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Results for: distributed leadership

Virgel Hammonds’ Six Insights into Leadership

October 8, 2014 by

virgelThis is the second in a two part series on RSU2 in Maine. The first post is A Quick Update from RSU2 Maine

We all know that the magic ingredient to successfully bringing about any systemic reform is leadership. We know it, we talk about it, but what exact leadership style and strategies are needed?

I’ve listened to superintendents, district teams, principals, and teacher-leaders talk about the importance of leadership in converting schools to competency education. There seems to be something special about the type of leadership that is needed, but I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it until I spoke with Virgel Hammonds, superintendent of RSU2 in Maine.

Hammonds issued a caveat at the beginning of our conversation on leadership, reminding me that he considered himself a new superintendent and that he was still figuring out the role. He then laid out six insights about what is required of district leadership in proficiency-based systems that struck me as coming from the voice of experience.

1. No One Has All the Answers

Hammonds described the trap that captures educators as they ascend the career ladder. As authority increases, education leaders are positioned as the ones who have the answer. The trap is that having the final say can easily come to mean “the one who has the right answer.” Leaders can start to feel that they have to have the right answer, or worse, that they in fact do have the answer.

Hammonds explained that leaders have to move away from this thinking, “As districts and schools convert to proficiency-based learning, they are knocking down load-bearing walls. It’s impossible to have all the answers because any organizational change often has multiple consequences.” He said learning to be a superintendent in a proficiency-based district meant he had to let go of the pride of having all the answers. “No one person is going to do this all by themselves or be able to figure it all out entirely by themselves. Instead, we have to ask ourselves, ‘How can we take a position of trust and respect that can harness the collective intelligence needed to bring about transformative change?’”

2.  Make Decisions Around the Best Interest of Students

Hammonds said that he is often asked about the Lindsay story (he was a high school principal in that California district) or the RSU2 story, as if there is a step-by-step process that other districts can follow. “It’s not about one method. Every district and school has its own history and culture. They need to be able to tap into the assets of their communities and schools to develop the vision, guiding principles, and process that is right for them.” (more…)

Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design (DSISD): Competency-Based by Design

September 21, 2017 by

This post is part of an ongoing series on Colorado schools. Read about D51 and Westminster Public Schools for more insights. 

Few public-school leaders outside of the charter sector have the opportunity to design their school from the ground up. In 2013, Danny Medved was invited by Denver Public Schools (DPS) to do just that. With support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Opportunity by Design Challenge, Medved worked alongside staff from DPS’ Imaginarium to design a new, competency-based high school in Denver. This type of “in-house innovation” is unique within large urban school districts, and it provided an opportunity to draw upon the district resources and expertise while still enjoying the benefits of school autonomy and a fresh start.

Mr. Medved looked directly to iNACOL’s 2011 working definition of competency-based learning to design the school. As any good innovator would, Mr. Medved borrowed from and built upon existing innovations and the experiences of others. As he explains, “we did not want to create from scratch what already exists but did want to use them in a way so as to have an individual school identity.” Other resources that directly informed the school design included Summit Public School’s Base Camp and Tony Wagner’s discussion of Play, Passion and Purpose. The ability to build upon the efforts of early innovators enabled the school to focus its creative energies upon the core beliefs and purposes of the school, and select the tools and resources that supported them. Core elements of the school’s competency-based model that ultimately emerged include:

  • School structure organized around iNACOL’s working definition of competency-based learning
  • Academic and socio-emotional competencies aligned with DSISD’s four Qualities of an Innovator domains (Personal Academic Excellence Domain developed by Summit Public Schools)
  • Instruction organized into six-week blocks, each focused upon a set of “power standards”; curriculum scope and sequence spirals throughout the year so that skills can be re-taught in the context of the next six-week sequence
  • Personalized learning platform from Summit Public Schools
  • Use cross-content standards to develop Student-Learning Objectives
  • Deliver instruction using something similar to a rotational model that is differentiated using the modalities of minimal direct instruction, small group direct instruction, collaborative group work, and asynchronous learning time, with an emphasis upon project-based learning experiences embedded throughout the academic year and used to deliver cross-disciplinary content
  • FLEX block included in students’ weekly schedule that allows for both acceleration and remediation opportunities as well as elective classes, such as art
  • Clear set of teacher competencies; explains Mr. Medved “you can grow people to teach in this environment, but you need some rock star anchor teachers.”

