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Thought Leaders Focus on Adaptive Change

Susan Enfield, superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Burien, Wash, and her presentation colleague, Joshua Starr, CEO of Phi Delta Kappa International in Arlington, Va., shared creative approaches on leading adaptive change in school districts at an AASA conference session Friday.

The hour-long Thought Leader session encouraged audience members to approach and implement scalable system solutions to improve course instruction. With the rapid changes in America’s political landscape, it is pivotal to keep improving systems to accommodate every student’s needs, Enfield suggested.

“Adaptive change is the kind of change that requires a shift in culture,” explained Susan Enfield, superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Burien, Wash, as she walked across the presentation stage. “That’s when the deep meaningful thought change happens. That’s the change our kids need.”

Starr added this about rethinking how the system works: “Be incredibly explicit when leading transformation or else people won’t get it.”

Outlining the core values of the institution, is critical in making a coherent system that improves student achievement, said Starr, former superintendent in Montgomery County, Md. These values should be public to have the local community support them.

In an example of adaptive change, Enfield described her district implementing the “Name, Strength and Need” initiative to ensure every student is prepared for high school graduation. “Fundamentally, what it’s about is shifting the culture of the district. As adults, we need to get to know our kids and not throw them away,” she added.

Although the results from adaptive change are not immediate, to achieve its maximum effect school districts need to be consistent and use their resources wisely. As a leader, it’s important to make sure you have all the tools needed to deliver. Without them you are unlikely to succeed, Starr added.

In implementing a systemwide reform, the purpose of the project and the people it affects should always be considered. “You can only focus on so many things as a system,” Enfield said. “We’ve got to bring our A-game because that’s what our children need. My challenge to you is to set goals that are achievable for our children.”

(By Kendall Lawson, a junior mass communication major at Xavier University in New Orleans)

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