A focused attention on vision, culture & transparency is essential to effectively scaling personalized learning approaches like competency-based education.

Advice for Superintendents – From a Superintendent

RSU2’s current superintendent, Bill Zima, knows that the transformation to a personalized learning approach like competency education is a community affair, and that it takes time and dedication – from everyone. “It’s going to take steps to get there,” said Zima. “Don’t rush it.”

Three key areas for focus for those looking to make the transition to personalized learning

  1. Partner with stakeholders to craft a clear vision and set a realistic pathway for change. While each stakeholder in the school or district’s community – students, parents, teachers, local businesses, civic leaders – may not know all of the details of what it means to run a learning system, it’s important to understand their expectations. Find out what a good school looks like to them, and use that feedback to craft a vision that everyone believes in.
  2. Build a culture of continuous improvement and don’t be afraid to fail. Zima stresses how important it is for a district to have a culture and understanding of continuous improvement, and “that teachers have the opportunity to practice and explore and try things and not worry about failing, so to speak.” Because a lesson that doesn’t turn out as a teacher hoped isn’t really failing, Zima said. It’s an opportunity to get feedback from students and improve the outcome next time.
  3. Continuously promote the vision and how work fits. Keeping the vision alive and making sure everyone understands how the work you’re doing fits in the vision is the primary role of the superintendent, according to Zima. Because the vision was created in
    partnership with your stakeholders, it’s important to keep that central.

“Continuously promote the vision everywhere you go…,” he says. “Whenever I meet with  parents. Whenever I meet with stakeholders. When I meet with teachers. When I sent out messages. Everything I do I tie back to our vision.”

Read more about RSU2 journey to personalized learning in, “Student-Centered Learning Begins with Community: How Five Communities in Maine Reimagined Learning Through Competency-Based Education.”

Jillian Kuhlmann

Written by: Jillian Kuhlmann

Jillian Kuhlmann is the Communications Specialist for KnowledgeWorks.

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