A Culture of Systemic Change

The Texas Comprehensive Center helps the state's regional education service centers adopt a more comprehensive approach to school improvement.

Photo of students in a classroom. SEDL's Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC) works with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the state's 20 regional education service centers (ESCs) to provide professional development, research-based resources, and technical assistance to support districts and schools in need of improvement.

In 2008, TXCC staff continued to incorporate SEDL's Working Systemically approach to school improvement into their work. The Working Systemically approach helps districts and schools move from a patchwork and fragmented improvement process to a more coherent way of operating. TXCC staff introduced the Working Systemically approach in 2007 as a way to guide education leaders toward best practices in school improvement. "We saw people attending a workshop here and there, but it didn't have a lasting impact because the effort was limited to one or two people," says SEDL project director D'Ette Cowan. "We knew that schools and districts needed a more comprehensive approach."

"They're seeing connections between school and district improvement plans. From the classroom to the district level, you see people working toward the same goal."

D'Ette Cowan, SEDL project director

Education leaders can use Working Systemically for any targeted area of improvement—literacy, math, or improving learning opportunities for ELL students, to name a few. The systemic improvement strategy focuses on three main components. First, the improvement effort involves all the levels within the local educational system—classroom, school, and district—as well as within intermediate agencies and state education agencies. Second, education professionals at all levels work to align critical educational components, including standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment, as well as resources, professional staff, policy and governance, and family and community engagement. Finally, educators develop and hone competencies needed for improvement within the system: creating coherence; collecting, interpreting, and using data; ensuring continuous professional learning; building relationships; and responding to changing conditions.

By 2008, all of the ESCs had become familiar with Working Systemically and many were beginning to implement it. TXCC staff supported these efforts through monthly phone calls, site visits, and video conferences. TXCC staff continue to stress that Working Systemically is a long-term process and that lasting school improvement requires more than a one-time in-service or professional development session.

Photo of teachers participating in a discussion. Some ESCs who are following the Working Systemically process are beginning to see results. "They're seeing connections between school and district improvement plans," says Cowan. "There's deeper dialogue and collaboration. From the classroom to the district level, you see people working toward the same goal."


Working Systemically Facilitator’s Guide

Photo of the product Working Systemically in Action. Responding to a demand for resources and tools for school improvement, SEDL staff also published Working Systemically in Action: A Guide for Facilitators in 2008. The publication contains the research base that frames the Working Systemically process, a step-by-step guide for education leaders who want to use this approach, and a CD-ROM with electronic files for all of the tools and handouts included in the guide—all of which support long-term school improvement and increased student achievement.

For more information, visit www.sedl.org/ws.