Monthly Musings

Tips & Tidbits from your School Advocates

March Greetings!

We enjoyed seeing many of you at our regional training near the end of February. Please share your keep/stop/start document from that training with your advocate. This is a great planning tool to reference as you work this spring. If you were unable to attend our training, but would like to hear more about adaptive leadership and the drivers, please contact your school advocate!

Identifying Adaptive Challenges

Mary Jenatscheck, Implementation Science School Advocate

In his text, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership1, Ronald Heifetz describes adaptive challenges as “typically grounded in the complexity of values, beliefs and loyalties and stir up intense emotions rather than dispassionate analysis.” In comparison, technical problems may be very complex and critically important but they have known solutions that can be carried out by current know-how. Adaptive challenges cannot be patched up with technical solutions regardless of how hard one might try. But identifying the existence of adaptive challenges, or distinguishing whether issues are technical or adaptive is not always as intuitive as it may seem. Further, Michael Fullan in the text Coherence2 writes that one of the biggest challenges for a school administrator is staff do not like to bring problems or challenges forward to them. What are some strategies then for school leaders and leadership teams to come to know and understand the existence of adaptive challenges within their schools? Heifetz provides the following:

· Open one's self up to hearing about adaptive challenges. Consider a leadership team agenda item labeled, ‘Elephant in the Room’. Build in opportunities for others to advise.

· Examine problems which reappear or fester over time. Have these problems been addressed as technical rather than adaptive challenges?

· Note the emotions within the school. Observe for signs of tension and conflict.

· Pay attention to gaps between what is expected and what is happening. Look beyond what people are saying. Look for body language, eye contact, emotion, energy. Pay as much attention to what is not being said as you do to what is being said.

· Notice whether there are any disproportionate reactions to proposals regarding possible solutions to the problem. A response that seems out of scale with the suggested idea or initiative is a strong sign that something else is going on.

· Consider any gaps between expectations and actual behaviors that currently exist. In what way does the gap fulfill a need or want? What do individuals stand to lose if they change their behaviors to better reflect an expectation? People aren’t necessarily afraid of change, but they are afraid of loss.

To To practice adaptive leadership, leaders must help people navigate through disequilibrium. This disequilibrium can show as frustration, confusion, conflict and fear of losing something important. But initially, leadership must observe intently for the presence of adaptive challenges. There’s much more to adaptive leadership and Heifetz text is a terrific grounding.

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. R. Heifetz, A. Grashow & M. Linsky. 2009.

Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems. M. Fullan & J. Quinn. 2015.

Reflecting on the Impact of Implementation Drivers

Kim Wingrove, Mathematics School Advocate

At this point in your school improvement journey, you have likely taken the time to analyze data to help determine student needs and implement a usable innovation that is executed with fidelity in order to increase student knowledge and growth. We are familiar with the Implementation Drivers, but how often do we revisit them as a Leadership Team to analyze their impact in our work?

It’s important to remember that the Drivers are compensatory, meaning that the skills and abilities not acquired through one driver can be compensated through the use of another driver. Therefore, it is beneficial for Leadership Teams to take time to review the Implementation Drivers and their impact on school change.

Some questions to consider:

· How are the Implementation Drivers relevant to program implementation in your organization?

· Which driver(s) have received the most purposeful attention? The least? Why?

· How could the framework of the Implementation Drivers strengthen the infrastructure to improve outcomes?

· How will leaders within the organization actively engage in resolving any and all issues that get in the way of using the innovation effectively?

· Is feedback sought from practitioners and others regarding supports for effective use of the innovation?

· Are criteria for selecting practitioners with desired skills and abilities established?

· Who is accountable for assuring training and coaching are occurring as planned?

· Who and how will barriers be determined? How will information about barriers be shared? What support will be provided?

· Are needed supports such as resources, time, or schedules provided to meet demands?

· Have we clearly defined and fully clarified the strategy so that its implementation is measurable (implementation data) and the basis for student outcome measures are reliable?

Equity Integration: One School's Story

Sarah Sirna, English Language Development School Advocate

What is equity? Is it a framework? Is it a lens that's brought to the work? Is it a mindset? Many would argue these are too technical, too tangible. Equity is an idea or a way of thought. It permeates every part of the school system. It's the air in the building; it's everywhere and everything.
The Central Lakes Region has the honor of working with one priority school that exemplifies equity in this regard. As you spend the next minute reading through their most recent process, try to identify outright and more nuanced equity within the story.

In January, ‘Goldy Gopher’ school’s literacy team finished their first practice profile on independent practice, part of a balanced literacy framework the school is working to install. As part of the communication plan, the team disseminated the profile to teams throughout the building for feedback. The newly established equity team took reviewed and determined that the core component, ‘classroom library’ was an avenue to further explore. Each classroom teacher was to have at least 300 titles from a variety of genres! The equity team determined that while the school had been doing ‘diversity training’ the last several years, teachers might need support in choosing culturally responsive texts that promote student identities in the curriculum. They sent this feedback to the literacy team. The literacy team welcomed the support and asked for suggestions. The equity team did research (see the resources below) and created a bookmark for teachers to use when choosing books for their classroom libraries. They also realized that a technical solution, such as creating a bookmark, would not yield the results they wanted; one of the beliefs of the literacy team is that ‘our racial and cultural perspectives influence our relationships’. In order to create healthy relationships, the teachers needed to not only choose books with characters who looked like their students, but also ensure those books did not perpetuate stereotypes. In order to do this, the equity team conducted a pilot of their bookmark and book choosing process. They invited a classroom teacher (white) and the classroom’s assistant educator (black) to the book warehouse to test the process. They made revisions and sent the final product to the literacy team. The equity team trained all staff on the bookmark and selection process. The entire staff (teachers and educational assistants) will be going on a school-wide ‘field trip’ to the book warehouse with the goal of selecting books for their individual classrooms. Members of the equity team will be available for coaching and support.

These two teams linked to create a technical process that supported adaptive change. Equity is not the framework, or the tool, or the lens, that is brought or overlaid on school improvement work. Equity isn’t the feedback loop that is created between people and teams. It is the space that is created, the conversations that get had and the work that moves to the classroom. Equity is the seamless combination of technical and adaptive leadership that pushes school improvement work to be responsive to the needs of students and staff.


Contact Information

Susan Burris, RCE Director,

Mary Jenatscheck, Imp. Science,

Kristil McDonald, Special Education,

Sarah Sirna, English Language Dev. (ELD),

Sophie Snell, English Language Dev. (ELD),

Michelle Wang, Reading,

Kim Wingrove, Mathematics,