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Getting Serious About the System

A Fieldbook for District and School Leaders
This fieldbook’s multidimensional approach to raising student achievement offers strategies for aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment to state and Common Core State Standards.

Full description

Product Details
  • Grade Level: PreK-12, Elementary, Secondary
  • ISBN: 9781452205113
  • Published By: Corwin
  • Year: 2012
  • Page Count: 160
  • Publication date: June 08, 2012

Price: $39.95

Price: $39.95
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Request Review Copy

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A focused approach to raising student achievement

For many districts, the improvement process can seem like trying to nail Jello to the wall. This fieldbook shows how to avoid a haphazard approach by focusing on all aspects of the system and specific issues that have most impact upon student achievement. This multidimensional process also entails increasing the competencies of everyone involved and implementing solutions districtwide. The authors outline a proven framework and offer step-by-step guidance for addressing the essential components and competencies of the local educational system. Key strategies include:

  • Concentrating on aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment to state and Common Core State Standards
  • Working on the underlying issues and people that impact the system
  • Garnering support from all staff members to maximize time, resources, and energy

Included are vignettes for each phase that illustrate how the work might play out in typical districts and schools. Hands-on tools include an extensive Facilitator Guide with PowerPoint slides, handouts, and a companion website with online resources. A separate volume provides a brief overview of the process for staff and teachers that provides a brief rationale based on research, explains what it means to work systemically, and outlines the phases.

There is no "quick fix" for boosting school performance, but Getting Serious About the System will help district and school leaders set priorities, break the gridlock, and reap sustainable results.

Key features

  • Vignettes - The volume will provide brief vignettes that offer a visual image of how the work may be carried out, as well as challenges that may arise. These vignettes will be based on experiences that the development team had as they worked with actual districts and schools.
  • Stop and Check Each - step ends with a Stop and Check box containing a checklist of key actions that need to be completed before moving on to the next step. Reflection questions and activities will also be offered in this section.
  • References and Additional Resources - Guiding implementation of the Working Systemically approach requires specific skills on the part of leaders within the district and school, as well as knowledge of a range of subjects related to use of data, group facilitation, collaborative planning, and leadership. Useful information and helpful tips will be found in the references and additional resources identified after the last step of each phase.
  • Tools and Handouts - Online modules and appendixes will contain items that are referenced in the text for each phase. These resources are designed to aid district and school leaders as they implement the work.


D'Ette F. Cowan photo

D'Ette F. Cowan

Before retiring from SEDL in October, 2010, D'Ette F. Cowan led Texas Comprehensive Center efforts to assist state and intermediate agencies in providing high-needs districts and schools with technical assistance that is systemic in nature. In her 12-year career at SEDL, she also assisted low-performing districts and schools throughout a five-state region to improve student learning, and investigated strategies for transforming schools into professional learning communities. Currently, Cowan serves as a consultant to SEDL on a variety of projects.

As one of the researchers and authors of Working Systemically in Action: A Guide for Facilitators, she has had first-hand experience in helping district and school leaders apply a systemic approach to improve learning outcomes for students. Her study of professional learning communities over her career has included conducting and applying research and presenting findings at conferences and in books and journals. She has authored chapters and articles in Demystifying Professional Learning Communities: School Leadership at Its Best; SEDL Letter; Journal of School Leadership; and Learning Together, Leading Together. Prior to joining SEDL in December 1997, she served as a junior high school teacher and an elementary school principal. Her continuing research interests include leadership for change, systemic improvement, and professional learning communities.
Christopher J. Deering photo

Christopher J. Deering

Stacey Joyner is a Program Associate at SEDL—a nonprofit education research, development, and dissemination corporation based in Austin, TX. She participates in efforts to build state education staff capacity to serve districts and schools. She is the former editor of the USDE's Reading First newsletter The Notebook, and former editor of the Texas Comprehensive Center's newsletter Texas Focus. She is co-author of SEDL’s Working Systemically in Action, a comprehensive process for school improvement.

Prior to joining SEDL, Ms. Joyner served as the Reading Coordinator for the Idaho State Department of Education. She has 11 years of teaching experience. She has served as a reading specialist and teacher trainer for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ms. Joyner holds a BA in Elementary Education from Idaho State University and an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin.

Shirley B. Beckwith photo

Shirley B. Beckwith

Shirley Beckwith is a Communications Associate with SEDL's Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC). She provides editorial review of training materials and resources used in meetings hosted by the TXCC and prepares materials for submission to national evaluators. She also provides and reviews content for the TXCC Web site. She has been involved in several revisions of the Working Systemically approach, including the 2008 Working Systemically in Action: A Guide for Facilitators and a conversion of the process into a scripted training manual for school support teams.

Prior to joining SEDL Ms. Beckwith worked for several years at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs as the coordinator and researcher for the Guide to Texas State Agencies. Ms. Beckwith has a master’s degree in Library and Information Science.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



About the Authors

Introduction to Systemic Improvement

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking in Education

Working Systemically: A Process Grounded in Research

Testing and Refining the Working Systemically Approach

The Working Systemically Approach: Levels, Components, and Competencies

What It Takes



1. The "Works" of Working Systemically

Levels of the System

Components of the System

Competencies for Working Systemically

The Working Systemically Approach in Action

2. Phase I: Understanding Systemic Improvement

Step 1. Study the Approach

Step 2. Collect and Analyze Preliminary Data

Step 3. Present the Approach at the School Level

Step 4. Commit to Systemic Improvement

3. Phase II: Analyzing the System

Step 1. Form the District and School Leadership Teams

Step 2. Begin the Comprehensive Needs Assessment

Step 3. Conduct a Gap Analysis

Step 4. Begin the Process at the School Level

Step 5. Formulate Problem Statements

Step 6. Describe the Ideal State

Step 7. Review System Initiatives

Step 8. Continue the Process at the School Level

4. Phase III: Planning Action

Step 1. Investigate Research-Based Practices

Step 2. Explore the Professional Teaching and Learning Cycle (PTLC)

Step 3. Review Progress Made to Date and Existing Plan

Step 4. Develop a District Improvement Plan

Step 5. Formalize and Communicate the District Improvement Plan

Step 6. Develop School Improvement Plans

5. Phase IV: Taking Action & Monitoring Progress

Step 1. Implement and Monitor the Improvement Plans

Step 2. Provide Continuing Leadership for the Improvement Work

Step 3. Address Unique Challenges as They Arise

6. Phase V: Assessing & Reflecting on Outcomes

Step 1. Analyze and Reflect on Evidence of Implementation and Impact

Step 2. Decide on a Focus for Continuing the Improvement Work

Step 3. Recognize Work, Progress, and Accomplishments

Bibliography Matrix




Price: $39.95
Volume Discounts applied in Shopping Cart

For Instructors

Request Review Copy

When you select 'request review copy', you will be redirected to Sage Publishing (our parent site) to process your request.

Related Resources

  • Access to companion resources is available with the purchase of this book.