Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. ~ Goethe
This weekend, I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion at a conference hosted by the Hispanic/Native American Indian Caucus and Black Caucus of the Arizona School Board Association. The panel addressed the potential impact of technology as a tool to decrease the achievement gap.
The keynote speaker for the conference, was Dr. Trent Kaufman – the founder of Education Direction and co-author of two books: Data Wise in Action and Collaborative School Improvement – Eight Practices for District School Partnerships to Transform Teaching and Learning. Our school is currently working with Dr. Kaufman to implement the Data Wise process on our campus – a process, that I am pleased to say, is leading to increased focus on the needs of individual students at our school.
During his keynote, Dr. Kaufman encouraged the audience to consider five core principles to improve our schools and the instructional delivery in our classrooms. I thought they were worth sharing.
- Children are Born to Learn – they need our support, but the process of learning is intuitive. Our classroom environments and instructional pedagogy should foster, not stifle, this natural tendency.
- We Must Improve – teaching is the lever for helping children learn. In order to be effective, educational reform measures must focus on improving instruction. As an example, Dr. Kaufman sited the move toward Common Core standards. While these standards have the potential to be an extremely useful tool, if all we do is change WHAT we teach, and not HOW we teach, we are going to miss the boat.
- Redefine Data – data equals information. Currently, our schools are data rich, but information poor. We need more balance in what drives our instructional delivery.
- Narrow the Focus – Dr. Kaufman sited research about efforts at change/improvement in which there was very little difference in outcomes between low and medium levels of implementation. However, efforts with high levels of implementation made measurable differences. In education, we are all familiar with how easy it is to become overwhelmed with new programs. We need to prioritize and focus.
- Isolation Limits Change – in order to be successful, not only do individual educators need to network, but we need more collaboration between schools and districts. There is no sense in re-inventing the wheel…we must do better at sharing what works.
This is a relatively simplistic summary of one portion of Dr. Kaufman’s presentation, however, these five principles certainly resonated with what I believe about leading school change. We need to continue to hammer away at the big rocks…the things which matter most.