A public magnet school in Philadelphia has recently caught the attention of people. It’s because of its innovative learning techniques that set it apart from other schools. What kind of innovation you might ask, well Science Leadership Academy or SLA as it’s called, focuses on providing students a project based environment. This means that the students are being taught on a college preparatory curriculum that puts more emphasis and focus on science and technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship. Teaching them the core values of research, inquiry, collaboration and presentation. Science Leadership Academy is only one school in a network of 8 schools. All of them at an equal caliber of success. The network is called “the network of innovative schools”.
The Science Leadership Academy has been so successful in the past 10 years that the district government has asked Chris Lehmann, who is the founder of the project, to help with transforming other schools as well and some online Dissertation Writing Services Providers.
Chris Lehmann, speaking at the yearly EduCon said, “We’ve learned a lot and it’s been fascinating for me thinking about what it was like to go through the SLA process and then working with people who have different missions, different visions,” While Chris Lehmann has been working for over a decade on this project, he and his team have so much experience in setting up a school, training the staff and managing the work flow. And this is evident from the success of the The Network of Innovative Schools. Although there are so many things that need to be taken into account when transforming or setting up am innovative school, it can be summed up with five basic guidelines that need to be aligned in a perfect manner.
- Keep it simple: The mission statement to any organization is often over exaggerated especially the schools. They often read like a wish list and not entirely something that’s achievable. Science Leadership Academy has its own mission statement and it is revisited every year by the staff and they discuss on how to achieve the goal in the ongoing year. Now this idea is very simple and super effective. The mission statement for Science Leadership academy is “Students at SLA learn in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in all classes.” The staff at the school simply focuses on this mission statement and strive to make it better and achieve the goals each and every time. If the mission statement wasn’t so simple and to the point, it would not allow the innovation to be the leading guideline for the school.
- Keeping the communication common: Every teacher in the school has the same understanding of all the jargon being used in the mission statement. All of the teachers are well aware of what they have to do if they are to follow the mission statement. They know how the inquiry works and are well trained to follow the mission statement. The goal here is to make sure that all of the staff, all the parents, and the students themselves know what s being said. Everyone needs to be on the same page in order to implement and continuously improve on the basic goals of the school.
- Emphasis on Talent, culture and Instruction: Every good working place needs a good balance of talent, culture and proper instruction. Either of these ingredients if they’re missing or unbalanced will not make for the right environment. For example if the culture and talent aspect of a school is high and instruction is minimum it will create an environment that\s fun for the students to be in but with a minimum amount of learning by them.
- Set your operations right: The rules and values set by the management and the team needs to be followed by everybody equally and completely. At Science Leadership academy, the example is set by all of the staff members including their security guards. They too are aware of the fundamental core beliefs of the institution and follow them by practicing a culture of care with the students. It should be reflected in everyone’s attitude, especially teachers. They need to follow the fundamentals of the institute as well. There is always a delicate balance being maintained at good schools between what the teachers need and what the students need. There is a bit of give and take involved as well. And this should be openly acknowledged instead of trying to brush it under the mat and keeping it hidden.
- Maintaining is as hard as a Set up: Transforming and setting up a school is honestly a very tough job. You devote your complete time just to your work. You are driven by the passion and devotion you have for your work and just work away the day and nights in order to reach your destination. However, according to Lehmann, in order to perform a successful transition, the initial plan needs to be setup so the startup mode is smoothly taken over by the sustainability mode. The plan needs to be created in such a way that the staff does not completely burn themselves out and maintains itself when shifting to the sustainability mode. This is necessary to make the learning and teaching more meaningful for the teachers and students alike. And maintenance is equally as time consuming as the startup is, so don’t end the plan at the end of setup, it is just the beginning of an equally demanding maintenance or sustainability.
The success to Innovative Schools network lies in the often overlooked details by other institutes like a staff meeting held by all the schools that decide how to bank the time in order to comply with the union rules. So the teachers feel supported and when the teachers feel supported they take more risks with regards to their teaching methods, They feel more comfortable thinking out of the box. So the teachers of Science Leadership academy are always pushing the limits and striving to improve themselves.