By Dixie Jones
“It [Leadership] means generating ideas together; to seek to reflect on and make sense of work in the light of shared beliefs and new information; and to create actions that grow out of these new understandings.” -Harris and Lambert 2003
It’s not too late! The new school year is here once again. As you look ahead to the promise of this year, don’t forget about your school-based literacy leadership team. Hopefully this group has already convened and has a clear, shared vision of what is necessary to support student success and growth over the upcoming year.
If you do not already have a literacy leadership team at your school, how do you decide who should participate? Consideration needs to be given to the unique perspective each member will bring to the team. A well-designed literacy leadership team includes administrators, the literacy coach, a classroom literacy teacher from each grade level, and representatives from special education and literacy support personnel. It is important that this team of professionals share a common vision of the desired goal of the literacy implementation and its development over time. If this vision has not been established, it should be an initial agenda item.
This team makes decisions throughout the year that directly impact the literacy development of the students, teachers, and school. In order for this to occur on a regular basis, monthly team meetings should be scheduled at the beginning of the school year. It is student data and the interpretation of this data that informs the team as they evaluate the literacy implementation at the school. Part of the responsibility of the literacy leadership team is to decide on assessments that will most accurately reflect student progress over time with enough specificity to evaluate the strengths and needs of the students, teachers, and literacy instruction. The data gathered provides insights into weaknesses and strengths of the instruction going on at the school, both in classrooms and interventions. Careful evaluation and reflection on the student data is the foundation for decisions made regarding budget, professional development, schedules, interventions, and many other concerns.
I know, I know. This is a tall order and it takes time and effort to meet with the literacy leadership team on a regular basis. It sometimes seems easier to just make decisions without the benefit of everyone’s input. That is especially true when the decision-making involves some hashing out of difficult issues. It can be tense. However, the benefits that come from having an active literacy leadership team at your school are enormous and are heightened when members of the team look at the issues through a lens unique to their situation. This is important to making well-rounded decisions in line with the overall vision. The team serves as a compass, keeping the school on a path to the desired outcome.
We will continue to look at the vital role literacy leadership teams play in the implementation of an effective literacy initiative in an upcoming blog.
Harris, A. and Lambert, L. (2003) Building Leadership Capacity for School Improvement. Berkshire: Open University Press.