Four Steps Toward Team Engagement

Simply providing teachers with time to collaborate on a regular basis will not lead to improvements in student achievement. Collaborative teams are most effective when members have a clear sense of purpose, specific goals and structured activities that give direction to their work.

These conditions do not emerge by accident. They are the direct result of effective leadership. Leaders can build the collective capacity of a staff to get better results if they make certain that teams use collaborative time to engage in dialogue and processes that have a positive impact on student learning.

The steps listed below serve as an example.

* Clarify essential outcomes.
All teams would be asked to specify the essential outcomes each student was to achieve as a result of their course, grade level or program. The district would provide each team with relevant national, state and district learning standards and evidence of traditional levels of student performance from a variety of assessments.

After studying the various documents and information, each team would be asked to identify eight to 10 critical outcomes per semester that were aligned with state and district standards. The outcomes could vary from school to school, provided the designated outcomes were aligned with state and district standards. Once a team identified the essential outcomes, the members of the team would be expected to focus their daily work on helping all students acquire the intended knowledge and skills.

* Develop common assessments.
Each team would be asked to develop at least four assessments per year that would be given to all of the students they were teaching. The district would provide released sets of items from national, state and district assessments to assist teams who were free to use those items or create their own. Teams would also be free to determine the type and nature of the assessments—multiple-choice tests, essays, performance, projects, etc.

* Define proficiency.
Each team would be called upon to identify the standard a student must meet on each assessment to be deemed proficient. They also would be required to define the criteria by which they would judge the quality of student work in more subjective assessments.

* Analyze results and develop improvement strategies.
Each team would be required to review student performance on the common assessments to identify the strengths and weaknesses of all students tested. The team then would be asked to develop and implement strategies to improve upon that level of achievement. Each member of the team also would be called upon to assess the performance of his or her students in comparison to the group, to seek help from teammates in areas of concern and to offer teammates suggestions and ideas in areas in which his or her students excelled.

The district would provide each building with the technical capabilities to generate this information for each team and each teacher. It also would provide support and training for each step in this process for teams that required assistance.