With support from DPS, Mr. Medved was able to hire teacher leaders during the design process. Together, they completed the school planning process, including the build out of the school instructional plan. This distributed leadership model was an intentional part of the school design, which places an emphasis upon building the leadership capacity of other leaders within the school.

After two years of focused planning, in 2015, the Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design (DSISD) welcomed its first students, a class of 100 ninth graders. Like any new school leader will tell you, you plan the school you envision, but the school isn’t established until the students arrive, testing the strength of a school design and forcing the school to determine what is fixed and what might need to change in response to what students and families bring with them to the school community. That first year was a learning experience for DSISD as much for the school’s faculty as for the students. A summary of lessons learned during that first year have been previously captured in a report by Denver Public School’s imaginarium, and you can read about them here: Personalized Learning: A Journey Through Year One (2016). However, a few lessons are worth calling out here with regard to the implementation of DSISD’s competency-based model. Some of these were identified by students and faculty at the school and others are offered by the author. (more…)

Cultural Responsiveness Starts in the Principal’s Office

January 31, 2018 by

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” – John Maxwell

Dr. Joseph Ellison

Personalized instruction has become an increasing focus of educational conversation over the last few years. However, the conversation often fails to touch on what it means to personalize instruction in light of the great diversity found in schools across our country. Can personalized instruction be effective without some degree of cultural competence?

Educators cannot truly personalize instruction without carefully considering the “whole child” – meaning current skill level, previous instruction, socioeconomic status, and race. Yes… race! Some argue that race has no place in the conversation around personalization. I disagree. Race is a necessary component of personalization because “teachers [who] ignore the racial component of students’ identity are in effect treating their students as incomplete beings, and student performance can suffer as a result” (Milner, 2010, p. 16). I hasten to emphasize that race is NOT everything when it comes to cultural responsiveness. Effective and accurate cultural responsiveness must respond to all of the inputs in students’ lives; it must take into account the “whole child.” And, cultural responsiveness is not an “add-on” or just another classroom thing. Cultural responsiveness is part of an ever-evolving orientation and pedagogy… and a necessary component of personalized learning. (more…)

Incredible Opportunities for Learning and Networking at the iNACOL2017 Pre-Conference

August 21, 2017 by

Each year the competency education strand expands at the iNACOL Symposium, and the sessions for iNACOL2017 are really incredible. I want to go to all of them. Here are the sessions scheduled for Monday October 23rd at the pre-conference. Remember, we’ll have a meet up on Monday evening at the opening reception so you all can meet each other and we can welcome newbies into our amazing network.

Building a Personalized Learning System: Transparency, Culture, and Courage

Rebecca Midles, Mesa County School District 51
Ken Haptonstall, Mesa County School District 51
Leigh Grasso, Mesa County School District 51

Join this interactive workshop to learn how to get started in building a personalized, competency-based education system. This session is designed for leaders of schools and districts in the planning or early implementation phases of personalized, competency-based education. Gain insights into how to build a transparent learning system designed for student success, develop and nurture a culture aimed at continuous improvement, and have the courage to lead systemic transformation of teaching and learning in your school. Access tools from Colorado’s District 51, such as their teaching and learning framework, personalized adult learning hubs, and their social and emotional learning framework, and learn how to modify and incorporate these resources as you begin transition to competency education in your own program.

Using Student Data to Drive Unit Design and Scheduling in a Personalized, Competency-Based System

Doug Finn III, Marzano Research
Bill Zima, Kennebec Intra-District Schools, RSU 2 (ME)

A primary design element of personalized, competency-based education is to get students more engaged in the learning process by challenging them at their appropriate academic level and pace. To effectively manage this outcome, we need to rethink how we use student data. This session will focus on how to better utilize student data in designing instructional units and creating competency-based systems. Participants will have opportunities to engage in discussions dealing with the many facets of unit design and scheduling and explore examples of units and school schedules based on student data.

Building Understanding of Competency Education and Changing Grading Practices

Thomas Gaffey, Building 21
Sandra Moumoutjis, Building 21
Sydney Schaef, reDesign

Are competencies and standards the same? How do you assess competencies? Why do we create rubrics and convert them to points? Should measurement of learning be punitive? In this session, we will dive deep into these questions by providing an alternative approach to traditional grading. Through a series of activities, participants will engage with the Learning What Matters competency model and leave the session with a fresh perspective on how three Pennsylvania urban district schools assess students.

