Category: Leadership


The scene in July 1776 Philadelphia was heavy with drama and import for sure. The delegates at the Second Continental Congress had finally reached consensus about seeking the thirteen colonies’ separation from England. It hadn’t been easy to reach agreement and it had to be difficult to sign Jefferson’s newly composed Declaration of Independence for doing so marked oneself for capture and punishment by the British who certainly had no intention to let their colonies go gently into the night.

The story goes that when it came time for Benjamin Franklin to sign his name to the Declaration of Independence he said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

The message behind Franklin’s assertion was clear: If any of us  (the colonies) show weakness, or reluctance, let alone either a measure of discontent or a lack of total support for the collective decision, the entire move toward the colonies’ freedom from Great Britain would suffer and likely collapse.

….

Now fast forward to the nearest faculty room. It’s the morning after a Shared Decision Making Team meeting. Joe the Math teacher fills his coffee cup prior to his class. He looks over at Bob, a new math teacher who has been “drafted’ to be a member of the school’s Shared Decision Making slash School Improvement team.

It might be surprising that Joe would even know that the Shared Decision Making team in that school had met. But the new principal in contrast to the old one under whom Joe had worked for years, placed a great deal of emphasis on collaborative leadership and shared decision making practices. These were highlighted at faculty meetings and some of their initiatives had actually become the “law of the land”.

So to be polite, he said to Bob. “How did yesterday’s Shared Decision Making meeting go? Anything interesting?”

Bob, the rookie had joined the Shared Decision Making team because he felt he had to. He didn’t particularly understand its purpose. But it was a way to show professional service to the school and its activities helped him understand how the school functioned on the students’ behalf.

Yesterday’s meeting had been a particularly animated. The principal had presented data about students’ performance that showed a downward trend in a number of academic skills and content areas. The team used root cause analysis strategies to drill down to what they thought might be driving these trends.  Several causes were assessed .

Several member teachers noted that the school day had become plagued by many interruptions. More so, it was difficult to have all the students in the class present at the same time because so many students were being pulled for remedial, gifted, and music instruction during the day.

As the members used Five Why techniques to distill what this issue actually reflected. The group agreed that a root cause need was to increase instructional time on task.

Various ideas were considered. Some were good but financial restrictions and teacher contract language made them difficult if not impossible to adopt.

Then, Mary the English teacher suggested that the group consider a homework policy where a minimum expectation of time spent on homework would be required and ratcheted up per grade. The basic premise behind this, Mary said, would be to afford students time on task that they may be missing during the actual day.

For sure, the group didn’t immediately rally round this suggestion. YES-BUTS bounced among stakeholders but in the end the group began to center on this as a viable initiative. Sam, the group’s facilitator looked at the several members. He searched their faces for doubt and or buy -in. He noted Bob’s puzzled expression.

“Bob, you recognize how this idea is meant to increase students’ time on task in order to get deeper into their content and skills mastery?”

“Sure I see the need to do this Sam. But I also see how making a policy could be ineffective if we try to cookie cutter a uniform expectation of time commitment.”

Mary responded. “Well Bob, I think we will have to pay attention to the concerns you raised. But I wouldn’t want the baby thrown out with the bath water by dropping the whole proposal. We can put the policy in place on a pilot basis and iron out kinks as they present themselves.”

The rest of the group nodded in approval at Mary’s suggestion. Sam then asked the entire group if there was consensus to pilot a homework policy.

Each stakeholder raised their hands. Bob, did too, but only after what seemed like a minute of deeper thought.

Sam turned to the principal. ” Ms. Smith, could you take steps to formulate a pilot policy with some implementation guidelines for us at the next meeting?”

Ms. Smith said “Certainly, perhaps you could appoint a sub group of the whole to offer specific input to do this and I will also seek some more input from staff members as I develop a roll out process”

The meeting had adjourned at that point. Bob left too. But he hadn’t left his doubts at the door. He had “voted” on the consensus but he certainly was no rabid die hard supporter of the proposal.

So here is how he answered, ” I have to tell you, the meeting went on and on. As usual Mary was trying to dominate the conversation with her grand ideas. We started to talk about a mandatory minimum amount of time to do homework that would go up for each grade level. I understood what they were trying to solve but I was uncomfortable with the idea since there were too many variables that they hadn’t thought about it. I gave my opinion but on one really listened to the new guy on the block and I could also tell that Ms. Smith was in support of  it. So, I voted for it even though I don’t particularly like it.”

