Change

My Day on Capitol Hill

Recently, members of NASSP’s Student Leadership Advisory Committee visited Capitol Hill to meet with their respective members of Congress and participate in education-focused advocacy. The Student Leadership Advisory Committee has helped shape NASSP’s Student Leadership Initiative: Global Citizenship and continues to be an important voice on behalf of young people. In the posts below, learn about what a few of the committee members did while advocating on Capitol Hill. 

 

 

 

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Leading Change? “One of the most important responsibilities a leader has is providing direction.”

A recent Forbes article by Brent Gleeson drew some important distinctions between leadership and management.

Leadership and management are two distinctly different but complimentary skill sets that all companies need.

  • Leaders make sure the organization is doing the right things
  • Managers make sure they do those things right.
  • Leadership is about coping
  • Management is about coping with complex issues.

Source: www.forbes.com

Technical Change has an answer. It is like a light switch–either on or off. You make a choice on which computer or which instructional resources to adopt.

“Fullan (2003, 2005) cites Heifetz and Linsky (2002) to distinguish between technical and adaptive change. Technical change involves people putting in place solutions to problems for which they know the answers. While this can be difficult, it is not as difficult as adaptive change, which involves addressing problems for which they don’t yet know the solutions. Adaptive change involves changing more than routine behaviours or preferences; it involves changes in people’s hearts and minds. Because the change is so profound, adaptive change can result in transformation of the system.”  http://instep.net.nz/Change-for-improvement/Sustainable-change/Four-views-of-change/Adaptive-versus-technical

Adaptive Change is a process of changing behavior and culture, both of which have no clear answers.

“Adaptive change stimulates resistance because it challenges people’s habits, beliefs, and values. It asks them to take a loss, experience uncertainty, and even express disloyalty to people and cultures. Because adaptive change asks people to question and perhaps refine aspects of their identity, it also challenges their sense of competence. Loss, disloyalty, and feeling incompetent. That’s a lot to ask. No wonder people resist. Heifetz and Linsky, 2002, cited in Fullan, 2003, page 34

My revised 5 Steps for Leading Adaptive Change:

1. Focus – What is important in your school?

2. Start with Why – Your staff should not only know the ‘what’ by the ‘why’ of your school focus.

3. Mindsets and Expectations – What your staff believes drives their behavior. Unless we address expectations and belief systems, and changes will be fleeting and temporary. Each staff member should understand what we must believe about our focus an the role they play as well as what specifically is expected of them.

4. Remove Barriers – Remove roadblocks and obstacles. Encourage open discourse. Accept disagreement as healthy and a part of the growth process. Discussions should focus on issues not people. ‘Hard on issues, easy on people.’

5. Together – Whatever the focus, the key is that everyone works together. Even though we play different roles, we all work together toward a common outcome.

School Can Use Some “Pixar Magic”

“Hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions.” – Pixar co-founder, Ed Cattail

Pixar magic,” is a phrase film critics frequently employ to describe the studio’s impressive track record of box office success–all 14 of its movies have debuted in the top spot at the box office.

In a recent interview, Pixar co-founder, Ed Catmull, discusses his new book, Creativity Inc. , and says ‘reframing the concept of failure is the only sure way to find success.’

The keys to Pixar’s Succcess:

  • Pixar’s success is the product of a deliberate attitude toward creativity and failure.
  • How do you make it safe for people to say what they think or that it’s safe for them to make mistakes/fail?
  • The answer: “Reframe the concept of failure. 
When you start something new, you will make mistakes, and if you don’t make mistakes you’re either copying yourself or copying someone else.”
  • Each failed concept brings the ultimate creation closer!
  • Each idea led them a bit closer to finding the better option.
  • This is key: when experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, not as a frustrating waste of time, people will enjoy their work, even when it is confounding them.”

Key Lessons from Pixar for School Leaders

  • Whether implementing new college- and career-ready standards, introducing new technology, integrating literacy into content areas, implementing new teacher evaluation systems, or employing new performance assessments, all require significant learning and experimentation.
  • Problem: The fear of taking risks and failing and the ensuing reprisals which may follow keeps many of our staff members from trying new things and taking risks.
  • School leaders must create a school culture in which it is okay to make a mistake. I was quoted in one publication “Treat your school as a laboratory. Don’t be afraid of doing something different. If it doesn’t work, go to something else.”
    The following is an excerpt from my colleague, Stuart Singer’s book The Algebra Miracle, on the kind of school culture we created:

“I have two daughters who go to this school and I am thrilled that they do. This faculty approaches education like a laboratory experiment. They try out a hypothesis and then collect the data. If it works, they study it more and try to find ways to make it work better. If it doesn‘t, they try to find out why it failed and either remove it or repair it. It is a never-ending process of evaluation and reevaluation, just as you would if you were trying to perfect any product in a lab.”

