Tag Archives: Lead4Change Model

Getting a School Back on Track

A friend from out of state recently wrote me asking for some suggestions for helping a school she’s involved with.

She wrote (edited to add some anonymity):

I have been appointed recently to serve on a Commission for a high school that was reconfigured and provided with $54 million for building and equipment in 2000.  It was the investment child of a foundation with matching funds from several local corporate donors for the intention and purpose of establishing a state-of-the art trade and tech school. It has a 99-year intergovernmental agreement among the local university, tech college, and school district that allows the school to be directed by a Commission.  The IGA allows more flexibility and autonomy than I have seen in most charter contracts.

Unfortunately, the Commission has not really held anyone accountable, and never implemented the very cool (albeit unrealistic) curriculum and programs.  Twelve years later, the school is a pack of trouble.  Donors are squealing about wasted investments, and the neighborhood (Latino) kids won’t go to the school since it is now mostly African American.

She wanted suggestions on model programs they could look at (and I suggested one), but mostly she wanted some ideas on how to get the school back on track.

I’m wondering if there aren’t other schools and districts out there that also feel like they have gotten off track and are wondering what to do next.  So I’ll share here a version of my respone to my friend.

I think the answer is working on your school’s “Burning Platform” and on your Shared Vision.

In school change circles, the Burning Platform is that big reason you have that screams “WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR SCHOOLS!” to all the stake holders.  For us (Auburn School Departement), it’s that 70% of our kids are doing well – which really means that our schools don’t work for 30% of our kids.

So, the first step is to work with your leadership team to involve stakeholders in identifying the Burning Platform.  But the Burning Platform can’t be something like “we got away from our plan” (teachers & students are just as likely to say, “so what!” to this as anything).  It’s got to be that one big reason that will pull everyone together to say, “Let’s do it!”

Then you need a shared vision.  There are lots of approaches to creating a shared vision (I promise to blog about a visioning process I like very much in the near future). But which ever way you do it, make sure you are involving TONS of stakeholders – students, teachers, admin, parents, community members, local employers, school committee/commission folk, donors/investors…  Literally having hundreds of people involved with creating your shared vision is not a bad thing.  The more the merrier – but much more importantly, the harder it will be for anyone to criticize your vision after it is created.  But you need a good facilitator and a good process, especially if you are going to involve lots of diverse stakeholders. 

I guess the other piece is leadership.  I suggested to my firend that either their Commission needed to lead hard or they needed to hire a good principal for the school (or both).  Maine’s major lesson from MLTI (our statewide learning with laptop initiative): Leadership is everything. (Judy Enright, another friend who works with schools on large scale change, likes our Lead4Change model to help insure that school change leaders are being systematic and paying attention to all the moving parts.)

Anyway, it seems to me that the only way you start getting back on track is to first bring everyone together – through the Burning Platform and the Shared Vision.

It’s Your Turn:

What are your suggestions for getting a school back on track?

Technology to Improve Learning: Strategies for Middle Level Leaders

What should middle level school leaders know about technology? What should middle level leaders do to provide the leadership necessary for effective learning with technology in their school?

When you look out among all your students, you certainly see that tech is an everyday part of their lives. It’s probably an everyday part of your life, too. But figuring out where tech fits in school may be a little more allusive:

  • It seems to be a distraction. Should we ban it?
  • Kids seem to like it. Can we use it as a motivator?
  • If we invest in technology, how do we make sure we get the most our of our investment?
  • We’ve bought technology, but we’ve got a lot of damage. Now what?

Actually, effective leadership is everything when it comes to technology in schools. It is no surprise that technology in schools is neither good nor bad, although there are approaches and strategies to integrating technology into the school that prove productive and those that are counter-productive. The school leader’s effectiveness will depend on how well she understands technology’s role and potential impact on learning, and how to lead and support working toward that potential.

Tomorrow, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more, if you’re attending the Association for Middle Level Education’s conference.

You can attend the featured Technology session (Thursday, 200p-315p in the Cascade Ballroom A (Convention Center)). At this session, I will describe specific strategies needed to lead for large scale school change such as integrating technology, including leading with a focus on teaching and learning and how to support learning with technology through infrastructure considerations, professional development, and much more.

