Educators are responsible for driving students toward excellence and preparing them for their future. Below are ten tips to follow to ensure that the auditing process focuses on these goals and how to achieve them.
When auditing your school's performance, there are tips that you can follow before, during, and after the audit process to get the most out of the process and to allow it to be more successful.
Tips to Follow Before the Audit Process Starts
1. Define your school's Standards of Excellence and present a clear vision for which the school focuses.
All schools should have a clearly identifiable vision, and knowing this vision will help you determine through the audit process whether or not the school processes are allowing that vision to be achieved. Defining the school's Standards of Excellence is also important to ensure that the actual function of the school guides the students to meet those standards.
2. Determine what you will use to measure excellence in education.
Set clear measures for determining whether the school is living up to its plan of excellence, by avoiding vanity measures designed to fluff up the image of the school. The end goal of any education system is to produce students who have the knowledge to be happy and successful in both their careers and their lives and also posses the toolset they need to achieve their future plans. Instead of using generalities, establish some key performance indicators and determine the tools that you will need to properly measure them. These KPIs can include testing measurements, college acceptance, graduation rates, etc.
3. Create an audit plan that revolves around best-in-class standards.
An audit plan should be created utilizing best-in-class standards, similar to EHL's, but adapted to measure the performance of your specific school environment. This can include making alterations based on the demographics of your school, the culture of the area, and the size of the city or town where the school is located. All parts of the plan should be completely relevant to these facets of the school so that you get an accurate view of the current situation.
Tips to Follow During the Audit Process
4. Establish a schedule, but always remain adaptable.
Developing a schedule will help you stay on track and make sure that you look at and address every issue that you want to focus on in your plan. Once your schedule is in place, allow yourself the freedom to go off track. The schedule should be a guideline, and you will need to be flexible and adapt to any changes or surprises along the way, even if they seem to create havoc in the plan. This flexibility will allow you to get a complete picture of what goes on even when an audit is not occurring.
5. Learn from the students.
As with any type of education audit, the focus should be on the students, and to find out what they really are leaning and comprehending, you will need to talk with them directly. Through your conversations with students, you will better be able to test their knowledge base so you can make an assessment of the quality of teaching they are getting in the classroom setting.
6. Consider a multi-dimensional approach.
A common approach to an education audit is to simply monitor the teachers in a classroom setting to determine the quality of teaching the students are exposed to. This approach will likely not provide you with a full picture of the educational system currently in place. Instead, analyze the design of the curriculum, looking for innovative teaching styles, and education practices that are current and up-to-date with the latest available research. Also, delve into the design and function of the building and classrooms, to determine whether or not they foster the ideal learning environment.
7. Determine the Right Balance
While it is the job of the auditor to act in the role of a policing function to put the appropriate pressure on educators to meet the standards of the school and provide a quality education for the students, it needs to be balanced out. Instead of taking just the monitoring stance approach, use the audit as a way for you to foster collaboration with the teachers and staff and motivate them to achieve the standards of excellence that the school has laid out.
Tips for After the Audit
8. Present the audit in a constructive manner.
While the audit process is a standard exercise in an education environment to monitor the systems in place, you should also present it as a constructive step towards finding concrete ways to improve performance. The audit should be used as a building block to establishing a sound action plan to steer the school in the direction it needs to go.
9. Start a discussion with the audit report as the foundation.
The audit report is not designed to be a reprimand, but a foundation to which you can start a discussion with the faculty on staff on where improvements could be made. Feedback should be given and received. It should not be used as a way to disparage or talk down to the staff. Be mindful of their feelings and the time and effort that they put into their jobs. Withhold judgment, let them know that you are on their side and are there to support them and work with them to achieve the shared goal of academic excellence.
10. Develop a plan for continuous improvement.
While immediate improvements likely need to be made, the focus should not just be on the short term improvements, but a plan for continuous improvement should be developed as well. A solid plan of action should be created and include periodic review periods where the performance and improvements will be measured. Define your role in monitoring the changes and helping the environment to evolve and be prepared to adapt the plan as needs change and issues arise.
The best practice is to conduct both an internal and external audit every few years, utilizing experts and expert advice from an outside consultant. You can also improve the audit process by joining a network of schools, such as EHL Network of Certified Schools, where you will be able to access on-going benchmarks as well as expert advice on school excellence standards and how to achieve them.