Instructional Leadership Part I: Organization Conditions Necessary for Effective Leadership
Stephenie Hickman: Hello, everyone, and good afternoon. Thanks so much for joining us for the first
Front Porch Series webinar of the year. On that note, Happy New Year. I'm Stephanie Hickman with the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning. I'll be your host for today. I'm excited to be joined by two colleagues, Debra Pacchiano and Maribel Centeno; and we are just thrilled to be sharing a series on instructional leadership this year. And today, our focus is on Organizational Conditions Necessary for Effective Leadership.
We wanted to give you just a little sneak peek into what this series has to offer. So, today, I like I said, the Organizational Conditions Necessary for Effective Practice. And then Part 2 coming up in just a couple of months will be a deeper dive on the what and the how of Effective Instructional Leadership. Hopefully you can join us for that. And we'll round out this series by exploring teacher collaboration and ambitious instruction. So, hopefully, everybody is able to join us for all three. Before we get started, I just wanted to go over a few housekeeping items, as we will be using some of the ON24 features during our webinar today.
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Keep in mind that this webinar is also being transcribed, and the transcription will be posted to the ECLKC. So, with that, I just wanted to thank you again for joining us today, and I'm excited and I'm going to turn it over to Debra.
Debra Pacchiano: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm here with my beloved colleague, Maribel Centeno. We're in Chicago, Illinois. We're thrilled to be here with you. Maribel and I, since 2010, have been working in our personal conversations, our professional conversations, our professional implementations, and in research to really try to sharpen the focus on leadership within all kinds of mixed delivery settings and mixed delivery models in early childhood education.
And today, we want to share with you what we have been learning about the importance of instructional leadership. We want to share with you the importance of climate and conditions of programs; of center-based programs, of home-visiting programs, where any sort of structure that's put around -- that surrounds practitioners and teachers.
We're going to talk about the importance of the characteristics of the climate and conditions. We're going to present to you research both in K-12 education, as well as early childhood education, that associates these strong, organizational conditions to the quality of teacher-child interactions and children's attendance outcomes. So, when we get to that research summary, we'll do our best to answer any particular questions you might have, but really to drive home that where we see higher quality teacher-child interactions and higher quality children's attendance outcomes, that those outcomes are associated with settings that have these strong organizational climate and conditions for teachers and practitioners to be working within.
We're going to define each of those organizational conditions or supports, and we'll especially talk about effective instructional leadership definition and a definition of collaborative teachers, as we have adapted those for early care and education settings. And then Maribel's going to take you through a series of protocols that help leaders, with their teachers and practitioners, review data on their organizational climate and conditions and use that data to facilitate a cutting-edge approach to continuous quality improvement called Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycles.
So, that's pretty ambitious; but as you're about to see, one of the most important organizational conditions is, in fact, ambitiousness in the pedagogy and the interactions and in the practice. So, we're going to live by these essentials as we go through. It's very important from the start, whenever Maribel and I are out presenting, we hear lots of people raise -- see and hear lots of people raise their voices and raise their hands, "What do you mean by instructional leadership? How is that relevant in early childhood?
That sounds like the principal stomping up and down the hallways, you know, of a middle school." So, let's go head and see if these key characteristics in our definition resonate with you.
In daily interactions, effective instructional leaders build and maintain mutually trusting and respectful relationships. They build strong professional community focused on improving children's development and learning. Strong, effective instructional leaders galvanize all resources, staff activity, and program operations, not towards a vision of compliance but towards a vision of excellence and sustained improvement. They practice shared leadership. They cultivate a cadre of leaders of local experts, classroom teaching assistants, classroom teachers, family members, disabilities coordinators. They cultivate a cadre of leaders who are altogether focusing on this vision of excellence and sustained improvement. They support professional advancement for faculty and staff, they manage resources for sustained programmed improvement, and, very importantly, as an effective leader, they're strategically focused on children's healthy development and that early achievement. And they recognize and believe in their heart and soul that by engaging families in this work, that children's learning and development is more effective and that teachers will be more effective in their daily work.