  • Participants will engage in a series of activities to define and illustrate competency-based learning.
  • Participants will use rating tools called continua to rate student work.
  • Participants will be exposed to an alternative grading and assessment mindset that will push their school design efforts forward.

After a series of knowledge-building activities, participants will be exposed to a powerful new approach of using the learning progression as a rating and grading tool. These activities include: basketball dribbling activity, small group continua building, and continua norming. Each of these activities requires participants to engage with each other to understand, create and build consensus. This approach mirrors our on-boarding for new teachers. (more…)

Threads of Implementation — Lessons Learned from Maine

May 21, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 12.13.09 PMThe Maine Department of Education has condensed their six case studies on districts that have embraced proficiency-based education into one article. Threads of Implementation: A Thematic Review of Six Case Studies of Maine School Districts Implementing Proficiency-Based/Learner-Centered Systems looks at nine issues:  vision and framework; policy; leadership; teacher engagement; finance and professional development; technology; communications; pace of implementation; and cultural change. Given that it’s a concise summary, we’ve reposted it below.

Beginning in February 2012, the Maine Department of Education through its Center for Best Practice (Center) began publishing a series of in-depth case studies of school districts who were implementing proficiency-based/learner-centered systems.  These districts were in very different stages of their implementation journeys.  For example, the member districts of the Western Maine Education Collaborative (WMEC) were just beginning implementation while Poland Regional High School (of RSU 16) had been completely proficiency-based since it opened in 1999.  Though each of the districts featured in the Center over the last two years took decidedly different paths on their way to change, there were common themes that emerged throughout the case studies.  Their experiences serve as lessons for other Maine districts just beginning this transition in preparation for all schools in the state issuing diplomas starting in 2018 to students based on demonstrated proficiency.

Vision and Framework
All districts involved in making this change considered it vitally important to engage in a vision-setting process that made explicit certain assumptions.  This visioning process came at different times for each district.  For RSU 18, the visioning process – a Future Search – happened early.  The school board invited 80 stakeholders to participate in a process that would answer the question: “What do great schools look like?  And what should kids learn in great schools?”  RSU 2 went through a similar process, but engaged in it after individual schools had been working on proficiency-based issues for years – in fact, their visioning process came only after a significant pushback from parents.  The individual schools of RSU 20 had clear visions of their own, but the district as a whole did not.  When the individual schools came together to form RSU 20, one of the early acts of the new school board was to approve a proficiency-based vision for the district (though individual schools were free to choose their own way to approach this vision). (more…)

Preparing for Leadership Lifts

November 14, 2016 by

airplaneThis is the seventeenth article in the series Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders.

The transition year(s) is the period of time when people use the phrases “building the ship in the water” and “constructing the plane in the air.” Educators are doing double-duty setting up the new system while also educating students within the traditional system, which makes this a time of excitement, nervousness, challenge, and frustration. Below are a few of the major activities that districts undertake during the transition year(s).

The leadership demands are high during the transition years—it is crucial that the culture of learning is reinforced, as teachers may feel that they aren’t succeeding in either the traditional system or the new one being put into place. Moreover, as teachers begin to focus more sharply on helping students learn rather than delivering a curriculum, their own gaps in skills will become evident. Leadership will find that the shared purpose and guiding principles emphasizing learning and collaboration can become a shield to minimize the disruption caused by top-down policies that emphasize evaluations of individual teachers.

Oliver Grenham and Jeni Gotto of Adams 50 in Colorado warn that districts converting to competency education need to be ready for a “bumpy journey,” as it is impossible for everything to be perfectly designed. Their advice is for educators to: (more…)

Revisiting Threads of Implementation

August 3, 2015 by

MaineDOEI had the chance to re-read Threads of Implementation: A Thematic Review of Six Case Studies of Maine School Districts Implementing Proficiency-Based/Learner-Centered Systems, a summary of the six case studies prepared by the Maine Department of Education. It is such a helpful overview of the early work in Maine that I’ve decided to reprint it here. It’s also an example of one of the new functions for state education agencies – sharing tools, documenting processes, and helping districts to learn from each other.