“Aha”, thought Joe the Math Teacher, “Bob the rookie doesn’t particularly like the team’s decision and I certainly don’t either.”

And herein lies Lencioni’s next dysfunction of a team: Lack of Commitment, and we can fairly validly conclude that we can all be glad that Bob the Rookie did not sign the Declaration of Independence.

How can team be cohesive let alone effective if its members are varying degrees of lukewarm in supporting a point of view or action that they must eventually move out of their deliberations and out, in front of, and for its constituents? How can that “action” or decision be enacted effectively if those who purportedly supported it?

I suppose that there are a variety of potential root causes that might explain why this negative behavior exists in a team. Was Bob the rookie a villain, or a victim in that his membership of this committee may have been more coercive than voluntary? Did the facilitator fail to ensure that the group knew their own ground rules re consensus? Did the facilitator fail to ensure that the group truly committed to a shared vision? Did the group members fail to listen to each other and honor a dialogue that would have more nearly ensured that all yes-buts and doubts had their fair chance for exploration and consideration?

The bottom line is that as onerous and as time consuming true dialogue may require, cutting short a potential dissenting point of view, etc., may likely result in Bob the Rookie going along to get along. And in so doing defeat the effectiveness of any such idea or action that the group thought they had genuinely generated for the good of the whole.

Recently I was on a Dissertation committee where the candidate proposed an action research study that would among other things, involve training fellow music teachers in using and collaborating about evaluating music teachers’ “effectiveness” in their instruction via a Moodle approach.

The proposal was excellent and has much, much promise for teachers on “non”-academic subjects as they will also be responsible for showing student “growth” by requirement of the New York State Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). His dissertation defense few months later was beyond terrific.

In the beginning though , I  was more than a little bit skeptical about the training-of-colleagues component with the Moodle. Moodle is an open source wiki-like Web 2.0 approach. A wiki site if you have never used Wikipedia as an example,  is a site that enables its members to add to, elaborate, and create new information for that site for the rest of its viewers.

This soon-to-be- Ed.D’s premise was that the Moodle would be a source to its participants in shaping how they might incorporate the online rating system that he had developed. It would also serve as a training platform so that participants could learn how to both use the Moodle and to implement the rating system.

At the time I remarked to now Dr. X, “This could be like herding cats.”

By the way, he more than pulled it off. However my concern in principle for all groups,whether face-to-face, or virtual had validity. For you see, as you already know instinctively, groups need to both be grown and grow themselves.

This is no easy task. Although there are plenty of examples to offer I’d like to offer Patrick Lencioni’s work as a good example.

Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team captures issues associated with effective group development in a tiered system that has much value.

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

In closing this blog post I’d strongly suggest that the Group Facilitator (I hate that word) not keep Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions as secret code. In fact, it is both healthy and conducive to the group’s evolution that they become aware of these Five Dysfunctions as they operate among each other. As they learn the “language” they learn to be aware of the presence of these dysfunctions and more likely collaborate to eliminate or reduce them!

Next blog post – Absence of  TRUST!

If you’re looking for a textbook or want to read a book re Leadership. Check out book just published where I am co-editor and a co-author, “Leadership for a Global Economy”.

Available through Amazon and North American Business Press.

Those of us still willing to call ourselves trekkies remember with a grin and with fondness Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s famous “Make it so” command. By that he meant “I as Captain am giving you as subordinates authority to carry out my direction.” And thankfully THAT dialogue never made it to the television script!

But the sum is the same. Jean-Luc empowered his crew to carry out the mission.

Now suppose an outtake on the script was something like this:

NAVIGATOR: Sir, what do you mean by “Make it so.”?

PICARD: What do you mean by what do I mean?!!! I have told you to set course for the Romulan Empire!

NAVIGATOR: Sir. I do not know how to set course for Romulus anymore than set course for Earth.

Hmmm. Thankfully that dialogue never made it to the series either.

And the message is that the great leader – systems ensure that all participants have been trained to carry out their roles and need only minimum direction to take the appropriate initiative.

The question then becomes “To what extent do systemically unhealthy school organizations actually know HOW to make it so?”

And in this case, our Tale of Two Cities, to what extent do the LEADERS know HOW to make it so?!

