School leaders and teachers in every school and classroom in Mentor Public Schools – and we mean, every classroom – opened their doors to over 200 members and partners of the League of Innovative Schools. These leaders came to Ohio for the League’s twelfth bi-annual League meeting (#LISMentor) in late April for an open conversation on improving student outcomes.
Superintendent Matt Miller and his team set the tone for a meeting that facilitated transparent discussion about challenges in education by asking for open and honest feedback about the opportunities they provide for their students from attendees. Mentor invited League leaders to Paradigm, the district’s professional development facility, for two full days to grapple with questions like, how do we lead in a time of change? How do we ensure equitable access to excellent learning opportunities? How do we sustain a culture of innovation that improves student outcomes we care about?
Within the district, Mentor models this transparency in its Catalyst program, a popular opportunity through which teachers volunteer to move their students to a classroom with an observation room for eight weeks so they can receive feedback on how they might improve their practice. The district is also a leader in the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, championing teacher-created content and sharing resources widely. Additionally, you can quickly see what is happening in the district at any time through the Mentor hashtag, #OnceACard, widely utilized by teachers, students, parents, and community members to celebrate successes and create connections.
The League embraced this theme of open conversation throughout the meeting. Participants engaged in working groups around topics like assessment, competency-based education, and data interoperability, making plans to share their stories and lessons learned with the broader education community (stay tuned!). In lightning talks, Erik Gundersen of Pascack Valley discussed the importance of creating a culture that celebrates failure, and Lydia Dobyns of New Tech Network asked attendees to reflect on how members of the League might be even stronger contributors to this network. Digital Promise shared the League’s first impact report, which analyzes the results of a League-wide survey that offers a look at the network’s strengths and areas for improvement. To conclude the meeting, over a dozen district leaders stood up and candidly shared challenges they faced in their districts with the entire conference.
As the League continues to work together to address challenges facing public education, a culture of honest and open collaboration will be critical. League districts pledged to keep visiting one another’s schools and share best practices, resources, and time, with colleagues both within and outside of the League. What was made clear at this meeting is, we’re just getting started.