Study Guide

Field 107: School Building Leader Part 1
Sample Selected-Response Items

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Competency 0001
Instructional Leadership for Student Success

Use the information below to answer the five questions that follow.

Ms. L has served as the school building leader at Central Avenue High School for several years. The school is located in an urban district and enrolls approximately 1,870 students. Many of the teachers at Central Avenue have taught at the school for ten years or more. A majority is consistently rated effective or highly effective, but close to 20 percent has been rated ineffective or developing at some point over the last five years.

Student performance at Central Avenue has generally lagged behind state and district performance. Three years ago, the district undertook an initiative to implement Data-Driven Instruction and Inquiry (DDI) in all district schools. Recognizing DDI as a powerful tool for improving student performance, Ms. L led a building-wide effort to implement fully the district’s DDI system at Central Avenue. The school began administering district-adopted inventory and quarterly assessments, with data analysis conducted at department-wide meetings. Since then, the school’s performance on standardized assessments has improved overall, with mathematics showing particularly significant gains. A strong commitment to the use of DDI by mathematics faculty has been credited for a good deal of this improvement. Improvement in English Language Arts (ELA) has been minimal, however, and student performance in this area continues to lag behind district and state averages.

As the new school year begins, Ms. L focuses attention on analyzing and improving student performance in ELA. She reviews formative assessment data in ELA and mathematics, as well as Regents examinations results for Central Avenue students over the last three years. In addition, she directs an assistant principal to gather information about and report on DDI activities occurring among the school’s ELA staff.

Document 1

Formative Assessment Results (last year)

(percentage of students answering more than 65% of formative assessment items correctly)

Document 2

Student Performance on Regents Exams—All Students,
Central Avenue High School
Three-Year Comparison

NOTE: The "—" symbol indicates that data for a group of fewer than five students have been suppressed to protect the privacy of individual students.

Document 3

Assistant Principal's Report on DDI Activities in the English Department (last year)

To: Principal L
From: Assistant Principal R
RE: Update on Data-Driven Instruction and Inquiry (DDI) Activities in the English
       Language Arts (ELA) Department

I observed an ELA department meeting held recently to review first-quarter formative assessment results for all grade levels. All ELA faculty members were supposed to attend, but a number were absent. The discussion was serious and well-intended, but the data analysis that occurred was superficial and the meeting lacked focus. Eleventh and twelfth grade teachers, in particular, seemed to emphasize how much students got wrong instead of deepening the discussion to discover exactly what students got wrong and why students answered questions incorrectly. The department chair ended the meeting by urging teachers to make time in their own schedules to review the data more extensively.

In a separate discussion, I found the ELA department chair to have good intentions regarding DDI. However, the department action plans that we reviewed focused on surface-level concerns, despite the use of appropriate templates. Also, he has yet to see that ensuring teacher participation in this work is essential to improve teaching and learning. It was clear from our conversation that he views his administrative duties and demands on his time from teachers and students as leaving little time for regular DDI meetings.

In conversations with individual ELA teachers, I found only two or three who fully understand the importance of data and regularly use classroom-level DDI to inform their instructional planning. Most of the faculty seem to be disconnected from the DDI process. They rarely use data for their classes, relying instead on their own experience and intuition to plan and modify instruction—especially at the upper grade levels. A few teachers expressed reluctance to increase the rigor of instruction in response to poor test results. They believe that raising the level of rigor "too sharply" while students are performing at low levels would frustrate students and have a negative effect on their engagement with academics.

I'd be happy to discuss any of these matters further with you as needed. Please advise.

Assistant Principal R

1. In comparing formative assessment data with student performance on the Regents Exam in Comprehensive English, which issue should concern Ms. L the most?

  1. The content on the formative assessments does not appear to match the rigor of the standards assessed on the Regents Exam.
  2. The results of the formative assessments are likely to have substantially lower reliability than the results of the Regents Exam.
  3. The formative assessments are unlikely to be as comprehensive in their coverage of the school curriculum as is the Regents Exam.
  4. The formative assessments differentiate content according to grade level and quarter, while the Regents Exam does not.
Correct Response: A. This item requires examinees to apply knowledge of skills for using student assessment data to monitor student progress. Local formative assessment results for ELA show that approximately 80 percent of students at Central Avenue High School were able to answer more than 65 percent of items correctly for quarters 3 and 4 last year. Meanwhile, Regents Exam results indicate that during that same time frame, only 65 percent of students taking the state ELA exam were able to answer at least 65 percent of items correctly. The discrepancy suggests a lack of alignment between the local formative ELA exams and the state ELA exams, with the state exams reflecting more rigorous standards and expectations for student performance. This is problematic because the school needs to be able to rely on the accuracy and alignment of the local formative assessment results to ensure meaningful analysis of teaching and learning as each school year proceeds.

2. To improve student learning at Central Avenue High School, Ms. L should prompt faculty in the ELA department to implement which strategy first?

