How High Schools become Exemplary

  • On 2010-10-07
  • 21st century learning, coaching, education, exemplary high schools, high school, professional development, school, speed of trust, stephen covey

I just finished scanning through a fascinating report that I think is worthwhile reading by Secondary School teachers and administrators about “How High Schools become Exemplary”. Now while it is focussed in the United States (and I actually don’t think too much of their educational school structure … and that’s a loooong story there) I think the analysis carried out in this report has some fabulous insights for Australian Secondary Colleges.

Here is an excerpt from the abstract that I am thinking about:

“The main lesson from the presentations was that student achievement rose when leadership teams focused thoughtfully and relentlessly on improving the quality of instruction. Core groups of leaders took public responsibility for leading the charge to raise achievement. Stakeholders crafted mission statements that later helped keep them on track; planned carefully, sometimes with outside assistance, for how they would organize learning experiences for teachers; clearly defined criteria for high quality teaching and student work; and implemented in ways that engaged their whole faculties. As they implemented their plans, these schools carefully monitored both student and teacher work in order to continuously refine their approaches.

Leadership teams succeeded initially because they used their positional authority effectively to jump-start the change process. Then they built trust. More specifically, they demonstrated commitment through hard work and long hours; they studied research-based literature to expand their knowledge and competence; they persevered to follow through on the promises they made; and they found ways to remain respectful of peers, even when asking them to improve their performance. In these ways, leadership teams earned the respect of their colleagues and the authority to push people outside their comfort zones. With cultivated competence and earned authority, they were able to help their colleagues overcome the types of fear and resistance that so often prevent effective reforms in American high schools. All these schools remain works in progress, but they are not typical. Their stories convey critically important principles, processes, and practices that can help high schools across the nation raise achievement and close gaps.”

The report can be downloaded here How High Schools Become Exemplary

This summary reflects completely the work that we are doing in two realms – coaching schools and coaching companies.

We are working with a couple of schools to assist their year 7 teacher teams to redesign the way they approach educating new high school students. Year 7 is a critical year for a student as they come from their primary school communities to a new high school community made up of many smaller groups. Year 7 thus begins as a mish-mash culture that needs to be created and built right from the moment they walk in. However, if the language and the schools’ approach is not consistent this can lead to many transitional challenges as well as poorer learning outcomes. So the work we have been doing with these schools and colleges is to have them identify what is the culture they wish to create and then how are they going to develop it in every aspect of the educational life of the students. From this point we support them in developing classes, rubrics, and curricula that reinforces the culture and language used through out the year level. The process is remarkable and what we are finding is that it ignites the willingness of the teachers to experiment and think from empowering the whole (not just the individual).

Which then leads us to the domain of coaching the company. I discovered a fabulous book through the year as I was coaching a particular financial company called the Speed of Trust (by Stephen M.R. Covey – son of the “Effective Habits” Covey). Stephen Covey clearly and simply articulates the power of building trust and creating trust at the personal, relationship, organisational, market and societal levels. The ideas contained in the book have assisted us in transforming the culture of the company and doubled its profit in the past year. The comment made in the abstract quoted at the start of this blog reflect exactly what Covey was saying. As trust grows so does productivity.

In schools, if we are building a culture, one of the questions we need to be asking is “How are we building trust amongst the teachers, administrators, parents, students, and the community?” Fundamental action taken to build trust will create an extraordinary school.

What do you think?

 

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