And speaking of so, do school leaders of various stripes and types know HOW to first of all develop an effective strategic or operational plan even if they know what they want to have happen?

Going back to previous posts, we saw how an administrative team’s collective mental model could be transformed. All well and good. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. To get where you really you want to go, you need to know how to plan all details and issues properly.

So speaking of so, let’s consider what a plan should look like in this and succeeding posts.

The first step is obvious, for heaven’s sake, have a goal. As Jim Collins said “a big hairy one”, something first of all worth shooting for, and something that has been a result of heavy duty root cause analyses by all stakeholders and that has been accepted by all stakeholders.

So speaking of so, be sure that you recognize the goal’s complexity and that most likely this target will require in many cases, a multi-year plan as opposed to the usual thumb in the dike short term solutions to surface leaks we often expediently grab.

Once you have honed, shaped, smelted, and purified your long term goal then you need to be very clear on deciding how this goal will be assessed, formatively and summatively along the journey towards achieving it.

And that will be the next post.

It may be one thing to “turn and twist a mental model from positive to negative or its counterpart. It is another thing to, as Kurt Lewin said, “refreeze” that mental model in a new place.

So it may be all fine and good to have empowered the citizens of my new city to use that right brain muscle too often neglected in a world of Mr. Spock Thinkers but it is another to transform the “I-thinks” to “I-cans”.

This is reminiscent of the High Involvement Model best described by Dr. Priscilla Wohlstetter and her colleagues at the USC Center for Educational Governance. I also describe it in my own research and can be found at http://www.activelearningconsult.com.

Basically Wohlstetter showed that high involvement, and by extension, effective input and contribution by a cross section of stakeholders is only guaranteed when seven variables are operating. These are Power, Knowledge, Information, Leadership, Goals, Resources, and Rewards.

In the case of this “City” the High Involvement variable of Knowledge was sorely lacking. Knowledge in this case, speaks to the How to and can be associated with Senge’s Disciplines of both Personal Mastery and Team Learning.

In English, this means that while the group had generated many significant and potentially effective ideas to not only right their own Mental Models, but also to realign their own energies towards systemic health, they really didn’t know how to do this.

And so, under the “Teach a man to fish” point of view, that is, when the group knows HOW then no one leader needs to be so indispensable to the group’s successful continuance some schoolin’ was necessary.

So I taught them, however quickly, how to strategically action plan their ideas.

Here I claim no magic wand or secret formula about action plan design. Indeed I’d venture that most leaders, in education or otherwise are taught somewhere along the line, how to strategically plan. My website shows a couple of examples.

But the big HOWEVER is that learning such a skill as with learning most skills in a vacuum, has little or no translation unless or until the premise is embedded in a purpose.

Here my new City-dwellers indeed had purpose. That is they recognized that their ideas, as worthy as they were, needed to be translated to action. And that these actions couldn’t be willy-nilly throws of the dice. Instead, they had to sequence their ideas into actionable strategies. They needed to know who would be responsible, what they needed, how to overcome obstacles they could anticipate, and above all, how to measure their progress both formatively and summatively. Isn’t that what the quarterback does in the huddle?

And that will be the next Tale of This City.

The Root Cause term has garnered some attention these past few years of economic upset. When the market tanked in 2008 commentator after commentator pontificated on the root cause(s) for this systemic failure.

There are ways to more nearly isolate what “lies beneath” and how or to what extent groups and individuals can do this, first on a micro level and then at its counterpart. This is a skill and a mindset that needs more structured attention than what I intend to do in this blog series.

This blog series instead is meant to showcase how leaders “teach a man to fish” systemically. In this instance that idea appears to speak most nearly to Senge’s Personal Mastery and to Team Learning Disciplines but I would argue that neither has much traction without a reversal of prevailing Mental Models.

The Mental Model in this City appeared to be a dangerous mix of Futility, Powerlessness, Resentment, Frustration.

But I couldn’t tell them that. I needed them to figure that out and that was the challenge! I needed to teach them to fish.

I do not claim major victory here. I do claim that I distilled their feelings about the issues noted above by flat out telling them. “You feel Futile.” “You feel Powerless.” You feel Resentment”. and “You feel Frustration.”

They were almost surprised that I had “diagnosed” their concerns. And then came the key point.

To borrow a page from the late Steven Covey, I asked, “So there’s nothing you can do about any of the issues you lament?”

