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Change Management at Trailblazer Elementary

Creating a strategic plan to effect change over time

Overview

While Trailblazer saw tremendous benefit in shifting towards blended learning, they also realized this would be an incredible amount of change for staff, students, and families. An early dedication to change management helped them guide this change. 

Trailblazer’s transition started with an NGLC Breakthrough Schools Grant. One third of this initial funding went to modifying learning environments (e.g. redesigning the media center) and adding tangible items like devices. The rest of the grant went to creating professional development for staff in areas such as: personalization, inclusion, developing culture, project planning, and content development. 

Trailblazer’s ongoing commitment to change management involves a few key components. 

  • First, a core philosophy guiding the work is that the solutions to personalizing learning lie within the existing staff and school. This is a commitment to sustainability, requiring them to utilize existing funding and staffing models while shifting teaching and learning models. This commitment can be seen throughout many of the major personalization initiatives that seek to utilize existing resources in creative ways, including Genius Hour, small group instruction, Opportunity Hour, K-2 and 3-5 teaching teams, and Trailblazer’s approach to inclusion
  • The second major commitment is the creation and execution if a comprehensive vision. This goes well beyond a vision statement and provides enough detail to help Trailblazer create action plans every year. These action plans have very clear success criteria and reasonable action steps that can actually be executed. Educators have become much more invested in this change as they work to create smart goals for themselves that contribute to the school’s action plan. Creating time for educators to work on these, as well as for teachers and leaders to discuss the vision and holistic action plan, is also a necessary (but often overlooked) component of their successful change management approach.
  • Finally, Trailblazer has also tried to always test before scaling any new idea or initiative. One process they have used to help move from planning to action is short cycle innovation. When starting with a new initiative, one teacher will implement it and identify the strengths and challenges. If the initiative still seems worthwhile, it will move beyond the teacher to the team, and eventually to the whole school. Along the way, there is reflection and planning to help maximize the strengths and minimize the challenges, especially as the number of students and teachers affected grows.