In BC for the past 14 years, school improvement Planning was carried by our School Planning Council or SPC for short. SPCs were mandated to be in place in all schools by the Ministry of Education and were comprised of representatives from parents, teachers and administration. Ideally, SPCs were designed to be an inclusive process with teachers, parents and administration, but in reality, this did not occur in many school districts for a variety of reasons, one being the BC Teacher's Federation recommendation that teachers not participate. As a result, two separate processes came to be, one for the teaching staff and one for the parents, leaving administrators in the middle trying to bridge the gap between parents and teachers.
In the Central Okanagan Public Schools, the SPC process was overall a positive one as administrators did a good job of consulting both teachers and parents, and in many cases only needed one group to work with, as teachers chose to participate alongside parents.
SPCs developed a plan for improving student achievement and setting goals. The SPC was also consulted on a number of other school policies around class size and composition, code of conduct, and other emergent issues.
As of May 2016, the Ministry of Education removed the requirement for schools to have an SPC. Our district believes strongly that although there no longer exists a formal SPC, important discussions about what is going on in the school with regards to improving student learning need to continue to happen and that parents, teachers and administration need to continue to work together to set goals and monitor student learning.
To that end, the process our district has chosen for setting goals is based on the idea of inquiry. Inquiry is about being open to new learning and taking informed action.
So, why choose Inquiry as the vehicle for school improvement? Traditionally, the school planning process has been a positive experience that has focused on data collection and data analysis, and then putting in systems or programs to improve that data. Schools would improve their data, or not, and would adjust strategies and goals as needed from year to year. Data is still central to school improvement, but what Inquiry adds to this overall process is a real focus on systems of professional learning over time that is rooted in curiousity about individual student needs. Inquiry is a systemic and informed approach to school improvement that involves all stakeholders in a school community – school administration, staff, students, and parents/guardians – to be involved in this transformative process. School districts around the world have been using Inquiry to guide their practice for some time, and as a result have been seeing more authentic and meaningful school improvement occur.
The Spirals Of Inquiry is an Inquiry model out of British Columbia, stemming from the work of Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser. The model has us ask questions as a learning community to uncover what is really going on for our students in our classrooms, to structure professional learning around what will make a difference for our students, to take informed action, and then to measure if it made enough of a difference. The Spirals is allows for constant checking and re-checking over time. By having our students at the center of our school's Inquiry, and by collaboratively tailoring learning and actions to improve their learning experience, our school will dynamically improve over time in a living, and breathing reflection of our school's learning journey.
Inquiry consists of six phases, which, it is important to note, are not linear in nature. That is, work can be done simultaneously in different domains at once.
Inquiry has six key stages: scanning, focusing, developing a hunch, new professional learning, taking action, and checking that a big enough difference has been made. At each stage in the spiral, three questions are asked:
• What is going on for our learners?
• How do we know?
• Why does this matter?
As a staff that engaged in the Inquiry process for the first time, most of the 2016-2017 school year was was spent in the scanning phase, asking the question, "What is going on for our learners?" In order to create as large a scan of the learning landscape as possible, staff, students, and parents were involved in the process at various points. For our first efforts, staff were given time during several staff meetings to discuss with colleagues and data that has been gathered and their observations. Data sources include:
School-wide and classroom observations
One to one conversations with individual students
Development and review of classroom profiles and pyramids of intervention for each section
Class review meetings
School Based Team data
Conversations with parents
Referrals/visits to behaviour support teachers, counselling, CYMH
Reviewing attendance profiles of at-risk students and follow up conversations with home and student
Review of transition documentation/student profiles developed and shared in spring 2016
Trends from information gathered during class reviews were documented and shared. Parents were engaged in the process through our PAC meetings. Two focal points seemed to emerged during the scanning phase. The first focal point point is the social-emotional needs of our students (self-regulation and developing independence/perserverance) and the second is creating a culture of thinking where process is more important than product.