Collaborationand Speed for change

TheHappy Land Middle school is an urban public learning institution inSeattle, Virginia. It was established in the 1970’s to serve thefamilies that work on the state’s public housing projects. Theschool serves 1,500 children from pre-kindergarten through the eighthgrade. In 2008, the learning institution faced threats of closurebecause of declining enrollment of students, which was attributed todeteriorating academic performance (Magana, 2014).

From2004 to 2007, the school posted bad results. The literacy rates ofthe students were among the worst in the district. For example, only5 percent of fourth graders attained the reading goals compared to 67percent of students nationally. The debauched condition created badpublicity, and the institution drew the attention of the Seattlepublic schools’ district. As a mathematics teacher in the school, Iwas concerned about the looming closure of the facility as it couldend my career. The administration presented the situation during ameeting held after receiving a warning letter from the Seattle publicschools administrator. The letter stated that if the school did notimprove in a years’ time, it would be delisted from the DistrictsEducational Grants System. Moreover, it would be placed under newmanagement. The assignment of new administrators implied that theentire current staff would need to submit new applications for theirrespective posts (Bailey, 2014).

Fearingthe worst, the principal organized an urgent meeting to address theissue. We analyzed the school’s situation to identify theweaknesses enhancing the poor performance, and then we agreed toimplement corrective actions to avoid the imminent dissolution of theschool’s leadership. One of the actions involved ensuring thatevery student attended lessons regularly. A majority of the studentseither skipped some lessons or even failed to go to the school for anaverage of two days per week. Secondly, the administration alsodecided to execute stricter disciplinary measures because thestudents’ behaviors were getting out of control. For example, in2007, a student was expelled from the organization after he set theclothes of another boy on fire during a class session. Besides, thecases of bullying and fighting had increased drastically within theschool’s compound (Fullan, 2012).

InJuly 2008, the administration organized a collaborative goal-settingmeeting with the teachers. After informing the instructors about thecurrent condition, we brainstormed on the possible approaches ofturning around the school into a performing academic institution. Theadministration insisted on the need to rebuild the organization byimproving the association between the teachers, the students, and thecommunity. Besides, it emphasized the need to create learningcommunities between the faculty and the students with a focus onacademic improvement (Fullan, 2012).

First,we ensured transparency by establishing goals for improving thestudents’ scores in reflection and interpretation subjects from 21%to 61% by the end of the year. The teachers agreed to enhance theircapacity building strategies and improve their teaching methodsthrough peer interaction. Secondly, the tutors developed a plan toincrease the students’ scores in mathematics from the current 7% to51% as provided by the district version of Virginia mastery test(DVMT). Thirdly, the educators created a disciplined schedule toaddress the behavioral problems in the school. Overall, theinstructors agreed to dedicate extra time to the students.

Theadministration also observed that the students were locked fromenrichment activities after comparing them to their peers fromaffluent neighborhoods. We were confident that when children areexposed to such programs, they have a higher probability of improvingtheir performance, as well as, develop an interest in schoolactivities. Consequently, we developed a creative plan that includedthe enrichment classes for the students. It was a strategy to extendtheir day in school. The pupils were expected to engage inadditional classes such as music, sports, and clubs (Fullan, 2012).

Theadministration held meetings with parents and 20 community partners,some of whom were alumni of the school. They agreed to provide theextra funding required for additional teaching time. In return, theydemanded monthly evaluation and progress reports regarding thestudent’s improvement. The administration also sourced for thepublic grant that is provided by the Virginia public schools’expanded learning opportunities department (VPAELOD) (Fullan, 2012).

Ourdean of studies was excited by the overall plan. Consequently, shebecame committed to it. She worked to ensure that there were adequatesystems for reaching out to additional community providers. On theother hand, the providers ensured sustainable funding, as well asassisted in creating the enrichment program. Finally, the school hada whole turnaround plan that awaited implementation (Fullan, 2012).

