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Aurora Institute

Learning for All: What’s Your “Burning Platform?”

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Dan Joseph

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

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This article was originally published in the Reinventing Schools Coalition newsletter.

In the book Learning for All, Lawrence Lezotte offers practical ideas and actions that all schools can take to ensure learning is not optional. As leaders we must be dedicated to the idea that all students can learn and that they learn at differing rates. Unfortunately we are aware of the competing interests for our time and focus that may draw our attention from this basic and important belief. The sense of competing missions and visions are constantly challenging us to build and align systems to bring clarity to our mission and vision. Lezotte states the primary aim for our schools ought to be learning for all! Are our systems aligned and dedicated to this outcome? Our systems need to be focused to promote a pervasive sense of mission.

This idea of a burning platform is stated in a number of books on organizational theory. It has become common place in the vernacular of leadership and organizational change. It is easy to say the words, “All kids can learn…” but how do our system and culture create this outcome? This idea denotes a basic, yet foundational premise around what is important. Many times we need to understand the “why” before we discuss the “how.” The ideas of precision, strategic design, and high yield strategies are based on and aligned to an organization’s core values. These values identify the moral purpose of the organization and therefore can direct and support transformational change.

Lezotte states, “Schools need to go beyond compulsory schooling and demand compulsory learning. To meet this challenge, we must rewrite the social/educational contract to reflect the new aim, and then we must set out to create a new order of things. This means changing the system-in -place.” (2004)

He offers Core Beliefs that should guide our new thinking:

  • We believe that all children can learn and come to school motivated to do so.
  • We believe that a single school, as a system, controls enough variables to assure that virtually all students do learn.
  • We believe that the internal and external stakeholders of the individual school are the most qualified and capable people to plan and implement change.
  • We believe that you and your colleagues are already doing the best you know how to do.
  • We believe that school by school change is the best hope for reforming our schools.

Have a conversation with a friend or colleague… What are the beliefs that you operate from? Does your organization align to this belief?

Daniel Joseph is an Education Specialist with the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) and an educational leader in the State of Maine. He has worked with his local school district, the State Department of Education, and a variety of other partnerships to transform the educational system. You can read a full biography here.