Audio File - Tape 2 of 2
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Text Transcript of Tape 2
Narrator: This is tape two of "Six Strategies for Implementing School Reform." On tape one, Dr. Shirley Hord described six research-based strategies for the successful implementation of comprehensive school reform. On this tape, we will hear from individuals at the national and local levels who have experience putting these six strategies into practice. They will provide insights into what schools have done to successfully implement comprehensive school improvement efforts.
As we discussed in tape one, the first strategy to successfully implement school reform is that of creating an atmosphere and context for change. Schools must first establish and acknowledge a clear need for reform. Once this need is recognized, it is important for teachers and principals to develop a collaborative atmosphere where they can learn together--where they can learn new skills required by the reform process; where they can discuss instruction and student achievement; and where they can voice their opinions and concerns that arise in the reform process. The collaborative atmosphere fosters learning and trust. Dennis Sparks, the Executive Director of the National Staff Development Council, and a powerful advocate for effective implementation of reform through high quality professional development, talks about how important it is for teachers and principals to trust one another.
Dennis Sparks: "A trust between the faculty and the principal and among teachers is essential. Usually that trust is established over some time as people take small risks, see that those risks have been manageable, and then take a little bit larger risks. I think the key to that trust is that people feel they're going to be listened to, that they're going to be respected, and the their views are going to be seriously considered as part of decisions about the improvement process."
Narrator: The concept of school improvement and school change implies risk because teachers and administrators will be doing things differently. Dr. Margarita Calderon, a researcher and specialist in bilingual literacy who works with many schools across the country that choose to implement the Success for All program, explains how risk and experimentation are important in the implementation process and in creating an atmosphere conducive to change.
Margarita Calderon: "Everyone needs to be given permission to experiment, fail, fall flat on their faces every once in a while, but then say oops, and just get up and keep going again. But there has to be a climate, a context of experimentation. Without creating that context of experimentation, they're not apt to admit that they've failed. And so this is also part of the vision that, yes, we're going to go through lots of hills and valleys, but we're in this together and we're going to help each other throughout this process. Year one, year two, year three, whatever it takes."
Narrator: This climate of trust and experimentation is the foundation for making a commitment to change. Once the foundation is in place, the commitment to change will be evident throughout the school. Dennis Sparks describes what the commitment to change may look like in a school.
Dennis Sparks: "I think that teachers and principals demonstrate commitment to change by the daily behaviors and daily conversations that they engage in. They are, as a part of their work talking with one another about the things that they're trying to improve, giving one another feedback. They're talking about learnings that they're acquiring from outside the school and workshops or reading or meetings that they attend. They're just a regular part of faculty meetings, in hallway conversations, teacher lounge talk. You'll see student work being, a serious part of teachers' conversation. You'll see the principal at faculty meetings and at parent meetings and at community meetings continually reminding people what the mission of the school is and the progress that they're making together in achieving it."
Narrator: Principals who are committed to change must be regularly available and see that change and school reform are topics that are addressed at all meetings. Wendell Brown, a middle school principal in Lubbock, TX whose school is implementing the AVID program, talks more about this important role that principals play.
Wendell Brown: "Not only is it important to make yourself available to everyone in the organization--that's what the collaborative atmosphere is about and the idea of community within the learning environment. But I think what we really have to do is to let our stakeholders and our teachers know that when we are looking at the future and doing it at a high level and establishing standards, that it is going to take a collective effort."
Narrator: As principals commit to making a change, they can help teachers by reducing extra administrative tasks and allowing them to work and prepare lessons as a team. These teams allow teachers to support and learn from one another as the implementation progresses. They can share experiences and discuss the effect of the new strategies on student learning.
The second strategy for implementing comprehensive school reform is that of developing and communicating a shared vision. Although the principal may take a lead role in building the vision, he or she must build the vision with input from other stakeholders in the school community, especially those involved in the reform effort. Parents are an integral part of creating and maintaining a vision. They are naturally concerned about how and what their children are learning. By getting parents to share the same vision, educators increase the chances of a successful reform effort. According to Sharron Havens, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction in Lonoke, Arkansas where schools are implementing the Onward to Excellence model, the parents' input should be incorporated early on in the reform process:
Sharron Havens: "The parent's perspective of what they want to see happening in that school is really critical, and that information is taken and used in the initial assessment of where we are and where we want to be going."
Narrator: Besides getting input from other stakeholders, there are two other critical components to this strategy. First, educators must create a visual image of the program in action -- a mental image of what will happen when the program is fully implemented. Second, the vision must be continuously shared with teachers, parents, and the entire community. This enables participation as the plan is put into action. Havens talks about what happens when teachers are able to visualize their school in a changed and improved state.
