Strategic Resourcing and How it Will Improve Student Learning

Strategic Resourcing and How it Will Improve Student Learning

How you use your resources is more important than how much you have.

There has not been a tremendous amount of research on leadership practices and their impact on student achievement.

Viviane Robinson is best known for her research that revealed the five leadership practices that have the greatest impact on student achievement. I shared these practices in my post, Be an Instructional Leader, Focus on Student Learning.

Resourcing strategically is one of the five leadership practices that is associated with having the greatest impact on student achievement. It has an effect size of .31. Even though this effect size is a bit lower than the hinge point of .40 it still has relevance.

The five leadership practices include:

1. Establishing goals and expectations (.42)

2. Resourcing strategically (.31)

3. Ensuring quality teaching (.42)

4. Leading teacher learning and development (.84)

5. Ensuring an orderly and safe environment (.27)

Robinson purposefully ordered these practices to demonstrate how they are interconnected rather than by effect size, which is why resourcing strategically is an important leadership practice in impacting student learning and achievement. 

Essentially the leadership team sets goals and expectations to improve student learning, you need to have resources to achieve the goals, and as teachers are trying to achieve the goals it is necessary to monitor the quality of teaching as well as to increase their teaching capacity through professional development.

As a leader, you are monitoring the quality of teaching and thus it is necessary to engage in the same professional development as the teachers. Through these four leadership practices, a safe and orderly learning environment is further developed.

Resourcing strategically is not about how much money or resources you have, but about how the money and resources you have are used. Are resources being used to achieve the established goals? In a number of situations, difficult decisions might need to be made, especially when it comes to staff, and not everyone will be happy about those decisions. 

Resourcing strategically is not about how much money or resources you have, but about how the money and resources you have are used.

Resourcing strategically includes three main areas…

1. Staffing Decisions:  Who, How, Where, When?

It seems that even though it may appear to many leaders that there is a lack of qualified teachers, the issue has more to do with retention and recruitment of teachers.

One of the major factors in retaining teachers has to do with what occurs at the school itself…

Sticking Around: Retaining Teachers

How well do you support new teachers on classroom management or instructional strategies? Is there an induction program or a mentor program in your school/district?

Consider these questions as they will help to retain teachers at your school.

What is the level of involvement by teachers in decisions about the curriculum, classroom instruction and assessment, as well as needed professional development for teachers?

When teachers have more control and involvement over curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development they are less likely to look to apply at a different school/district.

What type of discipline issues do you have at your school? How are they handled? Are discipline issues on the rise or are they decreasing?

Schools that have discipline under control will retain teachers better than a school with a lot of discipline issues. 

Pull-quote: “When teachers have more control and involvement over curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development they are less likely to look to apply at a different school/district.”

From the Ground Up: Recruiting

Taking a pro-active approach to recruitment is your friend. Form partnerships with colleges and university teacher education program providers. Develop policies and practices at the district level that align student needs at individual schools with teacher capabilities.

Being in the Right Place

It may be necessary to also reallocate resources. This could be following the process to remove a teacher and head to the recruitment phase or it could be moving a teacher to a different grade level that aligns with student learning needs. 

Maybe a dually certified teacher, elementary and special education, would serve the special education students best to close the gap between achievement levels of special education students and regular education students. 

Supporting Student Learning and Achievement

What about teaching assistants or teacher aides? Are your teaching assistants or teacher aides increasing student learning in the classes they serve? If not, are they worth the expense?

Unless they have the pedagogical knowledge and skills to advance student learning it may be a better choice to invest in the professional development of the classroom teacher than to have the expense of a teaching assistant or aide.

It is understandable, that there are union contracts, individualized IEP’s for students, and state, district, and school policies and procedures that can impede the above actions.

However, when it comes to staffing, continually ask the question: Is the staff position increasing student learning?

In the words of John Hattie, “Know thy impact.” If an impact is not being made on student learning and achievement, what will?  What strategic decisions need to be made about the staffing resources?

When it comes to staffing decisions, it is necessary to determine the present reality of recruiting and retaining teachers, and how teachers and teaching assistants are used. Once you know the reality, you can then begin to make changes if they are needed.

2. Instructional Resources

Instructional resources are what teachers need to deliver the curriculum–textbooks and nonfiction books, curriculum guides or modules, instructional software programs, and math manipulatives.

Interestingly, school and district leaders have the most influence over the choice of instructional resources. Essentially, instructional resources are tools that are aimed at increasing student learning and achievement based on the established goals.   

Vivian Robinson provides two questions to determine the quality of the instructional resource. 

a.) Validity of the resource—Does the resource achieve its purpose?

There are a lot of questions to ask once the purpose of the resource is determined. A different means to determine the validity is to find evidence from those that have used the instructional resource. 

A key to remember is that in almost all cases, no matter if it is a textbook, manipulatives, or curriculum modules, staff will need professional development if you expect successful implementation of the resource.

A valid instructional resource alone will not result in increased student learning and achievement without the professional development and support.

b.) Design quality—How well is it constructed and to use?

Here are some questions to ask yourself regarding the quality of instructional resources design.

  • How clear is the purpose? 
  • Does the instructional resource justify the need for change?
  • How well do abstract principles connect to examples?
  • Are misconceptions identified and addressed?
  • How understandable is the resource?
  • Are there visuals and are they aligned with text?

Don’t change for the sake of changing. Only make an instructional resource change because you have evidence of the current state of whatever resource is being used and how the new resource will impact student learning. 

3. Instructional Time (or Precious Time)

One thing you often hear from teachers and administrators is that they do not have enough time. for instruction, professional development, or collaboration. 

Instructional time is precious time.

Instructional time is divided into time in core subject areas, noncore subject areas, support and enrichment (Rti, gifted, etc)., unstructured times (lunch, personal planning time), release time (early release days, professional development days).

The variations across the country are vast. How is instructional time broken down in your school and district? 

The key question to ask is “Is instructional time optimized to target the student learning needs?” The only way to determine this is to assess your current use of the different types of instructional time. 

If it’s not impacting the established goals for student learning, then it is time to reorganize instructional time.

The key question to ask is “Is instructional time optimized to target the student learning needs?

Instructional time is a precious commodity and should be protected. Time is not only the amount of time in each of the areas, but only also disruptions to the present time.

For instance, if the main office is looking for the principal who is conducting learning walks throughout the building, does an announcement come across the loudspeaker or does the principal get notified on their cell phone through a silent text? 

A culprit that takes away time has typically been the days before breaks and holidays. Maybe the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is not the best time to start off a new unit of instruction However, student learning should not stop a day before the break starts.

Is the movie you selected associated with enhancing the most recent learning or is it just killing time?

What structure is in place for students who receive band lesson or for those students who need different supports for RtI? Do they miss a class? 

What type of class do they miss? What are the priority learning needs of the students and are those needs impacted by a disruption? 

The bottom line is that once goals are established it is up to the leadership to be strategic about resources that are targeted at achieving the goals.

It is time to take control of your resources.

Determine the present reality of HOW resources are used so you can make strategic decisions on how will you allocate your resources.

How you use your resources can have an impact on student learning, as long as you have strategically determined how to the resources at your disposal.

Robinson, V. (2011)  Student-Centered Leadership.  San Fransico, CA: John Wiley & Sons. Inc.

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Tracey Shiel

Tracey Shiel is author and consultant with over 20 years in the field of education. Through Thought Partners, she provides research-based educational services including balanced leadership coaching, professional development, implementation planning and execution support, and special educational projects of the highest quality. Her passion is with coaching educational leaders to achieve school and district improvement goals while enhancing leadership capabilities.