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  • He recalls however, that while serving as principal on two occasions, his decision to leverage the use of data and interpersonal relationships resulted in significant improvement in school performance and output.
  • “I ask school leaders to pay keen attention to not just the quantitative measures (discussed in the book), but certainly the parts that talk about the behavioral issues and the dynamics of the interpersonal relationships and the values that altogether impact school performance and outputs,” the 2010 Fulbright scholar says.
  • Dr. Smith says he hopes school administrators will be enlightened to the power of effective leadership through the text.

Having served in educational leadership for over a decade, Dr. Maurice Smith has firsthand experience of the challenges associated with efficiently operating a school.

He recalls however, that while serving as principal on two occasions, his decision to leverage the use of data and interpersonal relationships resulted in significant improvement in school performance and output.

This experience is what motivated the now Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, to pen and publish the book entitled: ‘School Self-Evaluation: Towards a Model to Enhance School Leadership in Jamaica’.

“The way I approached (the job) seemed to have been different from what I was seeing to be the norm. This made me consider that there was something that I was doing that yielded significant results, so I thought… why not share it with my colleagues,” Dr. Smith tells JIS News.

The book is a conclusion of a study to advance a model of school self-evaluation to improve leadership and address the opportunity gap between upgraded and traditional high schools. The text also seeks to bridge the divide between the theory and practice of school leadership.

At a ceremony to launch the book earlier this year, Chief Education Officer, Dr. Grace McLean, announced that the Ministry will be adopting the self-evaluation model developed through Dr. Smith’s research and which is promoted in the book, into the Jamaican education system.

Dr. Smith says he expects that this instrument, which should be adopted by schools in the upcoming academic year, will be of significant benefit to the performance and efficiency of schools, as it is based on a range of tested and proven performance standards.

“We looked at 16 schools across two school types, upgraded schools and traditional high schools. In both instances, the use of the instrument and the planning that followed, (resulted) in the improvement of performance,” he says.

Dr. Smith said this improvement was more noteworthy in underperforming schools than traditional high schools, which would have already been utilising some of the strategies of the self-evaluation tool.

“So, it will help any school, irrespective of where the school falls on the performance spectrum,” he says, noting that the Chief Education Officer has advised that training will take place starting in May and through to summer, to prepare school leaders for the implementation of the model.

The school self-evaluation model is a data collection instrument that allows school leaders to look at quantitative and qualitative data sets about the institution, which Dr. Smith explains, will help them understand what the level of performance is, while also providing insight into why the school is performing at that level.

“It will certainly provide a platform upon which they can build a stronger plan, in terms of how they are going to go about improving the institution,” he notes.

The model starts out with a requirement for school administrators to look at the make-up of the schools, in terms of the number of students, number of male students versus females, qualification of the teachers and the socio-economic profile of the students.

It further calls for school leaders to evaluate their institutions using five performance standards – student attainment, instructional leadership, psychosocial care, stakeholder engagement and leadership and management.

Data will be collected in each of these areas, to record data on student grades, performance targets by gender, class and subjects, as well as lesson planning, quality of teaching and assessment and teaching and learning support services.

Information relating to welfare, personal development, safety and security and behaviour management will also be required. The self-evaluation tool also addresses questions of school partnerships and community involvement, as well as the quality of its strategic planning and staff involvement.

Dr. Smith says there is a rating for how well the school is performing in each standard, which will be presented per standard and as an overall average.

“The school gets a rating to say if it’s exceptional, satisfactory, good, or needs to improve. It’s not just the rating itself, but it also enables the school to look at its performance index by index, item by item and then in standard, so the school gets a rich data set in terms of its performance in each of the areas,” he tells JIS News.

“They can then use that quantitative and qualitative data set to identify plans and strategies and to then derive a school improvement plan,” he adds.

The tool, designed specifically for the Jamaican context, takes inspiration from international models of school self-evaluation, and was developed and refined for validity and reliability following extensive research and several sessions of consultations with stakeholders in the sector.

“I ask school leaders to pay keen attention to not just the quantitative measures (discussed in the book), but certainly the parts that talk about the behavioral issues and the dynamics of the interpersonal relationships and the values that altogether impact school performance and outputs,” the 2010 Fulbright scholar says.

Dr. Smith tells JIS News that it took him four years to complete the project, and he is looking forward to publishing his second book in another two years.

The Permanent Secretary was Guidance Counselor, then Vice Principal of the St. Ann’s Bay Primary School for three years, before accepting the role of Principal of the Moneague Primary and Junior High School in 2006.

Dr. Smith has also served as Education Officer and later, as Head of the School Leadership Unit of the Education System Transformation team.

In 2009, he opened the Belmont Academy in Westmoreland. He was later installed as Principal Director of the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL), before being appointed Permanent Secretary in November last year.

Dr. Smith says he hopes school administrators will be enlightened to the power of effective leadership through the text.

“Leadership is about taking charge of a situation and making it better and in order to do that, one has to understand the data, the processes, and the people; and one has to understand the policies and the practices and how to pull all of that together for the advancement of the school,” he argues.

“What I want people to take away is that leadership is about becoming better, doing something differently and being innovative. Just making better of what you have,” Dr. Smith adds.