  1. Create classroom assessments that more closely reflect content addressed in district-adopted formative assessments and the Regents Exam.
  2. Use available standardized assessment data to identify areas of their curriculum in which student performance is weakest as drivers for action planning.
  3. Compare formative assessment and Regents Exam data for their school with data from demographically similar high schools within and outside of the district.
  4. Identify additional sources of student performance data to determine the degree to which classroom instruction is aligned with curriculum standards.
Correct Response: B. This item requires examinees to apply knowledge of skills and strategies for leading collaborative efforts to use student assessment data to develop plans for improved learning. To improve student learning, the ELA faculty at Central Avenue High School must first identify those areas in the ELA curriculum where students are having the greatest problems so that they know where changes in curriculum and/or instruction are most needed. In the absence of local formative assessments that are aligned with the Regents Exam, the most effective strategy available for identifying these areas of curricular weakness is to analyze standardized assessment results. Such analysis helps ensure that appropriately targeted planning for positive change can occur.

3. Which course of action taken by Ms. L would provide the most useful additional data for developing a plan to improve student performance in English?

  1. Conduct a time study to quantify the amount of time currently spent by ELA faculty on DDI activities.
  2. Identify professional resources on assessment and instruction in ELA currently available in the school.
  3. Administer a survey to ELA faculty to gather information about professional development needs related to DDI.
  4. Review the school's formative assessment results in ELA for a period covering at least the last three years.
Correct Response: C. This item requires examinees to apply knowledge of strategies for collecting and analyzing data to develop plans to achieve goals. Given the power of Data-Driven Instruction and Inquiry (DDI) to improve student performance and district expectations related to DDI, Ms. L should take steps to ensure that ELA faculty begin expanding their use of DDI as soon as possible. Information in Document 3 suggests that most ELA teachers at the school do not make regular use of such data in their instructional planning, so one of Ms. L's first priorities needs to be to provide these teachers with appropriate professional development opportunities. A faculty survey would be an effective way to determine how best to target professional development activities to meet the current needs of ELA teachers at the school.

4. Based on the information provided, the ELA department chair is most likely to need administrative support to succeed in

  1. recognizing how department issues affect the broader school community
  2. establishing an atmosphere of collegiality and trust among department staff
  3. marshaling additional resources to address new and emerging department needs
  4. focusing on defined school and district priorities over competing department work
Correct Response: D. This item requires examinees to apply knowledge of strategies for supervising and supporting a rigorous instructional program based on research- or evidence-based best practices. According to Document 3, the ELA department chair "views his administrative duties and demands on his time from teachers and students as leaving little time for regular DDI meetings." Since regular use of DDI is a priority for the school and the district, Ms. L should strive to support the chair in figuring out how competing department work can be addressed in ways that leave him ample time to play a leadership role in increasing his department's use of DDI. Such support may also be beneficial in further developing the department chair as a teacher-leader.

5. In addition to continuing the implementation of DDI, Ms. L's highest priority as instructional leader should be to

  1. establish academic expectations that are consistent with student performance in ELA
  2. ensure that ELA teachers provide appropriately rigorous instruction for all students
  3. promote buy-in among ELA faculty for a plan designed to promote instructional improvement
  4. review faculty reports on student performance and progress in ELA classes on a regular basis
Correct Response: B. This item requires examinees to apply knowledge of strategies for ensuring teachers' use of instructional practices that promote academic success for every student. The reluctance of some ELA teachers to increase the rigor of their instruction for fear of frustrating and decreasing the engagement of lower achieving students (Document 3) and the relative lack of rigor in local formative ELA assessments (Documents 1 and 2) suggest that ELA faculty may have low expectations regarding the academic performance and potential of at least some of their students. Given research indicating that low teacher expectations can have a negative effect on student performance, Ms. L should make it a priority to ensure that ELA teachers are providing appropriately rigorous instruction for all students and thereby giving all students opportunities to achieve academically at high levels.

Competency 0002
School Culture and Learning Environment to Promote Excellence and Equity

Use the information below to answer the four questions that follow.

Ms. J is the new school building leader of Millview Middle School, which includes grades 6–8 and is located in a suburban community. The school has an enrollment of approximately 580 students, about 50% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Staffing has remained stable over the past five years. The local community has experienced little change in recent years in terms of its demographic and economic profile.

When she was hired, Ms. J met with the new superintendent to gain some background information about the school and to learn more about the superintendent's goals for the school. During this meeting, the superintendent noted that although academic performance for many students at Millview has been satisfactory, Ms. J will be expected to address the achievement gap between students who are economically disadvantaged and the rest of the student population.

Ms. J responded to the achievement gap concern by reviewing the school's recent state assessment results. The data strongly support the view that school staff must take steps to improve the academic performance of students who are economically disadvantaged. In addition, she reviewed the results of a student perception survey that was administered in classrooms by the school counselors the previous spring and a teacher survey administered at the end of the previous school year. She further noted that data gathered over the past few years have consistently shown a lower attendance rate among economically disadvantaged eighth-grade students than among the student population overall.

