Leadership in K-12 education today requires a balance of traditional skills and innovation. If in old days schools could succeed by chance instead of by design.
In an era of volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous conditions, schools’ success can only be achieved with careful and strategical design, according to two presenters who shared research from the Successful Practice Network during an AASA conference session on Saturday.
Ray McNulty, president of the Successful Practice Network, and Bill Daggett, founder and chairman of the International Center for Leadership in Education, shared a framework and specific strategies from the nation’s most rapidly improving school districts for implementing successful, innovative practices that will improve student performance.
“Leadership is a deposition instead of a position,” Daggett told his overflow audience.
According to the center’s research, only a third of all teachers say they have strong motivation to apply new strategies to their teaching practice. Instead of forcing changes, school district leadership should advance the one third of teachers to implement new strategies for making improvements in the school system.
To help guide the work of educators, the center developed a Rigor/Relevance Framework. The highest level of relevance relates to strategies that could be applied to unpredictable, real-world situations, which could help students and teachers to quickly adapt to the new situation.
McNulty shares Daggett’s opinion that individuals with strong motivation and high adaptability levels push the system forward. “The mediocre ones kill us,” McNulty said.
Because of the uncertainty, ambiguity and disruptive thinking present today, school leaders should be open to all criticism and look behind resistance and difficulties to adapt schools to the new era, according to McNulty.
In implementing new strategies in schools, McNulty said a common mistake is the Mount Rainier Syndrome, which means implementation without follow-up. Instead of improvement, the mistake only impedes the development of schools.
“Try training them (teachers) five years or more,” he said.
The last point McNulty made is that the possibilities are in the minds of new teachers. While experts have established mindsets, newcomers could bring fresh perspectives and inspiration to what and how new strategies could work.
(Yingjie Wang is a graduate student in journalism at USC Annenberg School and an intern for AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)