Part of how they do that, part of that strategy, is that an effective instructional leader cultivates a shared understanding and commitment to this purpose-driven vision for the program. They inform themselves of child developmental science and developmentally affected teaching and learning practices. And, very importantly, they seek out and hire staff not just to make sure they're within group size and ratio -- right? -- to fill a spot, but they do their best to recruit and hire staff that are driven by this purpose-driven vision and who are continuously dedicated to improving the learning opportunities and outcomes for young children and families.
So we want to put those highlights of how we are defining effective instructional leadership -- we want to put those right up front. And now, I want to take you into a proposition with me. So back in 2010, as Maribel and I and many others and perhaps many of you, we were starting to see a lot of the data coming out from the federal government and from many research studies around the country that were starting to show us that even though we have many federal and state and local initiatives to improve the quality of center-based programming, we were finding that the quality of instructional and teaching and responsive caregiving practices were not at the level necessary to truly advance children's early development and learning, especially children who would be considered at risk or being from a vulnerable population.
Back in 2010, there was a book that was published -- a research study that was published from the University of Chicago, and the title of the book was "Organizing Schools for Improvement." And I remember running across the office to my dear friend Maribel and saying, "We have to read this book." You know, we've been in the field a very long time, and we ourselves have been practitioners in programs. And all of us know that there are climate and conditions of our programs that maybe make it harder for people to do their best work, and the opposite -- that sometimes there's a climate and conditions instead of interactions going on in a program that really support practice and help us focus on the right things at the right time with our colleagues.
So with that proposition, I want to show you data from that 18-year longitudinal study. What you're looking at here is the top line, are schools from 1990 to 1996 here in the city of Chicago who posted the highest positive trends in students' reading, math, and attendance. And the bottom line, what you see are schools that were posting the lowest, or negative, trends. And what I want you to think about -- what do you think predicted the schools that improved over time from the schools that stagnated, or actually posted negative trends? Give that some quick thought. What do you think predicted that improvement or not? We've got a couple options up here for you. Why don't you go ahead and choose from those listed the two conditions that you think most differentiated the schools that improved over time from the schools that stagnated? All right.
So, take a look at this, Maribel. Yeah, very interesting. We've got nearly 80 percent of participants saying, "Boy, those leaders, staff, and family relationships and interactions are very, very important." And look at this. Whoo-hoo-hoo! Nearly 60 percent saying, "And you know what? That leadership, vision, and focus." Now, we shouldn't be too surprised, because these folks have signed up for our Front Porch Series on Leadership.
But what I want to point out is take a look at the staff knowledge, skills, and mind-set. About a quarter of us -- right? -- saying, "That is important." And then take a look at learning environment and structure and processes. What I think Maribel and I are taking away from this is we truly understand that we have to interact in very respectful and loving ways. We have to be interacting in those relationships in ways that demand a sense of, like, "We're in this together. It really matters, the work that we do." And that comes from this leadership vision and focus, doesn't it? Because what we have found, like many of you, I think these survey results tell us that when you've got a leader who's focused on the right things, and you've got leaders and staff and families interacting in those positive, encouraging, and persevering ways, you can build any knowledge and skills you need to, right? And those are the things, then, that will improve learning environment and improve your structures and processes. Very nice results.
So now, I'm about to show you the framework that the research discovered. So if you think back to the graphic with the schools that were improving over time versus the schools that were stagnating over time, these are the five essential organizational conditions or supports that differentiated the schools that improved over time from the ones that stagnated. And you should all pat yourselves on the back because effective instructional leadership was the most important of these conditions. It was the one that really led, drive, championed continuous quality improvement.
Next, you see the arrow pointing to the essential of collaboration. This goes back to how staff interact with each other, how staff interact with families, how staff interact with their leaders. So around here at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, we like to say that leadership is the driver of change and collaboration is the vehicle.
