We’re so excited to share another episode of Elements of Change with you, this time highlighting the importance of building responsive, dynamic organizations. We’re all familiar with the traditional hierarchy of a school district, but what if this structure is inadvertently holding back motivated, capable people with great ideas? Alexis Gonzales-Black, co-author of The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools, describes her experience adopting a distributed management system at Zappos and provides tips for getting started at your own school or district.
We published The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools this winter to help leaders make a shift toward being more effective, responsive leaders. Since the book’s release in February we have had dozens of requests for webinars and presentations about The NEW School Rules. Demand has been so great that we’ve developed a leadership course based on the rules. This summer we kick off leadership courses across five districts and four states.
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There are even more ways to tell a story than there are to bake a cake. A recent article in Edsurge told a story about million dollar consultants (us) and some of the districts we support in their efforts to transform teaching and learning through personalization (including Charleston County SC and Fulton County GA). It was one version of the story, with one set of facts and data, and we’d like to take this opportunity to re-tell that story in a way we feel more accurately captures the work, and accomplishments, of those districts, as well as others across the country.
I have led several companies but the workplace and teams today are uniquely more interconnected than they were in past organizations. So three years ago I decided I needed a new approach to how I organized our team and approach at Education Elements, the education consulting company I founded in 2010.
Innovation often requires leading, not following, in technology advancement. I was involved in two important decisions in 2007 while serving as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Maine Township High School District 207 in Illinois. First, needing a new Director of Technology to help us advance technology into an essential role to improve learning, I hired a talented young man named Dr. Hank Thiele.
Personalized learning, like so much of what we value most in our schools, should be aligned to the particular educational needs of individual learners – that’s what it’s all about. Success depends on the ways schools support teachers: providing them with effective professional development focused on making the plan work; embracing their iterations and experiments as they work to continually improve their practices; and ultimately putting them in the position to succeed in targeting instruction, interventions and enrichment, including with actionable information to support personalizing learning for all students. Personalizing learning in this way, and to scale, has great promise to transform our educational practices and substantially improve outcomes.