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Take It Forward in Your Context

Now that you’ve explored the lessons from other schools and systems, consider how this work has a bearing on your own context. What new muscles have you and your team already built? What will you do with them and how can you go forward?

Plotting a pathway forward requires reflecting on where you are, including the existing practices and conditions in place. Consider these two questions:

  • What did we do? Surface changes in practice and conditions that have allowed you to drive towards greater equity through personalization, a focus on mastery, and creating approaches that support whole child development. Be sure to consider both changes in practice AND the conditions in your system. The strategies you surface will be the grist for the mill in thinking about what lies ahead.

  • How did it go and why? For each change, capture data on the impact. These data could be quantitative — did a given practice achieve its objective? Data could also be qualitative, drawing from perceptions of experience and observations from participants. As you make sense of progress, be sure to account for the conditions that might have helped implementation or held it back.

You might already be aware of work undertaken. You will likely also need to engage others, especially if in a larger school or system, to accurately capture all of the practice change and innovation that has occurred. Consider how to creatively source data and ideas from leaders, staff, and students across your system (especially those who are frequently underrepresented in these conversations) through interviews, focus groups, surveys, and brainstorming sessions.

Here are some concrete tools you can use to explore these questions:

Building a foundation for future work will require helping others understand and celebrate the new skills, tools, and competencies your community has built. Doing this will require creating mechanisms for sharing new practices and approaches, building understanding of them as well as a sense of achievement across your teams. Here are some ideas and tools you can use or draw inspiration from:

Now it’s time to figure out where to go next. For existing work, this will mean taking the new practices and conditions you’ve identified and making decisions about how and whether to sustain or grow them based on the data you collected from different stakeholders. One activity that is particularly useful for this is “Ditch, Iterate, or Scale.”

Beyond considering where to go with existing approaches, you’ll need to look forward to determine additional steps to build upon existing momentum and address the next round of needs in your school(s). Steps that can take you forward include:

  • Explore the examples and strategies within this tool kit as a team to broaden your thinking about the type and pace of change that feels right. Where might there be easy hops or skips, aligned with your current vision and capacities? Where might there be new ideas or conditions shifts you haven’t considered before that are worth giving deeper consideration?

  • Consider how you might tackle a concrete challenge to equity or resiliency in your system through cycles of targeted re-design for improvement. By working together to identify meaningful problems and authentically and inclusively working to pilot smaller-scale solutions, you can make big progress. The Real-Time Redesign Toolkit is a free tool designed to help teams do this.

  • Consider whether or not your school or system needs or can take the time to establish a new vision for innovation and improvement through a larger-scale, longer-term, end-to-end strategic planning process. This might sound daunting, but doing so can provide significant support for large change.

In our experience, any of these pathways can lead to long-term change, and many effective school systems pursue them concurrently. Regardless of the path you choose for your immediate next steps, get specific on what the timeline and major activities look like to keep your school system moving in the direction of your vision. The Path Forward Planner can help you plot out your school’s or system’s next steps.

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