District Administration March 2018 - 14

OnTopic

Grant Lichtman

of the colleges-in theory-to change
their admissions practices. Are we starting to see that change fundamentally
in practice? We're not seeing it yet, but
there's nothing whatsoever preventing
colleges and universities around the
country from waking up tomorrow and
substantially changing their admissions
practices.
So this sort of evolutionary change
could take a few generations until it
becomes the norm.
That could be the case with respect
to some of the levers I describe in the
book. Our society is undergoing major
changes across virtually all sectors. All
our large traditional institutions-political, religious, economic, educational-
are still in the throes of adjusting to the
information and post-information ages.
And those big changes are not going to
happen overnight. What is interesting
is that individual schools are changing
much more quickly than that. When
I wrote #EdJourney five years ago, my
best prediction was that individual
schools, even given a desire and capacity to change just within their own
walls, would take probably 12 to 15
years to make a substantial change. But
in the intervening five years, I think
we can say that pace has accelerated
dramatically at some schools, many of
which I cite in Moving the Rock.
One of the levers you talk about is
leadership, and the understanding
that it isn't top-down directives, but a
collaboration.
Yes. Schools for a long time have fallen
into the trap of the "bimodal" way of
leadership. One is top-down, where
the principal, the superintendent, or
whoever, tells us what to do and we
do it. And the other is more organic,
where the leadership says, "Look, we're
going to nurture good things that are
happening and our assumption is that
14 March 2018

School leaders have to empower distributive
leadership across the system, or else this change
either won't happen, or it will take so long that
it might as well not be happening.
those good things will percolate out
and become systemic throughout the
organization." The problem is that takes
a very long time.
Many of us have now settled on the
preferred modality, which is "inside out."
It essentially says we are all leaders of
change. Everybody in the organization
has a requirement and an expectation to
lead change. We need to provide them
the skill set of how to do that. It starts
with realizing, "I lead myself through
change. I lead a team through change.
And I lead a growing tribe throughout
the organization through change."
It empowers teachers who have not
viewed themselves as organizational leaders in the past to start acting that way,
which is incredibly important amongst
successfully changing organizations.
It still takes someone at the top who
is capable of dealing with outside interference to give faculty the time and
the space to develop their new model.
Absolutely. I talk about the "architect"
leader, which is a very different model.
It's not a leader who tries to dictate
from the top. It's a leader who understands that they have to let go and empower others to be good designers and
creators of their own change.
It involves a lot of good listening,
and designing prototypes and iterating
those prototypes, and not getting stuck
on one particular answer, but rather
having leaders who are willing to evolve
their ideas and understandings.

And perhaps most importantly,
it requires the titular leaders of our
schools to be trained to understand
what distributive leadership actually
means. School leaders are recognizing
that they have to empower distributive
leadership across the system, or else this
change either won't happen or it will
take so long that it might as well not be
happening.
What's the big takeaway from your
book for our readers?
There are schools and districts across
the country-and to some extent
around the world-that have undergone really significant transformation
toward a school that looks a lot like
what your readers want their schools to
look like. And they've done this essentially by just getting after it; by finding
some of these levers and pressing them.
The point is there's nothing magical
about these schools. There's nothing
unique about them.
It just takes the collective will of a
community to say we are going to press
the levers. I want people to take away
that optimism, and the understanding
that no one has to recreate the wheel.
There's a tremendous amount of overlap about what we want schools to be.
We don't have to wait for the inertial
battles to be solved. We can go ahead
and just go after it. DA
Tim Goral is senior editor.
District Administration



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration March 2018

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