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Center For Leadership in School Reform

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According to Phillip Schlechty, the nation's schools traditionally have been organized around the work of teachers and admin- istrators or around the particular interests of local school boards, political factions, or interest groups.

Schlechty, a prominent national educator, has formed the Center for Leadership in School Reform in Louisville, Ky., to create schools that are organized around the work that students do.

Schlechty envisions a national network of school districts committed to a common reform agenda, and several weeks ago, he put the nucleus of such a network in place.

Five districts joined a partnership with the center to fundamentally rethink the way they do business. The districts are in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Hammond, Ind.; Lake Washington, Wash.; Tupelo, Miss.; and Ventura, Calif.

The center is helping these districts conduct systemwide audits to identify those practices that are inconsistent with the partnership's beliefs.

Common goals include:

  • Helping the community to understand the need for "radical reform'' of the educational system.
  • Developing a results-oriented management system and a quality-focused decisionmaking process.
  • Creating a pattern of leadership and decisionmaking that recognizes teachers as leaders and principals as leaders of leaders.
  • Encouraging systematic innovation and the assessment of innovation based on a Total Quality Management framework. (See "Quality Is Job One,'' page 26.)

By this time next year, each of the districts will have developed procedures for creating a network of "standard bearer'' schools. These pace-setting schools will be designed so that everyone in the school system has an investment in them.

Schlechty urges, for example, that most staff members in these schools be assigned temporarily from other schools in the district. The pilot schools, he says, could serve as hubs for a cluster of schools, providing training, support, and research and development.

The center is establishing a training program for teachers and administrators from each district so that ideas, techniques, and strategies will be shared and find their way back to other teachers and administrators.

The first five districts in the network were selected, according to Schlechty, "because they have strong superintendents, sound teacher leadership, a history of strong community involvement, and a track record that indicated a willingness to be trailblazers in education reform.''

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