infusing new ways of thinking about how schools
could be designed to transform student learning
and enhance teaching practices. The Indianapolis
district worked with Education Resource Strategies, a nonprofit education organization that we
work for, to support school leaders in creating
their multiyear school design plans. At Arlington
Woods, the school redesign unfolded in the
following four steps.
Step 1: Clarify Vision
To do this work, Arlington Woods formed a design
team, which included Guthrie, an assistant principal, an instructional coach, and several teachers.
To begin, the group focused on clarifying its vision
for the school. In the past, Guthrie says, school
leaders would start with known problems and
then jump right to finding solutions. But this time,
they asked, “What do we want the experience to
be at our school for students and teachers? What
do different types of kids need to be successful?”
The team decided they wanted their students to
become responsible decision makers and to be
more socially and self-aware. The educators knew
that they had to address students’ behavioral needs
before students could fully attune to learning.
Step 2: Assess the Need
As with many planning processes, the team then
consulted data, which reinforced what the educators already sensed. In the previous year, the
school had had 579 suspensions and 785 referrals
to the behavior room. Only 44 percent of K– 2
students were at the benchmark level on DIBELS, a
teacher-administered assessment of reading skills.
School leaders can
adopt some aspects
of strategic design
to better organize
schools for dramatic
Students from Arlington Woods Elementary showcase their work.