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The Lead Learner


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Table of Contents

Foreword Preface: Lead the Learning A Perspective From a Lead Learner Author's Acknowledgments About the Author Chapter 1. Setting the Stage Are We as Leaders Ready to Prepare All Learners for the 21st Century? The Driving Question: Are Our Decisions Leading the Learning? A New Leadership Focus Ensuring Clarity, Coherence, and Capacity: Crafting Improved Leadership Skills Conclusion Reflection Questions Activities Next Steps Chapter 2. Clarity: Strategic Planning Three Questions That Ensure Clarity in Strategic Planning Conclusion Reflection Questions Activities Next Steps Resource Chapter 3. Coherence (Part I): Learning System Infrastructure Setting the Stage for Coherence Establish Progress and Proficiency Expectations Establish Standardized and Customizable Features Coherence: Bringing It All Together Conclusion Reflection Questions Activities Next Steps Chapter 4. Coherence (Part II): Ensuring Inspired and Passionate Teachers in Schools Linking Learner-Centered Beliefs and Behaviors Unmasking Beliefs and Behaviors Hiring and Developing Educators for Impact Conclusion Reflection Questions Activities Next Steps Chapter 5. Capacity: Community Learning Building Capacity Through Continuous Improvement Standardized Success Criteria Customizable Organizational Routines for Learning Conclusion Reflection Questions Activities Next Steps Chapter 6. Crafting: The Lead Learner Facing Competing Beliefs in Learning Lead Learner Practices That Move Learning Forward Establishing Common Agreements for Learning Leverage Protocols for Dialogue Model Current Initiatives in Daily Practice Conclusion Reflection Questions Activities Next Steps Chapter 7. Conclusion Moving Beyond Stark Differences Influencing Educators Recognizing the Rate of Change Epilogue References Appendix Sample Strategic Plans Protocols Sample Evaluation Tools Sample Unit Plan Demonstration Scenario Index

About the Author

Michael McDowell, Ed.D. is the Superintendent of the Ross School District. Most recently, he served as the Associate Superintendent of Instructional and Personnel Services at the Tamalpais Union High School District. During his tenure, the Tamalpais Union High School District was recognized by the Marzano Research Laboratories as one of the top highly reliable organizations in the United States, and schools within the district received recognitions by the US News and World Report, and honored with California Distinguished Schools accolades. Prior to his role as a central office administrator, Dr. McDowell served as the Principal of North Tahoe High School, a California Distinguished School. Prior to administration, Dr. McDowell was a leadership and instructional coach for the New Tech Network supporting educators in designing, implementing, and enhancing innovative schools across the country. Before engaging in the nonprofit sector, Dr. McDowell created and implemented an environmental science and biology program at Napa New Technology High School, infusing 1:1 technology, innovative teaching and assessment, and leveraging student voice in the classroom. Additionally, Dr. McDowell, taught middle school math and science in Pacifica, CA. Dr. McDowell is a national presenter, speaking on instruction, learning, leadership and innovation. He has provided professional development services to large school districts, State Departments of Education, and higher education. In addition, he was a former National Faculty member for the Buck Institute of Education and a key thought leader in the inception of their leadership work in scaling innovation in instructional methodologies. His expertise in design and implementation is complimented by his scholarly approach to leadership, learning, and instruction. He holds a B.S. in Environmental Science and a M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Redlands and an Ed.D. from the University of La Verne. He received departmental honors for his work in Environmental Science and was awarded the Tom Fine Creative Leadership Award for his doctoral work at the University of La Verne. He has also completed certification programs through Harvard University, the California Association of School Business Officials, the American Association of School Personnel Administrators, and Cognition Education. He holds both a California single subject teaching credential and an administrative credential.


The enduring contribution of this book is in the guidance it provides leaders to recognize that they are part, an important part, but just a part, of a networked system. As such, their decisions and actions send messages throughout the system about what is valued and what is not. Take heed to McDowell's advice and you'll have a healthy, growth-producing system that will be the envy of those around you. The work is possible, the information is available, and the results are clear. -- Douglas Fisher

As the rules governing the practice of education evolve, educational leaders must be at the forefront of learning to be able to lead effectively. Through my experience in research, professional development and as a school district administrator, I know firsthand that the evolution of any practice - including education - must be informed by those on the frontline who are thought leader practitioners. In his book, The Lead Learner, Dr. McDowell, provides a case for why it is important for the leaders of learning organizations to continue their learning and to be at the forefront of discovery. He provides practical examples though empirical research and storytelling of ways that educational leaders can achieve the status of the Lead Learner.

-- Bernadine Futrell, Director, Leadership Services at AASA, The School Superintendents Association

It is great to pick up a book that puts learning first. This book offers an elegant set of resources that make leading learning so much easier. This is an essential resource for practicing and aspirant school leaders.

-- Neil MacNeill, Head Master

These tools, ideas, and resources will help you develop a shared commitment to improved learning for all. This book builds upon the work of respected researchers and practitioners, with the goal of achieving the outcomes that are most essential for ALL students.

-- Lynn Macan, Visiting Assistant Professor

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