world-class education leaders who advance student achievement and organizational effectiveness.

Improving Math Teacher Effectiveness

Message from the Executive Director The beginning of the school year is always a time of infinite hope - and infinite to-do lists! As you move beyond the opening of school frenzy, keep in mind that your strong leadership trans-

through Root Cause Analysis “There are 324 emails in my inbox.” “I have to call back an irate parent.” “Next week is mandatory SIG training.” Sound familiar?

forms lives - your students, teachers, parents, and other leaders.

School and district leaders have so many demands on their time

Leaders pull together the swirling strands of work - Teacher and

that many who return from GLISI’s Base Camp and Leadership

Leader Keys, CCRPI, Student Learning Objectives - so they

Summit with every intention to lead their teams in data analysis

make sense and help teachers to be more effective. Excellent

and instructional improvement, just never quite get around to it.

leadership is the best strategy to scale teacher effectiveness!

One barrier is the misconception that doing the work of analyzing data, instruction, and student performance requires long chunks of

In this newsletter, peek into how leaders are doing this at Lawrenceville Elementary, using Root Cause Analysis to improve teacher effectiveness in math. Meet the newest members of GLISI's team and remember to come see us at upcoming events! As always, I welcome your feedback and questions about GLISI or education leadership. I look forward to working with you to build great school and district leaders for Georgia!

time. But it does not have to. Lisa Marie Johnson and Kimberly Dyer, principal and assistant principal from Lawrenceville Elementary School, attended GLISI’s Base Camp and Leadership Summit in February and March 2013 along with a small team of their teacher leaders. While still at the Mountain, Johnson and her team realized that they could lead the entire school staff in looking more closely at their students’ math performance data using the Root Cause Analysis (RCA) process. In an interview with GLISI staff, Dyer said what they saw in RCA was a way to engage teachers as partners

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Gale D. Hulme, Ed.D. Executive Director


in improving instruction and student learning. Rather than defining the problem for teachers, RCA allows teachers to “arrive at a place where [they] would be able to recognize that their students were not performing up to their potential.”

ties to empower the instructional coaches and promote a culture of collaboration. Teachers’ morale and excitement about teaching this year are at peak levels as Lawrenceville Elementary students returned to their classrooms last week.

The leaders did not wait until they returned to school to begin planning. They identified the day they would engage their entire staff in RCA and brainstormed the supplies they would need to support the process: well-organized data for teachers and staff to review; post-it notes; chart paper; highlighters; colored pencils. The very next Tuesday after returning from Leadership Summit, they used their regular 50 minute before-school weekly staff meeting to kick things off. With everyone assembled in the school cafeteria —including all K-5 teachers, paraprofessionals, media and technology specialists, and clerks— the team that attended Base Camp and Leadership Summit facilitated the process. Grade level teams were seated together, specialists sat together, and support staff sat together. All groups engaged in three tasks. They:

Of course, this is the beginning of the story. Lawrenceville Elementary leaders and teachers have work to do: they have to draw on the insights they gained through RCA to deliver effective instruction and support for students and teachers. They are off on the right foot, with strong leaders and teachers working arm in arm to prepare every child for success in middle school, high school, college and life!

1. 2. 3.

Link to video | Link to Root Cause Analysis Module Lawrenceville Elementary School is currently led by Principal Lisa Johnson and enrolls 751 students in grades K-5. It is a part of Gwinnett County’s Central Cluster and is located at 122 Gwinnett Drive Lawrenceville, GA 30046-5626.

GLISI Expands Team

Examined student achievement data to identify performance challenges Brainstormed causes for poor performance and shared those with the large group Grouped causes into categories, setting aside those causes outside of their control

Later that same day in grade-level planning meetings, each grade level team completed “The Five Whys.” This activity required the team members to look at their charts from earlier that morning, review all of the potential explanations they believed hindered student achievement, and identify a high leverage cause they believed not only was an impediment to academic performance but also was within their reach instructionally. Once the team agreed that they could have an impact on the identified high-leverage cause, they moved on to find the root of the high-leverage cause. One grade level team began by asking, Why are our students performing poorly in math? As a team, they answered, “Because students have limited math processing skills.” Why do our students have limited math processing skills? This led to deep, sometimes difficult conversation, but by looking closely at their instructional approach, the team answered, “Because we are teaching students math strategies, but not skills.” Why are we teaching strategies and not skills? Which is how the team and school leaders came to identify a need for additional support to help teachers expand their depth of knowledge and repertoire in teaching math skills. Johnson recalled that teachers were initially concerned that “The Five Whys” might be about assigning blame for students’ underperformance. However, the leadership team reassured them that the purpose of the process was to support teachers by determining the actual causes of the students’ low performance and identify strategies that could improve student achievement. Their driving question was, “What can we do differently to improve student achievement?” Dyer noted, “Our teachers are doing hard work every day, but we want to make sure it’s the right work.” The result of their initial Root Cause Analysis process helped Johnson and Dyer make decisions about instructional support to empower teachers with even deeper expertise in helping students to learn and master math. The process enabled them to honor their teachers’ wisdom, draw them into solving their shared performance challenges, and hear them express the need for more help. Their teacher support strategy is twofold: 1) they are bringing on more instructional coaches; and 2) they have created Professional Learning Communi-

The GLISI team is thrilled to welcome its newest members, Mrs. Letishia Seabrook Jones and Dr. Robert W. Gaines, II. Letishia is a former classroom teacher and most recently completed a 14-year tenure with the College Board, where she was the Senior Director of Solutions Development. As the Program Director, she is charged with overseeing the growth and delivery of GLISI’s consulting services. Robert, who joins GLISI as Research and Communications Associate, has interned and worked as a consultant with GLISI since earning his doctorate in educational administration and policy from the University of Georgia in 2012. Robert helps execute GLISI’s research agenda, communications plan, and social media strategy.

Upcoming Events 

Come check out our presentation on Leading a Performance Culture at the Education Works Leadership Institute on September 16th!

Base Camp 40 teams are in for a treat. We will lead you through use of the just-released Georgia High School Feedback Reports. These data reports allow K-12 systems to analyze postsecondary data and develop improvement initiatives their students' college and career success. Not registered for Base Camp yet? There are a few seats available for Cohort 42 in January 2014. For more information contact:

GLISI is an independent non-profit organization providing training and consulting to school and district leaders throughout Georgia. Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement 1755 North Brown Road, Suite 200 Lawrenceville, GA 30043 770-464-9299