Too many school improvement initiatives dive immediately into reforms of learning approaches or processes.
This is skipping steps.
Defining your school’s Identity and a Vision for Student Readiness must come before big school change initiatives. These two anchors:
- Form a framework for smart decisions on structures, policies, and approaches to learning.
- Help close the opportunity gap that has held low-income and ESL students back.
- Head off wasteful spending on incoherent reform efforts that fail and get scrapped.
- Result in much greater success in producing graduates prepared for college, career, and life.
Inflexion’s approach is grounded in organizational change theory, ongoing research, and practical results. We recommend starting by working with school leadership teams to engage the entire community of stakeholders—teachers and other staff, families, community members, students—to clearly define desired outcomes and a unique identity for the school. We call these the two anchors. Together, they provide necessary clarity and support for other changes which may be needed to improve student outcomes.
ANCHOR ONE: Shared Vision for Readiness
School leaders need to define and communicate the holistic set of skills that ALL students need for success after high school. These incorporate interpersonal, intrapersonal, and metacognitive skills and go beyond simply stating desired student outcomes. Focusing on these skills also provides clarity about the role of teachers and content in achieving success.
ANCHOR TWO: School Identity
School leaders must gather input from community stakeholders and create statements that quickly and easily communicate the values and beliefs that are important to the school. They also underscore the community’s shared vision for readiness. These “Life Ready Maxims” are short, memorable, distinctive, and enduring to your school, and can be graphically integrated with your logo and colors to appear in lobbies, in classrooms, and on school stationery. By identifying and reinforcing a clear sense of identity, the maxims build community and empower school leadership teams to drive the type of organizational change that ensures schools meet the interests, aspirations, and needs of ALL students.
ALIGN AND REVISE Key Systems and Structures
Once schools establish the necessary—but often missing—anchors of a Shared Vision for Readiness and School Identity, schools can revise their key systems to support the learning environment and align their structures and learning practices to better meet the needs of historically underserved and marginalized students.
“We are making decisions that impact and change a student’s life forever, and if you don’t have something that you can adhere to as a school, then what are you basing those decisions on?”
– Dr. Courtney Robinson,
Ocean View High School Principal