Partnership for Whole School Change


Partnership for Whole School Change

Classroom teachers overcome their students’ speaking, reading, and writing challenges by using the arts and other expressive modalities to draw out feelings and insights students want to talk about, read about, and write about.  For a project description, visit this web page, and see the photos below.


 "Jump off the cliff, and build 
                       your wings on the way down."   Ray Bradbury
Sir Ken Robinson's video reflects the growing demand on K-12 schools to prepare our children to understand globalization. Whether our schools want to or not, they will have to leap or be pushed into the mystery that is change. During the school's transformation process, it will have to make significant alterations while effectively doing all the things schools are required to do to maintain the continuity students and school staffs need. Clicking the links below will illustrate how our implementation strategy both provides this continuity while helping your school community make the successful leap into its transformation process.
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 What Makes Our Implementation Strategy Different  

Our developers use a bottom up school change strategy. The education establishments, that oversee our nation's local school systems, tend to use a top down strategy. Since our K-12 schools are one of the world's most critical and complex institutions, our developers work from the premise that the top down approach to school development is unworkable. Our schools are far too complicated for an insular group, board, or committee to orchestrate their transformation.

The typical top down strategy for K-12 schools is overseen by the local education establishments and state and local school bodies. The local education establishments' self appointed role is to:  

  • influence state and local school bodies and the general public; 
  • create, except, or reject education policies; and 
  • choose or reject high profile officials who serve in the school systems they oversee.

When these establishments except a policy, it usually ends up being passed down to each of their local school systems. To function, all of the factions that make up our nation's K-12 education establishments have to reach agreement — a process that can become a political struggle. Compromises are usually achieved, but they tend to be more about dealing with the factional disputes and less about the needs of the schools these establishments oversee.

Educational establishments are usually made up of people who make up the highest social and economic classes in their towns and cities. They also include the people who work for these upper classes. When members retire from this informal group, they tend to be replaced by people from the same social and economic classes. The establishments' members are often narrowly focused on teaching and learning methodologies that uphold the views, mores, and interests of their class. 

A huge problem in K-12 education is the selection of experts made by the education establishment and the state and local education bodies. Their selection of experts is far too narrow and disconnected from the local schools' broad complicated needs and experiencesHaving this narrow perspective, plus the need to suppress internal conflicts, leads our nation's education establishments to replace the actual complexity of our K-12 schools with a simpler mental fiction. This fiction makes success easier to attain and the challenges schools face within the comfort zone of the educational establishments' members. 

Our state and local education bodies and our local education establishments need to provide a seat at the table for lay people their schools serve. They also need input from different social classes, ecologists and other scientists, social scientists, global market experts, students and their organizations, artist/educators, meeting management experts, health workers, entrepreneurs, and others if they are to have schools that prepare our citizens for a globalized world. Without this broad input and external expertise, these establishments cannot know the complex needs of the students, teachers, and parents they serve. 

Unfortunately, our education establishments have remained static and narrow and disconnected from our local schools. They have passed down policies that keep our schools static, narrow, and disconnected from the world globalization has remade. To fully appreciate how obsolete our schools are, imagine this. If our Founding Fathers somehow return from the dead to see the nation they formulated, just about everything in our time would be unrecognizable accept our nation's K-12 schools (Tavis Smiley). Even the earthshaking challenge brought about by the advent of globalization has not caused our high and low achieving schools or our charter and public schools to open themselves up to the world and change.



When a school practices a bottom up approach to school development, their school community plays the leadership role in its transformation process. This provides the motivation the school community needs to fully own the transformation processes they have created.

When an education establishment makes the change to support a bottom up strategy, it will need to change from playing the leadership role to playing a leadership support role. A leadership support role requires an education establishment to use its power and authority in new ways. For example, education establishments can:

  • hire or replace school staff based on their ability or inability to successfully create and implement their schools' bottom up  strategies;
  • challenge K-12 school staffs to design strategies for making the changes their schools need, and helping them to make valid and reliable assessments of the changes they have made; and
  • use their social status and power to surround their school communities with the foundation, government, and university resources their schools will need to successfully implement their bottom up school development process.

Many of the highly complex human and instructional dynamics that make up each school's community are far too complex to be dealt with in isolation. First and foremost, school communities need buy-in from the subgroups that make up their school. Then they need input from the communities they serve, their local colleges and universities, and their arts and cultural organization. They also need scientists who comprehend the scientific disciplines that reflect the processes and attributes that make up their school community and its culture. A sound bottom up approach empowers the school community to develop a school culture that welcomes and empowers these contributors to work together in the interest of the school



External mandates and top down development strategies do not allow or motivate our K-12 schools to function like other complex institutions that have successfully changed in ways that improved themselves. There are reasons complex institutions, like airports, function better than our K-12 schools. First, their is a strong social consensus in our society to structure airports to safely and reliably serve the needs of the flying public of all classes, races, and cultures. Our K-12 schools lack this strong social consensus, therefore "we the people" need to struggle to acquire this social consensus. Then our nation can join Finland as having one of the best K-12 school systems in the world.