I guess it’s better put that I used a “reverse” Steven Covey. He among many practices, speaks to identifying what power or influence an individual or in this case, a group may actually have and to seek to use those competencies or abilities to work at solutions.

At first there was nothing. No answers or ideas. I waited the famous 6 seconds “wait time” strategy hoping that someone would offer up an idea.

Then I got, “Well, maybe the community has lost sight of what they want us to do. Maybe we should either reassert our vision or invite stakeholders to review it with us.”

Then I got, “I’m not sure we are communicating about the many wonderful projects and programs our districts offer.”

Then I got, X and then I got Y. And then I got Z.

And then, and then.

The ideas flowed! The Mental Model had been punctured.

What was necessary next was to take the bundle of ideas and show them how to make them happen.

I am now wrapping up a two month training for a districts’ administrators and supervisors whose focus is to upgrade and standardize its supervisory practices.

The need for this came from at least two sources. The first was the realization of their new Assistant Superintendent for Instruction that the district’s practices were inconsistent and probably not very effective. The second was that we in New York State have been charged with adopting a supervisory model that has consistent, research-based rubrics that will ultimately enable a school district to somehow “quantify” at least part of the effectiveness of each teacher and each principal.

If any of us could have a penny for each word, spoken, written and shouted about this process we’d all be a lot richer than we are now.

What was good about how this process kicked off in this district was that the second need while certainly not being ignored for it cannot, does not appear to be the driving interest behind the efforts to upgrade their observation practices. Very refreshingly to the contrary actually, in that the district’s supervisors have recognized that the systemic practices associated with shared vision, mental models, and personal mastery,,,, and also systems thinking skills in general, could all benefit from upgrading what they do.

And the benefit(s) certainly appear to start with the belief that using good clinical observation practices will result in ensuring increased achievement for their youngsters.

I will eventually put the PowerPoints I used to help coalesce the supervisors’ work up on my website: http://www.actvelearningconsult.com, but the purpose of these next posts will be to codify my own reflection of the extent to which the group could of its own vision, improve what it does, and what the role(s) district leadership played and plays in solidifying and impelling its positive momentum.

To begin with there was no real model for effective clinical supervisory approaches. Oh there was an “observation form”. And here is where I will argue that function follows form rather than form follows function. By this I mean, that the actual physical format of the observation process was wanting in many dimensions. One of these, as silly as it may seem at first glance, was that the space provided for comments, recommendations and goals was such a small space that the observer would be hard pressed to capture and offer anything meaningful for the teacher to embrace. The message behind the music then appeared to be to write “something” but that its significance or effectiveness would not add up to much.

The supervisors certainly recognized this and there is active negotiation between the district and the teachers’ union about adopting a more effective format.

So the letter of the law will be addressed and the new “form” will generate a much more successful set of functions. But the spirit flowed from the group’s common values and priorities.

The group certainly adopted the shared vision that they could pull together a set of consistent practices and paradigms that would enable them to help all their teachers be exemplary.

Perhaps the key word is consistent because as is often the case in more districts than we all probably realize, there was no consistency of expectation of what a good lesson should look like. The only consistency was the “form” but the process of engaging teachers in meaningful dialogue about the qualities of a good lesson appeared to be lost in the flurry of administrivia that we all can find ourselves mired in.

So we began with affirming several teacher supervision models. You know, Danielson, Marzano, et al. But while any of these models have research based merit I pushed past this for the time being at least to emphasize Supervision 101 as in the value of pre-observation.

Apparently this was problematic on three counts. One is that pre observations were not necessarily the rule. Another was that supervisors would often do unannounced observations or do walk-throughs a’ la  Elmore, each protocol of which, does not lend itself to pre observation analysis. The third was that not everyone knew how to conduct a meaningful pre observation conference.

Perhaps a fourth issue was and is that the entire clinical process is pretty time consuming isn’t it? Using the 5 Disciplines as guideposts, that working against severe time constraints all school leaders feel, sometimes leads them into practices of expedience rather than into preferred. Here I am reminded of Steven Covey’s time use quadrant who argues that effective people spend the majority of their time in Important but not Urgent time usage. To be sure, it may not be urgent (as in health and safety urgent) for school leaders to spend a major chunk of their time in clinical supervisory practices, it is nonetheless IMPORTANT for the long term health of the school organization to devote major energies to raising and maintaining the quality of instruction.

