Spark Your District Transformation during the Pandemic
From Crisis to Transformation
It is not easy to think about the future when the present is so demanding, overwhelming, and troubling. But perhaps you are feeling similar to Emily Kurth, an instructional coach in Chicago, who said, "What keeps me up is the potential to bounce back to what wasn’t working. I worry our opportunity to work with teachers and shift systems will close if we don’t think reflectively about what really counts."
Consider using Transformation Design practices to address a pressing challenge in the present in order to set your community up for district-wide learning transformation in the future. That is, your district community can take one systemic change demanded by COVID-19 that you are already working on and apply the blue Personal and Cultural Transformation Design Practices (the blue stream) as you create the needed change.
Personal and Cultural Transformation Design Practices
Activate Change Agents
Empowering the people in our district—teachers, administrators, students, families, school board members, community and business leaders alike—to see themselves as THE change-makers for the district.
Build an Inclusive Environment
Strengthening relationships among teachers, administrators, students, families, school board members, community and business leaders so our district has the foundation of trust that creates an environment supportive of change.
Embed a Culture of Innovation
Building a district-wide culture of inquiry and improvement with broad “all in” sentiment, something that results from the ongoing efforts for the people in our district to become change-makers working to transform learning in inclusive, trusting relationships.
A small team can intentionally use Transformation Design practices as they create solutions for any one of these pressing needs, or another challenge that your district community is working to solve.
Teaching and Learning
Prioritizing content in the curriculum and rethinking assessment
Integrating social, emotional, and physical well-being with academic learning
Resolving the incompatibility of seat-time requirements and grade-level promotion through mastery-based progression
Providing socially-distanced learning that is collaborative, authentic, real-world, or project-based
Revising accommodations to meet Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) in hybrid and remote learning environments
Providing equitable access to meals, technology, child care, and safe social interactions
Adjusting daily, weekly, and annual schedules and calendars
Unbundling teaching responsibilities into multiple roles
Re-deploying Classified and support staff whose jobs cannot be performed remotely
Providing professional development that models best practices for remote instruction
Revising rules and processes for employee leave, absences
Policies and Systems
Enacting health and safety protocols that flex to changing conditions
Communicating among families, teachers, and administrators
Revising budgets due to unanticipated expenses, revenue losses, and frequently changing plans
Revisiting policies concerning data, privacy, and technology
Apply the Core Practices
Once your team identifies a systemic change demanded by COVID-19, look for opportunities to use one or more of these actions as you work to solve the challenge. The actions are organized by three principles that differentiate Transformation Design from change strategies traditionally used in K-12 education: inclusive, iterative, imaginative. Build on change strategies that your district already uses that embrace the spirit of Transformation Design. Start small and find a balance between the urgency of the pressing need and the long view of future transformation.
Approach the COVID-19 systemic change with intentional inclusiveness by using these Transformation Design actions.
Invite and Empower Stakeholders to Activate Change Agents. Which staff, students, and stakeholders does your team represent? How much of a voice do the staff, students, and stakeholders have on the team?
Confront Existing Inequities to Build an Inclusive Environment. How will your team assess the racial equity impact of the change? To what extent will the change disrupt district structures, policies, and behaviors that are exacerbating inequitable experiences and outcomes during COVID-19?
Distribute Leadership to Build an Inclusive Environment. How will your team's ability to make decisions and take action be affirmed and supported by positional leaders? How will your team engage other staff, students, and stakeholders affected by the change, and empower them to make decisions and take action?
Deepen Collective Responsibility to Embed a Culture of Innovation. How will your team invite the district community to support the change? How will your team make transparent their intentional shifts in practice to be more inclusive? How will your district community reflect upon, revise, and embed these inclusive Transformation Design practices so they might persist beyond this team and beyond the pandemic?
Approach the COVID-19 systemic change your team identified by iterating toward your solution. Use these Transformation Design actions to create spaces that support iteration.
Listen. Then Communicate to Build an Inclusive Environment. How will your team's change begin by listening to your district community? How will your team specifically seek out those marginalized by systemic inequities to understand their experience? How will your team continue to listen to your district community as the change is implemented and make adjustments based on what you discover?
Measure Progress and Celebrate People to Embed an Culture of Innovation. What outcomes is the change designed to achieve and how will your team measure progress toward those outcomes? How will your team ensure that evaluating progress is an ongoing learning opportunity to improve the change over time rather than a summative indicator of success or failure? How will your team share with your district community what you learn and the iterations you are making in response?
Approach the COVID-19 systemic change your team identified by tapping into the creativity and talent of the people in your district community. Use these Transformation Design actions to do so.
Map Roles by Strengths to Activate Change Agents. How will your team come to know the strengths and assets of individuals on the team? How will the strengths of the team and the wider district community inform roles and decisions? How will your team design the change to tap into the strengths of stakeholders affected by the change?
Cultivate Leadership Capacity to Activate Change Agents. How will your team provide opportunities, especially during the pandemic, to replenish your spirit and creativity? How will individuals on the team be encouraged to develop new skills and knowledge through their role on the team? To what extent will the change enable staff, students, and stakeholders affected by the change to have authentic, self-paced, equitable opportunities to develop new skills and knowledge and contribute to the success of the change?
Foster Interpersonal Connections to Build an Inclusive Environment. How will your team encourage staff, students, and stakeholders affected by the change to exchange ideas and practices in support of the change? How will your team invite difficult conversations that honor the talent, creativity, and unique perspectives of staff, students, and stakeholders?
Measure Progress and Celebrate People to Embed a Culture of Innovation. How will your team celebrate the district community for its contributions to the change? How will your team encourage innovation by celebrating those who continue to try something new to advance the change and take risks in support of what's best for students?
See an Example
When Humans, Not Systems, Run Schools. The Transformation Design partner districts transitioned to home-based learning in spring 2020 with rapid design of new systems and communication, propelled by their professional cultures of distributed leadership.
Move Your District Transformation Forward
As a small group approaches a single change in a new way during this complex, challenging time of the pandemic, listen to discover the meaning that people in your district community make of the effort. Take notice of any shifts in mindsets, behaviors, or sense of purpose that are naturally emerging. Encourage your district community to foster these seeds of transformation, and your district will already be moving toward its future of learning.