Superintendents capable of influencing change intentionally utilize collaboration at multiple levels to foster collective thinking and a collective response to continuous improvement. Collaboration occurs not just in the traditional sense of teacher collaboration, but is also apparent in the ways in which they work with their district office staff, their principals, and their communities. Rather than being autocratic decision-makers about key aspects of the improvement process, such superintendents either plan collectively with a district leadership team or, at minimum, gather staff input in some manner.
Interestingly, this attitude endeavoring collectively often shows up in the nuances of a superintendent's speech patterns. They often use first person plural language, such as we, us, and our. This in some ways demonstrates that they truly believe the work is a collaborative balance between their roles and that of others. As one Idaho superintendent put it, by demonstrating openness to communication, input, and collaborative problem solving, this sense of togetherness "creates an environment where we're all accountable for each other's success."
The following indicators in the WISE Tool (Idaho's online planning tool) would make for natural connections for superintendents who are considering making plans related to this topic.
|IA08||The school board and superintendent present a unified vision for school improvement.||CLICK HERE|
|IA09||The superintendent and other central office staff are accountable for school improvement and student learning outcomes.||CLICK HERE|
|IB01||The district operates with district-level and school-level improvement teams.||CLICK HERE|
|IB09||The district ensures that an empowered change agent (typically the principal) is appointed to head each restructuring school.||CLICK HERE|
|IB10||In restructuring schools, the district ensures that the change agent (typically the principal) is skilled in motivating staff and the community, communicating clear expectations, and focusing on improved student learning.||CLICK HERE|
|IB12||The district is prepared for setbacks, resistance, and obstacles on the path to substantial improvement.||CLICK HERE|
|IC01||The school reports and documents its progress monthly to the superintendent, and the superintendent reports the school?s progress to the school board.||CLICK HERE|
|IC02||The district designates a central office contact person for the school, and that person maintains close communication with the school and an interest in its progress.||CLICK HERE|
|IC03||District and school decision makers meet at least twice a month to discuss the school's progress.||CLICK HERE|
The resources below are provided for further exploration of this topic. They are among many tools and readings that Idaho School Superintendents have either used or cited in their work.
The Essential School Board Book (Walser, 2009)
The Essential School Board Book is an excellent resource for School Board Trustees. It focuses on the policies and procedures boards can utilize to enhance student achievement. Superintendents sometimes report that they serve in a coaching role to board members; this book would be a logical companion to that type of partnership.
The Center for Educational Effectiveness
The Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) provides incredibly powerful survey tools and data analytics to help each level of a school district better understand perceptions that exist among leaders, staff, students, and parents. CEE has been a partner with the Idaho Building Capacity Project for a number of years now. District and school leaders report that the surveys and reports inform crucial decision-making processes related to organizational trust and collective efficacy. The data collected are explicitly linked backed to the framework for improvement used in Idaho: The Nine Characteristics of High Performing Schools. If you are looking for a way to balance academic assessment data with valid and reliable perceptual data, consider the tools available through CEE as a possibility.
Rallying the Whole Village: The Comer Process for Reforming Education (Comer, Haynes, Joyner, & Ben-Avie, 1996)
In Rallying the Whole Village, James Comer offers a view of education that is very different from the traditional system. Based on the old proverb, "It takes a whole village to raise a child," this book suggests a model for academic improvement that utilizes numerous members of a larger community in order to meet the needs of all learners. If you are interested in reading something that will challenge conventional thinking, consider the ideas set forth by Comer.