The Power of Story: Turning Research into Cultural Practice
“Every child deserves a quality education not by chance but by design”
On September 24th, the Sea to Sky School District presented the first of four stories that will look at how districts are supporting diversity, equity and inclusion. These presentations are being co-hosted by Learning Forward B.C. along with the Sea to Sky, Chilliwack, North Vancouver and Richmond School Districts.
The Sea to Sky story is a powerful one because it resulted in the development of a strategic plan that would not only address the needs of their indigenous students, but a document that would address the needs of all of their learners and provide an entry point for all of their educators. It is a story of hope, a story of building trust, a story of a district continually looking at how they might do better.
In 2012 after years of low rates of school completion, among the first nations and special needs students especially, the district brought together representatives of the community including members of the First Nations community, Elders, teachers, district leaders, students and trustees to develop a plan that in Hattie’s words would build an education system “not by chance but by design.” During those five days, the participants looked at the problem from various angles. The conversations were at times emotional and not easy but at the end of the process, people came away with a shared understanding about their role in supporting these students, finding ways to increase not just their performance and
school completion rates, but to change the students’ attitudes about school generally.
The power of this story is that not only did the school district and the broader community make a commitment to make a positive change, but that they created a plan that “informs all of their collective decisions.” That plan has evolved over time to now include some “enduring understandings” that govern their actions. These understandings are built on the idea that “inclusion is a right, diversity is a strength and personalization is the way forward. And even though six years later the district has seen their grade to grade completion rates improve significantly, suspension rates drop as well and that more students are staying in school and “then graduating with much improved life chances”, the District has embarked on an Education Plan Refresh Process that asks the question…”What else to we know about our students and how might we support them in making even greater gains?”
Specific details about their Pathways to Learning Plan including the structures and strategies the District has put in place to support student learning, a District assessment plan that puts students at the centre of the assessment process, and a professional learning plan that is built around the work of Helen Temperley’s work on ”adaptive expertise, can be found on the Sea to Sky District website.
Told from the perspective of the Superintendent of Schools, the Assistant Superintendent, a Lead Teacher and the President of the Sea to Sky Teachers’ Association, the telling of the Sea to Sky story modeled the kind of positive things that happen for students when everyone works together and where everyone is a part of the solution.