The Educational Super Power-Solving Teams

As I visit rural schools in Montana, I hear the same concern: teachers are leaving the field in droves and communities are struggling to fill positions with high-quality staff. In last month’s blog, we talked about creating sustainable practices. Sustainability does matter as it leads to better student outcomes and improved teacher morale. Sustainable practices are key if we want teachers to stay in the field and continue to learn and grow. In October, we wrote about the importance of involving school boards and community members to help schools stay the course. This month we highlight a school’s superpower, the problem-solving team.

Research clearly shows that trained problem-solving teams using data lead to better implementation and student outcomes. An effective problem-solving team is laser-focused on fidelity, progress monitoring, and student outcome data. With this data, they develop efficient systems addressing student problems with strategies that are doable and durable. They also serve as leadership’s “ears and eyes” and identify barriers to implementation and help remove them. But most importantly, they hold teachers and administrators accountable for staying the course and the continued implementation of programs that meet the needs of students.

In order for problem-solving teams to reach high levels of efficacy, members commit to a different way of doing business. First, the team develops its vision and purpose. If your problem-solving team cannot articulate why they meet, they will surely have trouble navigating the complex school environment to improve student achievement. Second, the team members agree to use data protocols and assign roles and responsibilities. Who will bring the data to the table, who facilitates the meeting, who takes notes, and who will ensure members stick to the problem-solving protocol?

In addition to identifying roles, team members also recognize and utilize their influence and authority. Principals willing to use their authority empower team members to get the important work done. Teacher leaders are a powerful voice in changing school culture and practices. Recognizing and committing to our personal use of influence and authority are often overlooked and undervalued in education. School administrators must clearly state expectations and hold all teachers accountable for meeting expectations. Teacher leaders must feel empowered to speak up when the few naysayers are hindering progress. A team approach can foster the development of mutual support as the going gets tough-which it will if a school is focused on improving academic achievement and student well-being.

At the NCRSMH, we coach and support project schools to create problem-solving teams when using the Early Identification System (EIS) and Intervention Hub. With the right tools, we know the problem-solving team can move mountains and make lasting changes. Is your school making use of its superpower?

Carol Ewen, MA, EdS
Director of School Mental Health Programs
Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development
University of Montana | College of Health
[email protected]

About the Author

Carol Ewen

Carol Ewen
Licensed School Psychologist

I have worked at the local and state level developing and implementing school mental health interventions for the past 23 years. I am currently the Director of School Mental Health Programs at the University of Montana’s Center for Children, Families, and Workforce Development.

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The current Early Identification System model includes:

teacher and student-report assessment tools
A dashboard system in which
these data are shared with schools and linked to a menu of evidence-based interventions that schools can choose from to implement
A dashboard system in
which these data are shared with schools and linked to a menu of evidence-based interventions that schools can choose from to implement

Web-based professional development and coaching to support the implementation of selected interventions

Tools to monitor
the progress and effectiveness of interventions selected