Change Management – #Engage109 represents 2nd order change

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
– Neale Donald Walsch

journey

My work as a school leader brings me to change management often. From graduate school, to post doctoral leadership programs I have received a great deal of information about change management. Often I use a graphic from the Satir Model of change to illustrate the processes related to the systems view of change.

In this model shown in the image below, change is indicated as the “foreign element” intorduced into the system. Following this change or foreign element, there is chaos in the system.

 

 

This “chaos” is critical to the management of that particular change. How the change is managed determines success or failure with respect to that which is being sought. In education, as an “industry” we have often been criticized (justified in my opinion) for resisting change. TTWWADI “twadiddy” or That’s The Way We Always Do It are words that kill change – they are words that stymie change – these are words that have negative impacts on organizations including educational organizations. In the Deerfield Public Schools we have embarked on many changes since July 1, 2013.

 

 

 

 

The first change, the un blocking of Twitter on July 1, 2013, set in motion many more foreign elements that have had profoundly powerful impacts on learning and teaching for more than 3000 students, 250 teachers, 450 employees, 1850 families, and the more than 20,000 residents of the communities the District Serves. Twitter powerfully opened up the minds, hearts, creative communication skills, narrative about schooling, and branding for the school district. In 2013, it was the superintendent, assistant superintendent and a few principals leading the charge.

Some innovative, courageous teachers took the risk of using Twitter as well for professional growth, professional communication, personal learning, and for communicating about their classroom work in ways never before imagined. The foreign element of Twitter caused a bit of chaos: Some initial questions …

are we really allowed to use this? are we allowed to post photos? what if people get negative? how much time do I have to spend on this? what if I make a mistake? may I use a hashtag, etc.?

The Technical, or First Order Change, of using Twitter was fun, easy, inventive, exciting, and new. Four years later, the Adaptive, or Second Order Change, is that #Engage109 is a powerful, deliberate, intentional, and globally recognized brand of the Deerfield Public Schools. The change is not Twitter, a tool, the change is systems communication. The change is strategic and deliberate communication. The use of Twitter as one of the multiple changes, tools, representations of what we value in DPS109, is part of the bigger picture – the mindset shift that celebrates and normalizes digital, social media communication as a normal and regular part of our work.

For more on 1st/2nd order change, visit: http://www.bercgroup.com/1st-and-2nd-order-change.html, and see image/photo below:

 

 

 

For context,

Prior to 2013 there was no Twitter in DPS109.

Prior to 2013 there was no Digital Footprint for DPS109.

Prior to 2013 communication was not digital – it was traditional.

In less than four years, second order change, implementation of systematized, deliberate, and intentional communication with Twitter as a tool, mode and delivery system has transformed the view of Twitter, Social Media, Communication, #Engage109, and branding as a whole.

Change management is complex, challenging, frustrating, requires relationships, communication and accountability, and it’s the only work that makes lasting impact – in our case – on the future!

Do you have examples of change in your organization?
What else should change in schooling?

All comments are always welcome!

 

Khan Academy Leader on Mastery Learning – #Engage109


“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

– Jack Welch

I’m a longtime fan and supporter of Sal Khan and his Khan Academy. Khan started his “education empire” by helping a cousin overseas with math instruction. Then the world changed, the desire for his expertise changed, and pretty much anyone at anytime can learn – for FREE. All you need is drive, desire, and the internet connection. The subjects and topics have grown from math to pretty much everything (see image below). FREE – access for all – 24/7. This is our world today – anyone, anytime, anything at our fingertips. 

A few years ago when I was the superintendent of schools at a small school district near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport (Pennoyer School District 79 in Norridge), we experimented with the Khan Academy in 2nd grade math. It was our first foray into “1:2 computing” – we did not have the funds for one device per student, but we had the funds for one device for two students and we made it work! The courageous teachers, Melissa and Samantha did a fabulous job of demonstrating grit, perseverance, and growth mindset by shifting their construct and concept of math and by changing their instruction to meet the needs of modern 21st Century learners.

In many ways Khan and his modern work have revolutionized access, digital power, transformation, and an entire mindset shift of what education is and can be – and should become. A lot of the work I have been writing about lately is stated far more eloquently and articulately by Sal Khan!

