On September 11 and 12, the Future Ready Schools® (FRS) team kicked off the fall event series in Nashville, Tennessee, with more than 170 leaders from twenty-six districts and eleven states. During the next six weeks, we will lead five additional institutes across the United States, including today and tomorrow’s institute in Manchester, New Hampshire. We’ll also hold six one-day workshops about instructional leadership and our five-step planning process. All in all, the in-person events will influence, inspire, and inform more than 1,200 school and district leaders in 2019.
The 2019 institute agenda is all new and focuses on solving problems of practice while maximizing equitable opportunities for each student. The agenda is designed to empower school leadership teams to improve policies, procedures, and practices that prepare students for work and life after high school graduation. The program emphasizes equity of opportunity and the learning sciences and deliberately focuses on skill building through interactive activities that keep the audience engaged and invested in their own professional learning. We model what we hope our participants take back to their staff meetings and classrooms!
Testing a New Tool Based in Learning Science
After listening to an opening keynote presentation, district teams worked together to create their vision of a Future Ready student using a portion of the new FRS Student Profile Protocol that is grounded in the human-centered design research developed by the LUMA Institute. In addition to this insightful pilot of our new process, we had three students present a project that embodies the skills that the student profile articulates. Stay tuned for more information about this upcoming resource in the coming months.
Putting a Fine Point on Equity and Learning Sciences
During the session for district leaders, participants explored problem-solving protocols that simultaneously introduced the learning sciences and equity into district team conversations. Each district team reflected upon resources provided by the Alliance for Excellent Education’s (All4Ed) science of adolescent learning (SAL) program designed to help participants tackle problems using SAL principles.
The FRS Institute agenda also includes a new interactive team visioning activity focused on the “equity of opportunity and access.” The term “equity” is used in every field from economics to health to business; but, in education, equity means more than merely providing students what they need to succeed. It means providing those most in need with access to high-quality education and opportunities to learn. As part of their conversations, district leadership teams discussed the following questions:
- How does your district define “equity?”
- What factors do you consider when ensuring equity?
- How does your team make decisions that support equity?
Participants then were guided through a more in-depth discussion about how districts identify inequities and develop plans for addressing them systematically. At the conclusion of the activity, institute facilitators challenged district leaders to write three concrete next steps they could take to ensure equity in opportunity and access for their students.
Keeping the Momentum Rolling
As part of the multimedia approach to capturing the thoughts and sentiments of the institute participants, we recorded video vignettes of leaders talking about their experiences and how the FRS tools and resources have affected their district practices and policies. We will be sharing these short videos on our YouTube channel and on social media in the coming months to ensure the Nashville love reaches across the network and beyond.
As with everything we create, we always ask for feedback. At the end of each day of the institute, our participants provided candid feedback about the event. Here are a few thoughts captured from the evaluations in Nashville:
“I loved the conversations that I got to have with my district team, table team, and other districts. I learned a lot about Future Ready and the framework (gears) and how it relates to my job. I grew as a leader because I learned more about equity, empathy, and how to be a more effective coach.”
“Opened my mind to the possibilities and gave me affirmation on things and initiatives we are currently working on. I loved that we had the opportunity to discuss and work with principals and look at that from the lens of principals. Someone who has been there and done it. Wasn’t just a bunch of open theories and data of things that could change or make an impact on a school.”
Even better than the positive feedback is hearing how participants are taking back what they learned to benefit their districts:
Expanding Our Corporate Partners
Several of our valuable core strand partners joined us during the institute, including Follett, which supports Future Ready Librarians™; Amazon Web Services (AWS), which supports Future Ready Technology Leaders™; and bulb, which supports Future Ready Instructional Coaches™. We also added seven smaller general sponsors to support the institutes. These partners are new to the FRS network and come highly vetted to ensure their organizational philosophies align with ours, and they share a deep understanding of the support needed for districts to succeed with the meaningful implementation of digital learning.
To learn more about FRS or register for an upcoming event, visit futureready.org.
Sara White Hall is vice president of innovations and networks at All4Ed and leads FRS.
Lia Dossin is marketing and outreach director for FRS.
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