Unlike K-12 schools, airport staffs are given the time and resources to establish a culture where high and low level staff members are encouraged to mention their mistakes. Airport culture also helps its members bring issues, especially safety and operation issues, to the airport community's attention.

Unlike K-12 schools, airports are more likely to use a more bottom up development strategy that employs the scientific method. They use it to formulate ideas, and they research and test them with the help of outside professionals until they become a useful hypothesis. Then the hypothesis is studied and discussed in ways that moves it back and forth from theoretical analysis to empirical testing within a real world context. Airports use the scientific method in far more areas of their institution than K-12 schools. The result for the traveling public is that catastrophic accidents are at such a low rate that people feel safe traveling by air. If Finland can implement this science-based, bottom up process in its K-12 school systems and now have one of the best school systems in the world, so can we.  

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 Taking Your First Steps  

If your school community wants to make changes to improve what it is currently doing or to alter what your school is, this webpage offers an implementation strategy that will help your school take its first steps successfully. 

We understand that taking that first step to implement your school transformational process may seem difficult. Your school’s path to change may not be known or agreed upon, but in this age of unprecedented innovation and change, very few paths towards any goals are fully known. 

However, some things are known.  The world has changed, and schools will have to change or lose their relevance.  Fundamental school change does not happen quickly, so start as soon as possible. This gives your school the time to do it in a relaxed atmosphere, and to bring all your school's major players on board.  Teachers can be assured that the only expertise required of teachers is to become better teachers. Becoming a Resource School is a good first step for your school community.  



 Our  "Bottom up" Approach To School Change:  

Our school programs are voluntary, because our developers use a bottom up rather than a top down school change strategy. We use a bottom up approach, because after 46-years working in Massachusetts K-12 schools, we have never experienced a top down strategy making a fundamental, sustainable change in a school's culture.

Witnessing this poor outcome has led our developers to establish a school change strategy where school staff maintain the power over and get respect for their professional abilities. They need and ought to have this authority for they, not those outside the school and classroom, are in the best position to know the students and their schools. Our strategy also supports the school community's ownership of its school's culture. It empowers staff members to own their efforts to transform their school culture. This encourages school communities to step up and volunteer to be the dominant players in their schools' transformation process.

Under a top down regime, when a school's culture has been said to have changed, the change often does not exist. If there are some positive changes, they do not last, for as soon as the top down pressure is removed, the school's dysfunctional cultural patterns reemerge

Harvard University's Dr. Ronald Heifetz articulated why the top down approach's outcomes are so poor. His research informed him that all forms of change require people to adapt, and it is normal for people to have difficulties making the necessary adaptions required to change. This is especially true if a people's current adaptations are:

  • still dominant;
  • bolstered by entrenched habits; and
  • supported by the situation they are in or by the people or resources that prop up the group's existing adaptations.

Culture anthropology tells us that a culture is a unique mixture of learned behaviors weaved together by socially patterned thoughts and feelings that humans have consciously and unconsciously established. Cultures maintain all the many forms of social groupings humans have, and humans cannot survive without these cultural groupings. Every culture becomes part of who we are and enables us to function together. For a culture to exist, a certain part of its structure has to remain fixed long enough for its members to adapt to any change that it has to undergo. Plus, the culture's overall configuration has to remain somewhat intact. If these dynamics fail to happen, a culture is at-risk of being destroyed.

For good or for ill, a culture's members tend to work together against outside threats that could change their culture. To change their culture is to change a significant part of who they are. This explains why all people, ideas, beliefs, and technologies that are seen to be outside of a culture are limited by a powerful "outsiders stigma." This stigma is imposed on them by those who are within the culture. It limits the influence of people, ideas, beliefs, and technologies that are deemed to be outside the culture.

School members will fight to uphold their culture. This is why outsiders, if they are really skilled, may be able to stimulate or initiate a school's transformation process or establish peripheral changes. But, outsiders and their ideas and technologies cannot make unwanted changes that upset a school members' deeply held habits and beliefs without mounting a long ruthless struggleWhat such a conflict does to a school invariably makes it a place that is not good for children. This is why, only the members of a culture can make the fundamental changes needed to truly transform a culture.

This is true for all cultures, so it is also true for all school cultures. Too often the state, school committees, superintendents, and others from outside a K-12 school convinces themselves our others that their top down efforts have achieved significant, sustainable change. But, over time, it turns out to be an illusion that is often perpetrated by school community members. This is one of many devices school communities use to protect themselves and their school's cultures. 