Earlier this year I participated in a book study with Kipling School and their faculty where we took a chapter, topic, concept, and wrote reflections. The other day I was reading Pioneering from the Education Reimagined group, and I came across a 2016 video from Khan that relates to recent posts as well as current events in the Deerfield Public Schools District 109. Our journey is powerful and we have written a number of articles about successful change management and growth for staff and students. Our journey continues – the road from good to great does not end at great – it only continues to stay great.

His messages are powerful, his approaches make sense, Khan is the present and the future! Please check out his video and share any comments.

Assessment is far more than a grade – A caring teacher’s impact on me

 

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
– Benjamin Franklin

 

With President’s Day approaching (February 20, 2017) I thought it would be a good time to share some thoughts about how a college professor from an undergraduate course on the American Presidency from many years ago impacted my life and my professional journey. A journey that currently has some powerful meaning/relevance with our district’s move to standards based grading and reporting at the middle school. With this blog post, I’ll draw the connections!

As a former 6th and 8th grade social studies teacher (U.S. history, civics, law, world history, reading, etc.) I have a deep interest in our nation’s culture, history, values, beliefs, celebrations, etc. In addition, I hold a degree in political science, so I have been a “policy wonk” for many years, and to this day I follow the news, politics, etc. With President’s Day approaching I am reminded of the powerful impact a professor’s act of kindness and care from many years ago and from an undergraduate course on the American Presidency.


While I was a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, UIC, I had some of the best teachers in my life. The late Dr. Twiley Barker Jr., Dr. Kevin Lyles, and Dr. Andrew McFarland, to name a few. During a course on the American Presidency, POLS 229, an event took place in my life that impacted my philosophies, beliefs, and actions as a teacher and educational leader over the past 25 years. In some ways it likely shaped my philosophies and impact as a teacher and as an educational leader so many years later. Right now there is a current challenging transition from percentage grades to standards based grades at the middle school level in my district. Looking back at my personal educational history, I’m reminded of why meaningful feedback, teacher /student relationships, and the mastery of content and the flexibility of instruction supersedes any percentage grade or mark in terms of meaningful feedback and communication about learning.


In our district right now we are engaged in a transformation/change process with learning, teaching, grading, reporting and assessing. The implementation of standards based grading, reporting and assessment is ongoing in our school district; there were pretty much no problems when we made the change at the elementary school level (K-5) four years ago.


This is the first year of the middle school implementation of the standards based system, the transition is challenging in part because there is confusion and inconsistency as well as the fact that it is change and that in and of itself causes challenges.

One of the cornerstones of transitioning to standards based learning, grading, etc. is the mindset shift and the concept shift. For example, with the concept shift of instructional change, the zero goes away. The concept of NO MORE ZERO grades and the concept of mastery (or do-over) becomes the focus. Grades/reporting/assessment results are NOT used for “responsibility” or “reward” or “preparation for the next level in education”, instead grades/reporting/assessment results are used to communicate what is learned, what needs to be learned and what is next to be learned. With this blog post, I’m reflecting on the congruity of an impactful event in my life during an undergraduate course, and the realization that this impactful event has impacted my beliefs whether I consciously knew about it or not. This is an “aha” moment for me – this is partially why I so strongly believe the growing pains and transition are worth the time, effort, energy, and extra work involved in the middle school standards based grading situation.


Change is hard (I’ve written a lot about the change process) – Unlearning is hard (I have also written about this concept).

My college professor Dr. Andrew McFarland gave me a chance in the “real world” -when I was in college. Because he knew me, he knew what kind of student I was – he knew my passion for political science he treated me like I was more than a percentage or a score. Dr. McFarland also taught so that students would learn. He had high standards for each and every student and he held himself to high standards too.

So what is this all about? What is this big event that caused me an “aha” moment? Dr. McFarland called me one night while I was eating dinner with my parents; it was 5:30pm – I don’t know how I remember this fact, but I do. This event took place in 1988 or 1999 and I still vividly remember our call!

