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The pressure is on.
Throughout the country, educators and administrators face increasing pressure to make sure students pass standardized tests and graduate.
Especially at low-achieving schools, teachers are overwhelmed by ever-increasing demands. Staff at many schools feel defensive and demoralized as a result of being unable to meet standards that they
1) didn’t set; and
2) don’t know how to achieve.
The Powerless to Powerful materials describe the lived experience of school transformation. The underlying principles are applicable to any school, and many of the components are generalizable as well.
Schools can benefit from our research-based experience. We’re eager to share it with them in hopes that they, too, can be transformed through lasting change that builds
Conversations between leaders and staff must be intentional and focused. Their purpose is to:
• Create understanding of the current reality
• Facilitate problem solving
• Connects each person’s talents to the vision of the school
• Increase buy-in
• Create a safe environment in which people take risks and become accountable
Leaders create a living plan of action. The plan:
• Integrates what has been learned from the one-on-ones and small groups
• Identifies who is accountable
• Leads to intentional actions and systems that align with and support the work of the staff
• Puts the spotlight on the right problems
Use time wisely as a leader so that schoolwide plans can be
Creating a leadership plan builds relational trust and is the beginning point in healing a school where people feel powerless. Administrators must use their time to lead rather than to “put out fires.”
Engage teachers in developing, implementing, and improving schoolwide and classroom/departmental level systems through action teams. Action teams are small groups that
• Identify their current reality, and
• Design a course of action to attain a newly defined ideal.
Action teams develop a sense of optimism that builds capacity and levels of trust between staff and with administrators. Effective leaders see problems as an opportunity to move toward the mission of the school.
Be relentless in using the correct and simple sources of evidence that drive intentional, continuous improvement of school-wide systems. Improve your school through data-based decision making: Collect appropriate evidence intentionally. Use it effectively:
• In combination with caring relationships
• As a tool for growth rather than as a punishment or evidence of deficiency
Use the school’s collective wisdom to move the school toward the ideal.
Language makes our thinking visible and shapes how we see the world. Use it as a powerful tool that can your school forward to a new ideal. Language used to shape the school’s identity must be
Developing a school-specific language leads to a focus on possibility rather than deficit. It also increases a sense of belonging.
Work with the district office in a way that elicits active support. Put structures in place that allow people to:
• Engage in the problem-solving process
• Develop meaningful leadership plans
• Act intentionally toward the desired outcome
Help district office members focus on their commitment to doing the work in the building. If leaders describe the work clearly to key district office personnel, support will follow.
Support staff often feel alone and underappreciated. Leaders can:
• Listen to the perspective of support staff.
• Act on their wisdom.
• Involve them in the change process while building their capacity.
It is important to remember that support staff have a unique lens on students and the culture of the school and can play key roles in the turnaround process.