As a principal of a school we all know about the benefits of breaking down the walls of classrooms or silos so that the teachers can learn from each other and question each other so that we build the collective professional understandings needed to improve learning outcomes for students.
So what’s the next level of work – schools as silos?
Well in Victoria we have embarked on formal networks of about 25 schools that collectively share the responsibility for each child’s learning. This is not so new as I recalled my trip to Toronto where they have structured families of schools of around the same number. We have had districts of schools before so what’s so different?
Well I currently have a leadership role within one of the new networks – where two former school districts were brought together. Within a short time frame we have to develop a strategic plan based on an analysis of data about the students and schools in our network.
For us some of our immediate challenges lie in developing shared values, norms and protocols that will enable us to share data about our schools, find the common strengths and areas for improvement that will lead to an inquiry about our shared practice.
Unlike some networks the schools are not under-performing although we do share some common concerns about small groups of students needing to make significant progress. We exist within a geographical area that has a dense group of independent schools that competes for student enrolments so there is a possibility of some tension about the accidental release of information about our student scores – although I note that each school has an annual report with data on their website.
Our work is a work in progress and I’m sure the collaborative inquiries into better practice as we share the responsibility for all student learning will bind us closer together. I have just read a research paper on networks which is starting to make a lot more sense of the work ahead. If there are collaborative networks some sharing of successes and obstacles would be appreciated.