“Leading and Learning Together” at the Policy and Practice Institute
Last week over 200 of Delaware’s school and district leaders, representing all 19 school districts, attended the twelfth annual Policy and Practice Institute (PPI), hosted by the Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL) and Delaware Association of School Administrators (DASA). The conference featured three major key note speakers: Pete Hall, Charlotte Danielson, and Rick Hess.
Pete Hall, former turnaround principal and author of “Lead On! Motivational lessons for school leaders,” gave the opening address. He cracked a few jokes, and threaded in several baseball metaphors, as he shared a narrative of his own transformation as a leader, from a conventional top-down manager, to a consensus builder leveraging and empowering teacher-leaders. Pete’s address boiled down to 3 key points: First, know what’s going on, learn from others, and develop buy-in by engaging your team in creating the solution. Second, focus on the true mission–the student. Third, be professional at all times by projecting emotional neutrality and striving to be a better you.
Charlotte Danielson, best known in Delaware for her contributions to the DPAS II observation rubric used in our state for teacher evaluation and professional development, focused her talk on the history of teacher evaluation, the principals underlying the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, and the importance of “getting it right” when high stakes consequences (or rewards) are on the line. She declared that while evaluation is fundamentally important to the teaching profession, “Accountability isn’t sufficient.” We can get better at evaluating teacher practice, but these evaluations need to also serve as a key factor in improving teacher performance to increase student learning. She also discussed the intersection between the implementation of teacher evaluation policies and Common Core, and that the two initiatives could be aligned to support each other.
Author, researcher, and blogger Rick Hess gave a thought provoking address on “cage busting leadership.” Rick Hess’s general premise is that statutes, policies, rules, regulations, contracts, and case law make it tougher for school and district leaders to lead. However, he also contends that leaders have more freedom to transform, reimagine, and innovate teaching and learning than they generally believe.
As a local example of this, Rick Hess highlighted a conversation he had this past year with a group of local Delaware teachers about DPAS II Observers. The group identified a “cage” in implementing DPAS II well: only principals could conduct observations. This rule prevented principals from spreading the capacity burden of conducting evaluations, and did not provide teachers with grade level/content expertise among evaluators. However, Rick Hess challenged the group’s underlying assumption that rules and regulations prohibited teacher leaders from serving as DPAS II observers. After connecting with the DOE, the group learned that they had more freedom than previously believed, and figured out how to “bust out of the cage.” The regulations, in fact, provide districts and schools with the flexibility to appoint teacher-leader DPAS II Observers following the completion of an online training module.
PPI is a unique opportunity to learn more about dynamic leadership, sit in on professional development breakout sessions, and recognize the work of school and district administrators from across the state. It’s also a reminder that while school may be out, many educators are already hard at work learning and preparing for the new academic year.