Principal Finds Success by Implementing ‘REIL’ Change

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Phoenix, AZ—Bush Elementary School Principal Lisa Norwood believes it’s time for a change in the Arizona public school system and she intends to see students at her school receive the quality education all children deserve.

Prior to her arrival at Bush Elementary in the Roosevelt School District, the school received a D rating for three consecutive years.

The Roosevelt District is one of seven Arizona school districts participating in the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) initiative.

REIL-TNG is a five-year initiative being implemented by the Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) with the aim of improving the quality of education for Arizona’s students.

“Last year we made significant growth and came within one point of a B,” Norwood said.

The Opportunity

Norwood first encountered the REIL-TNG initiative in 2012. She was an assistant principal in the Roosevelt School District and saw REIL-TNG as an opportunity to improve instruction and leadership on her campus.

“We have generations of students who were not taught well,” Norwood said. “Yes, we want kids to achieve but what we really want is for kids to learn.”

Important Understanding

When she took over as principal at Bush Elementary, Norwood realized that the biggest challenge was helping teachers understand the Learning Observation Instrument (LOI). She wants her staff to understand it’s not just about evaluation but it’s also a tool to help teachers improve their professional practice.

“The rubric is just part of what teachers should be doing every day,” Norwood said. “It’s just good teaching.”

Norwood also feels the instrument helps her provide more structured feedback to her staff and offer them a visible pathway to improve their instruction. 

“As a leader, I’m thankful for the LOI,” Norwood said. “It gives me a leverage point and it shows where we are and what we need to do. I think that’s what is going to help us get to where we need to be.”

Making Progress

In order to assist her staff in finding success with the REIL-TNG initiative, Norwood implemented mandatory professional development every Monday after school. By March 2013, teachers at Bush Elementary School had already participated in 50 hours of training. Some teachers have even sought out additional support to make sure they were doing everything they could to ensure they were meeting the new requirements. Norwood plans to continue that level of professional development in the spring semester of 2015.

“This is what needs to be happening. If you want to become an effective teacher, these are the things we need to be doing.”

A combination of hard work, creative problem solving, and the structured plan provided by the REIL-TNG initiative have helped Norwood make progress at Bush Elementary.

Moving Forward

Now that the REIL-TNG grant is in its third year, Norwood feels that more educators have embraced it as a tool to help them grow and improve. She understands that some veteran teachers have not had the chance to develop their skills in the classroom in the past and hopes to help those teachers find success in the future.

“With the LOI, we have the tools for that now,” Norwood said. “As a leader, I’m thankful for the LOI. It gives me a leverage point and it shows where we are and what we need to do. I think that’s what is going to help us get to where we need to be.

Not all teachers have been open to the changes under the REIL-TNG initiative and some have left the field but Norwood said some of those departures were necessary.

“It’s really changing what’s happening at these schools,” Norwood said.  “Change is slow, but it is happening.”

For more information about MCESA and the REIL-TNG initiative, visit the MCESA website.