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9  Sustaining School Improvement

Richard DuFour Solution Tree Press ePub

Sustaining School Improvement

“This too shall pass” is a common mantra that U.S. teachers have about school improvement proposals. They have every reason to feel that way. Between 1987 and 1997, Phi Delta Kappan articles offered 361 different ideas for making U.S. schools more effective (Carpenter, 2000), and that number has dramatically increased in the decade since the passage of No Child Left Behind. Veteran teachers who have watched these initiatives come and go have become inured to the cyclical process of the rise and fall of improvement programs. A new program is announced with great fanfare and promise only to be met by confusion, concerns, and criticism. As complaints mount and immediate benefits fail to materialize, the initiative is abandoned, and the search begins for the next magic bullet.

Although educators are accustomed to initiating school improvement strategies, they have precious little experience in sustaining improvement initiatives. Principals have played a significant role in creating this cycle of short-lived reform efforts, and it will take effective leadership on the part of principals to break the cycle. In this chapter, we examine three keys to sustaining the meaningful improvement initiatives in your school.

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Clarifying and Assessing the Essential Curriculum

Robert Eaker Solution Tree Press ePub

HAVING A CLEAR CURRICULUM FOCUS means that teachers in a learning community not only decide together what students should be able to do, they also decide what not to teach.

PLC at Work

IT IS AT THE TEAM LEVEL that teachers have the greatest opportunity for engagement, dialogue, and decision-making. When teachers have collaboratively studied the question of “What must our students learn,” when they have created common formative assessments as a team to monitor student learning on a timely basis, and when they have promised each other to teach essential content and prepare students for the assessments, they have exponentially increased the likelihood that the agreed–upon curriculum will actually be taught.

Learning by Doing

ASSESSMENT OF A STUDENT’S WORK should provide a rich array of information on his or her progress and achievement.

PLC at Work

ANY ASSESSMENT PROCESS MUST BEGIN by defining what it means to succeed.

PLC at Work

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Medium 9781935542292

Chapter Two Creating and Sustaining Collaborative Relationships

Cassandra Erkens Solution Tree Press ePub

The collaborative team is the fundamental building block of the organization. A PLC is composed of collaborative teams whose members work interdependently to achieve common goals—goals linked to the purpose of learning for all—for which members are held mutually accountable.

—DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker

At the heart of it all, the work of a PLC requires collaboration. Effective leaders begin the PLC journey by building the community in both structure and culture—efforts that require all three of the core leadership practices to launch simultaneously. The paradigm shift from autonomous classrooms to collaborative teams, however, places the early emphasis and focused discussion on the notion of collaboration. This leadership practice does not happen in isolation from the other practices, but it is one of the most visible places to signal that a change in behaviors is expected. As schedules change and leaders work to empower teams, educators can immediately see that the work of collaboration has begun.

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Medium 9781934009314

Chapter 2 Teaching and the Change Wars: The Professionalism Hypothesis

Michael Fullan Solution Tree Press ePub

Linda Darling-Hammond

As the 21st century has dawned, nations around the world are undertaking major transformations of their governmental and education systems in response to changing economic, demographic, political, and social imperatives. Nearly all countries are engaged in serious school reform initiatives to address demands for much higher levels of education for a much greater number of citizens—demands created by a new information age, major economic shifts, and a resurgence and redefinition of democracy around the globe. The need to prepare future citizens and workers who can cope with complexity, use new technologies, and work cooperatively to frame and solve novel problems—and the need to do this for a much more diverse and inclusive group of learners—has stimulated efforts to rethink school goals and redesign school organizations.

There are competing views of how these massive changes should be pursued. Among the contending theories of action are the following:

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2 Using Social Media Tools to Enhance Professional Development

William M. Ferriter Solution Tree Press ePub

Like many educators, coauthor and sixth-grade teacher Bill Ferriter is frustrated by traditional approaches to professional development. He states,


I rarely learn anything useful in professional development sessions simply because the majority of professional development sessions are presented once and never referred to again. What’s more, the content covered in professional development sessions never seems to target my own teaching strengths and weaknesses and the structure of professional development sessions never seems to give teachers the opportunity to interact in meaningful ways with one another. As a result, I can’t think of too many formal professional development opportunities that have changed who I am as an educator. (Ferriter, 2010a)

Sadly, anyone working in schools will probably find Bill’s pessimistic description of professional development all too familiar. Despite the fact that educators passionately argue about the importance of delivering engaging, student-centered lessons built around opportunities for experimentation and social interaction—and despite knowing that ongoing, meaningful professional development is essential to improving teaching and leadership practices (Kostin & Haeger, 2006)—the same passion rarely translates into the work we do to prepare our teachers. Instead, we continue to hire experts to deliver training to large groups of teachers during stand-alone faculty meetings, creating an interesting educational dichotomy: teachers groaning every time they are asked to be learners. Even the euphemisms we use to describe the structure of professional development— Spray and Pray, Sit and Get, Sage on the Stage—are derogatory.

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