Change

AVID: A Transformative Pathway for School Improvement

Guest post by Nick Nelson

During the 2015–16 school year, The Dalles High School in Oregon was awarded a state grant for AVID training. We didn’t know much about AVID at the time, just that it was a philosophy centered on writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading, and that its goal was to close the achievement gap.

The grant allowed a team of five teaching staff, me, and one additional administrator to attend the initial summer AVID-training session. After that session, our team began to grasp more concretely the significance of what we were involved in and the potential impact AVID could have on our instructional practice with targeted students and schoolwide. What we didn’t know was how instrumental AVID would be in creating a powerful cultural transformation for our high school. (more…)

3 Myths About Innovative School Leadership

Guest post by Bill Ziegler

School administration is often missing innovative leaders who are willing to make the courageous decisions, think creatively, and use the vision casting necessary to move schools and student learning forward. Perhaps we don’t fully understand what it takes to be an innovative leader and we buy into the societal idea that innovators are risk-takers searching for their next new thing to create or design.  (more…)

Getting the Most Out of Block Scheduling

Guest post by Sedric G. Clark

As a young English I and Algebra I teacher, I always searched for best practices that would help my students succeed. One of the practices I encountered and embraced early in my career was 4×4 block scheduling. In fact, I completed my master’s degree paper on the topic and later chaired a committee for my district that recommended the implementation of 4×4 scheduling in all high schools.

That was more than 20 years ago. Since then, I have served as assistant principal and principal in five different schools in four different school districts—in two different states. I am now in my first year as superintendent, and hopefully, my last year as a doctoral student. When my doctoral adviser asked me to choose a topic for my dissertation, I once again turned to block scheduling. I wanted to see if block scheduling still offered the benefits that I thought it did at the beginning of my career. (more…)

Change Starts With Us

Guest post by Jamie Richardson

A few years ago, I found myself trying to convince my son that he needed to “play the game” of school and figure out how to rack up as many “points” as possible in order to succeed. As these “encouraging” words came from my mouth, I stopped and asked myself, how was it that any of my students—let alone my very own son—needed artificial motivation to feel inspired about school? At that moment, I came to an important realization: (more…)

Finding Your Path Toward Competency-Based Learning

Guest post by Brian M. Stack

Imagine trying to go somewhere for the first time without having access to a map. Worse yet, imagine being the great explorers Lewis and Clark who crossed the western part of our country for the first time in 1804 with no map, no roads, and little knowledge of what it was going to take to get to their destination. In education, early adopters often feel like trailblazers too, using research, trends, and sometimes their guts to forge new ways of thinking and doing. If you are a school leader looking to move your school to competency-based learning today, you may feel a daunting sense of helplessness as you embark on your journey. The good news is (more…)

Student Voice: The Most Important Sound in the School

Guest post by Bobby Bennett

In 2012, I became principal of my alma mater—only the second alumnus since the 1890s to have such an opportunity. No pressure! Eager to begin the work of serving my community and school improvement, I held a series of meetings with staff and the school community over the course of the first three months. These meetings would shape our work for the next five years. In fact, what we learned and put into practice not only yielded academic success, it transformed the culture of our school. (more…)

Advocating For School Safety

Less than two weeks ago, we watched in horror as one of the worst school shootings in American history unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—17 students and educators were killed and another 14 were wounded. Sadly, what should be a unique and isolated tragedy is just one more heartbreaking entry in our nation’s long and rapidly growing list of school shootings. At NASSP, one of our guiding principles is that school leaders and staff members, along with community members and leaders, have a shared responsibility to ensure that schools are safe. Our students have a right to attend schools without fear of violence, and we must do more to support a holistic approach to violence intervention and prevention both inside the walls of our schools and out in the community. (more…)

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.