Fall 2009

Systems Thinking

CEO Message: Approaches to Implementing Systems Thinking

CEO Message

Our first issue of the new AdvancED Source publication was met with much positive feedback, and we are pleased to deliver this second issue as the new school year begins. Our continued goal is to deliver content on education quality and educational issues from the viewpoint of the practitioner.

Our first issue of the new AdvancED Source publication was met with much positive feedback, and we are pleased to deliver this second issue as the new school year begins. Our continued goal is to deliver content on education quality and educational issues from the viewpoint of the practitioner.                   

In this issue of the AdvancED Source, we have chosen the theme of Systems Thinking. One of the most significant unintended changes of the accountability movement is the transition to a systems perspective in how we lead and manage networks of schools from the local school system to the state department of education to the federal government, as well as private or non-public school networks. Engaging in a systems perspective is not the same as centralization. Healthy systems align and connect all the parts and actions associated with the system. Leadership, decision making, work, and purposeful actions are distributed throughout the system in an aligned, coherent manner. In a centralized approach, control is the objective with limited distribution of leadership and decision making.

Our best classrooms, schools, and school systems demonstrate a systems approach to their intended work on a daily and annual basis. Effective classroom instruction takes place when the teacher creates, nurtures, and ensures that all the activities and actions in the classroom are aligned and connected to support student learning success. The best schools or school systems ensure that the organizational and instructional components are interconnected so that the school or school system provides the optimum conditions for teachers and students to succeed. In all cases, the capacity of the system (whether it be a classroom, school or school system) to enact internal quality controls that monitor the performance of the system are essential to ensure that the system engages in a continuous process of improvement.

Dr. Rick DuFour opens this issue with a piece entitled, “Professional Learning Communities: The Key to Improved Teaching and Learning,” in which he explores the interdependent relationships that can truly make a difference in student learning.

Practitioner Barbara Cleary examines a more systemic approach to the learning process in her piece, “Process and Tools Support Learning at all Levels,” and Robert Eaker and Janel Keating suggest the key questions professional learning communities must ask themselves to move towards real improvement in their article, “A New Way of Thinking: Schools as Professional Learning Communities.”

National Staff Development Council Executive Director Stephanie Hirsh shares her perspectives on how a change in an institution’s approach to professional development can impact the quality of instruction. Look for her article, “Systemic Change in Education Begins with a New Vision for Professional Development.”

Also in this issue, AdvancED’s General Counsel provides insights into how school districts can ensure their compliance with the Opening Meetings Act and the Sunshine Act in his "Legal Brief: Balancing Accountability and Transparency on the Board Level."

Building and maintaining healthy systems is essential to providing and supporting the conditions for teachers and students to be successful in the teaching and learning process. I want to thank each of our expert contributors to this issue of the AdvancED Source as they have provided all of us with knowledge and guidance on how to ensure our ultimate goal is achieved — student success. 

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