He called me that night because earlier that day when I took the final exam, I inadvertently forgot to answer one or two additional questions. If Dr. McFarland graded or assessed based on the “old” system I would have received an F. Dr. McFarland, though, was using standards based learning and instruction (whether he or I knew it or not). He called me on the phone and asked me to respond to the final exam question prompts – for 30 maybe 60 minutes. Because he cared about learning – not about percentages or “harsh” lessons, I was able to demonstrate mastery and competency of the American Presidency course (in which I did earn an A, not only because of what I learned, but more importantly, because my professor cared about discovering what his students knew).

He assessed my knowledge acquisition in an alternative learning setting because my teacher was more concerned about assessing my learning and mastery than he was about issuing a grade or a percentage. Had this caring professor used traditional methods I would have failed the exam. In my opinion and in my experiences, standards based grading, reporting, learning, and assessment actually prepares people for real life by holding them accountable to learn. Thank you Dr. McFarland!


You see, opponents to mastery grading, or standards based grading & reporting systems think the “old” 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50 percentage system somehow makes sense (it does not) and somehow prepares people for “the real world” (it does not) or prepares them for high school/college.

Well it doesn’t do any of that; but it’s hard for people to unlearn what they know and what they think they know.

It’s hard for people to accept new research studies and effects when those new studies and effects are different than what they experienced.


Our district will transition and in partnership with parents, teachers, administrators, and students, we will do what is best for students. I’m grateful to a wonderful college professor who made a lasting impact on me. A teacher’s impact is lasting and forever; let’s use grades, reporting, and assessment to build strong learned people. Let’s use modern instructional strategies to maximize the impact and effect. Let’s help people unlearn practices that make no sense other than to have been used in their past school experiences. Preparing students for the future world requires teaching them content that is meaningful in learning environments that are powerfully purposeful and full of clear, regular, meaningful feedback and opportunities to learn and demonstrate learning.

Unlearning Leader – Podcast Interview – EduTalk Radio

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
– A.A. Milne

The Unlearning Leader: Leading Schools for Tomorrow Today is about how today’s leaders need to connect for success. The premise of this book is that we all need to unlearn. In order to change and prepare for tomorrow, the authors submit that much of what leaders have learned must be unlearned as we aim to create a new tomorrow for our nation’s children.

The learning purposes of this book include:

  • Energize people to think, act, and lead differently
  • Embody innovative mindsets
  • Model and share new ways of leading from within the organization
  • Put forth the power and positive impact and legacy for leadership
  • Unlearn old truths to lead in new ways
  • Leverage connection opportunities like #suptchat to lead and learn for tomorrow

The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today is a book that will make a difference. Unlearning implies relearning, and that relates to change. The once constant in education today is change. Leaders must know how people learn, communicate, and think. Nick and Mike are energetic, innovative, creative experts in promoting effective leadership that embraces today’s vastly different environment. This book is not an option – it is fundamental to building educational attitudes and behaviors that produce exceptional learners.
Jim Burgett, Author, Speaker, President of the Burgett Group, IL Supt of the Year


Please listen to a Podcast interview (below) with me and Nick Polyak (the authors) with

 

The Unlearning Leader: Schools for Tomorrow Today will include a series of unique elements, including:
(a) Reflection questions that will generate thought and conversation around each chapter;

(b) a unique end of chapter feature SUPTCHAT: Stop, Understand, Plan, Think –where suggested actions and reflected questions will help readers take action and connect with various Twitter chat communities

(c) a relationship between new learning and leading methods related to the five exemplary practices of leadership, evidence based practices from Kouzes & Posner

(d) Chapter Featurettes – guest commentary from successful educational leaders at the end of each chapter. This provides additional voices on the topics on unlearning.

Addressing Equity -Opportunity- Acceleration for All #Engage109

“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.” – Winston Churchill
 

In the Deerfield Public Schools, District 109, we have decided to make a change to mathematics program delivery models starting in

ENGAGE, INSPIRE, EMPOWER

the 2017-18 school year in the 6th grade. We are going to eliminate “regular math” and offer “accelerated math” for all.

We engaged in a comprehensive review of our own student performance (status, growth, standardized test results) data and decision making processes. We also consulted with our research analytics partners, the ECRA team, as well as board members, we are confident that the right steps moving forward involve changing the math delivery model in 6th grade. We also made this decision after speaking with district and building administrators and a comprehensive review of research and data.

