Lyn Sharratt and Gale Harild worked together in York Region. Sharratt was Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction; Harild was Curriculum Administrator for Community-Based Education. The district vision led to resource allocation and professional learning designed to increase student achievement and to develop what were seen as the capabilities required to become a Literate Graduate. The system’s definition of the Literate Graduate included Numeracy, the ability to work with technologies, and having the capacity upon graduation to move successfully into the workforce, into community living, to college or to university. Multiple Pathways – none more valuable than another. They saw having a sense of what jobs and careers were available in their communities, and those which were becoming important to the economy as a critical element of becoming a “literate graduate”, as this experience would enable students to make course selection decisions and make them career and future education ready, place them on the path to the future that is right for them.
This was and is a complex multi-lensed program, one in which it is important to get all lenses focusing at once in order to achieve clarity of direction. Achieving success in this program starts with mastery of the basics. Understanding that all students can learn with good first instruction and interventions; and, that all teachers can teach given the right resources and support.
Realization & FACES
Sharratt wrote Realization about school and system effectiveness improvement, the lesson from which is to make sure that each of the 14 Parameters of successful districts is in place and sustained in the face of distractors. Then Sharratt wrote FACES in which she discussed how to see through the glut of information to select the key bits of information that are important in putting FACES on the data, to make sure no student is forgotten. Clearly, understanding key bits of data not only enables teachers and principals to understand what has been learned while it is being learned, but also, ongoing assessment data becomes informative for teaching as it shows what each student still needs to learn and what to do to get them to readiness to move to the next learning level. Some of the data collected about individual students can assist teachers to form the way they provide information, direction or querying to not only get the best learning result but to drive student motivation and engagement because not all data is not assessment data. Some schools have found that anecdotal data concerning students helps teachers form bonds with students which result in students feeling that school is relevant to them, that their teacher “gets them”. Some schools have listed students’ interests as discovered by teachers as data – and does that make a difference to the relevance of examples a teacher might make to entice a student to participate or to create an example to help explain a concept?
Good to Great to Innovate
Good to Great to Innovate to Innovate: Recalculating the Route K-12+ is the thought-child of Sharratt & Harild. With FACES in place, Sharratt and Harild collaborated to bring the next element of FACES to book form. What additional forms of data, what additional elements of information, what new types of teaching that would not be onerous to collect or manage could help teachers and principals prepare a greater number of Literate and Numeric Graduates who upon graduation were also working their way toward their own personal TrueNorth?
At the prestigious American Publishers’ Awards presented February 4, 2016 in Washington, D.C., Good to Great to Innovate (Corwin 2015) by Lyn Sharratt and Gale Harild was awarded one of only two Honorable Mentions in the Education Practice Category, with the only other award being the category winner. The link https://proseawards.com leads to the actual list of Prose Awards announced in each of the categories of the peer judged competition.
Some influential educators participated in writing the book as contributing commentators. Their writing appears at the end of each chapter as a summary comment. Noted educators such as Michael Fullan, Andy Hargreaves, Avis Glaze, Alma Harris, Louise Stoll, Yong Zhao and Ken Leithwood develop their own take on the authors’ conceptual frameworks.
Dr Janelle Wills, Director Marzano Institute Australia, says, “Through extensive research and practical examples, this outstanding book puts forward a compelling case for structured collaborative inquiry processes to achieve success for all students.
Peter M DeWitt, in his EdWeek Opinion Blog, named Lyn Sharratt as “one of the 18 women who every K-12 educator should know.” LINK here
Debbie Hedgepeth, Assistant Superintendent Vail Unified School District, says, “Without question, the job market demands agility, resourcefulness, innovation, and fearlessness. The authors of Good to Great to Innovate brilliantly map the DNA of a relevant education.”
Not only should every student FACE be known by teachers in every school, but we believe that systems must begin to help their students learn their TrueNorth very early on in their formal education. We use the compass analogy of “true north” as it is used in navigation. Whenever a boat or plane goes slightly off course, the navigator can always get it back on course because they know “true north” from the compass and tables. TrueNorth for our students is understanding what their real interests are, and, what they understand their aptitudes to be through many experiences. By having partners in the community involved early in a student’s education, the student can begin to form a sense of what interests them and can begin to demonstrate those interests to teachers. Understanding and accepting those interests will give teachers another set of options for engaging each student in the classroom. In other words, interests flesh out the FACES more precisely. Like it was for Michaelangelo, with every tap of the hammer and chisel “the marble reveals the lovely apparition inside”, every interest known helps teachers to reveal the learners more fully. And with every piece of new knowledge, the student’s direction becomes closer to their TrueNorth. The more the student discovers as they experience in-school and out-of-school Pathways, the more likely they will be to select post-secondary Pathways that are appropriate for their TrueNorth.