These certainly speak to Senge’s Shared Vision discipline and to his Mental Models discipline.

As for the first issue, not necessarily the rule, here was an instance where the Assistant Superintendent and I had no problem offering up research and support to validate that a pre observation is a non-negotiable.

As for the second problem, that a good portion of observations done were walk throughs and drop ins we needed to be more creative. Here the group got creative by deciding to develop a new practice where all teachers would schedule what I will call a “what-if” conference where teachers and administrators could generalize about what kinds of instructional practices the teacher might think she would need feedback about. This would enable the supervisor to have some sort of guideline to use when she dropped in or walked through.

As for the third concern, where, supervisors needed to learn how to do a meaningful pre observation conference, using research, YouTube, and role playing we were able to generate a substantial model for implementation.

So yes, we are beginning to re-tool the overall system of clinical support but there were more issues to solidify as well most of which lie  in the systems practices of the district.

The next post will speak re data gathering.

Should I apologize for fancying myself a school-improvement nerd? I am that for sure. And while nerd usually has some unpleasant connotations in this world I guess it is still fair to say that I am one.

That is why it is a bit difficult for me to bring closure to the process I have been describing. One reason for that is that I don’t think there is closure to school reform / improvement efforts especially in schools with persistent needs.  For this reason, whilst the review process is largely done and now we are in the stage of finalizing the recommendations, there are plenty of lessons for those school leaders who also engage this process.

One I will allude to now and speak to mightily up the road is my wonder whether how, if, or ever, “support” from a state, regional, or federal agency has any positive, sustainable, results. What research I have begun to do thus far has not yielded much positive on this count. IF my continuous research efforts in this regard continue to be a dry hole then the obvious question is why?

We all deserve to have answers to this. NCLB, now RTTT and who knows what initials yet to be spawned continue to require that government agencies of some sort or another will invest themselves on one level supportively and perhaps on another level punitively (or so perceived by the schools or district under such lenses), into helping schools designated in need to improve their achievement.

But it simply isn’t as simple as their formulas would have you believe. In one of the schools where we are finishing up, on data analysis, we found that their African American population which in aggregate had not made the standard, was practically all also classified as Students with Disabilities. In addition, while the school was not cited for the performance of students with low economic wealth, 90% of these same students were also classified as such.

So were these children disabled? Were they underperforming because they were poor? Is poverty the ultimate root cause?

Covey speaks about one’s “sphere of influence”. Is it within any school’s power to overcome the consequences of poverty? Perhaps this is true in many instances, but can it be true, especially in the vile political rhetoric we are suffering nowadays, buoyed by terrible economic times that schools, of their own, with what resources they have, can universally make it all happen?

Some of you will cherry pick schools and school leaders who appear to have overcome the anchors of poverty for their school’s children. Some will point to dysfunctional public school systems and argue for charter schools or vouchers. By the way the research about their success isn’t too glowing either. And I even confess to some more than passing interest in their potential to be more successful than public school systems.

But now I come back to the school I describe above. They recognize many of their deficits. One solution they had put in place was to increase their school periods from eight to nine so that another period in the day would give them scheduling flexibility to provide more support services and to encourage more professional development among staff.

Then le Deluge kicked in, state aid monies were drastically reduced. Administrative and teaching staff  were slashed to the bone. And guess what, the ninth period? That’s right. It has been eliminated.

What is the message? If you say “Do more with less.” after I scream, I’ll say what “you’re” saying is that our governing and societal value system talks out of both sides of its mouth.

I did not intend for this post to go in this direction. I will point to other dynamics and creativity and mind sets and systems adjustments in the next post(s), but this is one mental model, poverty’s impact, that is an elephant in this room today .

Or maybe it’s about what we really think has importance.

Drat and alas. The holiday vacation has obstructed the flow of the conversation here and has, to continue the tortured metaphor, dammed my ability to speak to interviews yet completed.

But to maintain some form of momentum let me give you a coming attraction of what may be emerging from School X ‘s first interviews and allow me to also reinforce the premise of High Involvement I spoke briefly to in the previous post.

School X’s team did interview some teachers. This school was cited for deficits in English Language Arts among its Students With Disabilities and its African American population. What may turn out to be very interesting is that the teachers’ alarm about African American students’ performance appeared to be about these students’ academic self-concept and their own perception of belonging.

