Sunday, January 12, 2014

Transformers

I recently heard a presentation from a team of educators that work in Seagraves ISD, a rural school out in western Texas.  The Seagraves team shared with us the journey of school transformation they have been on for the last couple of years.

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Spiller conveyed two underlying messages that drive their efforts to better serve Seagraves students:
1) “School” needs to be transformed, not reformed, in order to prepare children for the world in which they will live.
2) High-stakes testing should NOT drive what happens at school each day.

What powerful messages for a school leader to send!

Seagraves ISD has enlisted the help of the Schlechty Center in tackling their transformation efforts.  I have been a Phil Schlechty disciple for many years, mostly because of his pragmatic approach to school improvement and his relentless focus on student-centeredness.

Some of the big takeaways for me from the Seagraves presentation:
  • A purposeful shift in teacher’s role from information deliverer to that of the creator of meaningful and engaging work.
  • Teachers now view students as customers who volunteer their attention and commitment.
  • Altered pedagogy from the test focused pathology to that of “creating a profound sense of learning” in students.
  • Ask “What do students need from us and how can we provide it to them?” as opposed to “What do we need from them?”  
  • The fundamental role of the teacher is to design engaging learning tasks that garner the attention, investment, and commitment of the students.
  • Student learning is best accomplished when teachers really KNOW the students at a personal level.
  • Quality lesson design has predictable and replicable components (via Schlechty):
    • Content and substance.
    • Organization of knowledge.
    • Product focus.
    • Clear and compelling standards.
    • Protection from adverse consequences for initial failures.
    • Affirmation of the significance of the performance.
    • Affiliation.
    • Novelty.
    • Choice.
    • Authenticity.
  • The best learning is the result of student effort.  That effort occurs when the learning tasks are meaningful to students.
  • Engagement has a lot of different manifestations/looks. 
The Seagraves team emphatically asserted that this approach to teaching and learning is NOT a program, but a way of believing/thinking/working.  

It was energizing to hear the Seagraves professionals talk about the cultural shift in their schools, the improved relationships, the reduction in absenteeism and discipline referrals, and the enthusiasm with which the students come to school.   It was most gratifying to see a team of professionals making significant shifts in practice in the interest of serving their students in a World Class fashion.  

REAL school improvement is always and only the product of local initiative and effort and action.  (That's an nc opinion). 


Thanks to the Seagraves ISD team for making me think and grow and LEARN.

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