So you might ask yourself, "What did they find in these schools that we're improving? What were they talking about in these collaborations? What were leaders providing, guiding, and shaping?" Exactly what you would have expected. They were guiding and shaping ambitious practice. They were guiding and shaping a vision
and ambitious practice around partnering with families and with creating those supportive, developmental, and learning environments for children. Now, here's where the research really hits the road. What they found in that 18-year longitudinal study is that schools that were strong on three to five of those essentials were 10 times more likely to improve student reading and math achievement. Most importantly, I want you to look to the left side of this graph. Schools that were weak in three to five of them, not a single school out of the 400 in the sample improved mathematics achievement over time. So what we understand from that original research is that the value of these strong organizational conditions comes from their combined strength. So while you want to begin with strengthening instructional leadership and you want those leaders using that strong instructional leadership and guidance in a collaboration way, you can't let one of these essentials be in weakness over time because - and this is what really stood out to my colleague and I back in 2010 -- a sustained weakness in a single one of these essential elements over time undermined any improvement effort to less than a 10 percent chance of success.
So it didn't matter if you were trying to improve oral language, if you were trying to improve early socialemotional behaviors. It didn't matter the focus of the improvement initiative. It was relegated to less than a 10 percent chance of success. And I want you to think about this. In my kitchen, I have a drawer with my silverware in it, okay, and that drawer is very organized. You know, there's a place for spoons and forks and knives and big spoons and little forks, and it's very organized when I open it. And maybe this other drawer doesn't exist in your kitchen, but I open the drawer next to my silverware, and it's a disaster! I have the pancake turners pulled up. I can't open the drawer. The whisk is jumping out at me. You know, I'm kind of afraid I'm going to stick my hand in there and a knife's going to eat me. So in most kitchens, you have a disorganized drawer for a lot of your utensils, and you have this very organized silverware drawer.
What this research is telling us is we have to have very organized climate and conditions in order for teachers and practitioners to do their best work and in order for families to really engage with us on that journey. So now you're probably saying, "All right, this is all from pre-K through 8th grade. How do we know that this actually applies in early care and education?" Well, that was the research work that I've been engaging in since 2013. We embarked on a quest, along with the original authors of the five essentials for K-12 at the University of Chicago Consortium, and we translated their existing teacher survey to turn it into a staff survey that involved removing irrelevant questions, adapting questions, making more appropriate questions. And because they use a student survey, and although I would like to ask a toddler and a preschooler if their teacher respects them, I haven't quite created those methods yet.
So instead, we created a survey for parents; and what you're seeing here are the sub-scales of those. So, the way we ask on the staff survey about leadership, about collaboration, about family involvement, about supportive environment, about ambitious practice, these are the dimensions of that. And then on the parent survey, these are the dimensions of parent voice.
What I'm about to show you is data that shows from our research that these essential climate and conditions do matter in early education like they matter in K-12 education. What you're seeing here is that the two essentials of effective instructional leadership and collaborative teachers are significantly and statistically related to the site's Classroom Assessment Scoring System scores. So you can see under emotional supports, effective instructional leadership and collaborative teachers was higher, the higher the emotional support scores on the CLASS.
So, essentially, the take-home here is when these conditions are strong and healthy and in place, we see teachers having higher quality ratings of their emotional support classroom organization and instructional support on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System. And similarly, we see that most of the essentials are also related to higher rates of children's attendance, such that we also saw that when these essentials were strongly in place, teachers and staff and parents are saying, "Yes, this place is strongly organized to these things," children's chronic absenteeism was also far lower, statistically lower than in the sites where these essentials were not strong. We saw poor attendance, and we saw higher rates of chronic absenteeism.
So the essentials are incredibly relevant and predictive in early childhood, as they are in K-12. I also want to show you some... Oh, wait. Let me go back here. I'm so sorry. So, in early childhood, now you see an expanded framework that includes this parent voice essential because it, too, predicted attendance and improvement over time.
All right, let's get to know two of the essentials a little bit more deeply. So, we're going to have you read the expanded definition. We'd like you to identify words and phrases that resonate with you and then reflect on one or two of those words or phrases in the chat box. And Maribel and I already see some folks saying, "We love the leadership as the driver of change." Loving that. Okay, here's the definition of effective instructional leaders. I went through a lot of this already at the very beginning, so this should be a quicker read for you. What we'd like you to do again is give this a read, jot down words or phrases that really resonate with you, and then pick one or two of those to put into the chat box and why it resonates with you, why you think it's so important. Wow. Very cool. Hopefully, everybody... They're coming in fast and furious. I love it.
