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Scaling Small Practices Organically

“Micro-changes add up.” (Michael Fauteux)

Overview

Challenge: How to provide the right kind of central support to enable each teacher to take the lead in driving instructional change in their classroom.

Context: Leadership Public Schools (LPS), in San Francisco, California is a network of charter urban high schools focused on educational equity and community leadership. LPS leaders wanted to promote system-wide instructional improvement in the context of a highly decentralized network of schools.

Action Steps: LPS leaders built a system to scale small, modular instructional practices (such as exit tickets or teacher-peer feedback) that enabled teachers to test small classroom shifts and see evidence of change first-hand before adopting blended learning full-scale. These tests become “micro-pilots” of change that put the control squarely in the hands of teachers to shift their practice in ways that are meaningful to them and their students.

“Piloting should be done for proof of concept, not for the purpose of scaling,” says Michael Fauteux, director of innovation at LPS. “It’s a way to test if an idea has legs, not to turn to another school and say, ‘you should do exactly what we’re doing, because it worked for us.’” Creating a “modular tool belt,” says Fauteux, helps makes change authentic and organic.

One example of this kind of practice is the GiveThx app that LPS developed to enable students to express gratitude to one-another in a simple and authentic way. Because the app is so targeted, but also works well in the context of what teachers are already doing (e.g. creating time for appreciation and shout-outs), it was able to spread through the network organically, based on teacher-driven adoption. It was also efficient (can be done quickly regardless of context), safe (gave students an opportunity to express gratitude in a quiet and subtle way), and could capture student writing in a coherent way that they could later use for their own learning.