In his post in Synapse Richard Kississieh talks about school leaders leading with a small rudder.
From the coxswain’s seat, a school leader may read the race and the river, set timing and tempo, anticipate turns, and pull on the tiny rudder when needed. School leaders play a vital role in successively shaping many small aspects of a school to consistently support a vision for teaching and learning.
In Every Child, Every Day I describe a superintendent and staff that appear larger than life, but upon reflection I realize that they had the good sense to understand they were steering with a small rudder, not using a blunt instrument. Superintendent Roger Cook said of naysayers in one interview, “If they think we haven’t dealt with everything they have to deal with, they’re out of their minds!”
Every student-driven educational organization should be built to collaborate easily. Education is after all your business. Managing the knowledge of the organization is key to building the organization’s capacity. In his article in the Harvard Business Review, Harvard Assistant Professor Christopher Myers discusses the creation of an environment where knowledge can be shared. Seems like a no-brainer for a school.
The latest issue of Pioneering includes information about the SXSWedu conference in Austin in March. Roger Cook, superintendent of Taylor County Schools, is one of the featured speakers for a panel discussion on abandoning age-based learning. Here is the entry:
REIMAGINE EDUCATION: ABANDONING AGE-BASED LEARNING
Roger Cook (Taylor County Schools) Dr. Marina Walne (EduStart LLC) Stephan Turnipseed (formerly LEGO Education North America)
Our education system is fundamentally stagnant and it is time that it is overhauled. The aged-based education structure worked well for most of the 20th century, but it has now run its course and will leave students ill prepared for the careers of the future. To improve the outlook for students, we must put them first and move towards a mastery system, where students graduate when they demonstrate a deep knowledge of the subject matter. Join this panel discussion to learn how school systems can implement a “learner-centered paradigm” where students complete day to day tasks at their own pace until they have mastered the curriculum, ensuring they are prepared with a Network Age education.
Those of you planning on being at the conference should plan to attend this presentation. With both Stephan Turnipseed and Roger Cook at the table it promises to be a lively and informative session.
With the arrival of bad weather in the East and Southeast, the radio and television media mobilize their school closure announcements. While this service provides invaluable information, the students at Taylor County Schools and their parents get a phone message on School Messenger that tells them where, not if, they will attend school. If inclement weather makes it unsafe to travel to school, a cyber snow day is announced. A cyber snow day consists of a series of lessons packaged for electronic consumption by the students at home. There is no scramble to designate make-up days, nor teachers trying to figure out how to restructure their classroom practices. Electronic attendance at Taylor County Schools often exceeds actual attendance, approaching 100%.
As one of Kentucky’s Districts of Innovation, TCS pioneered cyber snow days. This is just one of the reasons I needed to tell this story.
You can purchase the book from the publisher or from Amazon.
Imagine an entire school district where no child is held back because of their chronological age, where no child drops out, where no child fails, and where the lessons are personalized to each student’s learning style. This was the story I was fortunate enough to be able to tell in this book. It seems too good to be true, but the staff and board of education at Taylor County Schools in Campbellsville, Kentucky have achieved this and more.
I am optimistic about the state of public education in this country because I have seen what can be done when everyone collaborates on a student-centered educational delivery system. This was a story that had to be told.
Buy it from the publisher or from Amazon.
As a child my favorite book was Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could. Every time I interviewed a staff member at Taylor County Schools that book came to mind.
This is a district that had no reason to succeed other than the grit and determination of the superintendent, their board, and their staff. Yes, this was an amazing collaborative effort (everyone is exhorted to innovate). Yes, the district is small (three schools). Yes, their methods are very unconventional (they have personalized learning for every student). Yes, their enrollment is 60% economically disadvantaged. Yes, the superintendent was a child of poverty himself.
And with all those advantages and disadvantages, they still managed to bring the children everything they needed for success in life! This was a story worth telling.
I am often asked how you build an innovative organization like Taylor County Schools. In her January 4, 2016 blog post in Strategy+Business Lisa Bodell gives us the benefit of her experience in helping organizations “forward think.”
Here are the five steps she describes:
- Go micro. Understand the developing microtrends and understand their impact on the various departments in the organization.
- Annual scenario review. Look at political, societal, environmental, technological, and legal changes that will occur within whatever time horizon you select and develop scenarios that respond to those changes.
- Make the future tangible.
- Retain a technology scout. Early adopters are aware of advances in technology long before anyone else. The tech scout is an early adopter who can make unusual connections between new technology and your organization.
- Tap into academia. In an educational organization these are the researchers. Programs and program delivery should be informed by research and data. The key to disruptive innovation is making the connections between what is known and what is possible.
Disruptive innovation in education is never easy, but creating a forward thinking culture is a solid first step in the right direction.
“Public schools are being asked to do more for more children than at any point in time of the history of US public education. While we are asked to do more, more children are in poverty and many schools are facing significant demographic and funding changes. Teaching and learning processes must change if we are to reach the increased expectations. Taylor County Schools in Kentucky under the leadership of Superintendent Roger Cook have developed new models of teaching and learning that focus on mastery rather than the traditional seat time and Carnegie unit models. Taylor County provides hope to many educators who are looking to find creative and innovative ways to help more students reach success.”
–Terry Holliday, Ph.D., Commissioner of Education, Commonwealth of Kentucky
“Mike Raible clearly captures the way that Roger Cook continuously collaborated with the entire staff in Taylor County to benefit all students. Too often, this collaboration, and then validating the great work done by staff as Cook does, is missing from America’s school districts. The work of Roger Cook provides us an example to learn from.”
–Peter Gorman Ed.D., CEO of Peter Gorman Leadership Associates, LLC and Managing Director of Academies for Atlantic Research Partners
“Your 14 steps to prevent dropouts are on the money. I especially like the options for students and creative staffing.”
–Lory Morrow Ed.D., Superintendent, Davidson County Schools, North Carolina
“Having worked with Roger Cook, I can safely say that he represents the type of leader that doesn’t need mass amounts of funding or the savviest pieces of technology to create lasting change in a district. Not everyone can afford to fly to Kentucky to see his work in reality, but luckily, this book takes educators into the halls of the Taylor County Schools to see Cook’s vision in action. District leaders, you’ll want to read this story.”
–Mary Jo Madda, Senior Editor at EdSurge