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Why this exists and how to use it


Why This Toolkit Exists

School and system leaders undoubtedly want to remove barriers to equity, but it can often feel difficult to find the right time to make these changes. However, we believe that school and system leaders can make meaningful, positive change in their schools even under very challenging circumstances with the right team, tools, and process – without waiting for the perfect time to do so.

Developed by The Learning Accelerator with Bellwether Education Partners through our support of school systems in their urgent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this toolkit provides leaders with a realistic, inclusive, and rapid process for making targeted improvement toward more equitable and resilient teaching and learning – in any context – through a series of guided activities paired with examples from real schools.

This toolkit reflects ideas from a number of design processes, but the Real-Time Redesign process is unique in its focus on practical application of three key areas within a school context:

Equity and Resiliency

This toolkit seeks to help teams make meaningful change that results in more students, especially those furthest from opportunity, receiving what they need; it also focuses on developing systems for teaching and learning that are flexible enough to adapt over time to the changing needs of individual students and the world around them.

Targeted Improvement

Typical change processes are often too slow to address the immediate, urgent challenges facing many school communities; leaders and their teams need a more flexible, real-time approach. Developed in partnership with schools seeking to manage meaningful change amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, our toolkit offers a realistic process for leaders who don’t have time to stop managing their important day-to-day work.

Authentic Inclusivity

Inclusivity is at the heart of this toolkit. Each step of the process is informed by deep engagement with the people who are most negatively affected by the challenges in schools – people who are often kept out of typical decision-making processes. Problem-centered rather than solution-centered, it will lead you to understand the challenges in your schools from those who are experiencing them and then to design solutions with and for those same people. This flexible, small-scale process is not intended to replace a thorough, community-led strategic visioning process, but rather can inform and complement one by making small but impactful changes in real-time.

We hope that you’ll view this toolkit as a way to build critical muscles for ongoing, real-time, and continuous improvement towards more equitable and resilient teaching and learning.

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The Real-Time Redesign process is very doable and transferable to a range of problems schools face. The process is really clear and attends to equity, and gives schools a way to define a problem from the perspective of those affected, test a solution with rapid iteration, and determine if and how to scale.

John Rice
Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, Cedar Rapids Community School District

What This Toolkit Includes

A line with numbers 1, 2, 3. Underneath the numbers are labels; 1 Come Together, 2 Dream Big, 3 Start Small

This toolkit covers three major sections to complete. Each section includes step-by-step activities, examples from real schools and districts, and additional resources:

  1. Come Together: Assemble an inclusive team, unearth challenges you're facing, and explore innovative practices.
  2. Dream Big: Clarify the targeted improvement you seek and identify potential solutions.
  3. Start Small: Build a prototype of a solution and then pilot it on a small scale.

How to Use This Toolkit

While we encourage design teams to complete the process in its entirety, the Real-Time Redesign toolkit is built to be adaptable based on the individual needs of a school community. Here are two ways you can approach using the toolkit.


Each section of this toolkit includes the following components, which can be completed sequentially.

  • Context: Why this step is important and how it connects your work to equitable, resilient teaching and learning. Read this to get clear on why you’re doing the work.
  • Reflection: Three thought-provoking questions to consider before and during the activities. Use these to prepare for the work and ensure alignment with your team’s goals.
  • Activities: Clear, step-by-step instructions with specific considerations for equity and resiliency, as well as examples from real schools. Use these to guide your team’s implementation of the process.
  • Examples: Real-life examples of how schools and systems have done this work. Use these for learning and inspiration.
  • Equity Lens: Ongoing reflection on how equity shows up in process and design. Use this to align your intentions for equitable design with the reality of your work.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Each section in the toolkit is modular, allowing for design teams to build their own personalized experience. When adapting the process, there are three main ways that school and system leaders might use this:

  • Lead your own design process: Follow this process end-to-end as you lead a design process in your own school system or school. In this approach, you should follow the toolkit from start to finish, modifying steps based on your unique stakeholder needs.

  • Reference as a resource bank: If you’re not ready for the whole design process, use a subset of the strategies as part of your day-to-day work. Pick and choose which sections of the toolkit are most interesting and helpful to you while always remembering to center the needs of your most affected stakeholders.

  • Explore as a case study of change in a school or system: If you’re not in a place to take on a full change process, you may still appreciate insight about what this work looks like in a school system context. Pick one school system and follow their examples through the toolkit to learn about the full process in action.

Regardless of how you use this toolkit, we hope that the different type of content embedded is useful for your practice.

Guiding Principles for the Process

Finally, given our shared goals for equity and resiliency, we suggest four principles to uphold throughout the process.

  • Leapfrog: Learn from those on the leading edge and set your sights on meaningful, substantial change.

  • Focus on students at the margins: Design better classrooms with and for students at the margins – not only to be more inclusive, but also to surface better solutions for all students.

  • Dream big but start small: Seek systemic, transformational change, but focus the process on small increments of that change

  • Tend toward action: When in doubt, do. Do not let perfection be the enemy of good. Talking is important, and it should move you toward action.

Design processes are not without their challenges. If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out our blog post sharing six common pitfalls in the strategy process and antidotes districts can use to avoid them.

Refer to the Appendix to learn more about the toolkit – including where it originated, how it was developed, and what we've learned in using it with districts – as well as to access different formats of the toolkit – including a printable PDF and editable workbook.


All Guides