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Why the Instructional Target Process Is Powerful

October 30, 2012 | Tags: jim knight, authors, books, guest blogger, instructional target, instructional partners
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School improvement expert Jim Knight believes that every school should have an "instructional target" -- a one-page plan that all educators in the building agree represents the key ingredients for "our school's success."
 
In her recent post How We Created Our Instructional Target, our IP-in-Residence Alyson Carpenter described (in rich detail, with helpful web-based resources) the process she and her colleagues at Columbia Elementary School went through to produce their concise document. It's a must-read for any school leader or instructional partner contemplating the creation of an Instructional Target within their own faculty.
 
In this follow-up post, we hear reflections from Nelson Brown, who was principal at Columbia Elementary during the targeting process; Alyson, in her role as CES's Instructional Partner last year; and Amanda Evans, a CES teacher leader during the target creation and now the school's IP. This post emphasizes that the one-page Instructional Target *process* is just as important as the product.
– Cathy Gassenheimer
 
 
Nelson Brown, Principal
Columbia Elementary (2011-12)

 
Even though it took us a while, there was a lot of value in the process of creating a one page Instructional Target. Our listening and reflecting skills became sharper during the process, which also helped us in other collaborative sessions. We researched, read, studied and discussed. The process really helped our individual and collective professional growth.
 
Having a one page Target also helped us to focus on student learning. All of our professional learning, classroom visits, and collaborative dialogue centered around the Target that we created. In fact, once we developed our one page target, we immediately used it to plan our February professional development session which was on creating student friendly learning targets. Teachers immediately saw how their time spent on developing the schoolwide one page Target was connected to future development, which increased teacher and student engagement. 
 
(Nelson Brown is now principal at Liberty Middle School in Madison City.)
 
Alyson Carpenter, Instructional Partner
Columbia Elementary (2011-12)

 
As the Instructional Partner at Columbia, I found the Instructional Target was powerful in more ways than one might expect. The time given to the creation process and the intentionality in the planning of those sessions led to the building of a more effective school community.
 
Columbia was a positive school from the beginning. In fact, Columbia had been known for several years as the "Happy School" in our district. We built on this culture during the target creation and added more adjectives to our list of descriptors along the way. Not only did Columbia continue to be a "happy" (or even "happier") school, we also became a more collaborative, professional, and passionate school! The target focused everything on student learning and inspired a renewed passion for teaching.
 
Teachers seemed to re-engage in the profession through the process of creating the Target. This professional engagement led to improvements in classroom instruction, partnerships at all levels, and true excitement as teachers opened their practice to others. Professional development was focused on specific needs and teacher input. Teachers began to question why they should go outside the school for professional development not focused on their own needs and the school's Instructional Target. 
 
The Instructional Target made "the main thing" the main thing again -- students and their learning!
 
Amanda Evans, Teacher Leader
Columbia Elementary (2011-12)

 
The one page Target was one of the best things that we did as a faculty last year. Creating the Target was not a quick one-meeting process and "it is done" type thing. It took us several months and numerous meetings to develop the Target.
 
Our teachers finally felt they had a strong voice in the room on where the school was headed. Every teacher was allowed to share his or her ideas and thoughts. The target belonged to the teachers. It was our collective vision for the school. Teachers have often felt that they are on the front lines in education, but their opinion on "the big picture" was not valued. The Target changed that feeling. The Target gave us not only a common vision, but it was OUR vision. It was what our peers valued. 
 
The Target helped us focus our energies on what we needed to improve. It made our PD more meaningful because it was based on what we needed and wanted. The Target helped us put the focus on student learning. The Target made us stronger not only as a faculty, but also as a work family. 
 
If you'd like to contact any of these educators about the Target process, feel free to email Alyson Carpenter.
 
 
 
 
 
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