We can tell you that in the last five years, as we've been presenting and talking about these constructs within the field of early care and education birth to 5, everything that's really resonating with you resonates across the board regardless of the setting, regardless of the type of program or funding. It really resonates with folks that leadership is a true key driver, and that you're all picking up on the most important phrases. They're strategically focused. There's a shared understanding. They attend to the hiring. They build trusting relationships. They practice shared leadership. They galvanize. They manage well, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, we want to put up here the definition for the organizational essential of collaborative teachers. So we want you to do the same thing here. Go ahead and read this. Identify words and phrases that really resonate with you, and then go ahead and give us a look at those in the group chat box and why they resonate with you.
Okay. So, again, it's so beautiful to see these phrases fly by because they just -- literally, they feel like little sparks in my heart and in my mind. Again, this idea that leaders have to protect the time. They have to use their relationships, their trusting and positive relationships with teachers, staff, and practitioners to really focus direction. And they do that through their relationships, through supervision, through ongoing professional development. Lots of you are highlighting on the "work together," the deisolating, as Maribel and I and Dr. Michael Fullan likes to call it. We have to de-isolate and de-privatize practice. We have to give folks time to work in collaboration. We have to give them time to fall in love with improving, fall in love with identifying problems of practice, knowing that their colleagues and their leadership are there for them and can assist them in examining and reflecting on their practice, and being willing to be influenced by ideas that families might have about how they can make those morning hellos and goodbyes go a little bit easier for their child.
All right. What I want to offer here real quick, and then we're going to turn this over to Maribel, who's going to give you some glimpses into some highly effective leaders working with their staff to collaboratively improve climate and conditions in their settings, but I wanted to give you a little glimpse in our research studies to bring these essentials, to understand if they're relevant and effective in early childhood education, and I want to highlight for you some quality and research findings. What you see in front of you are mind-set structures and practices of early care and education programs that were associated with higher essential survey scores.
So, again, those surveys where teachers, staff, and parents are saying whether or not -- this is their experience --whether or not these conditions are happening for them. And we also got our hands on their Classroom Assessment Scoring System scores and their children's attendance outcomes. And we went and spent time in programs talking with staff, leaders, and family members. And what we found in these strongly organized and settings that were improving their practice over time is that staff held these common understandings of their goals for high-quality teaching, learning, and family engagement; that they could tell us in these interviews -- everybody, vertically and horizontally in a program -- everybody could articulate that leader's purpose-driven vision. Staff in those programs told us how that purpose-driven vision was very motivating for them, that it reacquainted them with why they went into working with the very youngest of children and families.
Leaders built emotionally supportive relationships, and staff could point to those, to moments in their relationships with their leaders. They could point to these very nurturing organizational routines that help them think about their practice, engage in responsive caregiving and lesson planning. We saw in these programs and we heard from leaders, teachers, and staff that they viewed social-emotional development as the absolute foundation, the fountain from which all other learning could flow. And they emphasized interactive and inquiry-based, constructivistic, exploratory, play-based teaching strategies.
Also, what we found in these programs is that partnerships with families were not just an okay or a good thing. Staff and leaders in these programs told us that they believed that partnerships with families were critical to their effectiveness. Very different than just,
"We like those partnerships with families." At the end of the day, staff and leaders and teachers in highly organized programs told us that if they didn't reach a family, that they felt that they had failed. And then lastly, interactions and conversations and relationships among staff and between staff and families was frequent, it was warm, it was encouraging, and transparent.
So in the highly organized programs, people didn't struggle with lack of transparency. Later, I need to turn this over to Maribel, but I also have for you a quote from a teacher who is operating within a highly organized setting. And what's important here is she literally uses the word "love." And then you have that buy-in, and you have that energy, and you have that love, and you have a leader that pushes you and guides you and nudges you. At a later time, you can take a look at the mind-set structures and practices associated with low essentials and lower quality outcomes, as well as the quote, where she says to me, "There's one thing that gets me here. There's no collaboration. People are not working together. And if I have a problem, I just simply can't compare it to anybody else." So you can see the sort of feeling of demoralization here that this quote represents. All right, so, we've gone through a pretty quick foundation here.
