Principals from 30 different schools in Alabama visited Montevallo Middle and Montevallo High School to learn more about what the two schools are doing to successfully use data to make informed and strategic decisions.
The visiting principals were part of the Principal’s Leadership Network, which was developed by the Alabama State Department of Education as part of a plan to support and assist principals in school improvement priority schools in identifying best practices and strategies they can implement at their own schools. The visit to the Montevallo community was the second of four visits that the group will make this year around the state. Their first visit was focused on helping the principals learn to develop a strong vision and mission for their schools. The visit to the Montevallo schools highlighted the use of data in decision making. The next two meetings will focus on innovation, enhanced organization effectiveness and relevance; and building sustainability.
Dr. Steve Edwards, a nationally known expert working with the State Department as a consultant with the Principal’s Leadership Network, was very impressed with what he saw at the two Montevallo schools.
“The use of data in these two schools has been exciting to see,” said Dr. Edwards. “If you aren’t using data to drive your decisions, then you are basically making them based on assumptions.”
Edwards was also very impressed with the level of student leadership that he witnessed at the school and that students are being included by the school leaders in the decision making process. David Miller, principal at Marengo High School, was also very impressed with level of student engagement and leadership that was on display at two schools.
Scott Mohon, an education administrator in the Office of Student Learning at the Alabama State Department of Education said the Montevallo community was chosen because state leaders knew they were doing powerful things with using their data from formative assessments such as Global Scholar.
“What makes Montevallo Middle unique is that they are now using the formative assessment data to completely restructure their intervention period,” said Mohon. “Historically, if you are a student who is struggling in reading or math then you automatically get thrown into intervention. What Montevallo Middle is doing is not only using the data to identify the specific students, but also the skills or standards where the students might be struggling. So, during intervention they are getting very specialized, targeted instruction based on what the data says are their needs.”
Mohon said Montevallo High School has shown tremendous gains in their graduation rate over the past two years. But, just as importantly, the data at the high school has now become a tool for conversations to take place in regards to student’s needs and developing relationships with the kids.
“Specially, Montevallo High School is doing a lot to improve their school culture,” said Mohon. “A lot of what has happened here has nothing to do with subject content. It has to do with improving culture, developing relationships with the kids. The improvements that are being seen now are result of that.”
Improving school culture was a topic that was discussed by administrators at both Montevallo schools. Shelia Lewis, principal at Montevallo Middle, shared what they are doing with incentive rewards for students with good attendance and behavior. She also touched on the school’s emphasis on getting students involved in COT’s (Clubs, Organizations, and Teams).
She also highlighted the school’s NO ZERO homework policy and the use of the Last Chance Café lunch intervention program in improving the failure rate at the school. Students who fail to complete an assignment are assigned to the Last Chance Café, where they must report for lunch and to finish their assignments for partial credit.
“They hate it,” Lewis said. “And that is the point. We want them to understand that we will not accept them not doing their work.”
At Montevallo High School, Dr. Wesley Hester shared the various strategies that have been implemented to improve school culture, increase student involvement, reward students through incentives, and promote the school through increased public relations and marketing efforts.
“When I came to Montevallo two years ago, I kept hearing that it was the best kept secret in Shelby County,” he said. “I kept asking, ‘why do you want to keep it a secret?’”
Students and teachers serving on a panel discussion after lunch said the increased focus on culture and student involvement has made a big difference in instilling a sense of pride in their school and community.
“We realize that we aren’t just Montevallo, we ARE Montevallo,” said one student of the Montevallo school community’s shared slogan. “We don’t have to have to be ashamed of being from a small school or a small town. Dr. Hester has helped us to realize there are a lot of advantages of being from a small community and we have a lot of opportunities here.”