A MESSAGE FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
AND BOARD CHAIR
Gale D. Hulme, Ed.D, CEO/Executive Director
Loren M. Starr, Board Chair
Why deep learning? Because GLISI is in the business of improving students’ futures by improving school performance– and we do that by making education leaders more effective.
Achieving this vision requires more than a superficial approach to leader training. We have to grow the visible leader at the top, while also working beneath the surface to develop leaders and influencers throughout the organization.
That’s why our approach to deep learning with education leaders goes beyond motivation, tips, and shared best practices to make a sustained difference in what leaders do when they get back to school. We create deep learning experiences for our partners that lead to discomfort, transition, and ultimately transformation. And they are getting deep results. Explore this chronicle of our partners' deep learning experiences and outcomes in 2016:
- Learn about how GLISI’s approach to training and consulting intentionally promotes discomfort and disrupts the status quo to stimulate growth;
- Listen to our partners discuss how working alongside GLISI spurred new ways of thinking and engaging in the work of school improvement;
- Hear how positive, systemic changes are taking root in partner districts as a result of their long-term investment with GLISI.
Deep learning and the changes that follow rarely happen quickly. Some transformative change can happen in a moment of clarity or a new experience, but the type of change that drives up instructional rigor, inspires and engages students in challenging academic work, energizes teachers to design new approaches to teaching, and creates a culture of joy and respect for students – that type of change takes time. Our services are designed to help our partners successfully traverse the long, winding road of school improvement, pinpointing the key issues hindering their progress and leveraging the appropriate tools and personnel to achieve and sustain positive student outcomes.
We celebrate the learning and transformations in organizational and leader practice among the 34 districts we supported in FY2016 and recognize that it is a long and winding road to ensuring that all children in Georgia attend a school where they will be equipped with the skills and tools to realize their dreams.
We invite you to explore the vignettes and videos below to learn more about the deep learning our partners experienced in FY2016, and encourage you to join us on our journey as we dive deeper below the surface and engage in the work of transforming lives.
Deep Learning pushes leaders
Beyond their comfort zones
For first time scuba divers, the experience of being deep below the ocean’s surface can be overwhelming. Breathing through a regulator can be awkward and laborious, wearing a scuba mask can be disorienting and cause claustrophobia, and navigating constant changes in pressure can be physically painful.
For teachers and leaders, growth and change often feel this way: awkward, disorienting, and painful --especially for those who have become accustomed to methods of teaching and school leadership that have served them, and the students they support, well over time. But just as novice divers need time, support, and experience to build their confidence in the water, school systems looking to improve need tools, resources, and new ways of organizing that ensure teaching and learning systems grow to become relevant, engaging, and effective for 21st-century learners.
GLISI’s work is to nurture teams that are committed to diving deep below the surface and exploring uncharted waters. Our facilitators and coaches are trained to challenge long-held institutional beliefs and attitudes and push teams to embrace a change process that can, at times, be awkward, disorienting, and painful, but ultimately beneficial.
In Carroll County, for example, GLISI staff and consultants pushed members of the districts’ Aspiring Leaders Program design team to think deeply about which core competencies and traits they believed were critical for their leaders' success. What many team members presumed would be a brief activity turned out to be a multi-day engagement that proved to be much more challenging and time consuming than they anticipated. The team was being nudged outside of its comfort zone, but everyone’s willingness to persevere and dig deep for necessary answers, yielded positive results for the district. Not only did team members effectively codify the leadership traits it believed were essential for all of Carroll County Schools' leaders, but the district also graduated 10 leaders in its inaugural Aspiring Leaders cohort who embodied those very characteristics.
For Paulding County Schools Assistant Principal, Ben Brooks, working with GLISI also proved challenging. Being pushed beyond his comfort zone, however, led to his discovering a new realm of self-confidence and leadership ability he didn’t know he had. In his words, “It [the experience] pushed me into showing that I could take what I knew as an educator and as a teacher and lead a group of people.”
Creating conditions that spur our partners’ growth is paramount to our work of building leaders' capacity to effect real transformation in their schools and districts. When we push leaders out of their comfort zones and disrupt their status quo in the short term, we’re positioning them to achieve and enjoy success over the long haul.
"One of the most valuable aspects of working with GLISI is their ability to get you to look at yourself with a magnifying glass, to push you to dig deep and examine your beliefs and behaviors and better understand what drives you as a leader."
-Brian Otott, Associate Superintendent
Paulding County School District
Deep Learning Leads to Changes in
Behaviors, Attitudes, & Mindsets
Oceanographers who study icebergs claim that only 10% of an iceberg’s total mass is visible above water. The remaining 90% of an iceberg’s mass is invisible below the water’s surface. While most people are likely to marvel at the beauty of the small, visible portion of an iceberg, fewer will note, that the large, invisible portion of the iceberg is buoyant and keeps the smaller portion above water.