Hopefully, I have convinced you that organizational climate and conditions really do matter to the quality of practice and to family engagement and, therefore, children's attendance. And now my colleague is going to let you glimpse through some videos how important this survey data we're finding is to bringing together a staff with their leader towards improving their setting.
Maribel Centeno: Hey, everyone. So, you're probably wondering how did staff use this data sort of to think about continuous quality improvement, about their organizational conditions and weaknesses. So, we really knew that we just didn't want them to have the data. We really wanted them to be able to unpack the data, really think about what it means in terms of areas that we might want to focus on for improvement, and really look at the areas that we're doing really well in because, what are we doing there that we can learn about in improving other essentials?
We also knew that we needed to develop some protocols that would support leaders and their practitioners to structure these conversations so that they would be focused, they would be clear, they would be purposely driven towards continuous quality improvement around the organizational conditions and climate. So what we did is structured a series of learning experiences and developed protocols for both leaders and staff to use.
So in the next couple of slides, you're going to see those protocols in use with staff as they dig into their data. You're also going to see the teachers synthesizing the data, unpacking it, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and why they think those weaknesses are occurring. And in another session, you'll see them even dig deeper into that data by then taking that data, identifying a problem or practice or area that they really want to improve, and do some really, like, deep cause analysis and action-planning to strengthen those organization conditions and climates.
So, just like we developed protocols for our leaders and staff, we're going to ask... You should have received this in one of the files. We're going to ask you to think about this video viewing protocol for yourself. So, Step 1, we want you to think about the connections. What connections did you hear leaders and staff making? Step 2. We want you to think about, "What am I wondering about as I view this video?" And Step 3, think about the value here. What do you value most about the data that was used -- the data used and improvement planning tools and the discussions that you observed?
And the last step is think about, "What implications do I see for myself as I seek to strengthen my own organizational conditions and climate?" You are about to see -- so let me do a little setting up. You're about to see teachers identifying strengths and weaknesses. They're going to be engaging in a data dialogue on the organizational conditions of engaged families. The second little quick clip you're going to see are teachers identifying strengths and weaknesses and the organizational conditions of collaborative teachers. The third mini clip you're going to see is a leader reflecting on their experience in their own data dialogue and about their own readiness for organizational change. ♪♪ (Video clip begins)
(Video clip ends) Maribel: Wonderful. And what you're looking at is just a glimpse at the charts that they were using to sort of unpack the data where they identified the strengths of involved families, some of the weaknesses around involving families. Most of the weaknesses are around parents having the time to volunteer. They were wondering why parents were not volunteering in the program, and then they sort of identified some reasons why: working parents, school activities during the day, parents waiting to be asked to come into the school community.
Debra is looking at the group chat, and she is pointing out -- Heather indicated, "Wow. It's pretty powerful stuff to see." And there are a couple of questions that came in while we were showing the video about, "How do we get to accountability?" And what we learned here is you get to accountability by cultivating unity of purpose. The other thing was, "How do you get at the folks that are really not focused on giving their 100 percent?" And what we also learned is that if you reduce the
competitiveness and increase your collaboration and you're whole-constructing the shared vision and a purpose-driven sort of focused work, and what you'll see later -- I'm trying to get to the really great videos about this. This stuff worked.
When teachers take ownership over their data and the CQI in partnership with leaders, can they actually impact and influence change? And small doses of change is what we're talking about, stuff that is within their scope of changing.
So, let's look at some other examples. Here's the same thing about the strengths and weaknesses around involved families. I forgot to show the one about collaboration. But the next video you're going to look at is now they've done the deep dive on the data; they've unpacked it. So this is post-data analysis. They are going to go into some root cause analysis.
Why are these things happening? Let's begin to unpack and look for some sort of, like, categories or things to think about and identify some strategies that we might want to try to implement. And one thing to remember here, that it's not so much when they're thinking about root causes about answering, like, the strategy or getting clear about something that is going to work.
What's most important throughout this process is to think about what is it that we're learning about our practices and then what can we do to change that or influence that together?
So, what you're going to see next are two lead teachers talking about doing what we call a fishbone diagram, which is structured to help them organize their root causes, put them into sort of categories; and when we say "categories," there could be a category of communication. There could be a category of relationships. There could be a category of time. So what you'll see is talking through some of the root causes and why they think they're occurring.