  • But how do we do that? Follow Pixar’s lead and “reframe” the concept of failure.
  • Reframing” (a “shift in a person’s mental perspective”) is an important skill for school leaders engaging their staffs in both short- and long-term change initiatives. For example, if teachers believe that literacy is not their responsibility, that they do not have time to teach literacy skills, and that literacy is the job of reading teachers, simply teaching teachers how to use a “close reading” strategy, is doomed to failure unless we can reframe or change our teachers’ mental perspective (mindset) about the need to integrate literacy into their content area. As Simon Sinek advises Start With Why.
  • Compliance Does Not Equal Cooperation – Experience has taught me that without that “shift in perspective” or change in mindset teachers will temporarily comply, but, in the long-run, they will abandon the practice. In other words, a big part of implementing any initiative is aligning existing mindsets to fit the new initiative.
  • Failure is a concept that must be “reframed” if we want to change mindsets and expectations of teachers in relation to assessment and grading as well as the larger issue of student success and failure. Here are some examples of “reframing” failure:

o   There is no failure, only feedback!

o   If you are not failing (making mistakes) you are not learning.

o   As long as you are learning, you are succeeding!

o   The only way to fail in this school is to stop trying, to quit.

o   Failure is permanent. Mistakes are temporary.

o   We learn from mistakes.

o   Each failure only brings us closer to a solution.

o   “If you don’t make mistakes you’re either copying yourself or copying someone else.”

o   People who learn from mistakes learn faster.

o   Feedback is the breakfast of champions!

o   Our school is like a laboratory!

 

Create a Culture That Protects the New

At Pixar, Catmull emphasizes “we are willing to adjust our goals as we learn, striving to get it right, not necessarily to get it right the first time. Because that, to my mind, is the only way to establish something else that is essential to creativity: a culture that protects the new.”

In our school, students would say, “in this school it is hard to fail, because the teachers never give up on you. They won’t let you fail!” I would not hesitate to choose a school whose staff had a growth mindset over a school with a highly-qualified teaching staff.

 

Education is a True Team Game

By Stuart A. Singer, author of The Algebra Miracle

While some people might dismiss the importance of creating the proper mindset within a school’s faculty as critical for improving academic success, the outcome of this year’s World Series may help change that misperception.

That victory by the Boston Red Sox was good for baseball. One of the sport’s most storied franchises had waited 95 years to win a championship on its home field. It was an emotional boost for a city that has endured so much pain at the hands of terrorists. And it was great fun for the casual fan to watch a group of men who looked like characters from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy celebrating their title-clinching victory like a group of excited little boys.

But for education this Boston team could also serve as a model for success.

A little bit of historical background

In 2012 the owners of the Red Sox spent huge amounts of money on a team filled with superstar talents and a big name flamboyant manager. They watched that group crash and burn finishing in last place. The next season, with more than $2500 million of “great” players discarded, a number of unknowns taking the field on a (more…)

Attendance: A Foundation of Improving Student Achievement

By Mel Riddile

“Successful teaching cannot begin until students are regularly attending class.”—Stuart L. Singer, author of The Algebra Miracle

“Strong instructional leadership is essential for a school to be successful.” Research into how principals spend their time points out that effective instructional leaders focus on “organizational management.” These school leaders understand that they must first create the conditions in which teaching and learning can occur. Strong instructional leaders seek first to create a safe, orderly, and inviting school environment that supports learning, encourages regular attendance, and promotes positive student behavior.

Student attendance is the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room when it comes to discussions of school improvement. How can teachers be held accountable for student achievement when students have poor attendance? How can school and principals be held accountable for student achievement when states allow students to quit school at age 16 and/or have weak attendance laws? How can schools be held accountable for student achievement when law enforcement agencies or the courts are reluctant to enforce existing attendance laws? Finally, how can schools be held accountable for student performance when they have no resources like school attendance officers to assist in improving attendance.

Upon arriving at a new school, I proceeded to ask the teachers a simple Peter Drucker-type question. What do we need to do in order to improve? Although simple in structure, this question contains some critical underlying presuppositions. First, we believed that our students were capable of learning at much higher levels. Second, our school needed to improve. Third, our school can improve. Finally, our school will improve.

When I asked the question, I had a number of teachers give me similar answers, but I will always remember what our Science Department Chair, Sherry Singer, said to me. “Mel, our students don’t come to school, and, when they do, they can’t read.”

It was from that simple question and Sherry’s straightforward response that our (more…)

The Wrong Basic Instincts

By Stuart Singer, The Teacher Leader, and author of The Algebra Miracle.

It was a lesson learned on the frontlines of education.

As the 2013-14 school year unfolds across the country that experience compels a retired teacher to repeat the sentiments of Mel Riddile: school leaders will see significant improvement in academic achievement if they trade absolute control for cooperation. The validity of that philosophy delineated by both success and failure can be found at a school that was an aberration in an extraordinarily affluent district.

The fundamentals

The socio-economic demographics of the student body were astounding. The percent of students receiving a free or reduced price lunch was more than the ten wealthiest schools combined.  The mobility, ELL and absentee rates were equally disproportionate. Local street gangs exerted a strong influence within the building. Virtually every measure of academic success matched those negative statistics. Into this difficult situation a new principal made a stunning decision—relinquishing control in the hope that it could translate into improved educational achievement.

The story of this school is chronicled in my book “The Algebra Miracle”. The unwritten chapters of the years that have followed those related in the original story are a powerful reminder of the danger of creating (more…)