Strategy Design Propels School Improvement into the Fast Lane

There is good news! Educators can embrace innovation in schools on a realistic timeline!  Strategy Design eliminates challenges that educational leaders face introducing innovations across districts.  

Imagine a collaborative process that engages all stakeholders and promotes understanding of key interests while establishing buy-in for common goals.  It is imperative that educational leaders in Massachusetts break through the barriers to innovation.

Currently Massachusetts serves more than 950,000 students in 406 districts.  Many of these districts are small, each with its own publicly elected school committee.  Locally run districts combined with the school leadership and teachers are the heart and soul of the learning experience. 

Unfortunately, the structure of small districts alone does not guarantee success.  The average stay of a superintendent is less than three years.  Districts with the highest track record of performance and community engagement are often run by superintendents who have been in place for much longer.  Tim Waters and Robert Marzano of MCREL say the length of Superintendent tenure and collaborative goal setting have been shown to correlate directly with student achievement.

A critical part of the process is identifying the roles of superintendent and school committee and how they can work in concert to support one another. Strategy Design helps you create the environment that enables Superintendents to stay longer in the district and achieve the vision everyone wants – schools where students and teachers excel!

Through the collaborative process three main areas of need consistently rise to the surface: professional learning, technology, and Pedagogy. 

Professional Learning
Education non-profits, consulting organizations and even district leadership have a conundrum in that the children are not the direct clients they serve, rather the adults who work in the organization are. The district is there to support the principals and teachers who in turn support the children who walk through the doors every morning.  

The true goal and mission is to impact student learning and outcomes.   For children to feel safe, supported, challenged, and encouraged, the district must support the adults providing direct service to children.  

To achieve an innovative learning environment, we must promote the innovative teaching environment.  While this makes logical sense, the education sector has yet to embrace the nature of strategy design which promotes innovation, creativity, and engagement through collaborative problem solving experiences.  Another way of saying this is, we support districts to support leaders and teachers to become dynamic, excited and highly effective educators.

Technology
According to James Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google, the future schools will implement virtual reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.  Next generation schools will provide laptops in a 1:1 model.   

Yet how many schools have purchased chrome books to find out they are being used as glorified word processors?  How many classroom teachers have purchased ipads and then found it difficult to navigate the world of apps making it even harder to effectively integrate the technology into daily routines? And how many classrooms have smartboards that are being used as expensive white boards?

A robust computer science curriculum that integrates writing code, collecting and synthesizing information, and learning about how all the machines are “connected” are central concepts all schools should be figuring out. Creating a plan for on-going professional learning about technology, creating partners with technology providers to support implementation, and imbedding technology across the curriculum all need to be central components of any strategic plan.  

Innovation in technology is not just about gadgets and tools, although they do make it fun. Implementing a robust computer science program is the outcome of an innovative district culture that must be cultivated from the leadership. 

Pedagogy
For decades, many school systems have bought into two primary approaches to instruction, explicit direct instruction or inquiry based constructivist theories of teaching and learning.  For everyone who looks forward to moving beyond the “literacy wars” that pitted phonics against whole language we can welcome the latest trend sweeping across the industry “Student-Centered Learning”. 

The central concept of SCL is that we identify the students’ strengths and needs and tailor instruction accordingly.  Student Centered Learning reinforces the need for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and small group differentiated instruction.  This is the opportunity for educational organizations to embrace instructional routines, pedagogy, and practice that holds students at the center of teaching and learning.  

At the secondary level schools systems will be challenged to promote small group instruction rather than lecture style classes.  While elementary schools are more familiar with small group instruction the rigor of student activities and targeted differentiation are what often present difficulties.  

When implemented through a collaborative strategy design process the district leadership and school committees foster creative and meaningful learning environments that promote teacher satisfaction as well as improved student engagement and outcomes.

Time for innovation!
The best way to ensure the highest quality education for the nearly 1 million children in Massachusetts schools is through innovative well thought-out plans.  Families trust schools to provide an education that will give students the academic skills, social emotional strength, and the content knowledge for them to excel.