Panelists at the National Conference on Education in San Antonio said instructional strategies need to look “entirely different” during a Thursday session on school improvement.
Bill Daggett, founder of both the Successful Practices Network and the International Center for Leadership in Education, presented superintendents from three school districts in different stages of creative reform. According to Daggett, instruction should be whole-learner focused, align with community resources and show evidence of learning.
It’s imperative for school districts to approach the process step-by-step, Daggett added, otherwise “when everything is a priority, nothing is.”
That’s especially important in uncertain times, as with the mental health issues and workplace shortages resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, which Daggett said created a continuous “tug of war” between caring for the present and enabling the future.
Jacquelyn Martin, Brian Troop and Dan Bridges served as the superintendent panelists. They were asked to showcase how different districts implement creative curriculum and instruction.
Martin,of the Keystone Central School District in Pennsylvania spoke about preparing citizens for the future. Emphasizing “collective leader efficacy,” she discussed administrative team-bonding tactics and empowering instructional leaders.
According to Martin, instruction focused on personalized learning and student engagement produces “adaptable, lifelong learners.” With help from Daggett’s Successful Practice Network, Martin applied its future-focused framework to sustain her district’s momentum.
Superintendent Brian Troop, of the Ephrate Area School District in Pennsylvania, said the traditional education model does not fit students’ current needs. Troop and his administrative team took inspiration from the film “Most Likely To Succeed” to learn how to align systems and “support humans.”
The process, he said, involves teaching students critical- thinking and cooperation skills. “Content mastery is not a differentiator anymore,” Troop said.
Troop said in developing the portrait of a graduate, educators can determine the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for academic success. In Ephrata, students are encouraged to become part of the learning process. For example, high school students decorate buses and determine their library’s interior design.
Bridges, superintendent of the Naperville Community School District in Illinois, agreed that is it imperative to listen to students in creating a healthy social and emotional learning environment. Focusing as well on instructional mindset and building an inclusive school community led Bridges to push Naperville toward AASA’s Learning 2025 initiative.
His district’s four-point plan for forward-focused, future-driven school reform covers design and implementation, fostering learning, becoming a good steward of resources and considering feedback from the community.
(Emma Siebold is a reporting intern for AASA’s Conference Daily Online and senior at Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas)