I enjoyed greatly a six hour session yesterday with NAIS President Pat Bassett; he spoke on critical trends facing our industry and on generative questions framing the “School of the Future.”

I have, for this post, picked out seven of the trends he discussed, summarizing his points and offering a small response to each.

1. Marketing and Communicating Value: Competition among school sectors (public, charter, private, independent, on-line, home schooling) will only continue to intensify.   To flourish, NAIS  schools will need to seek and gain a larger market share of a declining market: we must work harder to demonstrate value,  to make the case for quality education of our kind, and we must discover and distribute a sticky message.    PB suggests one possible message, to the many consumers who are struggling with the costs associated with quality, national caliber independent education:  You Can’t Afford Not To Afford an Independent School! Many, many high school graduates are attending college, PB points out, but far, far fewer succeed brilliantly in college, graduate, and go on to grad school successfully– but NAIS grads do, in high numbers.     The investment is worth it; independent school grads succeed in university in unparalleled proportions, Bassett argues.     PB also argued that among the most powerful marketing strategies is just to be get prospective families into our schools: when they see our classrooms in action,  parents appreciate the difference and the value and make the choice.

Comment:  I think this is exactly correct.   PB argued for the value of graduate surveys to demonstrate the value of our education, and I agree; I also, as many readers here know, a believer in a myriad of other compelling data points, including our value add outcomes as measured by MAP and CWRA testing, the perception of our students about their education as measured in the HSSSE, and a much greater attention to publishing, online, student product.    One other point: I am really proud of our school’s marketing brochure, which captures the quality and value of an independent school education and does so around the message: Thinking Forward.

2. Social Media:  PB: Are you as a school and school-head  in the social media or not?   School-leaders must be on Twitter, and it is important for schools to use social media tools to influence conversation and enhance standing as an educator.   You have to be tracking what is being said out there on google reviews and elsewhere, and you need to be responding, contributing, posting positively in order to offset potential negative stuff written out there.

Comment: It will come as no surprise to readers here that I too argue that schools and school-leaders need to be on-line and on social media.  I was sorry Pat didn’t mention the power of blogging as a platform for school-leaders to articulate a vision and advocate for their schools.  It was great to hear him say school-heads should be on Twitter.   I would add too something Pat barely touched upon, which is the power of facebook.  I would say that schools have to have their own strong presence on FB, and they ought to cultivate supporters to use facebook to share good news about the school with their own social networks.

3.   School Leaders are managing more than leading, and we should reverse this. The pressures of the day to day, and the demands of the fiscal, communications, and conflict resolution challenges overtake the Head of School’ s time, leaving nothing for the need to hone a vision, articulate it, and practice vigorous change management toward that vision.

Comment:  I feel strongly about this; I know in my previous headship I felt this strongly, and was determined to return to my roots and my passion as an educator and educational leader in my next (now current) headship.    As I have pointed out elsewhere, I think blogging is a tool for exactly this: a forum and a channel by which we can exercise educational leadership.

4. Efforts will re-emerge to align  faculty benefits with positive outcomes. The world is every more competitive, it seems, and talent rules.    We have to vigorously seek to identify and reward talent in our faculty, PB says. But, he also argues against merit pay in any conventional definition or description.  Instead, he urges school-leaders to create compensated positions and roles for faculty, such as a variety of deanships, chairmanships, coordinating roles, etc..   Promote into these roles, on a year-to-year basis, high performing teachers, and then pay them more for these roles: more pay for more work.   Provide them leadership opportunities and reward them for taking on these roles.

5. Common Core National Standards are Upon Us. PB argues that the common core movement is coming at us, fast, whether we like it or not, and he argues, we should like it: the common core standards are high quality.    PB: “We need to have people in our school who know these standards and we need to be able to say we know them, we do them, we exceed them.”

Comment:  One tactic for doing so, ensuring we are both meeting and exceeding the new national common core standards, (a tactic PB did not mention), is to use testing which is aligned with common core standards.    At St. Gregory, by using MAP (and we anticipate expanding its use) which will be fully aligned with Common Core, and carefully reflecting upon our students’ success and progress on it, we can stay attuned to our curriculum’s alignment and effectiveness in this arena, and respond accordingly.

6.  Green, Global, and High Tech is a given, not an experiment. The leading schools in our industry are making their marks in these domains.  It is not a fad, not a trend, this is real.

Comment:  Of course I think Pat is exactly right.  At St. Gregory we have embraced first, and most vigorously, the High Tech piece.  Our globalism is growing, though still only incrementally: we have an outstanding East African studies curriculum and program; we have a few fine European travel programs; we are expanding our programs hosting international students.   But we have more to do with globalism, and a lot more to do to become a Green school.

7.  Teaming is giving individualism a run for the money. We must create more collaboration and teaming for students in learning and teachers in growth.

Comment: Absolutely.   It is essential we embrace the value of collaboration and teaming in our school, but it requires more than talk.   If we ask teachers to collaborate, we have to provide them time to do so, and protocols for doing so don’t hurt either.   Similarly for students: they need time, training, responsibility and accountability to team.   45 minute (or less) periods rarely provide the necessary time window for teaming;  school’s which promote competition, class rank, and awards can cut against the value of teaming by suggesting to kids that it is a zero-sum game in the classroom, where your fellow students gain may be your loss.