Culture, Counter-culture, Disruptive Innovation, Coup d’ecole
School reform is typically approached as an all-encompassing top-down restructuring. Though it makes sense, from a planning point of view, to take a comprehensive approach, such an approach can take a long time to implement and often spurs opposition, resentment, and even sabotage. An ingrained culture cannot be changed all at once, even with strong top-down control. However, it is possible to seed a counter-culture of high achievement within a larger culture of low achievement: to build new behaviors up from below while top-down mandates are taking effect.
JFYNetWorks’s theory of change seeks a point of leverage where a focused intervention can produce magnified results. It introduces disruptive innovation into schools directly through the classroom to change the practice of teaching and the learning experience of students. The methodology is blended learning and the curriculum is based on MCAS (or PARCC) and the Accuplacer. The result is higher levels of measured student skills, reduced achievement gaps, and fewer students assigned to developmental college courses. Our method of embedding new practices in schools through teacher training and support has the goal of making these practices a permanent part of teachers’ pedagogy and schools’ curriculum. By working closely with teachers and administrators to incorporate new assessment and instruction practices into their daily schedule, JFYNetWork subtly and gradually enhances the style and content of instruction by reinforcing daily practice with our structured, assessment-driven instructional methods. As that Assess/Instruct/Measure structure is infused into the regular curriculum, skill gaps are identified and closed earlier, making greater academic progress and less reconstructive effort possible for students.
Embedding these new practices in the existing structure– new wine in old bottles– is a collaborative, non-confrontational strategy for sustainable institutional change. Our overall plan for changing the practice of education in public schools is to continue collaborating with other providers and expanding our partnerships with schools and colleges so that the JFYNet methodology becomes embedded in service provision and in instructional strategy, at both the high school and community college levels, as integral tools for teachers and students to prepare for whatever academic standards may be in place. Student skills will still be the issue, as they have been since “A Nation at Risk” and before. The organization’s name, JFYNetWorks, expresses our vision: to be enmeshed in a dynamic network of schools, students, and service/content providers as the community partner for blended learning implementation. Our focus is on scaling impact: increasing the number of students and schools to an impactful scale.
As a learning organization, we pay close attention to the signals of the market and policy environment in which we operate. We adapt quickly to changes in public policy and the skill requirements of business and industry. Changing a culture does not happen overnight; but if the pilot phases are planned and executed in gradually enlarging stages, so that each stage is successful and builds the programmatic capacity to sustain the growing scale, the disruptive counter-culture will absorb and transform the host culture in a peaceful but inexorable coup d’ecole.