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July 10, 2011

More committed than ever!

by Chris Lindholm

“These highly effective superintendents avoided initiative fatigue by stipulating that building the capacity of staff to function as professional learning communities was not one of many strategies for improving student achievement but instead represented the district strategy for accomplishing that goal” (Learning By Doing, pg. 209).  The message was repeated over and over again at the Solution Tree PLC Conference in Minneapolis, MN this past week.  Districts that achieve significant improvement in student achievement across the entire system are led by leaders who demand tightness to the adult behaviors described in the PLC framework – I have made my commitment to this work very clear in previous posts.  No distractions.  No magic bullets.  No shiny objects pitched as “the answer.”  It boils down to committing to our mission of student learning and holding every single decision or behavior up to that mission to evaluate if it is indeed aligned.  So…  Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? 

Becoming a learning organization that lives out the behaviors of a PLC is a journey of continuous improvement, and our community in ISD191 is well underway.  This summer we have leadership teams in every school working to create improvement plans focused on student learning and the adult learning necessary to deliver on those goals.  In August our District Leadership Team will come together to begin  leading the journey of researching what great schools do and analyzing where we fall short of those behaviors or characteristics across the district.  As an entire community, our years ahead will be focused on 4 simple questions:

  • What do we want all students to know and be able to do?
  • How do we know if they know it or can do it?
  • How will we actively engage every learner?
  • What will we do if we teach it and a student still cannot demonstrate mastery – or if a student can demonstrate mastery before we start teaching it?

My promise to all ISD191 staff is to stay focused on/committed to the questions of being a PLC and to avoid other district-wide initiatives that distract us from the right work.  We will insist upon meaningful teacher teams in every building that focus intently on the same four questions and expect leadership in every building to model a laser-like focus on student learning.  Late starts, half day PD sessions, faculty meetings, and team meetings have the same agenda.  We will be tight on our commitment to empowering teachers to do the right work. 

So where do we start?  We start with our mission or purpose = public education was created to produce student learning.  Unlike in the past when average citizens could count on a successful middle class lifestyle with little education, today we are charged with ensuring that EVERY student is well-educated and ready for the 21st century economy.  Our journey now begins with a district-wide dive into the research on the behaviors, actions , and decisions of schools and districts producing excellent results on this mission.  So who are these schools/districts and what are they doing?  Roll up your sleeves, jump in, and let’s find out!!

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