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Problems of Practice Through a Leadership Lens

The materials in this tab focus on two districts’ specific problems of practice—“accountable communities” in Fresno Unified School District and a grading policy in Garden Grove Unified School District—as well as a general problem of practice facing all districts—implementation of the Common Core. The first document in this tab, Exploring the Process of Scaling Up, helps to frame these issues.

Implementation and Scale

Exploring the process of scaling up. (2007, Spring). Threshold Magazine: Exploring the Future of Education, 16-17. Available at

 This graphic, which draws from previous implementation research, outlines the dimensions a district should consider when working to bring a program or reform to scale. For each of these dimensions—including depth, sustainability, spread, shift and evolution—the image notes potential both leverage points and challenges that must be overcome to achieve each stage of scalability. 

Two District Problems of Practice

Fresno Unified School District. (n.d.). Foundations. Fresno, CA: Author. Not available online.

This piece provides a brief overview of Fresno Unified’s current plans for implementing professional learning communities—called “accountable communities”—systemically over a three year period. The document compares the district’s classroom foundations, which provides four elements teachers plan for and deliver within each lesson, to the accountable communities foundations, which is grounded how teachers discuss student learning and what is occurring inside their classrooms. The selection of lead teachers and the key purposes of the teacher professional development strategies are outlined as well.

Knudson, J. (2011, March). Meeting 15 summary: Ensuring access to post-secondary success in a standards-based system: Garden Grove (pp. 6-7). San Mateo, CA: American Institutes for Research.

Garden Grove Unified School District. (2010). Secondary grading guidelines. Garden Grove, CA: Author. Not available online.

These two documents provide background on Garden Grove Unified School District’s new grading policy designed to ensure greater equity of access to post-secondary opportunities. The first document is an excerpt from the summary of the California Collaborative on District Reform meeting in Garden Grove that describes how the district worked with teachers on a new grading policy. The second document, prepared by the district, outlines guidelines for the district’s standards-based grading practices in secondary schools for the 2010-11 school year. [Both documents are currently unavailable. We will add a link to them in the near future.]

 Shared Problem of Practice: The Common Core

**Gewertz, C. (2012, May 30). Common Core training for principals on increase. Education Week. 31(33). Available at

This magazine article briefly describes an increased focus on the principal role in implementing the Common Core State Standards. The author references specific Common Core tools and trainings now available for principals and other school staff, and highlights several districts that have begun preparing their school leaders for the change. The article also touches upon key traits that principals will need to demonstrate as their schools transition to the Common Core including: 1) leading widespread change for key elements beyond the standards at the school site, such as grading and assessment practices; 2) strengthening their role as an instructional leaders; 3) monitoring teachers’ implementation of the new standards; and 4) allowing time for teachers (and principals) to work together on implementation of the Common Core.

**Benson, T., Fullan, M., Kegan, R., Madrazo, C, Quinn, J., & Senge, P. (2012, May). Developmental stories: Lessons from systemic change for utilizing the new Common Core Standards for transforming education. (Executive summary of working paper). Available for members at this link.

In this executive summary of a forthcoming paper, the authors argue that while the Common Core State Standards offer an opportunity for educators to foster deeper learning and prepare all students as 21st century problem solvers, this will only occur if implementation of the Common Core is accompanied by innovation at the intersection of curriculum, instruction, and assessment; high-leverage capacity building; and attention to systemic change. The authors highlight particular challenges that may deter high-quality implementation, such as handling anxiety and fear due to change, losing sight of long-term goals in the face of short-term demands, and dealing with those who are resistant to or not ready for change. 

**This document is considered a priority reading.