ULLC has been active in school improvement nationally from 2003 until the present. While we have witnessed significant growth in school and student performance on the whole due to the accountability movement, unfortunately, we have also encountered schools which have flat-lined in their efforts to create positive changes in achievement. The good news is that even in those schools designated as “failing”, we have found leaders at the LEA and SEA levels who have the will and passion to make those schools successful. Lacking is a well-defined change strategy for a holistic, data-driven, and research-based plan of action which is collaboratively developed, implemented and monitored by the school and district leadership. In short, there is will but no pathway to the promise. The mission of the Urban Learning and Leadership Center (ULLC) is to build the capacity of local schools to increase student achievement by (1) training district and school leaders in research-based best practices of distributed leadership and (2) providing on-site coaching to ensure the implementation of these practices in the school and district culture. The ULLC theory of action is informed by several bodies of research: (a) the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL) (b) The ULLC S.A.M.E. (Social, Academic, and Moral Education) Framework for School Design, and (c) The ULLC Six Step School Improvement Planning Process.
At the heart of all interventions by ULLC is the S.A.M.E. Framework for School Design. This framework views schools as an integrated set of domains, Social, Academic, and Moral, which define the culture of the school community. The Social Domain defines how members of the school community behave; the Academic Domain defines how members of the school community engage in teaching and learning; and the Moral Domain defines what members of the school community believe. All of these domains can only thrive in a culture of Distributed Leadership. ULLC coaches invest significant energy in collecting data at each school site relative to its status on these critical domains prior to engaging the staff in dialogue around school improvement planning.
This model works because it mobilizes the non-academic aspects of education as resources in support of learning and healthy development! Instead of allowing values and behaviors from students’ backgrounds and neighborhood to undermine its effectiveness, it challenges and enables schools to enlist the power of culture, values and behaviors in support of education.