Instructional Leadership Teams

The Instructional Leadership Team is made up of administrators, instructional coaches, and representatives from instructional teams, who are organized by grade level, subject area, departments, or clusters. This team is crafted to encourage a culture of collaboration among teachers to improve instruction through focusing on student achievement and learning and coordinating the improvement of instruction in the school based on data. Effective instructional leadership teams can be powerful drivers for school instructional improvement and significantly increase student achievement.

You Must Be the "Instructional Leader" of Your School

Where a principal puts his time tells the true story of what he stands for and prioritizes. Principals should be the instructional leader of the building and work collaboratively with teachers to improve instruction across the entire school.

Responsibilities of the Instructional Leadership Team

  • Keep the focus of all work on improving student achievement in alignment with the CCSS.

  • Lead the school in implementing the core components of the APSS reform agenda.

  • Facilitate the self-assessment process and develop the school’s School Improvement Plan (SIP). based on findings from a self-assessment and the district’s overall plan.

  • Throughout the year, track the school’s progress toward meeting the SIP goals and implementing the action steps.

  • Align resources, professional development, and coaching to support teacher’s implementation of the SIP.

  • Help instructional teams use student performance data to inform instructional decisions.

  • Ensure that the school community reaches consensus on changes in instruction and assessment and that the voices of all stakeholders are included in the decision-making process.

  • Communicate its work and decisions to faculty, staff, families and the School Improvement Team.

  • Foster a culture of continuous and collaborative reflection, learning, and improvement .

  • Lead the instructional improvement process in the school including analysis of data, research and instructional design, professional development, support with implementation, mentoring, and review of implementation performance.

Collaboration: A Key to Maximizing the Impact on Student Learning

Instructional leadership team members should share certain characteristics and/or beliefs:

  • respected by their colleagues as leaders, motivators, and effective communicators.

  • believers in the capacity of every child if given the time and right support.

  • willing to take on difficult issues that impact instruction.

  • convinced that their school can improve.

  • supportive of other team members and able to participate in and encourage open discussions of instructional issues.

  • willing to think outside of the box and explore new ideas.

Merely having an instructional leadership team in place and periodic meetings doesn’t necessarily equate to increased student academic achievement. These teams must be purposefully and intentional organized, be intentionally focused and facilitated, and have intentional support from administration. Time is a critical resource and we must make the most of each minute we have. For instructional leadership teams to be effective, they must have an intentional focus, structure, scope, and direction throughout the entire process. Three keys to intentionality and purposefulness include:

(1) Intentional and Purposeful Organization

Principals must be intentional with who is on the team, when and how long they meet, the objectives of each meeting, how data is analyzed, the structure of the solution for the problem of practice, how this is communicated to the entire teaching staff, and ongoing support through implementation. Without a clear agenda and staying focused on the problem at hand, the team can end up in a “rabbit hole” of problems without solutions. There’s also a dynamic of the team learning how to work together and the mechanics of how to effectively interact to collaboratively work for improving teaching and learning.

(2) Intentional Structure and Facilitation

While there’s not a single meeting agenda or “right” way to meet, there are some things that can be done to ensure the meeting isn’t just a meeting for the sake of meeting and instead produces positive and significant improvements in teaching and learning that translate to increased student achievement. These include:

* Start and end on time. Create a culture of efficiency and effectiveness.

* Use personal/professional experiences. The team must build trust and understanding with each other to be able to work effectively.

* Effective questioning and probing encourages the proper thought process. This helps to push through or pressure test solutions.

* Confront issues and address challenges. Meetings should be about solving problems of practice. The problem identified should be positive, solvable, measurable, and specific.

* Engage all instructional team members. This encourages diversity of thought. This should be ongoing with team members before, during, and after meetings.

* Give context and examples. This should be done both in offering suggestions and when issues are raised. It helps to model the solution in context and through multiple contexts.

* Purpose. We must have a specific purpose and stick to this agenda, but also remember the human aspect of the work. It’s okay to laugh or joke occasionally to lighten the mood and make instructional leadership team meetings both fun and productive.

(3) Intentional Support

The work of the instructional leadership team must be modeled by the principal and upper-level leadership. It’s important that everyone practices what they preach. You want to make sure your alignment is correct and purposeful, you define good teaching and give specific examples of what it looks like, and provide a clear understanding of expectations. Principals must support the process from start to finish.

“In essence, in dealing with their staffs, principals should shift from focusing on one-to-one work with each individual teacher to leading collaborative work that improves quality throughout the faculty.”

Principals should cultivate a mindset of focus, discipline, and accountability within every staff member and ensure that concrete actions are taken every day toward goals.

- Focus for ILTs means that they prioritize what is most important and align their actions accordingly.

- Discipline for great ILTs is about staying the course: They make adjustments, but only those that allow for balance and progress.

- Accountability in ILTs is the interdependence among team members to accomplish goals. Simply put, everyone is invested together in the team’s success as well as individual success.

Collective Efficacy of Instructional Leadership Teams

Team members' confidence in each other's abilities and their belief in the impact of the team's work are key elements that set successful school teams apart. Success lies in the critical nature of collaboration and the strength of believing that together, administrators, faculty, and students can accomplish great things. This is the power of collective efficacy

Every factor in a school or school-related factors has an impact on learning, Implementation and practice of more of the most effective practices tend to produce greater gains in student achievement. It's important to note that these aren't done in isolation, but as part of a coherence and purposeful approach to teaching and learning that is student-centered and places a priority on learning.

The lens of teaching and learning has shifted from a focus on teaching and what the teacher does to a student-centered focus. Instructional leaders coach teachers through the lens of evidence (teacher action/student action) and impact on student achievement. This shift in mindframes for teachers is a realization that the teacher and teachers actions are the variable in the classroom that can be adjusted to produce great gains in student achievement. The student isn't the variable in this equation, the teachers' and schools' actions are the variable that impacts student learning. This is a powerful shift to a student-centered instructional focus. This is a constant and continuous cycle of improvement.

“John Hattie (2015) has added further confirmation to our conclusions in his report What Works Best in Education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise. His conclusion represents a powerful endorsement of our findings: “the greatest influence on student progression in learning is having highly expert, inspired and passionate teachers and school leaders working together to maximize the effect of their teaching on all students in their care” (p. 2).”

References:Fullan, M., & Pinchot, M. (2018). The Fast Track to Sustainable Turnaround. Education Leadership, 75(6), 48-54.Lesaux, N. K., Galloway, E. P., & Marietta, S. H. (2016). Teaching advanced literacy skills: A guide for leaders in linguistically diverse schools. New York: Guilford Press.New York State Education Department. (2019). Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework. Retrieved from programs/bilingual-ed/1.16.19-cr-s-framework_a.pdfRobinson, V. M. (2011). Student-centered leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.