This equitable math curriculum delivery model change is based upon a substantial body of educational research, two years of our student performance data analyzed by professional psychometricians, and our unified, ongoing desire to create and sustain the most effective and proven structures for student learning possible. 
This decision is also supported by emerging themes of needed differentiation stemming from the input and analysis of the strategic plan information (from more than 1700 people’s input).
  • Strategic Planning Update: Board of Education President Nick Begley commended his fellow Board members and the administrators for a productive strategic planning meeting on Saturday, January 21. Dr. Lubelfeld reported that the District gathered input from more than 1,700 people as part of the process. He explained that the strategic planning process is an opportunity for stakeholders provide guidance to the Board to set the path of the District. The District 109 Board reviewed all the input and worked with ECRA in a half-day workshop to develop a draft plan that  includes the mission, vision, portrait of a graduate, guiding principles, goals and objectives. The administrative team will meet on January 31 to review the objective statements as they begin to plan the action plans to meet the objectives and goals. At the February 13 Committee of the Whole meeting, the Board and administrative team will meet to bring together their work. The final plan will be presented to the Board for action at the March 20, 2017 meeting.

 

As district and building and community leaders,we feel it’s incumbent upon us to design instructional structures that meet the needs of all children and provide equitable educational opportunities for all students. The current delivery model is providing barriers to access for some students, denying them the best opportunity to successfully master grade level standards.
The fact that less than 27% of 6th grade students enrolled in regular math for the past two years met minimum standards is simply unacceptable. We are not assigning blame to any teachers, of course, yet we are also not willing to make excuses for these results or overlook these results.
In our local situation, we discovered that sixty two students were enrolled in regular math (over the past few years) yet they had similar historical achievement levels to 32 students in accelerated math.  The 32 students in accelerated math grew at higher rates than the 62 students in regular math.
 
The issues surrounding how to best meet the needs of students is part of a broader look at education in general. Over the years, most recently through John Hattie’s meta-analysis of school studies, researchers have “proven”/found” that various instructional methods and organizational approaches have differing effects on student learning. Hattie’s findings relating to ability-based grouping are simply not encouraging.
 
In considering changing the model of 6th grade math offerings, members of the administration have reviewed and studied an abundance of research related to tracking, ability grouping, and instruction. In addition, the partnership with ECRA Group has allowed us to review and analyze multiple points of local student performance data over the past few years in each “program.”
 
Sharing one of many videos about ability grouping – causing us to pause, think, and “unlearn” for children – ALL children!

Our 6th grade math model moving forward calls for four sections of accelerated math on each middle school team with TAP (our gifted ed and high achieving track) still remaining separate. We understand that this will be a change for our current sixth grade math teachers.
However, it is worth noting what will not change: 6th grade teachers will move from teaching 4 sections of 6th grade math to 4 sections of 6th grade math with the curriculum map standards (as the “floor” for all students, but the “ceiling” for none) remaining identical to what they are now. The expectation for differentiation is not new, it’s done every day in every K-5 classroom across the district, and it has been happening in our middle school classrooms as well for decades.
 
We believe children must be allowed to show competence and mastery of their grade level standards, and when they do, the teacher must allow them to move beyond in an effort to remove the limits on our students.
 
Finally, this entire change process directly relates to the PLC (professional learning communities) work in which we have been involved. There are four basic questions we all must continuously ask and reflect upon every day:
 
  1. What do we expect our children to know and be able to do? (As mentioned before, with this change the answer will be the same: the 6th grade CCSS for mathematics will be the floor for all students and the ceiling for none).
  2. How will we know if they learned it? (Again, largely nothing will change; we will continue to use MAP, PARCC, DCA, and ongoing daily formative assessment data to monitor our results)
  3. How will we respond when some children do not learn? (Our answer to this question, based on all available data the past two years, is the “why” of this whole movement. This is something we’ve examined extensively and–having done so–determined we must now respond systemically; something must change to determine if we can get better results moving forward)
  4. How will we respond when some students already know/can do? (We want to spend more time on answering this question next year with the acceleration for all model, in which we insist on 6th standards as floor for all, yet the ceiling for none. How can we individualize/personalize 6th grade math instruction to make sure the ceiling is limitless for kids)
 

