February 12 , 2020 /

TRANSFORMING K-12 SYSTEMS

No one said it would be easy and a number of people have made various suggestions, many of which ended up with tweaks around the edges. Much about the system, the delivery and the environments remain too much the same and are not engaging the majority of students in meaningful learning experiences.   Part of the problem is the herd mentality of feeding everyone from the same menu and diet that is stale and beyond its use by date.

I worked for years helping schools look at what they were doing, how they were doing it and why they were doing it the way they were.  Too often it was because that was how they had always done it and it seemed to be working, but when you looked at the results, it wasn’t working to advance learning and growth in exciting and engaging ways.  It was more of move them through the system, graduate the majority and prepare them for what was next whether a job or more education.

Grant Lichtman offers up these observations and possibilities and his musings are worth serious consideration: http://www.totransformteaching.org/rebuilding-the-k12-operating-system/

My recommendations include the following seven suggestions:

Reorganize top-heavy administrations to more lean and less populated offices and staffs that are redundant, inefficient and uneconomical.  Outsource where possible, especially when it has little or no impact on students directly.  Allocate money saved to teaching and learning.

More site-based management, trusting well-trained and experienced leaders to make decisions affecting their programs, staffs, and buildings.  Give them more financial autonomy and the ability to manage their own budgets and assessments.

Profit from schools that have ditched the old for innovative programs that are working and getting better results.  “No need to reinvent the wheel.”  Import successful models from elsewhere with similar populations and cultures.

Use examples to persuade the reluctant resisters to change.  Send them to see what’s working in other places so they have first-hand, personal experience and cannot hide behind “that won’t work here” response.  Assign some reading such as What Schools Could Be by Ted Dintersmith.

Take a year or two to design, plan and prepare for change and make it systemic.  Look carefully at the six stages of systemic change outlined here: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept93/vol51/num01/The-Stages-of-Systemic-Change.aspx

Keep the top and bottom lines in view which are the best interests of students.  Serving and supporting their needs becomes the driving forces of change.  That means more student-centered teaching and learning, more student focused implementation of necessary changes and more involvement of stakeholders including parents and the larger community.

If you’re serious about helping to transform an educational system, create a community task force for greater buy-in and support.  Enlist others who see the need and are willing to commit time, energy and talent to the process of transforming schools that are either falling behind or are in a holding pattern.  The name of the game is Learn, Grow and Change.

Please share your thoughts and opinions