Change Process for a District
All the values, principles, and continuous activities described in Chapter 8 apply to the change process for a district. Only the sequential activities are significantly different across the two scopes of change addressed in this book. This chapter opens with an overview of the process for changing an entire school district. It then provides detailed guidance for sequential activities grouped into eight phases.
1. Prepare for the change process
A building needs a foundation. So does the change process. Preparing a school district for paradigm change is critical to successful implementation of PCBE. It is important to partner with an experienced external process facilitator, marshal political support, form a small prelaunch team (seven or eight people) that includes leaders from the major stakeholder groups, and enhance district capacity for paradigm change.
2. Create a shared ideal district vision and develop capacity and a strategy for change
Developing a shared vision of PCBE promotes learning, mindset change, and commitment to change, and it reduces resistance to change. The prelaunch team expands into a district leadership team (roughly 30 people), which includes leaders of all stakeholder groups in the district, to lead the district-wide transformation to PCBE. Each member of the leadership team engages others in their stakeholder group (akin to pyramid groups) in a manner that gives stakeholders an opportunity to give input and helps those stake-holders’ thinking to evolve as the leadership team members’ thinking evolves. In this way, stakeholders’ mindsets shift towards the PCBE paradigm as the district leadership team’s vision begins to crystalize. The districtwide vision must be sufficiently general that different schools can implement it in different ways.
During this time, the district leadership team also develops the district’s capacity for change. This primarily entails cultivating a culture for change, developing the change process skills of participants, and procuring resources for the implementation process. Participants need release time to work on the trans-formation, and the district will soon need funding to visit other PCBE districts and schools, provide professional development for teachers, remodel facilities, and procure tools and materials for PCBE.
Finally, the district leadership team develops a strategy for implementing the vision, typically involving decisions about the number of schools (one “feeder system” versus all the schools) and the number of teachers in each school (one “school within the school” versus the entire school).
3. Choose a school or schools to pioneer PCBE
The district leadership team solicits applications for schools to pioneer PCBE and selects the one (or more if enough resources are available) that demonstrates the highest level of readiness—not the one with the greatest need. This is typically an elementary school for several reasons that are discussed in Step 3.2 in the Detailed Guidance. The district leadership team also helps other schools to improve their readiness for change.
4. Create a shared ideal school vision
Leaders of all stakeholder groups in the chosen school(s) form a school leadership team to participate in this phase. Each leader engages others in his or her stakeholder group so that their thinking evolves with their leader’s and they can provide input through their leader. The vision must be consistent with the district vision but could do so in different ways from other schools that are transforming in the district.
5. Create a separate district administrative structure
The district leadership team designs and implements a separate administrative structure (akin to that described in principle X in Chapter 6) to support the transformed school. A separate administrative structure is essential, because many aspects of the current administrative structure are incompatible with PCBE but remain important for the schools that have not yet transformed. This new administrative structure obtains any needed waivers for the PCBE school(s) from the state education agency.
6. Implement and evolve the school vision
The chosen school implements high-leverage changes in its vision and then makes other changes as the need emerges. It is important to allow sufficient time to procure tools (for example, hands-on learning materials, digital tools, online tutorials and assessments), design projects and other activities for students, receive profession-al development for effective use of tools and design of projects, and possibly remodel facilities (for example, classrooms into studios).
If the school is large, there are likely teachers and families who are reluctant to pioneer the changes. One solution is to divide the school into two schools within the same building and allow both teachers and students to choose. However, this must be done with a commitment that the reluctant group will transform in the future. Also, as students advance in grade levels, it becomes progressively harder for them to switch to PCBE, because they become conditioned to be passive learners and lack the self-direction skills and mindsets necessary for success in a PCBE classroom. It would also be frustrating for PCBE students to go back to the teacher-centered system. Therefore, it is wise to first implement PCBE in the first three to five grades (say, ages five to eight) and convert one grade per year thereafter. This progressive approach also helps prevent spreading resources for change too thinly.
Finally, the chosen school makes additional changes as needed or desired in order to make the high-leverage changes work better. Formative evaluation of the PCBE system is crucial. No summative evaluation should be done for about five years, to give time for the evolution to overcome inevitable problems.
7. Expand to additional schools
Repeat phases 3, 4, and 6 for a few more schools that are at the highest levels of readiness, helping each to gradually work up to higher grade levels.
8. Evolve the ideal visions
Educational needs and tools change over time. After about ten years of expanding and continuously improving the school and district visions, the district and schools should form new leadership teams to develop new ideal visions toward which they can continue to evolve.