Leadership development can sometimes suffer from a similar dynamic. When looking at ways to build leaders’ capacity, it can seem much easier and more productive to focus on changing those surface-level elements we can see (their behaviors) than to focus on transforming those things below the surface that drive leaders’ behaviors (their attitudes and mindsets). We know, however, that deep learning goes beyond the superficial. That’s why we create a transformation process to help our partners reflect deeply on attitudes, mindsets, and long-held beliefs about self, teachers, and students that are acting as barriers to change and support them in adopting new ways of thinking that will drive positive change in their schools and districts.
This approach paid dividends for our partner districts in FY16. As one participant from Bulloch County’s Aspiring Leaders Program noted, “GLISI really helped us see the big picture. They introduced mindset shifts that pushed us to think beyond our own context and consider the needs of the entire school community.”
Through our Implementation Consulting partnership with Morgan County Charter School District, district leaders have seen a marked difference in the degree of initiative and ownership teacher leaders have taken with respect to the school improvement process. As Assistant Superintendent Jean Triplett said of her teacher leaders’ relationship with the process, “They own it. It’s theirs.”
Helping our partners embrace new ways of thinking about and engaging in the process of school improvement is one of the most rewarding outcomes of our work. Leaders who are empowered with a deeper understanding of the improvement process and a broader view of what they can accomplish are equipped to drive real, lasting change in their districts, schools, and classrooms.
"We’ve seen a tremendous shift in our teacher leaders’ attitudes about school improvement. Rather than it being handed from the top down, they’ve assumed ownership of the plan. It’s theirs! They’re not being told what to do. What they’re doing is because they believe it will make a difference in school achievement."
-Jean Triplett, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
Morgan County Charter School District
Deep Learning Leads
to Lasting, Systemic Change
For all their beauty, icebergs are unpredictable, dangerous, and present a real threat to anyone navigating their waters. While it’s widely known that the submerged portion of an iceberg can inflict tremendous damage to the hull of a passing ship, icebergs are also prone to suddenly collapsing, tipping, or rolling over without warning. As a result, those in the presence of icebergs must always account for their entirety. The failure to do so could prove costly, if not catastrophic.
Achieving real, lasting change in a school district is much like navigating the iceberg-filled waters of the Arctic. It requires accounting for and focusing on every possible organizational variable, the known and unknown, the seen and unseen. That’s why GLISI’s services are designed to address the needs and challenges of school districts on a systemic level. We create deep learning experiences that support transformation, not only among leaders, but also in school and district climate, culture, and conditions, and result in lasting change.
For many of our long-term partners, the seeds of deep learning that were planted in previous years flourished into meaningful results in FY2016. In Paulding County Schools, for example, Superintendent Cliff Cole reported that our multi-year partnership focused on developing and implementing an Aspiring Leaders program yielded a deep bench of highly qualified leader candidates in the district. “GLISI has done a phenomenal job supporting the development of our prospective administrators, and we have seen the impact on our schools and students as these individuals move into leadership roles in our system. A partnership with GLISI isn’t easy work, but its productive work, and as a result, our leadership bench—for now and for Paulding County’s future—is strong.”
Stephanie Johnson, Georgia’s 2016 Principal of the Year, also attributes her enduring leadership success to the deep learning she experienced in GLISI training years ago. “The GLISI imprint is evident in how I’m leading Maynard Jackson High School today. Not only do I have a changed mindset about leadership, but I also still refer to GLISI tools and protocols to guide my work.”
It’s these stories, and others like them, that reinforce the role GLISI seeks to play in leader and school transformation: long after educators leave our training, and long after our partnerships come to a close, systemic change endures.
"Our partnership with GLISI helped Wilkinson County Schools become more aligned and going in the same direction. When leadership changes occur, I’m confident our school improvement work will roll on because it is research-based, and it is data-driven."
-Aaron Geter, Superintendent
Wilkinson County School District
Since partnering with GLISI in 2013 through the SLP grant, Carroll County Schools' graduation rate has increased by 11.8 percentage points.
In FY16, over half of Paulding County Schools' Aspiring Leader Program graduates were promoted to leadership roles at the school or district level.
Through our Implementation Consulting partnership, Morgan County Schools achieved double-digit Lexile score gains at the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade levels.
The success of GLISI’s school and district partners and the students they support is made possible by the generous support of our contributors. Individual donors, corporate sponsors, government agencies, and philanthropic foundations are all critical to the fulfillment of our mission. Our donors understand that achieving GLISI’s mission requires sustained commitment, that deep learning requires time. Thank you for your financial contributions, which make it possible for GLISI to design and implement leadership development interventions that do more than scratch the surface of school improvement.
GLISI's mission is to develop world-class education leaders who advance student achievement and organizational effectivness.