The Licking Valley Instructional Core
By Dave Hile, Superintendent
Above you see a graphic that I had designed to represent our focus here in the Licking Valley Schools. As you may be aware, the model we have adopted for maintaining a laser focus on student achievement is the Instructional Core, which is comprised of three elements: a rigorous and relevant curriculum, teacher knowledge and skill and student engagement. But I have always felt that this model is lacking the ingredients essential for establishing and maintaining the Instructional Core as our true focus, and for leading continuous improvement in the three elements of the Core. Those two essential elements are organizational leadership and instructional leadership.
Organizational leadership is a function, not just a person. It involves a mentality, structure, focus, and commitment to create the environment in which learning is optimized. Six primary functions of Organizational Leadership are listed below.
Create a culture of high expectations. That culture must communicate and encompass:
• Why: the challenges of changing demographics, a wired and tech‐savvy generation of students growing up in a digital world; as well as a global economy in which America must innovate and compete.
• To Whom: students, staff, and community stakeholders
• How: through active and ongoing communications and messaging at staff development events, community forums, business roundtables, and so on.
Create a shared vision. Culture needs to be embedded in goals and action plans focused on instructional effectiveness that all stakeholders can understand, contribute to, and commit to. In the LVLS these are our Building Instructional Core Plans that help establish a common definition of effective instruction and student achievement indicators.
Build leadership capacity. Organizational leadership needs to enhance existing leaders and identify and cultivate the development of emerging, future leaders. Doing so broadens the leadership capacity of the organization immediately and paves the way for continuous development and growth of new leaders.
Align organizational structures and systems to vision. Once culture, vision and distributed and empowered leadership are established, Organization Leadership needs to
• decide which external impediments to instructional effectiveness can be changed or compensated for and which are beyond the control of the education organization
• ensure enabling conditions and structures to support instructional effectiveness are in place
• identify which factors impacting effective instruction are most effective and efficient
Support decision making with data systems. Organizational Leadership needs to ensure that a data system is used to inform and enhance instructional effectiveness. This includes building “data literacy” among all stakeholders as well as emphasizing the importance of data‐driven decision making.
Instructional Leadership is directly focused on instructional effectiveness and ultimately student achievement. Instructional Leadership can be provided by a variety of people, functions, and means in support of teachers, such as:
• district and regional instructional leadership
• principals, assistant principals
• department chairs
• expert teachers, counselors, social workers
• mentor teachers, teacher coaches, teaching peers/team leaders.
Instructional Leaderships four overarching elements:
Use research to establish urgency for higher expectations. The first job of Instructional Leadership is to reinforce the vision set forth by Organizational Leadership. To do so, Instructional Leadership must offer “proof statements” to staff, students, and stakeholders: research and authoritative testimony that corroborate the urgent need for improvement in student achievement. Instructional leaders also need to see themselves as the key change‐agents in raising standards and expectations.
Align curriculum to standards. Instructional leaders also need to prepare teachers for the new types of instruction and formative assessments associated with the CCSS.
Facilitate data‐driven decision making to inform instruction. To meet the needs of diverse learners, teachers must use data to measure student growth and inform and differentiate instruction. This means the instructional leaders provide teachers with a clearer understanding of student data and how to apply that understanding to actionable instruction and interventions (e.g., MAP Assessments).
Provide opportunities for focused professional collaboration and growth. The research conducted by John Hattie (Visible Learning) and others clearly shows the importance of teacher selection and development, and a continuous cycle of evaluation and support. (Daggett, 2011)
Now when you see our Instructional Core graphic around the district, it will have more meaning for you.