Growth Requires Change

Posted by Diane Hale on 10/12/2018

As the season changes, I can’t help but think about the inevitability of change. Feeling the weather get cooler, and the days get shorter seems like nature’s way of reminding us that we are in a constant state of change.

At a school, change is apparent everywhere. We often use the words change and growth together. After all, it takes change to grow. Children are growing right before our eyes. Their skills and abilities are developing. Their level and type of need changes with time. And of course, physically, children are literally growing! School communities change too. New families move into an area. Programs and initiatives change to address the needs of a different world. Teachers come and go, and leadership changes. Change at school is simply part of the process. How we as members of a school community work together to be a positive part of the change is what matters and allows for growth. We have to examine our current state, see how it aligns with our goals, and make a plan for being part of the change to get us where we aim to go.

Last school year, after a several year hiatus, Arizona re-instituted the Arizona School Letter Grade law which requires the state to develop an annual achievement profile for every public school in the state based on an A through F scale measuring year to year student academic growth, proficiency on English language arts, math and science. The formula put a greater emphasis on growth than ever before, and last year, while Tarwater’s proficiency score stayed as steady as ever, the new emphasis on growth showed a need for improvement. The school letter grade was a C. As a staff we looked at the data; saw where our goals were, and set about to make some changes. Teachers used data to track student progress more carefully. Greater emphasis was placed on challenging our most capable students so that they could make gains, and small group instruction allowed students to be taught at their level and need. Concerted efforts were placed on reading informational text and teacher teams met to determine best practices for teaching math and reading. These were changes to our practice, to produce just what we needed – growth. This month, Arizona has released the letter grade data once again. Tarwater students made such significant gains in growth that our letter grade jumped from a C to an A – a rare and impressive jump for a school of our size. Our growth score alone jumped almost 14 points. Tarwater’s growth data is now ranked among the top schools in our district. Positive change for long term growth is something we have shown we know how to do at Tarwater.

Recently, there have been some concerns about how we handle student behaviors on campus. Once again staff has looked at data and has noted where changes need to be made to align with our goals. Recently a committee of teachers met to establish curriculum for teaching social skills and expected school behaviors. Another committee is focusing on recognition for students who exhibit positive behaviors, and kind acts. I am working with our district and site administration teams to establish clear protocols for responding to misbehaviors and misconduct. I’ll be meeting with Student Council leaders to gather their input after the break, and I’ll be sharing data with the school’s Site Council Committee as well. I’m confident that this is another case where focused efforts of a committed staff and community can produce not just change, but real and lasting growth.

I look forward to Quarter Two with unique optimism. We have the can-do spirit of an amazing school community and staff working together to be a positive part of the change; change that is inevitable and certainly, a good indicator of growth.