The backlash against the Common Core among teacher is, at its essence, a leadership problem.
In Heifetz and Laurie’s near seminal “The Work of Leadership” the two leadership scholars start by explaining the difference between adaptive challenges (game-changers, challenges that enable positive growth) and technical challenges (business-as-usual type stuff that just needs to get done).
In general, it seems that CCSS and the challenges it presents are being approached as technical challenges by many school leaders. However, there is a tremendous opportunity to make them out to be adaptive challenges and to rally staff behind a common vision.
First, the principal at every school needs to bring the staff together to explain that CCSS-related problems are really caused by a lack of vision. This is an adaptive problem because no one knows what the vision should look like–i.e., no one really knows how to implement the Common Core.
So, the principal needs to build creative tension to challenge the staff to draft a vision for implementation. What does CCSS really mean for teachers, students, and society?
Next, the staff can then draft a vision to submit to the board, parents, and other stakeholders. After all, “solutions to adaptive challenges reside not in the executive suite but in the collective intelligence of employees at all levels” according to the article.
Then the principal will then need to use adaptive leadership strategies to shepherd this new, collaborative vision by going through the steps from the article, particularly by “orchestrating the process” and “holding steady”.
If CCSS is seen more as an adaptive challenge and an opportunity to craft a shared vision, a lot of the confusion and disenfranchisement will diminish and students and staff will be much more engaged in education reform, seeing it in a much more positive light.
Even though the Arne Duncan, the Obama administration, and many state-level officials have botched the roll-out of the Common Core through rushing and bad PR, it doesn’t mean that leaders at the local level can’t start making lemonade from all the lemons.
Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to sweeten education reform for teachers and students? Let us know!