What’s wrong with conversation? Certainly, communication is important, but action is far more important. Although the nation has been involved in conversations about race, especially since the murder of George Floyd, we have seen too many schools and districts focusing only on the conversation and not on essential changes in behavior. It doesn’t matter, for example, if educators and administrators are suddenly using more sensitive language and express genuine contrition for bias and racism, if they persist in practices and policies that continue to work to the dissaving of black and brown students. Consider just three examples of practices and policies that must change: Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and grading practices. These programs are often as segregated now as they were 50 years ago, with white students in Gifted and Talented programs, enrolled in AP classes, and featured prominently on the honor roll, while black and brown students receive perpetual remediation. Read more
Anthony Muhammad, PhD, is a much sought-after consultant. A practitioner for nearly 20 years, he has served as a middle school teacher, assistant principal, and principal, and as a high school principal.
An essential characteristic of a true professional learning community is continuous improvement—a “persistent disquiet with the status quo” and a constant search for better practice (DuFour et al. 2016). Until every student is learning at high levels, there is a pressing need—an intrinsic desire—to identify and more deeply implement practices, policies, and dispositions that will improve both student and adult learning.
This focus on collective inquiry and continuous improvement is how the PLC at Work® framework was first created. In the 1980s when Richard DuFour, Robert Eaker and the educators at Adlai Stevenson High School began their focus on collaboration, there were not “Three Big Ideas” or “Four Critical Questions” to guide their efforts. Instead, they began by asking this question: “If we have limited time and resources to collaborate, then what are actions we can take that are proven to best increase student learning and build our staff’s capacity to work in high-performing teams?” They did not guess at what these actions would be, but instead committed to collective inquiry—learning together about research-based best practices. Then they applied what they learned, gathered targeted evidence to determine if their actions were actually helping more students learn, and used that information to determine their next topics of study. The goal was not simply to learn a new strategy, but to create the conditions for job-embedded learning and continuous improvement. Read more
It is clear that the paths taken in the past to close the achievement disparities in American public schools, also known as the Achievement Gap, have not been effective. Despite billions of dollars dedicated to achieving the goal of academic equality in every public school, the gap still remains, and it is as large as it has ever been. We should not be able to predict student success in school based upon factors like race, income, and home language. So, what will it take to close this stubborn gap? Read more
This post is part of a series on In Praise of American Educators (And How They Can Become Even Better).
Education systems are a vital part of any high functioning society. They cultivate the future citizens of a nation and prepare them be to responsible citizens and skilled contributors to the future of a nation. The rise of the United States as a world power can be greatly attributed to its investment in the education of its citizens. Michael Fullan wrote in his book, The Moral Imperative of School Leadership (Fullan 2003)
“The best case for public education has always been that it is a common good. Everyone ultimately has a stake in the caliber of schools, and education is everyone’s business.”
One universal principle associated with change is discomfort. When a person chooses to change their physical reality and engage in a fitness program, the change process does not begin until there is discomfort. When a person wants to change fiscal and spending habits, there is a point where the desire to spend clashes with the demands of fiscal responsibility; and there is discomfort. Schools are no different. We cannot have comfort and growth at the same time. I am not suggesting that we seek and accept excruciating pain, but we have to be willing to be made uncomfortable if we want to grow individually and collectively. I have outlined two steps to help us understand and regulate the discomfort. The first step is for the individual and the second step is systemic.