Jill Oelslager is the Principal of Karcher Middle School in Burlington Area School District (WI), which educates close to 4,000 students. Jill became the principal of her school in the 2015-2016 school year. She described how she used CALL to support her transition to her new position.
Before Jill assumed her new principal position, her school had administered the Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning (CALL) survey in the previous year. Before the school year started, she began to analyze the CALL data with her Building Leadership Team (BLT), which gave her an idea on where she should be focusing the school’s improvement work. Jill looked at the four focus areas identified by the CALL Data Feedback System and printed questions from those areas for her staff to review. Since each question focuses on a specific task in her school, the teachers could think specifically about that practice and how they experience it. The teachers created statements around why a certain practice was rated the way it was, and Jill posted these statements around the room. The BLT would then elaborate on each statement. “Having this information was key for me as I was able to know what aspects of leadership they wanted to see that they did not have in the previous year,” Jill explained. “But also it brought out things they were nervous to lose with the turnover of administration.”
Having that data allowed for more honest and open conversations since the focus on the conversations had support from data, rather than just individual anecdotes. “Without the CALL survey data, my first year would have been heavily based on observations and noting areas in need of improvement as the year progresses,” Jill explained. “With the CALL survey data I was able to start the school year with actual data showing the areas in need of improvement. I do feel we are at a better place as a team because we were able to have crucial conversations, based on data for school improvement.” The data allowed Jill to have crucial and honest conversations with her new staff about procedures, the culture, and changes because she was able to ask the “why” regarding the school’s identified focus areas. As a new leader in the school, Jill learned about the teaching and learning environment: “I had a much better understanding of where the building was, and we were able to have honest conversations about the improvements needed throughout the school year.”