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Aurora Institute

How to Utilize Your Greatest Assets

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Morgan Walker

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Learn Lessons from the Field, Engage Community

Morgan Headshot
Morgan Walker

Our district set out on our journey to provide customized learning to all of our students in 2008 when we began compiling research from the best minds in education.  Once our administrative team realized that, without changing the structure of school, it would be impossible to reach ALL of our students, there was no other option for us but to dive in.  We knew that without teacher input, there was no way we would see success.  Our district’s greatest strength is all of the talent we have working with our children day in and day out.

Once our vision was created, we developed a structure of checks and balances to work through for all decisions relating to customized education.  In order to gain buy-in from a large amount of our stakeholders, our process involved teachers, administrators, parents, community, and school board members- our greatest assets.

Phase 1: Re-design Teams:
Our first phase involves one of our most valuable assets: our teachers.  Re-design teams are co-led by teacher leaders from each of our four buildings.  Each duo went out to recruit interested staff to join their team.  They are the first line in creating new processes, troubleshooting problems, and sharing out information.  We truly wanted our teachers to have the ability to create great change in our district.  We told them from the start: nothing is off limits as long as it’s what’s best for kids!  From these teams have come curriculum organization, reporting and tracking recommendations, teacher evaluation systems, parent and community newsletters, and much more!

Our district keeps teams motivated to continue the work.  We have two advisors to answer questions along the way and support teams when needed. These advisors are administrators whom we have regularly rotated in order to “share the load” through the years.  A valuable lesson for our district was the idea that putting one person at the lead helps everyone stay on the same page.

Phase 2: Connections Committee:
The connections committee brings together all co-chairs from each redesign team, our four principals, our Director of Academic Services and our Superintendent to form one super decision-making group.  This team meets regularly to check in with each other, discuss upcoming projects and collaborate on projects that span re-design teams.  Our advisors come up with the agenda for this meeting and keep things flowing.  All ideas from re-design teams are discussed and voted on by this committee first.

Phase 3:  Steering Committee:
Once the connections committee has voted an idea through, our steering committee takes a shot.  The steering committee brings in teachers, as well as other administrators, parents, board members, and community representatives.  Because this team pulls in a different point of view, decision are often tossed back to the connections team for clarification or with suggestions for changes.

Phase 4: Board Approval:
All of our major decisions dealing with customized learning are voted on by our Board of School Trustees.  We feel it is incredibly powerful for our board to know that by the time any decision is put before them, it has passed before many of our greatest assets.

For more information about our journey, please visit our district customized learning webpage.

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Morgan Walker is the Director of Academic Services for the Danville Community School Corporation in Danville, Indiana. Before moving to a district administrative role in 2011, she taught at the elementary and middle school levels. Her district began the journey to customized learning in 2008 and has worked with Bea McGarvey, co-author of Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning, to build their vision for education. She is passionate about innovation in education, curriculum, professional development, and connecting to others through Twitter (@walker8208)!