Sharron Havens: "I think the teachers have to know what would this look like, what we'd like to see the kids doing, how would this school be different if we really had the kids achieving at the level we want to have them achieve. And having that vision and keeping that vision in front of the teachers throughout the process, letting them know if we're moving to that particular vision if we are progressing toward that, will continue to drive their work."
Narrator: Dr. Margarita Calderon emphasizes the importance of other members of the school community, such as the board members and the parents, being involved in maintaining the vision along with the teachers and principals. And she stresses the importance of including ALL parents.
Margarita Calderon: All parents, not just the mainstream parents but parents of language minority students. And they become engaged from the beginning by their own exploration of their roles and the opportunities that the school provides for them to get answers to their questions. There needs to be a very strong family support component in any comprehensive school reform project."
Narrator: When a clear vision is in place and shared among teachers, parents and the community, this serves to guide lesson plans and focus instruction on school priorities.
The third strategy for implementing school reform is that of planning and providing resources. After a vision is developed and agreed upon, a comprehensive plan of action must be created in order to achieve that vision. In turn, this action plan must have sufficient resources to make implementation successful. Activities and resources should be clearly spelled out, and aligned to support the vision. There are many approaches that may be taken when developing a plan, and the approach taken may depend upon factors such as the severity of the problems facing the school, the amount of autonomy and flexibility the school has, and the school's context. What is important is that the plan is evolutionary--that it is a roadmap instead of a blueprint. This allows the school to take advantage of unanticipated opportunities and to frequently assess school progress and make changes accordingly. Such an approach means that school data must be used in developing and refining the plan, and that teachers should be involved in the planning process.
Sharron Havens talks more about how teachers become involved in the process.
Sharron Havens: "When teachers begin looking at achievement data and look at the current status of learning in their particular building, I think the realization of how kids are doing brings them to want to do something about student learning. And when they see that there are incidences of particular programs or initiatives that have made a difference in student learning, then they start matching up, this is how our kids are doing, these are some programs that I see, am seeing, that are being successful, and that begins to drive them to want to make those changes."
Narrator: Planning should also involve allocating resources--human and financial--in the most efficient way possible. This may take a lot of creativity on the part of a school's staff. Margarita Calderon says planning teams should be mindful of the time they will need for planning and finding resources.
Margarita Calderon: "I think the plan should include, a variety of resources that they could tap into. And even after a year, I'm sure schools will have found additional resources that they might not even have thought about. And so that's why we recommend that schools begin to plan their reform about a year in advance so that they have ample opportunity to see what kinds of collaborative relationships they can build and how the collaboration with all these different entities will benefit the school."
Narrator: The school district itself can provide a variety of different resources to the school implementing a comprehensive reform program. The first level of support is technical assistance on preparing a plan that is focused and comprehensive. Dennis Sparks talks more about this kind of assistance.
DS 417-423: "Many schools find that they benefit from having somebody from the outside help them in both planning and implementation of school improvement projects. Very often, the person--because he or she is outside the school--can ask questions, and see relationships that people in the school can't see because they're too close to it. Often, the person also has specialized skills or knowledge that can uh, help a school move to, uh, levels of achievement beyond what they would have thought possible originally."
Narrator: Sharron Havens speaks about her individual role as district office personnel in supporting a school's reform program.
Shirley Hord: To support that initiative with human resources, financial resources, is a major part of my role in supporting that school. Collaboration with the principal and those teachers is really important. Trying to follow up and provide additional staff development is also really important in making sure that the teachers have the connections between the research, the best practices that have been identified, and the actual classroom use of that particular initiative.
Narrator: Districts can also provide release time for a principal from a neighboring school to monitor the implementation process. This principal is generally someone who has experience in working with a school improvement team and can serve as something of a critical friend to the other school. Finally, the district can help a school discover underutilized funds or special grants for reform. The office can also help with contract negotiations where needed.
The fourth strategy to successfully implementing school reform is that of investing in professional development. High quality professional development provides for the acquisition of skills and knowledge, opportunities for practice, examples and modeling of new skills, and opportunities for coaching and feedback. One of the first and most important commitments a school must make when it embarks upon professional development is to make time. Teachers must have enough time for training, planning, and reflection. Dennis Sparks emphasizes this vital element of professional development.
Dennis Sparks: "The National Staff Development Council recommends that 25 percent of teachers' time be committed to learning and collaborative work with other teachers. It's really critical that teachers have the time to study and to work together."
