We have many good schools throughout North America. In too many cases, however, children go each day to a school that is not very good. Even more unfortunate is the fact that two students who are very alike can attend different schools within the same school district and achieve very different outcomes.
Every child deserves to graduate high school ready for a career or college. Every child needs the knowledge and skills to pursue his or her goals and reach his or her potential. Every child should be prepared to participate in a democratic and civil society. To accomplish this vision, we need to ensure that every child experiences great teaching in an excellent school.
For all students to attend excellent schools, we need school districts that are learning systems. At Learning Forward, we believe this goal is attainable; however, reaching it requires that all school districts focus more intently on learning.
In learning systems, all educators commit to continuous learning and to applying that learning to their own and others’ performance. Educators at the district and school levels share responsibility for their own learning and for ensuring great teaching for every student every day.
In learning systems, individuals understand their role in and responsibility for helping the district achieve its vision, mission, goals, and objectives. In learning systems, educators, at every level of the organization share responsibility for student and adult learning, dedicate themselves to continuous improvement, use data to drive decisions, and monitor and adjust their practices based on feedback.
Learning Forward has dedicated the last 20 years to thinking about and studying great teaching, and to designing and creating resources and tools to help and support district leaders in their role as learning leaders. The clearest examples of the organization’s efforts to support learning systems are Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning, definition of professional learning, and Innovation Configuration maps for district employees.
Our definition of professional learning and Standards for Professional Learning together offer district leaders a framework to guide daily decisions that promote continuous improvement. Our other resources outline the knowledge, skills, attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors district leaders need in order to lead, facilitate, and coach school leaders and leadership teams to embed continuous improvement into educators’ daily routines.
The tools and strategies that Learning Forward offers, many available to the public at no charge, can guide district staff in establishing principal learning communities, monitoring implementation of new initiatives, determining the meaning and implications of data, coaching principals to higher levels of performance, providing feedback to colleagues and principals, and much more.
We already know what it takes to make all schools great schools. We already know what it takes to make sure all children have equal opportunities to learn. I invite you to join Learning Forward in our work to make sure that all school systems are learning systems so that all students experience effective teaching. Visit our website to see how we can make it happen together.
This message is adapted from our latest publication, Becoming a Learning System, by Stephanie Hirsh, Kay Psencik, and Frederick Brown.
Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward
Senior Consultant, Learning Forward
The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.