Using the School Self-Assessment Rubric (SSAR)

Spring 2007 | | May 21, 2007 at 7:14 pm

Pam Dunlap is the GEAR UP Coordinator for grades 7-8 at Happy Valley Elementary, Happy Valley Union School District in Anderson. Besides taking part in California GEAR UP, the school participates in a 6 year Local Partnership grant. Their GEAR UP partners include Anderson Middle School, Anderson High School, West Cottonwood Junior High, West Valley High School, Pacheco Elementary, Maywood Middle School, Corning High School, Anderson Partnership for Healthy Children, and Shasta College, the lead partner.

My Introduction to the School Self-Assessment Rubric (SSAR)
The School Self-Assessment Rubric (SSAR) is a valuable tool that I have used a number of times with different stakeholder groups. Each time it has helped focus the group’s efforts to promote a college-going culture on their campus. My first introduction to the SSAR was in October 2006 at the Principal & Leadership Team Institute in Berkeley. Our leadership team worked together using the SSAR to narrow our focus on key areas we wanted to improve at our school. It opened up discussions within our group about where we each believed our school was on certain issues, such as learning communities and rigorous academics. By the time the session was over, we had our Planning Pyramid Worksheet completed and were ready to begin implementation.

Replicating the SSAR Session during Professional Development
Throughout the school year we revisited our SSAR and Planning Pyramid to make sure we still were focused on completing our original goals. The SSAR was also used during one of our Professional Development days. I replicated the session we had at Berkeley with our entire teaching staff. Once again this tool provided focus to the group and resulted in valuable and relevant conversations and collaboration among our staff. We revealed our original SSAR and Planning Pyramid to the group and discussed together how far we had come in implementing our areas of focus and what still needed to be done. As an added bonus, the SSAR helped us with one of our district goals, developing professional learning communities. We worked together collaboratively, shared knowledge, and opened communication in completing the SSAR.

Sharing the Tool with Other School Colleagues
Recently I used the SSAR with a group of new, up and coming administrators in one of my Educational Administration classes. The assignment was in curriculum alignment and consensus building. With the help of another classmate, Eleanor Hysell, the former GEAR UP Coordinator for Anderson Middle School, we introduced the process of the SSAR. Again the response was positive; all participants, from elementary to high school, could see the value of this tool. With so much focus in schools today on high stakes testing, my classmates believe they can use the SSAR for subject level and grade level planning, goal setting at the school site and at the district level. Schools that do not have the state grant can still access the SSAR rubric and tally sheet from the California GEAR UP web site.

A “To Do” List to Keep the Focus
In my office I have our original SSAR from Berkeley posted on my wall where I can see it at all times. It is my “To Do” list. The SSAR reminds me what our focus is and what our goals are to continually build a college-going culture. Because schools are in a constant state of change with new students, new parents, new staff, and new administrators, we update the SSAR each year to re-identify the changing strengths and weaknesses. Not only does it help to focus on building a college-going culture for students, it opens up communication and collaboration with staff.

Personal Benefits
As the GEAR UP Coordinator at Happy Valley Elementary I have seen the impact this program has had on our staff, students, and parents. In fact, two of my own children are part of the 1st and 2nd original GEAR UP cohorts at Happy Valley Elementary and I am a first generation college student. From the age of 18 I was a mill worker. It was good money and no education was required, both important factors to a young uneducated mother. I had always wanted to go to college; but as my family grew larger, so did my financial responsibility. Then I was given a second chance; an injury at work gave me the opportunity I had always wanted. In 2000 I graduated with my teaching credential and was offered the GEAR UP Coordinator job the following year. Currently I am completing my Master of Science in Educational Administration and will have my degree and my Tier II Clear Administrative Services Credential by the end of the school year. Two of my children are also currently in college; one is completing her general education credits at a community college and another is a pursuing his Bachelor Degree in computer animation.

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