According to Peter Senge, to educate children well schools need to be learning organizations. Part of that involves all school employees, superintendents and cafeteria workers alike, scrutinizing how they think about their jobs. In Senge’s words, “They must become aware of deeply ingrained assumptions they may not even know they have, but that can inhibit their performance or blind them to new possibilities” (Newcomb, 2003, n.p.). In examining my organization, P721X, I came to the conclusion that P721X is in the process of becoming a learning organization, but is not there yet.
There are several challenges to P721X being a learning organization. One of the challenges is the lack of funding and resources. Not only is there a lack of accessibility to technology (especially smart boards), but also teachers and staff must often pay out of pocket for materials. Additionally, there is a lack of paraprofessional training (e.g. some paras are not certified). Paraprofessionals need more professional development opportunities. Staff development is sorely lacking in its follow-up support and in meaningful attempts to monitor implementation (O., H., & V., 2014).
Collaboration is necessary to build a successful school community. More collaboration among the teachers, staff, families, and students at all three school sites is needed so that we can have a more cohesive vision of how we implement what we are teaching the students. This includes sharing resources and ideas amongst all teachers and with other schools. We need to work on creating cohorts amongst all the schools, not just a select group of teachers in each site. Among the obstacles to the collaboration needed is a lack of family involvement and support in school activities. Right now teachers do not collaborate among the three schools, so we do not get to share ideas with one another (O., H., & V., 2014).
Another major challenge for P721X in becoming a learning organization is that there is no shared cohesive updated mission statement or vision at the school. We talk about assessment, but do not have a similar clear set of data tracking and assessment among the classrooms at each site. We are assigned paperwork to complete (e.g. IEP’s, report cards, etc.) but it is not always clear if they have been filled out correctly or if they need to be changed. There is no immediate feedback regarding paperwork, portfolios (SLP’s), or observations. In many aspects, there is no consistency among the school sites (O., H., & V., 2014).
Even with all these challenges, some members of the staff are helping P721X to become a learning organization. The school has implemented a new standard for teaching that some teachers have begun using and others are still working on. The school has also hired quality teachers. The school’s new principal, who arrived two years ago, calls the teachers extremely professional, hardworking, and collegial. He sees more teachers who are more willing to contribute and fewer who are sitting back and doing nothing. When the principal makes a suggestion, the teachers start working on it. For the most part, the teachers have been performing well with the Charlotte Danielson Rubric, a teacher evaluation system for New York City. Teachers are taking their cohort groups seriously and have been improving. This in itself is a major improvement, as teachers were not even in groups when the principal first arrived. The atmosphere at the school has changed, and the principal is confident it will only get better (DeGennaro, 2014).
In conclusion, P721X is not yet a learning organization, but it is in the process of becoming one. While the school still faces many challenges, the diligence of the staff, especially of the teachers, is helping P721X to develop into a learning organization.
DeGennaro, F. J. (2014, March 9). Principal of Stephen D. McSweeney School, P721X. (Laurie, Interviewer)
Newcomb, A. (2003, May). Peter Senge on Organizational Learning. Retrieved from AASA: The School Superintendents Association: http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=9192
O., G., H., S., & V., P. (2014, March 8). Paraprofessionals. (Laurie, Interviewer)