Learn more about the Lead4Change Model here. Some of the early work that led to this model was published in the AMLE book Technology to Improve Learning: Strategies for Middle Level Leaders.

What do you see as critical strategies for school leaders if you want to successfully integrate technology for learning?

Leadership for Change – Part 2 – A Model for Large-Scale School Change

In Leadership for Change – Part 1, I introduced the idea that large scale school change, change that really redefines the way things are done in school, requires careful attention to implementing the right components in a thoughtful way.

In this post, I’d like to introduce a model for large scale school change: the Lead4Change Model. It tries to make clear the desired outcome, the critical components, and the supporting but necessary componenets.

The overarching goal within the Lead4Change model is Learning. Although this may seem obvious, it is surprising how many times the goal of an initiative becomes (either officially or in practice) about some other aspect: about the technology involved, about a program, about an organizational structure, or about a new curricular resource. There is no doubt that these might be important pieces or contributors to the initiative, but in and of themselves, they are not sufficient reason to do any initiative. Why bother implementing anything within schools if it does not help to move the mission forward, to further the learning of young people? Keeping this key desired outcome in the forefront of their minds will help change leaders make the right decisions while working on each of the other components.

Probably the best evidence of Learning are the future accomplishments of students. Unfortuately, schools don’t have the decade or more it takes gather this evidence. We can fall back on more conventional measures, such as assessments, grades, or student work. Other secondary indicators can be equally as useful: attendance, behavior, engagement, and attitude.

There are two Critical Components to the Lead4Change model: Leadership and Teacher Practice. These are the most important components of the school change model and need the most careful attention. All other components of the model are there to help these two be effectively implemented.

As pointed out in the Part 1 post, leadership is everything when it comes to school change. This critical role doesn’t necessarily need to be played by the superintendent or the principal, but the pieces of the Leadership component need to be evident within the initiative. These include building a common vision, expectancy, supervision for level of implementation, policies and procedures, a safe environment, and that change is someone’s job.

Where Leadership creates the necessary conditions at the school or district level for implementing the change, the classroom is where the rubber meets the road. Teacher Practice is the second Critical Component of the Lead4Change model. It’s pieces include engaging teaching, classroom management and planning, and level of implementation.

There are five Supporting But Necessary Components within the Lead4Change model: Funding, Partnerships, Resource Management, Branding and Buzz, and PD for Paradigm Shift. Each of these is important to a well implemented initiative, one that successfully changes how schools work and therefore the amount of learning that takes place there. But it is important to remember that each of these five is in service to the Critical Components.

Making large-scale school change requires schools o think differently about funding. As a component of this model, Funding includes these pieces: seed money, “we’ll find a way” attitude, savings from avoided costs, and sustainable and integrated funding.

Partnerships are key to successfully implementing change initiatives. There are three types of partners that assist with this work: cheerleading partners, pedagogical partners, and implementation partners.

Resource Management is all about providing teachers and leaders with what they need to successfully implement the change. This component includes having what folks need when they need it, “we’ll find a way” support, and that “stuff just works.”

Public schools aren’t good at marketing. They have rarely had to do it in the past; the really prestigious private schools are much better at it. But in this era of competing for shrinking resources, and needing to make some fairly substantial changes, schools need to focus on Branding and Buzz. Branding and Buzz includes naming the initiative, stating your case, communicating with your community and beyond, telling your stories, presenting your evidence, and dealing with controversy.

Large-scale school change often includes having educators do things that are outside their experienced base and that they have never done themselves. That’s why large-scale school change involves paradigm shifting and why professional development needs to be different than the kinds of training schools are used to conducting. PD for Paradigm Shifting includes models, play-debrief-replay, coaching, just-in-time support, and building a human network.

So there it is, the Lead4Change model. Learning is the key desired outcome. Leadership and Teacher Practice are the critical components. And the Supporting But Necessary Components include Funding, Partnerships, Resource Management, Branding and Buzz, and PD for Paradigm Shift.

In the future, I’ll blog about these components and some of their pieces. But in the meantime, does this model make sense? Have I missed someone important? What are your thoughts?

