Five Key Points for Implementing and Sustaining School Reform
Five key points will assist schools in implementing and sustaining school reform.
1. Commitment Level
The first is an adequate level of commitment. Commitment to reform involves all stakeholders’ agreeing to be available for the duration of the reform initiative to ensure a successful outcome. Stakeholders’ commitment is enhanced when the reform team has clearly explained the reasons for undertaking the reform initiative. Stakeholders should understand their roles and how they are individually important to the reform effort.
2. Continued Progress
The second factor is continued improvement or development. Although the road map may contain elements that are relatively fixed, further research during the course of implementation may reveal improvements that would benefit the reform as a whole. The team should allow for adequate flexibility to assess improvements and how to incorporate them into the present reform initiative, as well as to schedule adequate time and allocate adequate resources (people as well as funds) to ensure that any potential improvements are explored.
3. Time Scale
The third factor is the amount of time that a reform initiative may take to accomplish. Every stakeholder will have individual demands placed on his or her time. In particular, teachers participating in the reform will need to ensure that they are provided with adequate time to continue to plan their lessons and give due attention to their students. Giving teachers the time they need to understand and incorporate reform initiatives into their current practices increases the likelihood that reform will succeed.
4. Team Consistency
The fourth factor is retention of the core reform team, which contributes to success of the initiative. Appointing an effective leader to drive reform initiatives may be done at a state, district, school, or community level. This leader needs to understand the demands that will be placed on his or her time and commit to manage these demands effectively for the duration of the reform initiative. Consider the impact of losing teachers who were part of the reform initiative a third of the way into the implementation and having to bring new teachers up to speed. This loss could cause the reform initiative to lose time and might also be frustrating to the new teachers who may be uncertain of what they’re mandated to teach. Extra planning would be required to ensure that the reform effort proceeds smoothly in the face of these potential disruptions.
Finally, adequate funding is required to ensure success of the reform initiative. Prioritizing which outcomes to achieve and when helps to ensure that financial pressure is spread across the period of reform. Avoiding the dismissal of staff as a cost-cutting exercise is prudent, because this could undermine the reform initiative as a whole. Support of the school district or state could have advantages in terms of ensuring the availability of adequate funds to complete the reform initiative. Funding may, unfortunately, be undermined by corruption at various levels in the team initiating the reform. The team should promote transparency regarding how much money is being spent and why at the outset, and should allow each party to have a chance to voice their opinion regarding how money will be spent. Although one or more individuals may have greater leverage regarding allocation and spending of funds, no single individual should ever be solely responsible for making decisions regarding finances.
The Secret Sixth Factor: Communication
Ultimately, however, communication is an underlying key factor in sustaining reform initiatives. The duration of implementation will likely range from a number of months to a number of years, so to sustain reform, it’s critical to keep all stakeholders informed regarding reform progress, changes in the road map, and changes in their roles or responsibilities. Without regular, relevant, and effective communication, reform initiatives can’t be sustained. Communication involves allowing grievances or complaints to be heard and addressed in a timely manner. It also involves acknowledging and addressing teachers who raise the need for additional support to continue to implement reform, which may involve members of the community.
Successfully implementing school reform will take a balanced approach that takes into account each of the five factors and is the product of a clear and honest discussion. Transparent discussion will ensure that all of the problems are brought to light and the resulting plan doesn’t skirt around any issues, but instead covers all the bases bluntly and head-on.