Richard DuFour makes a case that has value either as a reminder to school leaders or as a prod for school leaders to move forward.
“A learning community is a place where the faculty has come together, they have a sense of shared purpose, they have a sense of the school they are trying to create, and they’ve made collective commitments to creating that school. When you walked into a learning community you’d see a place where teachers were working together in collaborative teams that were engaged in collective inquiry. There would be a focus on data, there’d be a commitment to continuous improvement. There would be a constant sharing of information and you would see a process in place that would keep people continually asking the questions, ‘what are we trying to accomplish?’ ‘What evidence do we have that we are in fact accomplishing it?’ And, ‘what are our strategies for getting better?’ So, the structure of the school, the appearance of the school, might not be significantly different than a traditional school, but the way the people operate within the school would be significantly different.”
“If we believe all kids can learn, what is it that we want them to learn, and how will we respond when they don’t?”
Learning Communities “are ruthlessly honest in assessing where they are. In order to do that, there are several things that schools can do. One is that they need to pay very close attention to the criticisms of their critics. They need to look at those who have looked at the traditional structure of schools and found it to be lacking and to ask the question, ‘Is this true of us?’ ‘Is it true that our teachers work in isolation?’ ‘Is it true that we can’t clarify our goals?’ ‘Is it true that we are a top-down bureaucracy?’, and all the other criticisms of the traditional structure and culture of school.”
DuFour believes people in an effective school make commitments that focus on ends rather then means. How have you as a parent, citizen or educator helped people focus on the ends (outcomes) rather then just the means (inputs)?
Do we in education have problems with asking honest questions and accepting the honest answers? Another way of asking this might be: Do educators have trouble seeing that every dropout (or at least the vast majority of them) is a failure of the school system?
How does leadership build “community” around the concept of doing things better to vastly improving student outcomes?
Note: DeFour made these comments in an October 2010 interview with the Audio Education Online service.