Dennis Sparks: "It requires the school kind of putting on the table, opening up for examination all of the assumptions it has made about teacher time issues and about job descriptions, about job assignments and saying let's take the total pool of people that we have available in this school to work with kids, let's reconsider how those people are used so that we can get as close as we can to having 25 percent of teachers' time be spent in learning."
Narrator: With time to learn and practice new skills, teachers seek out opportunities to work together in study groups, action research groups, peer coaching, or curriculum writing teams to collect data, analyze it and reflect on it to improve their teaching.
Dennis Sparks: "One of the most powerful forms of professional development is a group of teachers sitting around a table with their students' work in front of them, talking about what has worked to help kids learn at high levels, what is not working as well, and to give one another assistance about how to get the kids who aren't performing at standard up to that level."
Narrator: School districts and individual schools must be creative in finding the time for professional development and follow-up during the school year. From staff development days to after-school training to summertime scheduling, schools find a variety of ways to answer the need for professional development time. Sharron Havens explains how the Lonoke, Arkansas district approaches this issue.
Sharron Havens: "We encourage our principals to develop initial schedules that allow teachers planning time together, especially teachers who are working in the same content area or grade-level teachers. Even though this may not happen daily, at least once a week, a particular group of teachers are scheduled off during the same time during the day at least for an hour. And they can come together in small groups and either study the particular initiative--it allows them time to do some additional research--or just to collaborate and share how successful a particular strategy is being implemented in their classroom."
Narrator: The impact of professional development can be measured both by what teachers are learning and, more importantly, by how student performance is improving. According to Dennis Sparks, one way professional development can be assessed is through formative classroom assessment.
Dennis Sparks: "Now once the staff development has been implemented and has been going on for a while, it's critical that the school be reflective about "Is it making a difference in practice and in student learning?" The most powerful way I think that occurs is through what's called formative classroom assessment. Teachers would be learning as part of the staff development ways of determining quite quickly whether their kids are learning stuff more efficiently and at a deeper level than they did using the old techniques. So teachers are learning as part of their staff development the classroom assessment techniques that they can use with their kids to see if staff development is truly making a difference. If it is making a difference, they'll know it and it will motivate them to keep going."
Narrator: As implementation progresses, districts can provide schools with information about effective professional development and student achievement data. They can also provide feedback on the practice of new skills and strategies so that schools can gauge the impact staff development is having on classroom performance. Impact can be assessed formally through classroom visitation or informally in discussion groups with teachers. All of this data, including information on how well professional development is affecting student performance, can be used in the fifth strategy: checking progress. This data is an important part of the process, since planning and professional development activities are only as good as the results they produce in the classroom. Dennis Sparks comments on where progress monitoring must begin.
Dennis Sparks: "The very most important thing that a school has to have to be able to check on its progress is really clear goals up front about what it's trying to accomplish. And many schools aren't clear about that. But once there are clear, measurable goals for student learning, then the next step is to look for indicators of that going on regularly, day to day, in the classroom."
Narrator: Implementation progress can be monitored through both formal and informal classroom observations. Dr. Margarita Calderon talks about her experience with formal classroom observations.
Margarita Calderon: "In this particular model that I'm familiar with, we conduct implementation visits three times a year. We visit every single classroom." "Implementation visits with feedback are probably the strongest element in ensuring that there is quality of implementation, that it's actually being implemented and that it's impacting student academic achievement. After these implementation visits, we have meetings with individual teachers or with small groups of teachers to give them feedback. And also to hear from them what their concerns are so that the next day we're able to put together what we call a refresher workshop where we go back and model and talk about all the different things that the teachers were concerned with, as well as those that we observed that needed a little extra help."
Narrator: Trainers and instructional facilitators can provide valuable feedback on both the level of implementation and student progress. Detailed reports can offer insights to principals and teachers on how well the strategies are being put into practice. In addition, teachers can meet regularly with on-site facilitators to talk about their new instructional strategies, about what works and what doesn't. Dennis Sparks describes some of the ways that principals check progress.
Dennis Sparks: "They can, be visible in the hallways and in the classrooms of the school doing walk-throughs of classrooms or more extensive classroom visitations so that they have a sense of the challenges that teachers are facing as they try to implement new strategies and how successful they are in doing that. They can be looking at student work with teachers to see if the work, the quality of the work is changing as a result of the new approaches that are being used. They can look at data from across classrooms--formalized data that may be in the form of standardized tests, attendance information."
