By Teresa Tate
Across all areas of professional organizations, leadership focuses on vision, goals, and strategies to transform the organization and build success. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in education. Still, decades of working toward accomplishing the vision have resulted in a minimal amount of effective change. School leaders report they know what skills learners need to be successful in life. Goals and countless strategies have been employed to work on developing those skills. However, leaders still ask why the learner experience, designed with strategies targeting those skills, are still not connecting to prepare learners for their futures.
The driving question, then, becomes
How can we translate the vision of the school into reality?
The actual realization of that transformation lies in transforming the culture of the district or campus.
In truth, we do not need another training or another great strategy. We need to look at approaching our vision from a culture standpoint. It all comes back to behavior. In education, we spend so much time on stand-alone strategies. The critical question to consider, though, is whether the strategies are aligned to the school’s beliefs, behaviors, and defined measurables? If not, the culture change will not occur.
Therefore, the foundation of the work of e2L with school districts is facilitating school transformation centered around the proven premise that “Beliefs + Behaviors = Culture.” There is a culture in every institution, including schools. Often times, the culture was built over time and develops on its own; if left unattended this culture may, in fact, be in conflict with the vision of the school. So what exactly is culture?
In a Fast Company article, Shawn Parr, CEO of Bulldog Drummond, describes culture as “a balanced blend of human psychology, attitudes, actions, and beliefs that combined create either pleasure or pain, serious momentum or miserable stagnation.” Stagnation occurs if we simply let culture happen. The question is: how do schools build a culture that is intentional and accomplishes their vision?
e2L is partnering with several school districts and assisting them as they develop into a High-Performance Culture district. Using design principles, we begin with a collaborative process that engages the community in order to discover shared beliefs about learning and to design a local vision. It is also essential to design behaviors for learners, teachers, and leaders which align to those beliefs held by the community. By including behaviors for leaders, the entire school intentionally focuses on the cultural transformation. Measurables, strategies, and systems follow the beliefs and behaviors to create a systemic alignment. As discussed in The Secret Sauce, by Kevin Graham Ford and James P. Osterhaus, “the preoccupation of all effective leaders must be engaging their people in creating and maintaining a healthy organizational culture.”
Through the e2L process of strategic culture design, district partners are realizing extraordinary results. Results tied to the call to action and derived from their designed culture statements in their first year include:
Personalized learning to achieve student achievement
South San Antonio ISD gained +8% in grade 5 science STAAR
+9% in grades 3-8 math STAAR
El Paso ISDESL gained +17% in high school EOC
+7% Gallup Poll on Student Engagement
Mesquite ISD increased +9% Tier 1 students in K
+8% Tier 1 students in grade 1
+7% Tier 1 students in grade 2
+9% on-grade level DRA in grade 2
Frenship ISD increase – teachers coached around learning framework
designed in culture strategic design
+3% meets GL all grades math for teachers coached vs non-coached
+1% masters GL all grade math for teachers coached vs non-coached
+8% meets GL grade 3 all subjects for teachers coached vs non-coached
+4% masters GL grade 3 all subjects for teachers coached vs non-coached
e2L + You = High-Performance Culture District
Culture is a powerful force, and the process of creating a culture is tactical, strategic, and adaptive. Thus, this intentional culture change aligned to community beliefs grows learners, teachers, and leaders, which brings forth the desired results for all learners. As a district sets a vision for providing learners with what they need to thrive, which includes academic growth and Life Ready Skills, how can we afford to not develop a high-performance culture for our students?
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