Schools That Lead is facilitating three cohorts of schools
, each working to solve a shared problem as a network to accelerate learning across schools.
- high schools working to increase on-time graduation;
- middle schools working to reduce 9th grade retentions; and
- elementary schools working to reduce the number of students with early warning indicators in course failures, absences and discipline.
Our theory of action is rooted in improvement science*
in which educators:
- Select an aim with a laser-like focus on solving a specific problem
- Take on the role of researchers and producers of knowledge and create, integrate, adapt, and test best practice in the classroom setting
- Run disciplined cycles of iterative testing emphasizing learning quickly
- Use systems thinking – pursuing a deep understanding of the system producing the current outcomes and the variability in outcomes.
* For more on improvement science, visit the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Why Improvement Science?
In our work, principals and teachers learn to use improvement science to articulate their theories and assumptions, select change ideas and measure impact over time as they work to solve a common problem.
Engaging key participants early and often is central to the practice of improvement science. Teachers and principals care deeply about student outcomes; it is their daily work. Inviting teachers and principals to work together to understand a problem deeply and contribute to a shared theory not only builds will for solving the problem, but also informs the ways we understand the problem. Those closest to the work help define the high leverage areas to work on.
Taking collective action on a shared aim
in this way does more than solving the one identified problem of practice; it marshals the energy, knowledge, and attention of teachers and principals to close persistent gaps for students, and the collection, analysis and monitoring of data ensures that changes are indeed improvements toward the aim. It builds and reinforces the identity of teachers as problem-solvers, and that improves the cultures of schools.
The design of all Schools That Lead professional learning is collaborative, job-embedded and focused on improving student outcomes by having teachers lead from the classroom with the support of their principals.
- Powerful student learning happens by honoring the desire of teachers to learn from one another about what they care about most: their students' needs.
- When adult learning is as valued in a school as student learning, a culture of teacher leadership is unleashed – and both adults and students will learn powerfully.
- Schools function best when they create adult learning cultures in which trust, curiosity, community and courage prevail and they can do so when collaborative reflection is an integral practice.
- Teachers should be the leaders of improvement in their classrooms and engage in short cycles or tests of improvement ideas based on classroom observation of student learning, not teacher action.
- Teachers working within and across schools in networked improvement communities will accelerate learning and support purposeful collective action.
Teachers also have the opportunity to micro-credential in this work, click here to learn more.