Steven Weber

Superintendent or Asst Super

Fayetteville, AR

Interests: Curriculum design and...

  • Posted 4 Months ago
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School Leadership: Is The Ladder Leaning Against The Right Wall?

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“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” - Stephen Covey

Have you ever made a decision and discovered that you were walking in the opposite direction of your desired outcome? School leaders make decisions about assessment, behavior modification, professional development, curriculum, online learning, and more. Some school leaders sign a multi-year contract for a program that will support students, only to discover that the program does not meet their expectations. In the absence of reflection, leaders may be searching for the silver bullet or the rising tide that lifts all ships. Continuous improvement occurs when school leaders focus on asking the right questions, rather than purchasing the right products.

Transformational leadership takes place when school leaders recognize the importance of aligning each decision with a goal. In the absence of goals, leaders are hoping for change and hope is not a strategy. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe remind educators that “the most successful teaching begins with clarity about desired learning outcomes and about the evidence that will show learning has occurred.”

7 Questions For Determining If The Ladder Is Leaning Against The Right Wall

  1. What are the learning targets that we want every student to hit this quarter?

  2. How will we assess student understanding?

  3. What is the purpose of this professional development?

  4. Are we seeing student growth?

  5. What do we expect adult learners to do as a result of this professional development?

  6. What are the desired outcomes if we implement this program?

  7. Are we better today than we were six months ago?

Mark Sanborn (2015) wrote, “In the past, leaders were those who knew the right answers. Today, leaders are those who know the right questions.” What questions are guiding the work of your school team? Some educators hope to have a better school year than in the past, while others are constantly chasing their best year. Purchasing a new program does not mean that student understanding will automatically take place. Reflection provides school leaders with a chance to hit the brakes, accelerate, and/or put the organization in reverse. Only through careful examination can one determine if the ladder is leaning against the right wall.


Dr. Steven Weber is the Associate Superintendent with Fayetteville Public Schools (Arkansas). Connect with Weber on the ASCD EDge social network, or on Twitter @curriculumblog.


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