Internally we shared some of the following background information and resource collection:

There has been a lot of discussion, thinking, review and reflection about the administration’s goal to reduce tracking at the sixth grade math level next year. Our aim is to raise expectations and remove limits to student growth by making all or just about all math (except TAP/gifted) accelerated. Our “acceleration for all” philosophy is driven by research, best practices, literature, experience, professional judgement, resources available to us, and the performance on the achievement test of children in the “regular” class for the past two years. One hypothesis for the poor performance is the ill effects of ability grouping/tracking as has been in place. In addition, the past few years offers us incredible gains and growth – never before seen or experienced in the district. Our student performance K-5 is impacting needed changes in models at grades 6-8.

Please see these videos for perspectives from experts on tracking and ability grouping:

This is a complex and multifaceted issue that tracking alone does not explain. We believe that raising expectations for all students in the current “regular track” will improve student performance.


Additional literature/research information on this well researched topic:

According to Mary Fletcher, there are many benefits to expect when instructional staff are conversant with and dedicated to differentiated instruction and detracking:

  • Differentiation allows more students to feel invested in the lesson, thereby decreasing behavioral problems. Students who previously opted to be viewed as “bad” rather than “stupid” will have their learning needs met and other talents explored, allowing them to drop the “bad” act and become instead a valuable member of the class.

  • Students who might have been considered less intelligent because they learn in a nontraditional way become invaluable contributors to the heterogeneous classroom.

  • Differentiated instruction encourages flexibility. Teachers thus become adept at adapting lessons to fulfill each student’s individual needs.

  • Detracking removes the limits that come with rigid thinking about how learning should and does occur. Fair does not always mean “the same.” For example, allowing a student who struggles with the physical act of writing to type his notes can benefit that student and the rest of the class. Not only does the student get access to the material, but the entire class has a reliable set of notes that can be used for those who were absent. This student now becomes an expert—and essential—note-taker who takes pride in his responsibility and sees himself as a member of the class.

Eliminate the Lowest Track First

There is little doubt that tracking does the most harm to students who are consigned to the lowest track. According to the National Research Council (NRC), low-track classes have an especially deleterious effect on learning, since such classes are “typically characterized by an exclusive focus on basic skills, low expectations, and the least qualified teachers” (Heubert & Hauser, 1999, p. 282).

The preponderance of research regarding low-track classes was so overwhelmingly negative that the NRC concluded that students should not be educated in low-track classes as they are currently designed (Heubert & Hauser, 1999). It makes sense, therefore, to begin by eliminating the classes that do the most harm to students.

Why Ability Grouping Doesn’t Work by Shirley Clarke

Detracking for Excellence and Equity compilation of research findings from several sources

Moving Beyond Tracking by Wm Mathis

From: The Mathematics of Hope: Moving from Performance to Learning in Mathematics Classrooms– Jo Boaler:

Other changes need to happen as well. Mathematics teachers need to stop frequent, timed testing; replace grades with diagnostic feedback (Black et al. 2002; Boaler & Foster 2014); and deemphasize speed, so that the students who think slowly and deeply are not led to believe they are not capable (Boaler, 2014). Perhaps most significantly and most radically, schools should also remove fixed student groupings that transmit fixed mindset messages and replace them with flexible groupings that recognize that students have different strengths at different times (Boaler 2009; Boaler & Foster 2014).

Keeping Track: The Policy and Practice of Curriculum Inequality (Oakes)

Current DPS 109 5th Grade Data to review for Placement Discussions

Potential Resources for teachers:

Jo Boaler’s Online course for Teachers

Why Do Americans Stink at Math by Elizabeth Green

The American Math Crisis– Forthcoming Math Documentary

The Stereotypes that Distort How Americans Teach and Learn Math by Jo Boaler

How Math Should Be Taught – Jo Boaler

When You Believe In Your Students They Do Better -Jo Boaler


As always we welcome comments, thoughts, challenges, examples, etc!