We can all agree that our education system needs significant improvement, based on the perpetually lagging outcomes of our K-12 schools throughout the country, among other important indicators. We need to creatively innovate on all levels—within classrooms, schools, and the systems overseeing our schools in order to produce equitable outcomes for all students. And while different systems of schools will approach innovation in different ways, successfully scaling change requires strong alignment and a clear vision among all stakeholders.
The Learning Accelerator, a national nonprofit working to connect educators with the knowledge, tools, and networks they need to improve education, had the privilege of partnering with two school systems—Valor Collegiate Academies (Nashville, TN) and Henry County Schools (Henry County, GA)—that have transformed their schools (and continue to do so) through thoughtful vision-setting as well as change management practices. As part of our work to share strategies around Blended and Personalized Learning, we dove deeply into these two schools’ stories of transformation and discovered a few consistent strategies that have enabled their ongoing success.
Your vision must be strong, yet adaptable
While Valor started as a brand-new charter network and Henry County Schools reimagined an existing system, both spent considerable time creating an in-depth vision around their models. Valor designed its whole model around a social-emotional, human development model, infusing research into its comprehensive vision. As Henry County Schools made the shift to personalized learning, the district established core pillars to define the key components of its model. In both cases, the systems have well-defined principles in combination with the right amount of flexibility—whether it’s in piloting new programs or personalizing the approach within each school—to ensure success in meeting the needs of the community.
Your people are your most important investment
Effective change will not happen if stakeholders are not invested and given the right support, regardless of how great the concept might be. Valor leads its social-emotional curriculum with its faculty, creating a culture of social-emotional growth and ensuring faculty are able to best support students. Henry County created leadership academies, ensuring strong pipelines and capacity around personalizing the learning experience for students. It’s important to ensure all people are bought in and supported, otherwise, cogs in the wheel break down and slow—and even risk halting—all progress.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LEARNING ACCELERATOR
Your students’ success is the core reason for change
At the end of the day, our education system should be entirely designed around one group—our students. Grounding changes in student outcomes will keep every stakeholder invested and excited about the work.
Valor made sure to focus on holistically developing each scholar as a human being, building safe and healthy relationships, and becoming positive members of their communities. Henry County Schools made sure to ground the shift to student-centered learning around developing each individual learner’s 21st-century skills for college and career readiness, getting students excited for their own learning and career pathways.
We’re so excited to share innovative practices and stories of change from these two transformational school networks. You can find more stories like these on our Blended & Personalized Learning at Work website.
For more guidance on how to create a coherent, mission-based culture that can inspire and unify a school community, check out this XQ Knowledge Module.