State boards of education, school committees, and superintendents do not consider Dr. Heifetz findings and the fallacy and limits of their top down methodologies. They also do not see the school members' adaptive challenges as being both the obstacle to change and the solution to realize change. They do not understand that all top down approaches are about doing things to people not working with people (Alfie Kohen). The problem with doing things to school members is that this practice routinely heightens passive and active resistance. Like all wars, they destroy trust and the capacity to establish the authentic and caring relationships. Without these values a school cannot realize positive change.

Since the imposing of school change from the outside offers such poor outcomes, our developers make it clear to each school community that the place where sustainable school change is designed is not the state board of education, the school committee, or other organizations that are outside the school's culture. The center of the design, development, and implementation of this innovation takes place within the school community that upholds the school's culture. Here are some of the tools and expertise employed by our bottom up approach.

  • School change coaches, artist/educators, and social scientist who are skilled in working with schools work with the school community. First, they invest in becoming seen by the school community as being a useful and wanted part of the school and its culture. As part of the school community and culture, they play a leadership and leadership support role working with the school members and social subgroups to implement their school's transformation process.
  • In the interest of continuity, our bottom up process enables school communities to manage school change by keeping their current school cultures, with its ongoing issues and needs, separate from the establishment of their new school cultures.      
  • Our bottom up approach can make 35 transformational strategies, services, and professional development opportunities available to school members. They help prepare school communities to take their own successful steps towards the establishment of their own school culture.              
  • School change coaches can provide a highly effective conceptual framework that is based on transforming school culture. It offers the school community the opportunity to create a representation of a school change process that is visual and comprehensive for every school member. The process gives school members a sound understand of the concept of school culture, and the values and concepts that make up a sound school change process.
  • Fund raising and grant writing assistance is available to help a school acquire the resources to transform its culture.
School communities have to be encouraged to step up and volunteer to be the dominant player in their own school change process. Volunteering does not mean an absence of accountability. There will be a contract the school coaches and the school community draws up. It will outline all the mayor players responsibilities and the agreed upon actions they will take, and their will be consequences for participants who breech the contract.
Cultural anthropology tells us that no significant social change happens without a fundamental change in a group's culture. But, culture has many forms, and many of them are not compatible with the best ways to practice teaching and learning. This is why our bottom up strategy stresses the importance of creating an intentional school culture.
A culture that is intentional helps school members apply conscious intent to what was previously unconscious. It liberates their school community from becoming oppressed by destructive cultural patterns that undermine the highest promise of K-12 education. Intentional school cultures also give schools the capacity to change when human, social, technological, and economic conditions require it. This culture provides the wings that power a school into the twenty-first century, and bless it with the capacity to change to capture the opportunities and avoid the  pitfalls of a rapidly changing world.



  Steps The PWSC Takes During Your .School's Transformation Process:  

A school’s circumstances and challenges will always alter how this implementation strategy functions. What is fairly stable are the following seven steps taken by the school staff, our school coach, and our artist/educators. Each step is supported by the PWSC's Transformational Support Team. This team is a brain trust of educators, social scientists, community leaders, parents, and a wide assortment of experts in fields that reflect society's overall make up. 

1. PWSC representatives will take steps to work with schools to:

  • discover what changes your school community wants to make;
  • enable school members to achieve changes in the school's culture; 
  • establish and/or strengthen authentic, caring school relationships among school staff, students, parents, and PWSC personnel; and
  • impress upon the teachers that the only expertise that will be required of them in this initiative is to be a better teacher. 

2. PWSC school change coaches will take steps to work with schools to form school teams (see the links above) to lead the school's transformation process.

3. PWSC representatives will take steps to enhance the school community's capacity to understand and include the cultures represented in their school. We work to give school members the capacity to work with cultural patterns like values, attitudes, habits, and a concept of school culture that is anthropologically based. The website also helps school members discover which of our 35 transformational tools they might want to use to kick start their school change process.

4. We will take steps to gain first hand knowledge of the school's unique culture and its many parts (e.g., social organization, governance, decision-making, meetings, classrooms, and other formal and.informal school practices). 

5. PWSC's representatives will take steps to make agreements with school partners. Working together they will guide the implementation of the school's transformation process and decide upon the evaluation methodology used for the school change process.

6. PWSC's representatives and School members will prepare an orientation session(s) for school staff and parents. The session(s) will introduce parents and staff to the PWSC's school change coaches and artist/educators, our school transformation process, what it offers, and the role everyone needs to play.

7. PWSC's representatives will take steps to give school members greater capacity to acquire the knowledge about the global marketplace that they will need to develop educational strategies that are more relevant to the lives their students are, and will be, living.