Narrator: Several different measures are used to assess student progress including teacher observations and checklists, reading proficiency checks, student writing samples and other examples of student work. Dr. Calderon talks about the importance of monitoring, particularly in schools with bilingual students.
Margarita Calderon: "We've got to set up measures from the beginning to monitor student progress and to determine which are the students that need additional English language development, that need tutoring, that need reading in Spanish versus reading in English, or reading in English instead of Spanish. All of that needs to be an ongoing monitoring process. That's probably the most important factor in ensuring success for every single student in a school."
Narrator: To keep an implementation plan on track, it is imperative that principals have regular meetings with teachers and grade-level teams. Both can work with teachers to assess student progress and provide the necessary support. Most importantly, teacher teams and principals can make adjustments to keep the implementation program on track. Dr. Calderon notes that sharing this responsibility can be very effective.
Margarita Calderon: "When teachers are used to their teachers learning communities where they meet once a week at least for 30 minutes, they themselves can take on the leadership role for sustaining something that works.
Narrator: The sixth and final strategy in implementing reform is that of providing continuing assistance. Sustaining a comprehensive reform effort is difficult and requires a long-term commitment to the entire process and its success. Some schools identify a full-time staff member who is available to teach model lessons, cover a class so that teachers can work together, and provide feedback about the implementation of the model. Problems can and will arise during implementation. If they are addressed immediately and followed by corrective action, the reform program will flourish. When need be, teachers are provided with additional assistance or may visit other teachers who are successfully using the same model. Wendell Brown talks about how and when the support effort may change.
Wendell Brown: "Once you get into the process, even if you've thought things out very carefully and you've tried to lay out a very powerful, positive plan and a long-term plan, you will find that the effort to support the people who are actually delivering it will change. And there's going to be a point where there's what I consider exponential jump within what you're doing. And you're going to need to have experts out there on the wings that will be able to come in and address some issues at a different level than you may have initially anticipated."
Narrator: As implementation progresses, it is important for principals to acknowledge teacher success with celebrations and commendations. Forums such as faculty meetings, PTA meetings, school newsletters and school board meetings provide excellent opportunities to share good news about teacher success. Celebrating successes can help encourage staff members to continue on the path of school reform and improvement. Also required to effectively sustain a reform effort is consistent leadership. This leadership can come in many forms--it may be in the form of a school improvement team that includes key stakeholders in the implementation effort; it may be a principal or superintendent or instructional guide. Dr. Margarita Calderon talks further about what kinds of support teachers need to continue with a reform effort.
Margarita Calderon: "The teachers may have materials, they may have the workshops, they may have a lot of things in place. But it's really the messages from the principal, it's the messages from the central administration that motivate teachers." "The onus is on the leadership. And they set the tone. They model for the teachers. It is their responsibility to set the structures in motion and to keep them in motion."
Narrator: It is critical that principals make sure all the necessary details are in place for teachers. They need to be certain that materials are in place on time, assistance is provided when needed, and data is available and organized so that it can be discussed easily. Some schools even work with a full-time coach to assist teachers in planning, teaching, and providing feedback. Wendell Brown describes how his school works with a coach.
Wendell Brown: "We do have an external coach who has a gift at a variety of different methodologies and strategies and is knowledgeable about several different assessment pieces and is very understanding of the standards that we're using. She can come in and work directly with a variety of teachers whether they're in that first, initial cadre of teachers or anyone else on the campus. Because it is schoolwide. And so that makes it a very, very fundamental piece to have that support and a variety of strategies available for everyone."
Narrator: With continuing support and assistance, implementation can move forward with positive results. Educators can further ensure the progress of the reform goals by paying close attention to both problems and successes.
In this two-tape series, you have heard from researchers and practitioners about proven strategies that can help you implement comprehensive school reform effectively. A companion booklet enclosed with this tape series summarizes the key strategy points. It also provides discussion questions and a list of resources that can guide you in your implementation efforts.
For additional copies of this 2-tape set and to learn more about the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program, please contact the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in Austin, Texas at 1-800-476-6861 or go to the web site at www.sedl.org.
Dennis Sparks: "Young people only go through school once. They deserve--some people would even say they have the right--to learn to read and do mathematics and learn social studies and see themselves as competent learners. They're only going to make that journey once. And it's our obligation, I believe, as educators to make certain that that's the very best experience that those kids can have. So that means we have to engage in systemic, deep change at every level of the organization--in the district office and in schools. That means changes in leadership practices, changes in teaching, changes in curriculum, changes in assessment. And there's just no way we can do what we need to do for all of the kids who are in our schools today unless we approach change with that degree of seriousness of intention."
End of transcript of Tape 2.