Maribel: Pretty powerful stuff. What you're seeing now is how the fishbone diagrams, how they sort of sorted them out by category. And then you're probably wondering, "What are those dots?" So what they did then, after they sorted them out by category, they aimed really to identify a problem with practice and then think about the strategies that they wanted to try. And the strategies really needed to be most directly connected to the problem of practice. And the second thing that was sort of the organizer for them was that they could impact with minimal effort.
So we're looking at a small, small change, not huge changes that are out of the scope of their capability. So that's what you're looking at -- how they organized the categories -- and then they voted on the strategies that were most directly connected to the problem of practice and that was well within their control to change with minimal effort. And here's their plan, right?
So in the Plan-Do-Study-Act, so now you're looking at post the data dialogue, post the root cause analysis and fishbone, and now they're identifying their actions, how they're going to collect data for their small change, how often, who's going to be responsible, and they're also thinking about impact. So they're going to implement this plan over a 30-day period, and they're going to come back in 30 days and they're going to discuss the data, what they learned about the strategies they implemented over 30 days.
So we're looking at rapid cycles of improvement. And, again, what's most important here is not, "Did they work?" and, "Oh, I'm going to give up," but we're really pushing risk-taking. We really want teachers to be vulnerable. We really want teachers to cultivate and take ownership over responsibility. But what's most important is what did we learn about our practices. So, and these changes are incremental changes. Slow and steady.
So let's look at some more video. This is really simple how they collected their data. So basically, what they're looking at -- part of their plan was that they were supposed to connect with 10 families a week either by email, either by phone, a personal connection, a check-in with their child. So what they did, what you're looking at is a class roster and the families that they just checked off, that they connected every week with, and what was the methodology that they used, phone call, my teaching dojo, et cetera.
So, now what you're going to look is now we're looking at post 30 days, right? So they went back, they implemented for 30 days. Now you see the leaders holding a protocol, and now they are actually in the 30-day check-in, which is the study. The study part of the PDSA really is about answering the questions: What did we learn? Did this really work? Okay? So let's take a look at that.
Give me a second.
Maribel: Okay, for the sake of time, we're going to move on to the next video, where you're looking at some B-roll of teachers talking about the data that they collected. And now we're going to look at some really sort of quick video on them answering the question, "What worked?"
Maribel: Again, in the spirit of time, we have one minute left, and we really want to show you a powerful video where the teachers... We don't have time for another video. So, the next clip was going to show a teacher saying, "Wow. Look at the impact that we had in just 30 days. Can you imagine what we could do if we took this methodology and blew it up?"
So, I think since we're about to wrap up, we want to move ahead to a couple of slides and thank our partners about what is coming up next. Thank you. So, we want to thank -- that we appreciate the support for this work by grants from our anonymous funder, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Pritzker's Children's Initiative. Thank you.
Stephanie: Thank you, guys. Thank you. Yes, thank you, Maribel. Thank you, Debra. Thank you all for your participation in today's webinar. We do want to invite you to just save the dates for the upcoming webinars in this series. So, our next Instructional Leadership webinar, Part II, is scheduled for May 2 from 3 to 4 Eastern time. And then our last one, Exploring the Essentials of Ambitious Instruction and Teacher Collaboration, is scheduled for September 5, again, from 3 to 4 Eastern Time.
We are going to put the evaluation link up now, and we just encourage you guys to click on that. If you can take a moment to complete that, we really do use that evaluation to help guide how we develop these webinars for you. You can also, upon the completion of that evaluation, download and print a certificate of completion for your participation in today's webinar. Again, thank you so much. You can just go ahead and click on your screen for that evaluation link. Have a great afternoon.Close
This is the first in a three-part series on instructional leadership. "Instructional leadership" means program leaders are strategically focused on children's early achievement. They nurture trust, collective understanding, and responsibility for excellence and improvement among staff and parents. Discover more about instructional leadership and why it is important in early childhood settings like Head Start. Learn about the five key organizational supports that can help programs improve their educational settings. Find out how to identify the systems and practices that support education staff to continuously improve their teaching practices.