- How long have you been Principal?
I started at King in 1988.
- Why did King adopt the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound model?
In 1988, King was a highly tracked school with low
expectations for students and staff. Students were not achieving in
this climate. There was also student - student conflict regularly.
There were seven different ability levels and a pull out model was used
for Special Ed., ELL. And Gifted. We were running two schools - one
for the haves, and one for the have-nots.
We had done some experimentation with Outward Bound as a change strategy to get the staff out of some ruts
The Outward Bound experience model struck a chord with
many staff members and so our piloting Expeditionary Learning seemed to
be a natural fit. We knew that we had to make a significant change if
we wanted to make an impact on King.
- What were the challenges that you faced when King adopted the ELOB model?
There were many challenges. The first was our staff.
While some faculty thought Expeditionary Learning was a good idea, many
did not. Some teachers had been through the "innovation du jour" cycle
one too many times. Others were skeptical of a whole school radical
change. Others were simply afraid of the implication that they needed
to change how they taught. It takes superior skills to teach to the
range of differences that we have at King all in one classroom. So
staff resistance to change was a big issue.
The other major challenge was resistance from parents who
perceived their kids as advantaged. These were parents of students
who were in the "pull-out" programs and the accelerated groups. Those
parents were skeptical of a "school for all". Naturally they did not
want their child to lose "advantaged status". In some cases,
resistance from the staff merged with reluctant parents forming
coalitions of resistance. These needed to be met with good
communication about just what the change really meant.
- How did the national ELOB organization support you?
It helped a great deal for King to be part of a national
reform effort with sound research behind it. King was given a grant
for $50,000 to be used for professional development and other resources.
Expeditionary Learning also assigned a school designer to King to
help implement the design. He conducted much of the professional
development and was willing to work with staff side by side in the
classroom. He was also helpful in managing the "politics of change"
with a principal whose political skills were not always as diplomatic as
they could be.
- How long did it take before you began to see positive results at King? What were the indicators of improvement?
The key change that we saw was in the quality of work
students began to produce. This occurred as soon as house teams began
to use the learning expeditions as the primary delivery vehicle for
curriculum. This occurred sporadically in the first two years and as
we displayed the products more staff began to work with it.
Full implementation took 3-5 years. After three years
we began to see marked improvement in standardized test scores. We
also experienced a drop in student disciplinary issues and an increase
in parents requesting to come to King from out of district.
- What do you do at King to keep the momentum going?
We keep the momentum going at King by keeping the vision
of a school that works for all kids a visible and vibrant part of our
school. We make sure that every new teacher is trained in the EL model
and its practices. We conduct our Summer Institute every year, which
helps to keep out expeditions fresh. As much as is possible, we try to
support our teachers with strong professional development on company
time. The genius of a great Expeditionary Learning school lies in the
energy and sustained creativity of the staff.
Last revised: April 24, 2006