Post by Kyle Baker, Program Coordinator for the Institute for Excellence & Ethics.
Last week, I facilitated an Excellence & Ethics Toolkit Workshop on “Utilizing Effective Goal Achievement Strategies” for the faculty, staff, and administration at Russell Middle School in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Russell Middle School has a passionate faculty & staff committed to giving their students the best educational experience possible (this is reflected in Russell’s distinction as a Colorado Trailblazer School to Watch and a Colorado State School of Character). Given this fact, the school leadership team had little doubt that the faculty and staff would quickly and powerfully integrate tools such as the Goal Achievement Process, the Goal Map, and the Attitude-Effort-Improvement Rubric (AEI Rubric) following Wednesday’s Toolkit professional development workshop, however they decided that they wanted to implement a school-wide, Tier-1 intervention as well.
The school leadership team identified the objectives of the intervention they wanted to plan by choosing to adopt the Excellence & Ethics competencies addressed in the Toolkit as the stated goals for their students:
- Benchmark current state (baseline starting point) and establish desired state (end goal).
- Balance tactical (short-term) and strategic (long-term) goals.
- Apply strategies to overcome obstacles to goals achievement.
- Develop the attitude and effort needed to revise and continuously improve.
The leadership team then decided to incorporate another goal as well: To increase the frequency and quality of planner use by students. This objective strengthened the intervention strategy by authentically aligning it with the school’s ongoing PBIS initiative while also encouraging students to make better use of a powerful tool that they already had access to.
Prior to this intervention, planner use was encouraged and reinforced by many teachers, but the only coordinated school-wide use of the planner was as a hall pass, and as one teacher told us, “ Those planners are an awfully expensive bathroom pass.”
After identifying the goals for the intervention, the school leadership team and I worked to envision what steps the students would need to take in order to achieve them.
The leadership team determined that they would work to achieve the goals they identified by having the students:
1. Set 1 academic and 1 citizenship (using the Russell ROCKS citizenship rubric as the guide) every month.
2. Record their goals on the month overview page in their student planners.
3. Chart their current Attitude and Effort in relation to the academic and citizenship goal they identified using the Attitude-Effort-Improvement Rubric (better known as the AEI Rubric).
4. Revisit their goals and AEI chart at least once during the month in order to have a MMR (Measure, Monitor, Revise if necessary) point.
Of course, identifying the things we want students to do doesn’t solve the seemingly endless logistical challenges that curb well-intentioned initiatives and interventions every day in schools across the country.
What’s the #1 way to stop such a derailment from occurring? By practicing the same long lost art we encourage our students to: Thinking before acting.
And so we set out to think about the systematic process that would be required to have 700 students set goals, monitor progress, and evaluate their attitude and effort over time.
The leadership team made several decisions (that students would use the form pictured below and that those forms would go in each student’s portfolio, etc.), but they also decided to leave several decisions up the 6 PLCs that the faculty & staff are grouped together in.
This move empowered the individual teams to take ownership of the intervention by making their own decisions about who would get the forms into the portfolios, when (and by whom) mid-month check-ins would take place, what dates at the beginning of each month students would set new goals, how the need for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions would be identified, and what other kinds of intervention reinforcement would occur.
Something important to note here: The initial decisions made by the school leadership team happened BEFORE the Toolkit workshop ever began. That’s right, before the teachers ever poured their first cup of coffee or checked their email on the morning of their second semester professional development day, the school leadership team had already put in work to identify goals, set up the intervention framework, and define the decisions that each PLC would need to make.
During the afternoon of the Toolkit workshop, each PLC met for 45 minutes to make their own plan for implementing the intervention. At the conclusion of these PLC meetings, the entire faculty and staff came together to share their ideas, ask their peers questions that came up in their discussions, and use their collective expertise to solve problems that may have otherwise prevented the intervention from being successful.
So what was the result? On Friday, January 6th, I watched as 700 students–every single student in the building–learned about effective goal setting and the importance of attitude and effort in relation to improvement toward their desired goal (a process that will be conducted during the first week of every month for the rest of the school year).
The intervention the Russell faculty, staff, and administration has put into action is a powerful example of how different initiatives and frameworks within a school (PLCs, RTI, PBIS, Character Education, 21st Century Skills, etc.) can come together to empower students to not only set their own goals, but to achieve them.
Watching the students identify their goals and think about their attitude and effort was exciting for me as one of the designers of the Tools they are using and as a person who believes that it’s possible to unleash nearly limitless potential in every individual student, but my guess is that my initial excitement will pale in comparison to the excitement we will all share when we begin to see the progress students make and the goals they are able to achieve in the course of the coming months.