In our last post, we introduced our concept of the School Vision – our School Rubric. (Read about it here) – aimed at defining and measuring the ‘Excellence’ of a school. As teachers, principals and school leaders, we have all grappled with this question of defining excellence in our contexts – in a way that the school vision is not just some pretty poster put up in the counseling area of our schools, but rather an actionable framework that helps us to make a pathway to success. The essence of the problem is in articulating it such that it addresses the specific, and not just rehashes some general platitudes. As educationists, this fascinating problem is made even more challenging by the fact that we’re attempting to do this in India, in the area of Early Childhood education, an area most educationists haven’t yet mapped out! Nonetheless, we spent some time last month implementing Phase I of our School Rubric, and as with all our implementations, the transition period has been a positive whirlwind!
Just to recap, our school rubric is made up of 5 strands – Learning, Staff, Economics, Operations and Parents – and we’ve gone ahead and implemented the Learning strand across all our Navi Mumbai schools. We used our learnings from implementing the Development Diary to fine-tune the roll-out of the school rubric, and the principles definitely hold good. Even a month has been long enough to help us reinforce a few key things, and we’d like to share them with you as they happen, on the ground.
- Create multiple levels of ownership.
We all know that the ultimate delivery of a ‘Great School’ depends on different aspects of the school working together smoothly. I.e: Learning is delivered by the teachers, school operations by the principal etc. However, it is important that the ownership for the overall experience lies with all the cogs in the wheel, because none of the deliveries in isolation will add up to a ‘Great School’. How can a great teacher deliver results without the buy-in from parents into the pedagogy and methodology? How will the school continue to excel in a scenario where it isn’t profitable? On the other hand, it is (in general) true that the sum of the parts is actually greater than the whole, and so it is necessary for everyone in the system to be as invested in the school vision as possible. Thus, it is important that the teachers feel as responsible for operations as the division manager does for learning in his/her region. In order to create this level of ownership, lines of reporting need to be merged into one (no more silos of learning, HR, operations and sales). This may sound counter-intuitive to some, it did to us in the beginning as well. However, the secret is to hold the entire organization responsible for the creation of a ‘Great School’, through the measurable – and comprehensive – metrics of the rubric, to different degrees. Thus, while the operations team is still largely responsible for operations, the divisional managers have the Shikshan Mantri reporting in to them. This means that he/she is also responsible for the learning function in the region – albeit indirectly. While his/her job with relation to learning can be safely restricted to assessments and intervention, not hands-on learning delivery, the function still lies within their purview, and as such, they own it.
- Make it specific
Secondly, we took a cue from our Development Diary and created a rubric that was as specific as possible. So, our Learning strand currently has 5 sub-strands, and we’re hoping to evolve these into around 15 some day. Each sub-strand is crafted into a statement and has a set of measurable outputs which can be recorded in the form of observances and evidence (photos, clips, voice notes etc).
For example, one of the common learning goals for a pre-school is going to be to create a learning environment where children are settled. But what does this mean? And I’ve to measure a school on this metric, what should I be looking for? For toddlers it could mean they enter the school without crying, and for slightly older children it could mean that they go back home and talk about that they have done in school to their parents. To us, one of the most important expressions of this is that no child is dependent for settling down on one single caretaker – this becomes very important in our context because most of our preschools are small establishments with a higher rate of staff churn than K-12 schools, so our children need to be able to accept change of caretakers easily.
Whatever the parameter may be, the more specific you get, the more easily measurable your document will become. The more measurable it is, the more your teachers and principals will be likely to use it. And this is very important. If your document is not usable by every single teacher in your system, its probably never going to be used ever.
And so a sub-strand could conceivably look like this.
- Pay attention to evidence
An equally important factor t keep in mind during the crafting of these statements is the inherent measurability of these statement, and more importantly, the ability to collect evidence to support a judgement in any area.
In the above, a mentor visiting the school for half an hour now has a clear idea of what to look for, how to look for it, how to record it and where to file this information. It makes information easily accessible to all involved. For example, if a Shikshan Mantri visits the school, he/she may now observe and record that children aren’t polite to each other or the maushis, but are polite to the teachers themselves. This goes against the grain of Reverence and they can now plan a specific intervention or training.
Equally, it becomes important to be able to collect evidence/observation of action because the implementors of the rubric are also part of the system. The observation itself needs to be well-documented and neutral because it needs to support what may otherwise seem like a random judgement call. Evidences can be collected in the form of photos and videos, as well as the development diaries themselves, the work of the children and any other means avaiable. Thus, a mentor need not just present a marked rubric (as a sort of report card) for the school, but can also show the teacher and principal a video which supports their observations – bringing the entire process to life. We plan to soon create a system by which such observations can be recorded/updated digitally.
- Co-create the complete strand
In order to achieve the level of specificity that is required to make a rubric work, co-creation is tantamount. As a process, co-creation multiplies ideas, explodes the creative thought process and brings in a nice level of checks and balance to the system.
In the learning strand, we worked with teachers, Principals, Maushis and Parents to understand different perspectives of what makes the ‘Good School’. It is these stakeholders who helped us craft each individual statement into a measurable metric. For example, the sub-strand of Reverance has an outcome that reads – ‘Children show respect towards the adults. Their behaviour suggests that they look up to the teacher and imitate their behaviour’. This is an insight that we garnered through parent workshops, and if we hadn’t included the parents in our process, we would likely not have arrived at this critical measure.
Now that our Rubric is in place we’re focusing our efforts on training our teachers and principals on the use of the rubric since they’re the ones putting it to effect in their schools. They need to know not only the basics of how to use it to measure the learning quotient, but also what action to take against each item to improve the quotient. We’re also training our Shiksham Mantri’s and Division Managers on how to use the Rubric to assess school.
The next step in our evolution is to set up a process of data collection for the rubric, both at school and division level. As you can see, we’re constantly evolving. This isn’t always an easy journey, but it is certainly always a satisfactory one. To know that we’re creating systems and processes that could become the benchmark for education across the country – well now that’s exciting isn’t it?
What about you? What are you doing to build a school vision in your schools? Write to me with your ideas and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.