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Putting It All Together. A Leader’s Guide to System’s Thinking. AASA National Conference February 18, 2011. Jacqueline J. Brayman , Ed.D . Maureen A. Grey Michael A. Stearns , Ed.D . Understanding One Thing in Terms of Another. Putting It All Together. Context for Change Culture

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Putting It All Together

A Leader’s Guide to System’s Thinking

AASA National Conference

February 18, 2011

Jacqueline J. Brayman, Ed.D.

Maureen A. Grey

Michael A. Stearns, Ed.D.


Understanding One Thing

in Terms of Another


Putting It All Together

  • Context for Change
  • Culture
  • Conditions
  • Capacity
  • Consistency

Context for Change

“Change is the only constant we can count on.”

Mike Weiler, Superintendent

  • Knowledge is growing at exponential rates.
  • Information is instantly available.
  • Fiscal resources continually dwindle.
  • Diversity and poverty rates are growing at rapid rates.
  • Children’s time spent connecting with adults is decreasing.

Strategies for Change

Information from multiple sources

  • Trusted partners
  • “Hold up the mirror. Don’t tell me what I look like, ask me what I see.”
  • Resources both external and internal
  • “The knowledge is in the room.”

Strategies for Change

Understanding the Nature of Change

  • Change should be based on shared vision.
  • Change is often experienced as a loss.
  • There is often wisdom in resistance.
  • Changes should permeate the organization.
  • Often we need to communicate the risk inherent in NOT making needed changes.
  • Evaluation is necessary to analyze if the changes are resulting in the anticipated results.

“I don’t mind change so long as I don’t have to do anything different.”


Strategies for Change


Information from data

  • What are we doing?
  • What results are we getting?
  • What are the challenges students face?
  • What barriers does staff face in unlocking students’ best?
  • What instructional methods might work?
  • What other supports are needed?


  • Definition: Culture is the shared values and beliefs that guide behaviors and determine the way things are done around here(Sergiovanni, 1984).
  • To enhance the district’s change efforts, the following strategies were employed:
    • Build on Assets
    • Set High Expectations
    • Foster Quality Relationships


  • Build on Assets:
  • It is essential that staff understands what their strengths are. It is these strengths that gives them the foundation to make needed changes.
  • In every organization , something works! (Hammond and Hall, 1998)


  • Set High Expectations:
  • Collective Efficacy:
  • Together we can do this!
  • “Expectational” Learning:
    • “Get away from invitational and optional and make things expectational!” Notes Jerry Klekotka, Middle School Assistant Principal

Conditions: Most Important in Influencing Student Learning



1.Shared Focus

2. Consistent


3. Resource


Have you ever asked yourself, “What has to be in place for school success?” Have you ever heard staff say, “I wish our school would focus on just one thing?” Well, so have we. Does this look familiar?


Shared Focus

Our decision: do one thing—literacy

--and do it well throughout the system.

It gave us the biggest bang for

the buck.

Strong literacy skills contribute:

80-90% to success in S.S. & L. Arts,

60-70% to success in Math,

70-80% to success in Science.

The Lesson

Focus on

what is essential

and align your

resources to

support it.

Build Shared Focus and Purpose as the Foundation for Action.


Consistent and Persistent Communication

Remember…make no

assumptions that



your message.

Conduct frequent


  • Leaders communicate to everyone in the system:
  • “This is where we are going.
  • This is why.
  • This is how.
  • We can do this, no matter how hard.
  • We do not know all the answers, but we are willing to learn with you and from you.
  • What do you think you need to get there?”

Leaders do this, over and over and over again.


Align Resources

Commit Resources to Support the “Key” Function of Your System.

  • Treasure is not only your money.
  • Key resources are all resources
  • that can promote
  • attainment of your vision.
  • Look at:
  • Time
  • Staff Expertise &energy
  • Materials
  • Training

“This is the embodiment of “putting our treasure where our mouth is.”




Capacity is the potential to learn and grow the skills and knowledge that influences learning. In this story capacity is grown in the areas of data-driven decision making, participation, and leadership.



  • Capacity’s Strategies:
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Using data to guide instructional practice.
  • Participation: Building ownership through recognizing the value and meaning of change.
  • Leadership: Being an instructional leader, a transformational leader, and a change agent.

Consistency: predictability of behavior and practice.

Vision is like a fire lighter for the leader and for all others.

  • Consistency Strategies:
  • Commitment to Vision and Mission
  • Instructional Framework
  • Shared Practices
  • True leaders must have a visionand mission that are shared by everyone in the system.
  • Senge, (1990) emphasizes the power of a shared vision. “When more people come to share a common vision, the vision may not change fundamentally. But it comes more alive, more real in the sense of a mental reality that people can truly imagine achieving. They now have partners, ‘co-creators’; the vision no longer rests on their shoulders alone.”

Instructional Framework

Secondary teachers

relate that students

readily understand how instruction is delivered so learning is easier.

An instructional framework is a method to deliver instruction in all K-12 classrooms consistently.


Shared Practices

Use of Foldables® for vocabulary work is one example of a school-wide strategy.

The use of consistent instructional practices across the K-12 system increases student achievement.

  • .

Adult Learning

5C’s are integrated in a context of adult learning.

Engage the system and everyone in it to improve instruction to impact learning.


Adult Learning from Conversation

“We are working on really listening to each other’s perspectives and ideas. The quality of what we are doing for student is so much better.”

S. Steelman

  • Listening: the hard work of attending to another in order to understand
  • Dialogue: suspending judgment so we can consider divergent views

Adult Learning from Conversation

  • Inquiry: focuses on questioning, critical thinking and information seeking
  • Reflection: a process of pondering that sets the stage for new understanding


As Orville and Wilbur’s persistence reminds us, we must be willing to try, and try, and try again with the faith and knowledge that our collaborative efforts on behalf of students will be successful. We encourage you to take your own bold steps in order to create the best future for all those you serve in your system.

Good luck as you put it all together and “Take Off!”


Contact Information

Jacqueline J. Brayman

Maureen A. Grey

Michael A. Stearns

For ordering information for Taking Flight to Literacy and Leadership! contact:

Rowmanand Littlefield Education,; 1-800-462-7420.