Becoming part of the AASA Learning 2025 demonstration initiative gives school districts opportunities for mentorship and support, several panelists said at an AASA conference session on Friday in San Antonio.
Bill Daggett, founder of both the Successful Practices Network and International Center for Leadership in Education, encouraged superintendents to join the network of rapidly improving school districts. He shared an interest form for audience members to get involved in the network.
Daggett explained that having a whole-learner focus and emphasis on diversity was necessary to adapt to a changing education system.
“We, as educators, no longer look like the very students we are trying to educate,” he said. “We are not reflective, as a profession, of our student population and we need to bring more diversity into our classroom and administrations.”
The Learning 2025 demonstration districts provide cohort services, strategic planning support and recommendations for instruction.
Daggett was accompanied by Valerie Greenhill, vice president of Battelle for Kids in Columbus, Ohio, and Calvin Watts, superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia. Gwinnett is one of the largest school districts in the nation with 142 schools and over 180,000 students, and Watts has implemented inclusivity practices in his rapidly changing community.
“While diversity is a fact, what can cause challenges is when we don't provide opportunities for those individuals who might be different to connect and engage with one another,” Watts said. “Inclusion has to be an intentional act.”
Watts outlined the competencies of empathy, collaborative leadership, communication, critical thinking and resourcefulness – along with the pillars of equity, effectiveness and excellence – of his strategic blueprint.
“There’s no simple solution to a complex problem,” the superintendent said.
Greenhill added to the conversation with the idea that progress is a “continuum,” and the network can help districts prepare for students’ futures instead of the past.
“There is no cookie-cutter way to do this work,” Greenhill said. “Not everyone starts at the same level.”
The panelists opened the conversation to the audience of superintendents to voice their opinions. Audience members proposed the ideas of engaging school boards, sharing best practices and doing site visits by Learning 2025 districts.
(Emma Siebold is a reporting intern for AASA’s Conference Daily Online and a senior and editor-in-chief of the Smithson Valley High School newspaper in Spring Branch, Texas.)