Phoenix—When school communities are faced with chronic issues like poverty, it is challenging to identify the perfect strategy to create a thriving learning environment. But Magnet Traditional Elementary School Principal Adrian Walker believes two key elements have helped his educators become more effective.
Located in the Phoenix Elementary School District, Walker’s school is one of 53 schools in the 7 school districts participating in the Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, The Next Generation (REIL-TNG) program being implemented by Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA).
“We’re a Title I school in the inner city and at the end of the day I want to make sure that whatever instruction I’m providing for these students is of the highest quality,” Walker said.
Walker has been the school’s leader for the past seven years and for the past four years the school has been an “A” school, as rated by the Arizona Department of Education.
“Mr. Walker is a passionate leader and he is truly committed to improving his teachers’ instructional effectiveness,” said MCESA Field Specialist Denise McGloughlin. “Adrian’s proactive approach has led to a laser-like focus on increasing student achievement at his school.”
It would be difficult to summarize everything successful school leaders do to create a strong culture of achievement, but Walker suggests the first steps in building a successful learning community are to “know your students and be adequately prepared.” To achieve those goals, Walker maintains a strict adherence to the REIL-TNG initiative and fosters a strong team environment.
When the district first implemented the initiative, Walker said he felt right at home with the rigorous evaluation elements in the Learning Observation Instrument (LOI).
“When the LOI was presented to me, I could not believe it because it was almost like the people who developed it had read my mind. It was everything that we had been working on for the past four years,” Walker said. “The instrument is a fantastic instrument.”
Data has been a driving force in the school’s success and is what helps Walker and his teams understand the educational needs of their students and it’s been a key focus over the past seven years.
“At the beginning of every year we use the data from the previous year to identify the areas where we were less proficient,” Walker said.
Professional development and team support is structured by that data and it becomes an ongoing effort throughout the year. Walker holds regular Collaborative Team Meetings with Instruction and Enrichment Specialist Cody Greene and his staff to monitor the progress teams are making in the identified focus areas.
“I feel like the staff likes it because they get the opportunity to collaborate,” Walker said. “I’ve seen the biggest possible impact in math because everyone is holding each other accountable.”
This year the teams are focusing on the Authentic Engagement, Critical Thinking, and Conceptual Understanding elements of the LOI.
Using the data to craft individual Educator Goal Plans (EGP), another important aspect of the REIL-TNG, has also had a positive impact on the environment for Magnet Traditional educators.
“I’ve tried to make sure that they embed it in their instruction on a more frequent basis and not just the times during the year when they are evaluated,” Walker said.
The high level of rigor at Magnet Traditional and strict adherence to the REIL-TNG initiative has had a measurable impact on educator effectiveness.
“I really do think that if the leadership really encourages that these elements be practiced with fidelity there’s no way that there won’t be an increase in student achievement,” Walker said.