38 Chapters
Medium 9781935542292

Chapter Three Aligning Systems

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

Have a simple, clear purpose which gives rise to complex, intelligent behavior, rather than complex rules and regulations that give rise to simplistic thinking and stupid behavior.

—Dee Hock, founder of VISA

Effective leaders know they must help align all systems to support the work of its vision, mission, values, and goals, or the work of PLCs cannot succeed. If any internal system is not aligned to these key focal points, then the overall work might be impossible to start, slow to proceed, or unlikely to maintain early changes along the way. Moreover, when leaders align systems to enact the organization’s vision, mission, values, and goals, they send the clear message that the organization’s guiding statements are more than words on a page; instead, they are actionable agreements.

The leadership practice of aligning systems is most certainly recursive (it is addressed repeatedly) and iterative (each effort builds on and refines previous efforts). It might seem that once an organization’s or team’s internal systems are aligned, the work could be considered done. Systems are dynamic, however, so there is no such thing as “done,” as leaders interact with and improve them.

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Medium 9781934009376

Part Three: Leading for PLC at the District Level

Austin Buffum Solution Tree Press ePub

 

[Great organizations] simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything.

—Jim Collins

Fortunately, schools across North America have begun to make a seismic shift in assumptions; they are reshaping structures and cultures to focus on learning rather than teaching as the fundamental purpose and guiding principle of their work. Schools working as professional learning communities are spending considerable time and effort to ensure that learning serves as the “organizing idea” for curriculum, instruction, and assessment. As a result, the way that central office and district-level staff make decisions is also changing. The board of education and central office now play a unique and important role in showing how learning must serve as the “guiding principle” for all decisions being made within the district. This chapter will explore how collective bargaining can be re-envisioned so that learning serves as the guiding principle in contract negotiations in the professional learning community school.

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Medium 9781936763009

Chapter 8 Responding With Instructional Agility

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

8

Responding With Instructional Agility

Power has to be insecure to be responsive.

Ralph Nader

If collaborative common assessments are not improving the core of instruction, then they are not working. Teachers cannot remain steadfast in their instructional practices while making the learners adapt. Assessment must be a diagnostic process that provides teacher and learner alike with plausible next steps. Sometimes it feels as if organizations collect and display data for the simple reason that it’s expected. Collecting data for the sake of data is a waste of everyone’s precious time and resources. If learning communities are going to take the time to gather data, it must be for the purposes of answering the difficult questions What will we do for the students who have not yet learned it? and What will we do for the students who already have it? Teams must use common assessment data to support their individual and collective mastery, to make program improvements, and to respond in instructionally agile ways.

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Medium 9781934009369

1 Getting Started

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

One of the first questions a principal must address to create the conditions that lead to higher levels of learning for both students and staff is simply, Where do I begin? We recommend the following steps.

1. Start with questions.

2. Create a guiding coalition.

3. Build shared knowledge with staff by learning together.

4. Help staff members clarify the school they are attempting to create.

5. Clarify the commitments that are vital to creating the school.

6. Establish indicators of progress and strategies for monitoring those indicators.

7. Develop a critical mass to support implementation and begin taking action.

It is not imperative that a principal know all the answers to the challenges confronting a school; it is imperative that the principal ask the right questions to help identify and focus attention on those challenges. A principal new to a school should meet with the staff in small groups to ask a series of questions, such as:

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Medium 9781935542292

Chapter Four Facilitating Shared Responsibility

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good.

—Barbara Jordan

It never ceases to amaze us how many insightful leadership lessons come from the most unlikely sources. Consider the following excerpt from the classic children’s book Stuart Little:

Just as the sun was coming up, Stuart saw a man seated in thought by the side of the road. Stuart steered his car alongside, stopped, and put his head out.

“You’re worried about something aren’t you?” asked Stuart.

“Yes, I am,” said the man, who was tall and mild.

“Can I help you in any way?” asked Stuart in a friendly voice.

The man shook his head. “It’s an impossible situation, I guess.” he replied. “You see, I’m the Superintendent of Schools in this town.”

“That’s not an impossible situation,” said Stuart. “It’s bad, but it’s not impossible.”

“Well,” continued the man, “I’ve always got problems that I can’t solve. Today, for instance, one of my teachers is sick—Miss Gunderson her name is. She teachers Number Seven school. I’ve got to find a substitute for her, a teacher who will take her place,”

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