Lifelong Learner & Reflective Practitioner

Lifelong Learner & Reflective Practitioner

Let's Transform Our Schools Into TRUE Professional Learning Communities

Let's Transform Our Schools Into TRUE Professional Learning Communities
In Your School- Do all stakeholders subscribe to the belief that EVERYONE has something to learn and EVERYONE has something to teach? This blog can help you gain insight on how to facilitate this transformative mindset with your faculty!

Apr 8, 2010

Urban School Reform

I have been reading a lot of literature dealing with urban school reform efforts lately, as well as talking to people who are going through reform or who have been through some type of reform initiative. Based on my extensive review of the research on comprehensive school wide reform and my discussions with peers, this post represents a brief overview of some of the things that I view as essential for success.

Participatory Decision Making and Facilitative Leadership

Making teachers partners in the decision-making process from the outset creates a natural accountability that positively influences the implementation of the reform efforts and is essential to achieving successful classroom-level changes; teachers who, conversely, perceive top-down decision making are more apt to resist any restructuring effort. Reform is most successful when schools have decision-making autonomy and the leadership team fosters participatory decision-making processes. In graduate school, I learned how to use processes like the Fist to Five, the Delphi, and sticky dots to make decision-making more democratic. These things typically work well and secure buy-in among the faculty and staff.

Paradigm Shifts, Increased Self Awareness, and Collaboration

Schoolwide reform requires a new vision of professionalism, where teachers assume a major role and responsibility for the school. It necessitates making fundamental changes in the way instruction is provided, and, usually, redefining roles and relationships, reconsidering allocation of control and resources, and managing conflict effectively. Implementation of the most ambitious models may extend over several years, depending on both school factors and the complexity of the model; it requires teachers to focus on multiple goals, such as governance changes, collaborative planning, and fundamental changes in curriculum and instruction.

Effective Allocation of Resources

Providing teachers with adequate resources for implementation, such as materials, professional development, and time for planning, increases their support. Districts that give more money to schools for professional development and teacher planning tend to have more success. Not only are resources important in themselves, but their allocation is a key mechanism by which teachers judge the commitment of the school's leadership to the reform. Having adequate time for all the work involved has been a consistent and primary frustration for teachers trying to implement school reforms. They need time for training, curriculum development, preparation, and planning, and for interactions with other teachers. Some teachers have, in fact, noted that time for meeting as a team was critical to the model's effectiveness.

Focus on Professional Development

Professional development is at the heart of school change efforts. The leadership team needs to be keenly aware and supportive of the fact that teachers in the same school vary significantly in what they need for growth. Teachers in restructuring schools report a preference for frequent training and the opportunity to observe other teachers who are implementing similiar initiatives. Professional development tailored to their specific needs is the most helpful, as are models that provide substantial information about implementation. I believe that on-site embedded professional development is most beneficial. I think it's also a really good idea to encourage teachers to particpate in leading the PD sesssions.

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