Througha collaborative approach, we held various meetings with the students.The learners expressed their interest in the enrichment program. Infact, all the pupils were willing to spend an extra hour in school sothat they can attend the co-curricular programs after the classes.The program was also beneficial since most of the students had nocreative hobbies they could engage in between the time they leaveschool and dinner. However, we informed them that a good performancein class was a prerequisite to attending the enrichment programs.Together, we set up the qualifications and the targets required aswell as the evaluation procedures. Delighted by the idea, thestudents enrolled in their most appropriate co-curricular schedulesthat further assisted in designing the program. The program was laterused in developing a recruitment plan for the educators. Henceforth,the instructors are hired based on their suitability for an extendedenvironment and their ability to provide enrichment ideas to thestudents (Fullan, 2012).

Uponthe implementation of the plan, we were thrilled by the students’upturn. They all lined up for the various enrichment programs. Theplan was able to create the much-needed academic competition in theinstitution. Music, athletics, cooking and hip-hop dance, were themost subscribed programs. Students put more effort to beat the setperformance standard for admission into the enrichment classes. Amajority of the students confessed that the programs motivated themto go to school as the attendance rate increased from 35% to 100%(Magana, 2014).

Theadministration’s reaction to institute change seemed to work. Therewere clear structures to govern the code of behavior for both thestudents and the teachers. Specifically, the pupils understood thatthey had the privilege of choosing any enrichment class that appealedto them. However, their ability to perform well in class gave themthe options to choose. Besides, the community was collaborative as itprovided sufficient funding for the curriculum. It also ensured itssustainability (Fullan, 2012).

Threemonths after the program was implemented, all the students stayed anhour late at school voluntarily. They all participated in theenrichment programs ranging from dancing, acting, and scienceinventions among others. It was evident that the students wereexcited to be in school (Fullan, 2012).

Asa community and a school, we became confident about the approach. Thestudents were happy, and the parents’ support was enormous.Moreover, the instructors felt energized, and the academic scoreswere telling an equally encouraging story. In the year 2009,statistics indicated high achievement in all subjects. The approachwas not only allowing the teachers to provide opportunities to thestudents, but also to reduce the opportunity gaps. By the end of thenext five months, the academic performance of the school improvedtremendously. All the eighth graders qualified for college. In fact,65% of the students decided to pursue courses that they learnedduring the enrichment programs (Fullan, 2012).

IfI were the administrator, I would have doneseveralthings differently. The first step would have been creating a moredefinite improvement plan for the teachers to ensure they takeresponsibility for the students’ performance. This method entailsassigning particular students to each teacher as a part of groupwork. The teachers would engage in group work to ascertain thespecific needs of each student are accomplished. In addition, theallocation of particular students helps in personalizing theindividuals’ difficulties. The teachers have the capacity toidentify the students’ glitches and provide personalized support asopposed to a situation where an instructor is in charge of the entireclass (Bailey, 2014).

Besides,I would have implemented a strategy to follow up on the student’sroutine in various tests through graphs to identify the trends inperformance. The progress report would be posted on the notice boardfor the whole school community to follow it. The approach raises thestudents’ awareness and pushes them to work harder to ensureconsistent results. I would also link the teachers’ remuneration tothe students’ performance. In the program, the educators aresubject to bonus payments if their assigned students perform well. Itis a much better approach compared to the situation where tutors’pay is based on the time they spend at school. The instructors arelikely to relax when they earn depending on the time they spend inschool (Bailey, 2014).

Besides,I would make the process cumulative. In such an instance, theteachers’ bonuses build up during the consecutive academic termsand are disbursed at the end of the year. The intention of thestrategy is to create consistency since the instructors’ bonusesare deducted when the students’ performance declines. However, Iwould establish a minimum performance requirement where the teacheris entitled to a bonus as a strategy to ensure the tutors’motivation (Fullan, 2012).


Bailey,M. ( 2014, July 22). Lessons from a school that scrapped a longerstudent day and made time for teachers. TheHechinger report.Retrieved on 1 July 2016, from

Fullan,M. (2012). The six secrets of change: What the best leaders do tohelp their organizations survive and thrive. San Francisco, CA:Jossey-Bass.

Magana,A. (2014, October 9). How an extended day, other innovations turneda Denver middle school around. TheHechinger report. Retrievedon 1 July 2016, from