Beginning in February 2012, the Maine Department of Education through its Center for Best Practice (Center) began publishing a series of in-depth case studies of school districts who were implementing proficiency-based/learner-centered systems. These districts were in very different stages of their implementation journeys. For example, the member districts of the Western Maine Education Collaborative (WMEC) were just beginning implementation while Poland Regional High School (of RSU 16) had been completely proficiency-based since it opened in 1999. Though each of the districts featured in the Center over the last two years took decidedly different paths on their way to change, there were common themes that emerged throughout the case studies. Their experiences serve as lessons for other Maine districts just beginning this transition in preparation for all schools in the state issuing diplomas starting in 2018 to students based on demonstrated proficiency.

Vision and Framework (more…)

A Timeline of K-12 Competency-Based Education Across New England States

January 10, 2017 by

This is the fifth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

The New England region stands out for its early innovations, bold vision, and high percentage of districts becoming competency-based. Yet, a quick glance at the timeline shows that the earliest models popped up on both sides of the country – in Boston and Anchorage – around 1995. So why is it that competency-based education has taken hold in New England with such momentum?

timelineLet’s take a look at a few of the possibilities.

A Good Idea Creates Continuity

The New England states have not had continuity in leadership. Governors have changed, as have the Secretaries of Education and other key personnel. Complicated budget issues, volatile political dynamics, and redistricting have demanded attention. Yet competency education has continued to be a major priority. Why? Because there are enough people in influential positions who believe in it. Some have argued that because students in New England states are relatively high-achieving, there just isn’t any other way to generate improvement except to create a more personalized, flexible system. Moreover, many educators will vouch for it, affirming that once you understand what competency education can do, there is no going back. With strong local control, this makes it harder for state leadership to change course because the policy is perceived as beneficial to students and educators. (more…)

Leadership in a Competency-Based System

May 18, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 1.06.32 PMAt what point did leading a school through a continuous improvement process become so confusing? In my educational leadership classes, I spent a great deal of time focusing on what leadership is and developing a philosophy that would guide me. I thought I had it all figured out. I learned the difference between first order and second order change. I was told to have a vision, communicate it regularly, and work to make it a reality. I also needed to remember that I would be leading people and not machines. They will no longer respond to top-down dictates. If you want to make lasting change to improve education, you must include people in the conversation so they can weigh-in before they buy-in. Okay. Simple. I earned an ‘A’, completed my master’s degree, and felt ready to change the world!

Then I became a building leader, and suddenly someone had put a giant slab of granite in front of me, and I could not see a path forward.  I shared my vision, but people pushed back. No matter how hard I tried to communicate, they became more confused, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Even those initially excited about the reforms became skeptical of their possibilities. I was at a loss.

I began to read more and more from leaders and business consultants on how to become a better leader. The words of Bob Sutton, Dan Heath, Lee Cockerell, and John Wooden, amongst others, allowed me to begin forming theories of how I could lead my colleagues. A big breakthrough came when my district chose to partner with the Reinventing Schools Coalition who entered with the “tools” to drive change. Now I had the why, the how, and the tools to do it. (more…)

Implementing Competency Education with Resolute Leadership

December 11, 2014 by

Dufour and FullanI work for the Sanborn Regional School District in New Hampshire, a district that was an early adopter of a K-12 competency education model, one that is now in its fifth year of implementation. My fellow administrative team members and I regularly receive questions from educators around the country who are looking to implement a similar model in their schools. One of the most popular questions we receive is, “What kind of leadership is necessary from district and school-based administrators in order to effectively implement a competency education model?” When I am asked this question, I am reminded of a passage in Dufour and Fullan’s (2013) book on sustaining reform, known as Resolute Leadership:

“Ultimately, the most important factor in sustaining reform is the willingness of leaders at all levels to demonstrate resolute leadership in the face of adversity. Resolute leaders anticipate opposition and honor opponents rather than vilify them. They don’t quit in the face of resistance. They don’t become discouraged when things don’t go as planned. They don’t divert their attention to pursue the newest hot thing. They stay the course. They demonstrate determination and resilience. They maintain their focus on core goals and priorities, and they continue to work, year after year, on improving the system’s ability to achieve those goals, but they are also open to innovations that might enable them to go deeper. More than ever, our educational systems need leaders with the collective efficacy that enables them to persist in the face of problems, plateaus, and paradoxes.” (more…)

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