Rationale for Approach to Transforming School Districts

The rationale for proposing transformational change in school districts is built on the following understandings:

  1. The educational needs of students are different in the Information-Age than they were in the Industrial-Age.
  2. A customized, attainment-based, learning-focused paradigm of education is required for Information-Age schooling. But, the standardized, time-based, sorting-focused paradigm of education, which was appropriate for the Industrial-Age, is the dominant one in use in America’s school districts. This misalignment can be corrected by engaging school districts in transformational change.
  3. Transformational change uses a different methodology and has different outcomes than other more common approaches to school reform. It produces paradigm change rather than piecemeal reforms.
  4. Principles of systems thinking, systems dynamics, and systems design must be used to create and sustain systemic transformational change for entire school districts.
  5. Mindsets, or mental models, influence educators’ and other stakeholders’ thinking about the relationship between their school district and its external environment, about teaching and learning, and about the quality of worklife in school districts. These mindsets also influence educators’ and other stakeholders’ thinking about how to create and sustain change. Many times these mindsets are in direct opposition to the requirements of transformational change. Therefore, mindset change among many, many stakeholders is very important.  Also, stakeholder ownership of the transformational change process is very important.
  6. Creating and sustaining transformational change requires a consensus-building type of decision-making process, which is significantly different from autocratic and democratic decision-making processes.  In the consensus-building process personal disclosure of one’s reservations and assumptions is critical to the success of the decision-making process.
  7. The participatory, developmental paradigm of leadership is different from the top-down, authoritarian paradigm of leadership. Participatory, developmental leadership is required for effective transformational change. In a participatory leadership environment, it is very important to build and maintain trust, build a shared vision, empower all stakeholders to be leaders, and provide those leaders with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful.
  8. State departments of education should facilitate district-level paradigm change because they are the external system that controls many of the resources school districts need to succeed.
  9. State departments of education can facilitate transformational change in their states’ school districts and thereby promote district-level paradigm change in those districts by engaging the services of the FutureMinds initiative.  

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