Assessment Leadership – It’s Time: Systemic Change – The School Improvement Plan and Classroom Instruction: MACRO vs MICRO

PRIMEd Principal
May 2015


Math Leadership Team ( central office and building administrators with  teachers and community members)


Within every complex organization, just as within a school district or school, there seems to be a tug-of-war between emphasis at the macro level vs the micro level.  The School Improvement Plan (MACRO) is elaborate and necessary to establish a vision: goals, expected outcomes, timelines and funding are put in place to move the system forward.  On the other hand, if the classroom instruction does not change, if teachers do not understand the content and best practices, there will be no evidence of improvement in any data in the school improvement plan that measures student growth.  The system is stymied.  Balance is necessary.

In the perfect school system, both the macro and the micro move forward at the same time, orchestrated by a skillful leader (principal or central office person) who is the keeper of the vision.  If an institution waits until they have the perfect plan (MACRO) in place to work on instruction, student growth may be a long time in coming.  If the system waits until each teacher in each classroom (MICRO) has had the job-embedded professional learning necessary, knows their content and the connections within it, and is equipped with a battery of pedagogical practices that are research based, student growth may be a long time in coming as well.

In It’s TIME: Themes for Imperatives for Mathematics Education, the authors’ site three imperatives necessary for systemic change: 1) ongoing job-embedded opportunities for professional learning, 2) diverse structures and adequate time for professional collaboration, and 3) opportunities for coaching*.

Strategies for Implementation

1)       District-Wide Math Leadership Team Writes School Improvement Plan (MACRO)

In one school district north of Detroit (8 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, one large high school), a math leadership team was put in place to create a vision of what experiences they wanted each of their students to receive in the area of mathematics.  Five evening meetings were held including superintendents, business directors, teachers and community members.  School Improvement Plans were put in place complete with Action Plans around each of the five focus areas that the team designated as areas that they felt contained that vision and timelines and persons responsible were put in place.  Their five areas of focus are: 1) change the mindset of math inside and outside the school community, 2) more collaboration in K-12, 3) move beyond math as a series of steps to understanding the purpose and connections, 4) implement the mathematical practices (particularly 3 & 4 to start), and 5) educate our community about mathematics and the CCSSM and SMPs.

2)      District-Wide Professional Learning  “Classroom Instruction That Works”

Classroom Instruction That Works was selected for three days of professional learning for all teachers and administrators.  In this course, teachers honed their skills on: 1) creating the environment for learning (setting objectives & providing feedback, reinforcing effort and providing recognition, and cooperative learning), 2) helping students develop understanding (questions, organizers, summarizing and note-taking, homework and practice), and 3) helping students extend and apply knowledge (identifying similarities and differences as well as generating and testing hypotheses).  The course was interactive and teachers were able to role play and practice new ideas.  Days were staggered across the school year.

3)       PLC – Looking at Student Work (MICRO)

Part of the work of the team was to put in place a formative assessment for each of the four card markings throughout the year for each grade level or course (high school).  All teachers at all grade levels and courses were to implement the formative assessment and collect student work.  After this was done, a schedule was put in place for each grade level to meet in PLCs where the teachers would bring student work to their learning community and analyze the results and discuss what implications these results will have on instruction.  The groups were led by math content specialists from our regional service center with the intent that leadership committee members will eventually take over.  This stage is ongoing and continuing.  It ties in well to the professional learning CITW on identifying learning targets, providing actionable feedback, and re-engagement tasks.  Norms and a safe environment for teachers are a must.  Collaboration has been incredibly helpful in planning for “next steps” in the classroom.


The process of determining the areas of focus for the large group was powerful and energizing.  Some groups made videos for their district website to inform their constituents of their work.  Once the teams were established, the writing of the goals and action plans began to bog the groups down (particularly the groups focused on curriculum and instruction) (sample plan).  This is when it was decided to put formative assessments in place and look at student work simultaneously to the planning work.  It really seemed to give all the work a “shot in the arm” because it seemed more purposeful.  The work continues.  Ideas of going to Standards Based Grading in the long run have come up and the group itself now seems to be a means of carrying out future initiatives.

*It is the intent of this district to eventually use coaches in mathematics.

Guest Blogger

Marianne Srock: NCSM Member and mathematics consultant at Macomb Intermediate School District, Clinton Township, MI. In previous careers I was a middle school principal and math teacher.

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