Review of ‘Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement'
Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement
by James P. Spillane and Amy Franz Coldren
Published by Teachers College Press: 2011, New York: 134 pp.
Scarcely a day goes by without another discussion in the public space, whether in the paper, on a local news program or the Internet, about improving student performance on high-stakes testing and ensuring that teachers are up to the task.
There’s no going back to the era when teachers and students explored curriculum, sometimes in unconventional and creative ways, behind closed doors. Transparency and accountability demand that teachers be aligned with state-defined learning standards. A key job requirement and expectation for school leaders is providing clear direction and guidance to achieve successful results for student achievement.
Still, the authors caution, smart and strategic leaders have to recognize that there’s more to improving schools than simply a focus on test score data. Schools are complex, living organisms, with various stakeholders often arriving at different conclusions from similar information.
“Combining student achievement data with other bits of information, school leaders and teachers can construct evidence of a problem, sometimes defining a seemingly singular problem in different ways,” Spillane and Franz Coldren write. It’s especially critical for school leaders to be both diagnosticians and participants in the process.
Setting up appropriate organization and routines that can be embraced by teachers matters.
As the authors conclude, “For diagnosis and design work to bear fruit in terms of student achievement and educational attainment it must be anchored in the core work of schooling — classroom teaching and student learning …While some readers may be looking for a quick fix to improve teaching and learning in their schools, we have intentionally tried to avoid offering prescriptive recipes for school leadership and management that school leaders are meant to implement intact.”
The approach, with its framework of academic research bolstered by ample examples from classroom observations and teacher interviews, offers a practical guide that any principal, assistant principal or curriculum supervisor would find useful. #