It’s the question that has been asked for decades:  How do you eat an elephant?  With the answer – One bite at a time!  That holds true for moving a system.  It’s a slow process but all members must understand why we must do this work, where we currently are, and what will guide our work.  This knowledge builds a foundation for action.

So why must we do this work?  We know students are different than they were ten years ago.  Technology has changed the game.  They have instant access to facts that was not possible years ago – unless you were carrying around a set of encyclopedias.  This necessitates that the focus becomes what they do with those facts.  How can they apply it to the real world?  How can they recognize it in literature, non-fiction, and media?  How do facts influence world problems and solutions?  The why of our system work becomes – preparing students for success in the world as productive, compassionate citizens using their talents and passions to improve their part of the world… or as many words as you want to describe our vision.  Bottom line – high achievement for ALL – all students and all educators in our system.

Where are we currently?  For lack of better measures, the state and our community judge our work on the data that was presented at our March district PD day – graduation rates, Iowa Assessment scores, FAST scores, ACT scores, and National Clearinghouse data.  The question becomes – how do we move from where we are to the next level?  How do we become focused in our buildings and classrooms on a small amount of changes that will enhance student achievement?  Not working harder or adding more but rather being very focused and intentional on what we are doing.  That can only happen through collaboration in our teaching teams, in our buildings, and across our district.  Each of us must have the same focus – how does what I do in the classroom and in my building affect learning across our district?  We must continue with laser focus to examine who has learned and who has not, share in our teams or with other teachers, and seek ways with our team to provide interventions and ways to provide enrichments.

What will guide our work?  What will guide our work are the concepts found in High Reliability Schools (HRS) by Marzano. As a reminder, those five levels are:  1. Safe and collaborative culture, 2. Effective teaching in every classroom, 3. Guaranteed and viable curriculum, 4. Standards-referenced reporting, and 5. Competency-based education.  As was mentioned in PD, a “safe and collaborative culture” and “effective teaching in every classroom” create the foundation upon which we will build our system.  How do we develop those levels across our district?  That will be the focus of our work as we collaborate with each other and AEA support personnel in April and May.

How do we change a system?  One step at a time.  Get ready for the journey!