Is your school community aligned behind a well-defined group of forward-leaning, system-wide learning initiatives? Are you busting or re-enforcing silos with your strategic thinking? Are you using the most recent research in neuroscience to help craft learning routines and differentiate learning opportunities for each child?
I had a full day to work with the faculty, staff and advisory leadership teams at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and their embedded Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning in Potomac, MD this week. It was my second visit to the school, as I fortuitously visited them during #EdJourney, and have cited them in the book as a true national/international leader in the use of neuroscience and advanced pedagogy and curriculum development.
As I have posted in the last few days, why do schools follow parallel, frequently repetitive, and frequently poorly-aligned paths of strategic planning, accreditation reporting, visioning, and program implementation? Following Bo Adams’ metaphor, when we want to build a new building, do we have one team design the landscape, another plan the usage, a third create the structural plan, and a fourth start ordering materials? No: we bring the parties together, under the facilitation of an architect, and we coordinate our vision with a good plan on how it make it all work…and only then do we get to work at pouring concrete and hammering nails.
This is where St. Andrew’s is leading the way. Last year they identified five essential questions that embody and will guide their programmatic evolution in the next 1-3 years. They are also in the year of their accreditation review and report. So rather than following a worn-out accreditation (sorry; am telling it like it is) of framing their vision in terms of their past, they asked their accrediting agency (Assoc. of Independent Schools, Maryland) if they could use the five essential questions as their accreditation frame. AIMS said yes! It is a great pilot that HOPEFULLY will be picked up on and amplified by other schools and other accreditation agencies. It aligns faculty, staff, trustee, student, and community work into one set of congruent blueprints.
As I have posted before, St. Andrew’s development of the CTTL is an enormous leap forward and rapidly growing resource for educational leaders around the country. Their partnerships with Johns Hopkins Dept. of Neuroscience and the Harvard School of Education has exploded into a body of work that they are starting to share with schools that recognize the key role that brain research plays in building student success. Now the CTTL is imagining how to scale up their program, to make it available to a much wider audience. In my opinion, this center is a must-follow for all educators: how might you link up with their work and leverage it at your school. If this is an area of interest for your educators (and it MUST be!), connect with the CTTL via director Glenn Whitman and see if they can send a team your way.