Reset: How School Leaders Can Address Equity Gaps Right Now

April 8, 2022
Instructional Leadership
Strategic Planning
Equity-Centered Practices
Dr. Ben Klompus, Vernon-James Riley, and Jesse Rector

by Ben Klompus, Vernon-James Riley, and Jesse Rector

As a school leader, what about the following challenges strikes a chord?

  • Dr. Brandi Chin’s charter school had won loud praise for its results. But the founding school director still felt her teachers lacked the right supports to fully develop all of the middle school’s students into sophisticated, independent learners.
  • Principal Ashley Johnson saw that her team’s instructional coaching was not having the impact on student learning that she had hoped. In February, she shifted her focus from “Did teachers teach it?” to “Did students learn it?”
  • And regional instructional superintendent Heather Haines saw that some teachers in 30 district schools she led were unsure how to support students in completing the level of tasks and assignments in a rigorous curriculum.

Each of these leaders faced an immediate threat to their mission to advance equity. Fortunately, their stories don’t stop there. Though the scope of the problem was daunting, they doubled down on focus: they clarified a vision for success, identified high leverage action steps, and created a plan to build staff investment, roll out the changes, monitor implementation, and follow up with adjustments.

In doing so, these leaders carried out what we at Relay Graduate School of Education call a “Reset.” A Reset is a narrowly focused initiative, planned and executed to have a meaningful impact in a short period of time. A Reset plan can be developed in just a few hours, and captured in a few pages. It’s different from long-term strategic planning, which may involve multiple areas of improvement, significant structural changes, and the reallocation of resources. A Reset is an evidence-backed plan to tackle one key area, now - and see results.

Through our leadership programs, we’ve coached thousands of school, district, and network leaders through the Reset process. Since Fall 2020, we have been profiling alumni from our programs, like Dr. Brandi Chin, Ashley Johnson, and Heather Haines, who are leading for student achievement, equity, and wellness amidst turbulent times. We call this the Follow the Leaders series. The Reset practice guide builds on their stories to offer concrete examples of how to tackle such challenges as increasing instructional rigor and addressing student and staff burnout and trauma.

We also know that school and district leaders don’t need long research papers - they need actionable tools. As a companion to the practice guide, we’re sharing a worksheet that walks leaders through the strategic and planning questions they’ll face as they implement the Reset. We encourage you to use the Reset Planning Worksheet with your teams.

When the demands of the moment threaten to consume all of our energy and attention, a Reset can help to re-center us on what we all got into this work for in the first place: making sure all students, from all backgrounds, get the education and opportunities for future success that they deserve.

Please feel free to share the Reset guide with your colleagues - by social media (tag @RelayGSE, and let us know your thoughts on the guide), email, or good old fashioned word-of-mouth.

Dr. Ben Klompus, Vernon-James Riley, and Jesse Rector

Dr. Ben Klompus, Vernon-James Riley, and Jesse Rector are former teachers and school leaders with more than 60 years combined experience. They are currently senior leaders of the Professional Education programs at Relay Graduate School of Education, and authors of Reset: How School Leaders Can Address Equity Gaps Right Now.