Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
This week I had the opportunity to attend a professional workshop on how schools can harness the use of student data and create school wide systems and structures to support student learning. I traveled downtown for this learning opportunity, but this workshop attracted school administrators from across the country. I had the good fortune of meeting educators from Minnesota, Boston, and Colorado. The districts represented ranged in size from very small (under 1000 students) to very large (over 50,000 students). Even though our districts varied in size, location, and clientele the challenges we faced were similar.
The format of the workshop was similar to other professional learning opportunities I am sure you have attended. Each district was seated at a table with at least one other district. We were presented with the latest research and new ways of looking at the problems that face our districts. Facilitators helped structure cross table conversations, and we began the groundwork to make improvements in our schools.
As I listened to the problems other districts were facing I began to sense a theme in the conversation. I caught myself saying, “Yes, we dealt with that same problem and here is how we solved it…” I learned very quickly that District 39 is ahead of the curve in many of the problems facing districts around the country. Our table group discussed how to use technology as a tool to enhance learning, ways to use school time more effectively, and how to empower teacher leadership. In all of these conversations District 39 staffers were offering guidance and advice. It was validating to know that the hard work we have put into making our schools the best was paying off and is seen as a model by our peers.
To be sure, there were some great lessons we learned and ways that we can better serve our students, families, and teachers. The connections we made with our presenters and with our colleagues will help us continue to move the needle in our schools. The content of the presentation provided us with practical strategies we can use Monday morning. However, being the District that sets the standard and to be so well respected by our colleagues is a testament to the great work being done by our teachers and administrators.