At the end of 2009, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Staff Development Council’s annual conference. Every year I attend, I come back reassured that our Using Data work is grounded in best practices featured by the top thinkers across the country. At this year’s conference in St. Louis, MO, the keynote speakers underscored some of the major themes that are fundamental to our work in schools:

Teachers need to be at the center of all change processes

Principals need a wider spectrum of knowledge and skills to lead an effective change process.

Changes that will make a difference require major shifts in the culture of school

Another recurring theme in the presentation was that schools’ work must focus on the individual learning needs of every student. Michael Fullan captured it best when he spoke about “motion leadership” and getting the “skinny on change”.  In his description, he effectively reduced years of complex research on how to improve schools to the most compelling element – “identifying the smallest number of key factors that you need to focus on, factors that are high-powered, in the sense that if you do them together, you’ll see lots of results for the effort”. The work of principals and teachers flows from the organization that emerges to support this narrowed focus.

Compare this advice to the typical school improvement process resulting in a 3-inch thick planning document! Michael isn’t the only practitioner to talk about the inverse relationship between the size of the planning document and the positive outcomes resulting from the work.

Treat yourself by reading: “The keys to change are in our grasp” by Michael Fullan beginning on page 12 in the Journal of Staff Development (JSD), December 2009.

And just out from Fullan: Motion Leadership: the Skinny on Becoming Change Savvy (Corwin Press, 2010).