The article gave a great account of two Ohio school districts; one, Olmstead Falls Intermediate School, classified as a “High Performing” school that wanted continued growth and the other, Start High School, classified as needing “Continued Improvement” both embarked on the Framework for Improving Leadership set forth by the state of Ohio. The Framework set for an emphasis for adult learning focused on effective leadership, shifting from traditional leadership, positive leadership as the means for improvement, and including standards, training and supportive conditions for leaders.
Both districts set up Professional Learning Communities, without giving them that title wihtin in the article, where superintendents, principals, school boards and teachers were all on board. Olmstead created time for weekly meetings to look at educational research, student work and strategies to improve teaching. They questioned why they were succeeding in certain areas while failing in others and then looked at how they could use what was working to improve the areas where failure was occurring. Start transformed their staff meetings from being housekeeping meetings to having set protocols while looking at student data, creating SMART goals and working as a staff to focus on what was best for students. Collaboration allowed for the entire school climate to change, teachers had a renewed focus on what they were doing and realized that they held the power to change their school. The results for both districts were improvement. Olmstead continued to be a high performing school but changed their actions from accidental to intentional and Start moved up two levels in one year to become a school of Excellence according to the state. Both realized that the key to student improvement was within the teachers if they worked collaboratively and kept students as the focus of everything they did.
Such collaboration for school improvement has been a big emphasis of research over the past twenty years and growing in research and implementation every since the passage of No Child Left Behind. In our own state we have seen a surge in schools working as collaborative teams often referred to as Professional Learning Communities. However, the extent to which a district or building is working as a true Professional Learning Community varies from name only to being a truly collaborative group focused on student results.
Ohio has placed an emphasis on not only supporting but transforming leadership for school improvement. Chappuis, Chappius and Stiggins agree with this emphasis when they say “Principals don’t just set the tone and climate of the building- they also influence the overall culture” and “Principals need to be in agreement on learning...