If you are an educator, you’re well aware of the fact that:
- We live in an era of high-stakes testing
- Our evaluations are tied to student growth
- We are expected to quickly turn around low-performing schools
- We must ensure that every student is career and college ready
In an effort to fulfill these demands, many schools turn to “new and improved” programs intended to quickly improve student achievement. In spite of our good intentions, though, many of these programs fail—and it’s not simply because the programs are flawed.
According to Jason LaTurner and Dale Lewis, authors of a recent article in Seen magazine, programs fail because we are “unable to effectively manage the implementation process.”
Based on their research and experience, LaTurner and Lewis offer five key insights to help educators move beyond the initial adoption phase of a program and successfully implement it.
5 Tips to Successfully Implement School Improvement Programs
Don’t simply adopt a new program. Implement it
Receiving grants and adopting a new program is an excellent first step, but it does not guarantee successful implementation. Say, for example, that your school receives funding for a new one-for-one program that gives every student access to tablet technology. This is great news, but consider the following questions:
- Is this new technology tied to specific learning objectives?
- Are these objectives and the learning tools grounded in research?
- How will teachers and students use this technology?
- How will you train staff to implement this new program?
Change must be personal
Most likely, your staff will respond to the new program in a variety of ways: some will be enthusiastic, others will be skeptical, overwhelmed, and perhaps even hostile about these changes.
In addition to training your teachers, survey and interview them. This will not only give you data, it will also give you a better sense of the kind of support they need.
Define the Change
In addition to the initial training sessions, LaTurner and Lewis suggest that administrators “provide staff with a clear, specific, and shared description of what implementation of a new program or practice should look like.”
The description should look at a range of behaviors. Define what ideal, acceptable and less acceptable forms of implementation are. Additionally, provide detailed descriptions of the materials that should be used and the types of activities students might engage in.
Use data before, during and after
This tip could (and perhaps should) be number one on the list of to-do’s.
Before you implement your new program, collect and analyze data. This will help you determine if the program is even necessary; it will also help you set realistic achievement goals.
During implementation, you should also be collecting data to ensure that you know what is going well and what needs improvement.
Data collected after the program has been implemented will obviously help you determine the impact of the program.
Commit for the long haul
Many new programs start strong, but momentum and enthusiasm can quickly deteriorate if the administrator shows little interest in the program and chooses not to take part in training sessions. Commit for the long haul. Talk to your teachers, support them and don’t give up when things get tough.