Leadership for Change – Part 1

I was just starting my education career when the Nation at Risk report came out (Wikipedia provides a good overview – including a link to the full report). (Wow! Have I really been an educator that long!?) It was the report (or at least the first “modern” report) that warned that America’s schools weren’t doing the job they needed to to adequately prepare students, and seems to be the impetous for so many of the changes that schools have gone through in the last couple decades.

Since then, there has certainly been a variety of reasons named as to why we need schools to change. These include improving achievement, better preparing students for a future (or present!) that is significantly different from our past, increasing engagement and decreasing the number of dropouts, and being able to better compete in a global economy. And there have been quite a few approaches targeted at addressing these needs, such as increased accountability (testing and state and national standards), NCLB’s Highly Qualified Teachers, the introduction of computers and other new learning tools, and various pedagogies, such as curriculum integration, project-based learning, online learning, and massively customized learning.

Despite there being seemingly limited agreement on the why or how of school change (although there seem to be plenty of pundits for each – and that probably includes yours truly), there does at least seem to be consensus that schools need to change.

Over the years, I have come to believe several truths about educational change (and especially large scale school change).

Clearly, we only talk school change because we want something to be better than it has been. School Change Truth 1 is that successfully attaining those improvements hinges on making the right change, implemented consistently and with fidelity.

School Change Truth 2 is that human nature seems to abhor change. I don’t believe this one is about “bad teachers” trying to get out of something. I think we’re preprogramed to like a certain amount of routine and that making change goes against the grain. I’ve known really great people, including great teachers, who put twice as much energy into avoiding the change than it would have taken to simply make the change (ok, maybe not so simply…).

My third School Change Truth is that when people do accept change, it seems to be human nature that, if you arent careful, people will try to implement it in the way that is most like the ways they have always done things. For example, have you ever wondered why, with all the exciting capabilities and educational possibilities of technology, that interactive smart boards seem to be a favorite in schools? I can’t help but be reminded of the slightly tongue-in-cheek definition of “insanity”: doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.

School Change Truth #4 is that, large scale school change is significantly different than the kinds of changes that schools are used to. Schools are used to changing staff or administrators. Schools are used to changing which textbook series or curricular materials they use. And schools are used to changing the grade configuration of a building, or the configuration of the building itself and how teachers themselves are grouped and distributed throughout.

But these are really only just tweaks to a system that essentially allow the system to continue to work as it always has. Large scale school change requires really doing things differently. Because schools aren’t really that different than they were 150 years ago, “really doing things differently” means that most of the school’s educators haven’t experienced for themselves anything similar to the innovation. That means at the root of large scale school change is paradigm shifting, something that requires techniques quite different from the usual “how to” and informational trainings teachers are used to.

School Change Truth 5: For school change, leadership is everything. This was an initial lesson in the early days of MLTI (the Maine Learning Technology Initiative – the first statewide learning with laptops initiative). While working for a group that designed and implemented engaging school programs to motivate students, I learned the hard way that when the leadership was not in place (or was no longer in place), even the best programs couldn’t continue or move forward.

And my last School Change Truth is that leadership is what you do, not what job or position you have. So, as a corollary to School Change Truth #1, not only does the school have to implement the the right change with consistency and fidelity, but the school leader(s) needs to put the right components into place, thoughtfully and skillfully.

For quite some time, I’ve been thinging about a model for effective large scale school change, something that would help define what those key components were. It started back in the early days of MLTI, with a model I called “Doing 1to1 Right.” Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate 1to1 learning with laptop initiatives, and to collaborate in creating a career academy, a magnet school program, a non-traditional middle and high school, and a statewide virtual project-based program for at risk kids, and have realized that the model generalizes nicely (with some updates, modifications, and additions) to other kinds of large scale school change.

So, if you might be a school leader, and you really want to see the kinds of improvements that can only come about, not by tweaking the system, but through large scale school change, then you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog. In addition to writing about the projects I’m currently involved in, I want to think more and write more about leadership for school change. And I can’t wait to learn more about your views, and to have the kinds of conversations around leadership that can happen with social media.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll outline the model.