Mark Simon’s Aug. 13 Local Opinions essay, “Is DCPS really redesigning teaching?,” suggested that D.C. Public Schools’ new Learning Together to Advance Our Practice (LEAP) initiative could lead to a culture in which teamwork, collegiality and nonjudgmental conversations among educators take root so that teachers become higher performing. Steps to help teachers improve are needed, but they shouldn’t stop at the classroom door. Higher-performing teachers ought to be complemented by higher-performing colleagues across DCPS.
It’s fanciful to think that an initiative alone can lead to better teaching in a school district where a hierarchical leadership style, distrust, prejudice and judgment remain barriers to higher performance. DCPS leaders can make an effort to reshape their culture into one that reinforces the implementation of important initiatives such as LEAP.
Culture is the people part of organizational life. It’s the human issues, the individual and collective habits of people employed by the district, that too often are overlooked. People don’t change their behavior because an initiative has been introduced. People change when they have an “aha!” moment, when they know how change can help them achieve their goals — to become better than before.
Well-conceived ideas such as LEAP stand a better chance of succeeding when the entire school district is aligned and the culture is poised to reinforce the ideas’ execution. Higher-performing teachers are made even better when high-performing colleagues surround them. Education is a team effort, not a solo performance by teachers.
Etienne R. LeGrand, Miami