I hope I am not premature here, but they did report that they felt that African American students did not on whole to aspire to be in the accelerated or advanced classes because they didn’t want to be the only students of color in the class! If this is true, this saddens me for their own sake and suggests that the team simply MUST recommend some serious action research about African American students’ perception of their roles in this school. More as it emerges.

Speaking of action research transitions this post to the next item of High Involvement. The High Involvement Model posits that a group cannot be effective unless it knows it power / authority; has mastered a set of operational and interpersonal competencies; has the data it needs to make effective decisions; knows how to make goals based on their knowledge competencies and on the data they have reviewed; can distribute leadership responsibilities among and to the appropriate stakeholders; can find or has the resources it needs; and can attribute extrinsic and / or extrinsic rewards to their efforts.

Action research speaks to all of these variables but particularly to the second and third factors; knowledge and information. All too often, as mentioned in the last post, groups make snap decisions with faulty or surface data. Perhaps even more troubling, school improvement groups may actually have all the data they need but lack the analytical skills of root cause analysis, futuring, goal setting and strategic / shared planning design to systemically design sustained and long term solutions.

Action research is one answer to this. Not the only one, but a good one. In the case of School X it really is important that they design a way to find out what their African American students may be feeling and / or thinking so that they can peel back their own onion to identify ways to strengthen what might at minimum be a problem in how these children perceive their ability to achieve.

I have been to schools X, Y, and X two times each since the last post. I am glad I delayed any entries here. Sometimes instant diagnoses are good, and sometimes they are mistaken. I do not think my initial suspicions are wrong but I am not willing to lock into them yet.

That is a good thing on many levels. One level for sure is how or to what extent I let my OWN mental models steer the analyses at hand. I feel professionally obligated to do the right thing by the agency that charged me to conduct school quality reviews and were I to wield a heavy handed diagnosis and prescription of these schools I might be doing the agency, the school, and the school’s students disservice.

On another, I view these processes as an academic growth one for those involved. I am a firm believer in “teaching a man to fish”. All too often in my experiences, the Lone Ranger rides into town, cleans out the bad guys figuratively, then rides out of town. And all too often the bad guys come back.

In school improvement processes I fear, this is often true. An outside agency either by invitation or by state mandate comes into a school whose performance has been cited for one reason or another for some sort of plan to make it better. A self-analysis takes place; there is much conversation and I-thinks and Yes-buts that lead to conclusions, goal setting, and plans. The school improvement team, internal, external, or some combination thereof, “rides out of town”, pleased that it has made recommendations and hopeful that these are put in place.

And all too often, in my experiences, the plans get distorted, ignored, underfunded, under-supported, diluted, twisted, turned, resisted and corrupted. One reason among many for this, is that the school cited had poor performances because the systems in place were distorted, ignored, underfunded, turned, resisted, etc.

Maybe a better metaphor is the so-called medical one. You may go to a doctor with a nagging cough and plead for cough medicine. If the doctor gave you the cough medicine and sent you home she’d likely be doing you a real disservice. The cough was a symptom of something else, of an infection. If the infection were ignored the cough medicine might work to relieve the hack but the infection will remain to wreak all sorts of other kinds of havoc.

So yes, a school improvement group might identify some very sexy strategies to solve one issue or another. You know, like the technology du jour, or some guru or another with a magic wand. But all too often the group’s failure to peel back the root cause issues, to courageously identify what the real infection may be, inevitably leads to a temporary relief of the symptom but the worsening of the infection.

Senge calls this the quick-fix archetype and you can see how it is an apt title.

I saw some of that in school X. I saw a lot of resistance to the idea of outside agency in Y and Z thus far.

School X cited for poor performance in special education and African-American students in English has been extremely cooperative and eager to engage the process. Refreshingly so. In my initial conversations with the District Office facilitator I asked about another school in the district whose special education performance improvement had removed it from citation. I asked why it had improved. The administrator strongly felt that (s)he had removed the shackles from the school’s special education teachers. (S)He had encouraged the staff to take risks, to try new strategies and to not be fearful of reprisal or of second-guessing.

Read between the lines. What is (s)he really saying? And I’m not telling you what I think yet. But if the administrator is right and I am not sure yet the message behind the music represents one of the five disciplines that Senge speaks to.

Schools Y and Z are more difficult to describe. Next post for them.