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5 Practices Successful Schools Have in Common

K–12 district leaders need to set goals, work across silos and provide PD and training

Over the past six weeks I’ve facilitated a series of three digital leadership summits in California and worked with more than 150 administrators representing more than 750,000 students. Below are the habits that successful schools most often had in common. Would you say the district you work in is engaging in all five of these? If not, what steps are being taken to ensure the gaps are closed? What would you add to this list?

1. Working across the silos in the organization is a top priority.

These silos can lead to misaligned priorities, lack of information flow, reduced morale and disjointed decision making. They may ultimately contribute to the demise of a productive district culture. In my experience working with hundreds of schools across the U.S., the instructional technology or IT department has great insight and excellent ideas for bridging the gap from technology to education, but they feel constrained because they can’t do anything about it. Read more here.

2. Long-term goals are set, and backward planning is used to ensure goals are met.

Another topic that was discussed quite often was the need for a systematic planning process like the one provided by Future Ready Schools. Too often schools get money, buy a bunch of stuff, put out some fires and then start planning year two of their initiative. This has to stop. Create a vision of what you want teaching and learning to look like three to five years from now, then plan backward and put in the necessary steps to ensure these goals are met. Read more here.

3. A distinction is made between training and professional development, and both are provided.

I mention training and professional development separately, and that is very intentional. I believe it’s crucial to differentiate between the two. I view training as the how — a user manual on devices, software, apps or websites. Click here to do “x,” share a doc by doing “y,” etc. Training is necessary because teachers must know what the tools are, what they’re capable of doing and how to operate them. On the other hand, professional development is all about the why. It is focused on building the teacher’s capacity to shift away from traditional didactic teaching strategies to methods that fully engage students in the learning process. It concentrates on the importance of sound pedagogical practices and how to leverage technology to provide learning opportunities that don’t otherwise exist. Read more here.

4. Time and funding are allocated toward ongoing change-leadership training for principals.

A principal’s ability to lead change is critical. That change must be modeled and championed at the principal level. An example of poor leadership that comes to mind is the principal who directs a staff meeting, then passes out printed versions of the meeting agenda and notes after the meeting is over. The move doesn’t make good, common sense to anyone involved, and it doesn’t advance anyone’s agenda. Read more here.

5. The superintendent holds principals accountable for being champions of change.

Regarding the challenges schools face in adopting technology, during the six weeks in California, we spent much time discussing organizational culture and changing human behaviors far more than any other technology-related topic. Read more here.

This article is part of the "Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology" series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology
Berezko/Thinkstock
Nov 18 2016

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