By Stephen Pham. This post was originally published by The Learning Accelerator. 

With the perpetually lagging outcomes from our U.S. K-12 schools, we can all agree that our education system needs significant improvement. In order to produce equitable outcomes for all children, we need to creatively innovate on all levels – within classrooms, schools, and the systems overseeing our schools. And while different systems of schools will, rightly so, approach innovating their programs in different ways, successfully scaling change requires strong alignment and vision between all stakeholders to ensure strong outcomes for all students.

Over the past few months, we, at The Learning Accelerator, have had the privilege of partnering with two school systems – Valor Collegiate Academies (Nashville, TN) and Henry County Schools (Henry County, GA) – who have transformed their schools (and continue to do so) through thoughtful vision-setting and change management practices. As part of our strategy to capture and share strategies around Blended and Personalized Learning at Work, we dove deeply into their practices and stories of transformation. After working tirelessly to identify, codify, and represent their work, we discovered a few consistent strategies that have enabled their ongoing success.

Work from a strong, yet adaptable vision and foundation

While Valor started as a new charter network and Henry County Schools shifted an existing system, both spent considerable time creating an in-depth vision around their model. Valor designed their entire model around a social-emotional, human development model, infusing research into their comprehensive vision. As Henry County Schools made the shift to personalized learning, they established core pillars to define the key components of their model. In both cases, the systems have well-defined principles with the right amount of flexibility – whether it’s in piloting new programs or personalizing the approach within each school – to ensure success in meeting the needs of the community.

Invest in people

Regardless of how great the concept might be, effective change will not happen if stakeholders are not invested and given the right supports. Valor leads its social-emotional curriculum with its faculty, creating a culture of social-emotional growth and ensuring faculty are then able to best support students. Henry County created leadership academies, ensuring strong pipelines and capacity around personalized learning. Without ensuring all people are bought in and supported, cogs in the wheel break down and slow – and even risk halting – all progress.

Ground the change in student outcomes

At the end of the day, our education system should be entirely designed around one group – our kids. Grounding changes in student outcomes will keep all stakeholders invested and excited about the work. Valor focuses on holistically developing each scholar as a human being, building safe and healthy relationships and becoming positive members of their communities. Henry County Schools grounds the shift to student-centered learning around developing each individual learner’s 21st-century skills for college and career readiness, getting students excited for their own learning and career pathways.

We’re thrilled to share both the innovative practices and the stories of change from these two transformational school networks. Take a look, share them with your colleagues, and reach out with any feedback you might have!

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