Good teaching is a key to student success. Good teaching takes the understanding of who the students in the class are – as discussed above. It also takes leadership examples, dedicated team planning time and a willingness as an individual to open your classroom to others and to work closely with other teachers and then – and then the hard part – to put your adult ego “on hold” to become a good collaborative teacher with your students. With good assessment data and a willingness to move away from “telling” to creating relevant and learning rich challenges appropriate to interests, a teacher can create enthusiastic learners who will develop the group and personal learning skills so much in demand by all forms of career. But it is a learning curve that requires strong, skilled leadership. Getting into what student interests are in their early years education; understanding their learning styles; knowing their family situations and determine how to augment when required, are examples of understanding the student DNA to make their potential learning gains greater.
Involving parents and the community is another layer or lens in the full prism as described in Good to Great to Innovate. Having parents and teachers too move away from the rigidly-held notion that all students need to be readying for university or college is not easy. It is in parental DNA to espouse the pathway they know or to aspire for a different pathway they may not know, and in teacher DNA to espouse that pathway they know. For several years articles in most major newspapers and online sources have referred and they continue to refer to the need for skilled labour in every field – plumbers, electricians, electrical engineers, manufacturing operators – all now need to have similar communications and learning skills. There are jobs available now and will be into the future as the population ages.
In YRDSB, district senior administrators were encouraged to leave their schools to not simply become social members of local service clubs as many educators do, and do well, but to use every possible way to become part of the community fabric, to learn who does what, and how their work might be important to the students in the district. They developed partnerships at the school and district level with large and small employers and several professional groups (including medical, veterinary, and legal). These partners opened their shops and agreed they could be tapped for in-class experiences with primary students, in-class and some on-site experiences by middle school students, and for very real on-site viewing and even working experiences for secondary students. While the latter demanded legal agreements due to liability concerns, and background checks all of which the prospective partners agreed to do, the partners and the district did so understanding the potential high return on these investments for the students and for the employers. And why not, since at the time, approximately 40% of the students went directly into the work force from secondary school. Further, there was and there is today a large number of career jobs available because students were and are unskilled or did not select appropriate post-secondary training or education leaving them unprepared to take these jobs. Imagine if a greater number of students “found their way” as we parents and educators often say; imagine if more of them found the pathway that excited and engaged them early on and they were able to direct themselves into whatever further training was required for that pathway. We call that finding their own TrueNorth.
Rather write only about what YRDSB did, or what programs the Ministry of Education in Ontario put in place for High Skills Majors as an example – regardless of their success – Sharratt & Harild looked outward to find an inventory of current innovative programming in this relatively new field and asked “how did it become so?; how could it become even better?” In the research and discussions with other jurisdictions, and finding successful examples of such programs, what they uncovered to no one’s surprise was that to provide the broadest range of experience which might encourage students to think about future careers and studies, teachers needed to learn more about each student’s interests which they then might use to positively impact their learning. They discovered systems already experimenting with single interest schools, with Cooperative Education at various degrees of implementation, but little consistency across systems or coordination between local systems.
Think about girls or boys loving cars, obsessing over sports, having strong interests in animals, experimenting with how to program robots, or investigating how computers/tablets work, and then using that interest (their DNA) in lessons or individualizing commentary on progress or selection of projects. Imagine “interesting teachers” turning “give information” into collaborative inquiries where really motivated kids actually run ahead of their teachers with their projects and teachers can learn too. Imagine creating schools with single interest studies in cities or even rural areas where kids are already bused. It’s happening, and the notion can be rolled out further. Successful partnerships do not have to large e.g. an IBM, but could be small such as with a carpentry team in a city.
Sharratt & Harild talk about the system leadership required. They write about how leaders have to become collaborative in their approaches with principals to first get the system and schools to be “good” and then work toward becoming great and generating Imagine-ability and innovation that will enable their students to progress. This is not about play or making education fun; it is very serious innovation in programming and partnerships that results in students finding their TrueNorth early on and being able to discern which are the right courses to take and what is the right way to learn in order to follow that pathway.