Document 1

State Assessment Results, by Student Group (last year)

This table displays the percentage of students, by group, scoring at or above Level 3 ("meets proficiency standard").

Document 2

Excerpt from Student Perception Survey (4th quarter last year)
Results for All Students

(approximately 90% of the student body completed the survey)

Document 3

Excerpt from Summary of Anonymous Teacher Survey
Results for All Teachers

(approximately 80% of teachers completed the survey)

6. Based on the information provided, Ms. J's highest initial priority should be to explore which question?

  1. Why are students learning more effectively in some subjects, such as science, than in others, such as mathematics and English Language Arts?
  2. Do procedures need to be put in place to deal with attendance and other discipline issues?
  3. Does the curriculum in any subject area need revision to increase alignment with state standards and to meet student needs?
  4. What can be done to ensure that teachers employ equitable teaching strategies to engage and motivate all students to do their best?
Correct Response: D. This item requires examinees to apply knowledge of strategies for promoting an environment in which all students are consistently learning and are active and engaged learners. The documents associated with the scenario show large achievement gaps across student groups (Document 1); a significant proportion of students who do not view the school as a caring, supportive, and motivating place (Document 2); and problematic attitudes among many teachers regarding their own roles and responsibilities and the potential of all of their students to succeed in school (Document 3). Collectively, the data suggest that teachers are not setting rigorous academic expectations for every student or doing enough to design their instruction in ways that meet the needs of all students and ensure all students' success. Therefore, of the options provided, Ms. J's highest initial priority should be to determine what can be done to ensure that teachers employ equitable teaching strategies to engage and motivate all students to do their best.

7. After completing an initial review of the student survey results and the state assessment results, which additional action by Ms. J would likely be most useful for providing further insight into the issues currently facing the school?

  1. Compare the state assessment results with those of demographically similar middle schools across the state.
  2. Correlate students' performance on the state assessment with classroom performance and report card grades.
  3. Disaggregate responses to the student survey to determine the results for different student groups.
  4. Conduct a series of in-depth interviews with a random sample of student survey respondents.
Correct Response: C. This item requires examinees to apply knowledge of skills and strategies for creating a learning environment that is responsive to and respectful of student learning needs and that supports each student in achieving at the highest levels. Millview Middle School has a significant achievement gap between students who are economically disadvantaged and those who are not, as well as between students who are limited English proficient and those who are not (Document 1). One way for Ms. J, the new school building leader, to learn more about the nature and causes of this problem would be to compare and contrast school-related perceptions and attitudes of students from different backgrounds. Because Document 2 shows the results of a recently administered student perception survey only for the student population as a whole, it cannot be used to identify and analyze differences in the perceptions of students from different groups. Ms. J could best gain further insight into the achievement gap and the low attendance of eighth-grade students who are economically disadvantaged if a new student survey is administered in order to disaggregate data by different student groups.

8. After reflecting on the ideas and perceptions revealed in the anonymous teacher survey, Ms. J should be most concerned about following up on teachers'

  1. failure to understand that great teaching can promote student performance
  2. limited understanding of the role of motivation in student learning
  3. excessive emphasis on grades as a yardstick for student success
  4. tendency to focus on students' differences rather than on their similarities
Correct Response: A. This item requires examinees to apply knowledge of strategies for establishing an organizational culture of shared commitment to academic excellence for all students. The anonymous teacher survey (Document 3) indicates that many teachers at Millview Middle School believe that some students are not motivated or able to learn, consider outside factors nearly insurmountable when it comes to students' academic problems, and fail to recognize the key role that they themselves can play in their students' motivation and performance. Given these results, Ms. J should make it a priority to follow up on teachers' lack of understanding about how excellence in teaching can lead to improved performance for all students.

9. Ms. J determines that she will facilitate a series of faculty and department meetings on a regular basis, with the goal of addressing the learning needs of diverse student populations. Considering the information provided, these meetings are likely to be most effective in achieving this goal if Ms. J guides teachers to use the meetings to focus on

  1. developing clear, comprehensive instructional outcomes suitable for diverse student populations
  2. developing and refining instructional strategies that improve student learning for diverse populations
  3. researching and discussing emerging theories regarding how students from diverse populations learn
  4. evaluating each other's assumptions about factors that support or hinder the learning process for students from diverse populations
Correct Response: B. This item requires examinees to apply knowledge of strategies for creating a learning environment that is responsive to and respectful of student learning needs and that supports each student in achieving at the highest levels. Millview's large achievement gaps indicate that the learning needs of some segments of the school's student population are not currently being met. Since the data provided suggest that many teachers do not know or use the broad range of instructional strategies that would be required to motivate and engage all students, the meetings that Ms. J plans to facilitate are likely to be most effective in achieving school goals if they focus on having teachers develop and refine instructional strategies that promote learning and reduce academic achievement gaps.