Rule 1 for Scaling Up: Honor Those Closest to the Work

…many organizations have made the mistake of thinking of knowledge as a set of assets to be managed. This view leads to an over reliance on tools like repositories and lessons learned databases. The theory being that if we can get everything codified and ordered, then the knowledge will travel. This has proven to be insufficient for many reasons. One of the most significant reasons is that such an approach does little to account for how people learn and use knowledge. — Eva Mejia

Reading Eva’s thoughts got me thinking…

Few believe we as a profession have cracked the code on how to scale effective teaching. Over the last 100 years we have moved to and from relative levels of teacher autonomy in crafting lessons, and in many instances curriculum, to scripting lessons and in almost all cases curriculum, and then back again. Iterate on that and you should have a pretty good understanding of the two steps forward one step backward (I acknowledge at least some progress!) design of the K-12 system in the United States. I will advance the notion that most of these efforts were born out of good intentions and most educators (not always the designers of these efforts) just want the best for their students. Yet, we have been buffeted about by a variety of influences (politics and politicians, innovators and entrepreneurs, unions and charters, to name but a few). And we have done little to press back with a notion of improvement from within. I am not talking about site-based management or the practice of asking for forgiveness instead of permission. Instead, I think we have ignored what we do know that precious few who have not walked in our shoes, as teachers, principals, or superintendents, know. We know best how our school works and what our students need. And across the range of schools in Delaware, those needs are more common than uncommon. But I think what we may not know as well, is how to scale, within our own schools and across schools in our state, effective practices being used in many of our schools. So we wait or turn outward and the buffeting gets the best of us.

To battle the winds of change for change’s sake, and to leverage the intellectual capacity of our partner educators, our network is committed to using Improvement Science as the basis of all efforts we support in our schools. In August, we kick off our new year and we are excited to welcome our schools into a journey of improvement that will start with a small first step. Invariably our steps forward will be followed by a fall here and there, but as we learn together, never a step back. Just one step forward followed by another and another. I hope you’ll follow us on our blog, or join or our network, as we learn forward and begin the journey.

Dr. Dana Diesel Wallace