#cftrecommendations Change in Schools Leadership Professional Learning Communities School Reform

Readings from JSD, @learningforward, that piqued my interest!

Summer 2014 is a good time to “read, reflect, and renew.”  This is the tagline associated with JSD’s June 2014 edition, The 3 Rs of Summer.  Learning Forward does a great job of publishing relevant and interesting journals and newsletters.  JSD is just one of their publications.  There are excellent articles in this edition.  Let me just highlight a few of them and hopefully pique your interest in reading more.

Workplace and Wisdom, written by Sheri Williams and John Williams, looks at the lessons schools can learn from how businesses approach their work and customers.  They propose four lessons they have learned from their work in education and business.

Lesson 1: Mentoring matters in schools and workplace.

Lesson 2: Collaboration get results in the workplace and school.

Lesson 3: Leadership cultivates respectful cultures in business and education.

Lesson 4: Mentoring, collaboration, and leadership are all about change.

I liked the notion in Lesson 1 that while the mentor matters, it’s the mentee’s persistence and desire to learn that really matters in successful relationships.  In Lesson 2, they point out that human resource departments in most businesses have elaborate techniques to flush out if a prospective candidate is a good team player.  Could schools learn from applying some of the same techniques when interviewing potential teachers?  With Lesson 3, the authors point out that whether you work for a business or a school, working in a culture that respects your point-of-view can be essential to building a long-term relationship with the organization.  Finally, in Lesson 4, the authors examine the idea that organizational leaders need to support their employees through the change process by investing in their ideas.  In addition, to include employees in the decision-making process to foster innovation and productivity.

4 Schools, 1 Goal, written by Rosemarye Taylor and William Gordon, explores the efforts at one school in central Florida to develop a university partnership aimed at improving student reading across disciplines.   When students are unable to read effectively in other disciplines it hinders their ability to be successful in the classroom.  The goal of this Florida school district was to

create common language, knowledge, and skills among intensive reading teachers, literacy coaches and assistant principals; those people responsible for reading achievement in their high schools.

Their efforts were focused on professional development for teachers who help students learn how to read effectively within their discipline.  They accomplished this by setting up a professional learning community of teachers from their district’s four high schools.  Prior to their collaboration they collected reading data from the classroom and identified 9 areas that needed attention.

  • explicit instruction in comprehension strategies
  • scaffolded instruction from direct instruction through independent practice
  • standards-based grade-level expectations
  • reading nonfiction and informational text
  • monitoring classroom data
  • thinking and complexity above knowledge
  • accountable independent reading
  • data-informed differentiation
  • classroom environments with smooth routines

They collaborated for two years on developing expertise in differentiated instruction, using Bloom’s and Depth of Knowledge taxonomies, applying lesson study techniques to build engaging curricula, designing standards-based assessment practices and common balanced assessments, and using learing walks to study their implementation.  While reading scores did not improve in year 1, they did show significant improvement in year 2.

Bridge Builders, written by Jacy Ippolito, Christina Dobbs, and Megin Charner-Laird, looks at the work of three high school teachers in Massachusetts who led their school’s efforts to connect various school improvement efforts.  While this school in MA developed a partnership with a local university to help with literacy initiatives, it was the work of the three teacher leaders that was game changing because they served as an important bridge between different partners involved in improving reading comprehension in content areas.  These teacher leaders describe their impact in these ways:

They helped the professional learning communities focus on “a little less teaching” and “a little more talking.”  Help the PLC build a sense of community.

They facilitated the professional learning communities working respectfully and efficiently.  Using a variety of techniques that came from conversations with their university partner they learned how to use apply various techniques to support effective collaboration.

They modeled taking risks.  Through their leadership, teachers on their teams became more comfortable taking risks with different instructional strategies.

They helped team members see connections among the various initiatives geared towards improving content-area reading comprehension.

They direct, guide, and plan the PLC’s work so that each team stayed focused on its vision.  They were not only an instrumental resource, but they were effective coaches to their team members.

I think this article points out the value of schools investing in teacher leadership.

These three articles are only the beginning of an excellent journal devoted to how leadership within a school can impact school reform, especially when the leadership is distributed to a team that includes teachers.

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