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  Steps Your School Takes During Its Transformation Process

Your school's transformation process begins when your school's decision-making bodies:

  • talk with us about developing school teams that oversee your school change process;
  • expose their school members to our art-based simulations (life-like environments made of performing and visual art media).  They facilitate school change while enhancing teaching, learning, and social development;
  • review the 19 transformational Components that guide the PWSC's overall strategy. After a decade of collaborating with urban, suburban, and rural schools, these elements informed the conclusions we reached;
  • begin acting on the premise that your school is arguably among the most essential and complex institution on earth (learn more); and
  • find ways to implement 14-action steps that prepare students for the twenty-first century.  We authored the 14-steps with help from Jesse Sheridan, who is currently a member of Apple's Map Team and previously VP. Technology at BroadMap, LLC. Jesse contributed an inside the business perspective on what employers in today's innovation economy want in those they seek to hire (learn more).



  Steps To Transform Your Classroom Culture  

The global Marketplace is hyper-innovative and in constant change. Classrooms need to give students the many abilities required to manage these factors. A key to managing these factors is having the love of learning. Classroom cultures that integrate into the students' academic lives what they feel, enjoy, and know will give students this ability. To achieve this integration, the PWSC's frame- work provides transformational “tools” to help classroom teachers:

  • offer classroom experiences that help students be a success at being a child or an adolescent;
  • provide lessons and testing that merge thinking and feeling and give equal attention and value to both;
  • reorganize classroom culture to prepare students who are assigned by society to achieve high, middle, and low economic and social status to transcend these outcomes to become wealth creating citizens who humanely succeed in the global marketplace;

  • establish a classroom culture that embraces every students' home and community culture, so the classroom and the lessons taught reflect back each student's positive and respected attributes. This makes the classroom their class- room and learning their learning;
  • transform their classrooms from being a hierarchical teacher centered place to being an egalitarian team a more student centered place. The Tribal Rhythms curriculum helps teachers work with students to establish this kind of classroom, and we call it the Learning Tribe. These classrooms allow students to work alone, in small groups, and all together.  They mirror the new innovative ways that manufacturing and design  are organized into day's workplaces. For example, in employee run quality circles and lean production manufacturing there is more democracy and consensus; and
  • seamlessly integrate social and academic lessons and all other aspects of the students’ school experiences within an engaging theme. Teachers accomplish this using the theme of tribe, group building activities, community building arts experiences, and a Tribe Council Circle presented in the curriculum above, that places human relationships at the center of instruction strategy.







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..School Teams That Lead Your School's Transformation Process 

One way the PWSC works with school communities is by helping to form the teams the school needs to establish its school transformation framework and implement its transformation process.  To assist your school's team development, see our team-building professional development opportunity and our team-building manual. Both are hands on tools for most team- building challenges. They provide the guidance needed to prepare school teams to play a leadership role in their school's transformation. Below are the school teams that lead their school's transformation process:

  • a Fund Raising Team where school and PWSC development staff work together to acquire the resources to implement your school's transform- ation process. The nature of this team's task and goal give the school and PWSC staff the opportunity to learn about each other. They develop the caring, authentic relationships needed to be successful;
  • a Research and Survey Team that uses surveys, questionnaires, and interviews to compile useful information for the Development Team.  The Research and Survey Team investigates what is going on outside and inside of the school community that affects its members’ ability to teach and learn (e.g., testing, resources, instruction prac- tices, building space, school relationships, students' social and economic status, etc.);
  • a Development Team that combines the school’s needs with the Research and Survey Team’s data and research to create solutions and strategies that address the Research and Survey Team's findings. Next the Development Team designs the strategies, steps, and activities that move the school along its path to trans- formation;
  • an Implementation Team that focuses on overcoming the challenge of imple- menting the solutions and strategies given to it by the Development Team;
  • an Evaluation Team that assesses the work conducted by the Research and Survey Team, the Development Team, and the Implementation Team; and
  • a School Efficacy Team that has the authority to use the information received from the Evaluation Team to do what is needed to the five other teams to improve their work and methodology.

The school teams and school coaches and the artist/educators are supported by our Transformational Support Team, a brain trust of highly skilled educators and social scientists.  Each school team uses the PWSC’s 35 interactive tools to guide their school's change. The Tribe Council Circle include the students in their school's transformation process

The more team members become know- ledgeable and engaged in their school's transformation process, the more they model and share their transformational skills with other school members.  In this and in other ways, the transformational process works its way into the existing school culture.  The process is not complete when a new school culture is established or when it becomes normative.  The process is completed when the school community's members are transformed by the new school culture they have created.

If you wish to speak with a PWSC representative, contact us via email, or call us at 617-524-6378 and request J. Curtis Jones.

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