Often an entire faculty will share a commitment to student development, yet the group finds itself unable to adopt a single common focus for action research. This should not be viewed as indicative of a problem. Just as the medical practitioners working at a “quality” medical center will hold a shared vision of a healthy adult, it is common for all the faculty members at a school to share a similar perspective on what constitutes a well-educated student. However, like the doctors at the medical center, the teachers in a “quality” school may well differ on which specific aspects of the shared vision they are most motivated to pursue at any point in time.
When a group of district superintendents in West Michigan gathered for their regular quarterly meeting a few years ago, they bucked their regular meeting format and began discussing the needs of the nearly 5,000 third-graders in their districts who were demonstrating below-proficiency achievement in reading. What followed was the formation of a ground-breaking reading network among these districts, and formal commitments to support principals and teachers with literacy coaching, professional learning opportunities, and research field studies, among several other resolutions. The result: In just three years of focusing on the reading proficiency of at-risk students, member districts quadrupled the margin by which these students exceeded the state average in third-grade literacy.