Learning to Empower Leaders through Data Stocktakes in Osceola County

In early December, I attended our second Districts for Impact Learning Walk in Osceola County, joining leaders from our five participating Florida districts.

Our visit gave the Osceola district a chance to share its Data Stocktake Process, which empowers leaders to scale great teaching beyond individual classrooms – one of Impact Florida’s Five Conditions That Support Great Teaching. Dr. Debra Pace, Superintendent of the Osceola School District, first introduced the initiative to district staff in 2016 as a systematic way to monitor district staff implementation of its new three-year strategic plan.

“The impetus of the stocktake process was identifying a way to build the leadership capacity of my team,” Dr. Pace told us.

The stocktake process required district leaders to focus on strategic goals, use data to determine progress toward each of the goals, and be held accountable to their accomplishment.

After early successes, the process was then rolled out to Osceola school leaders in 2018-19 as a way for them to actively monitor progress by their school-based leadership teams toward goals outlined in their School Improvement Plans. Together, the district- and school-level stocktakes have turned plans into living documents that drive meaningful changes for students.

“Through the stocktake process, the school improvement plans are no longer sitting on the shelf. They are guiding the work in schools and helping to make sure that at the end of the year we have outcomes for kids that are everything they deserve,” Dr. Pace explained.

We learned so much about the power of a data-driven stocktake process, distributive leadership, and authentic collaboration from our colleagues in Osceola. Read on for a few highlights from what we saw.

The Power of the Stocktake

As part of the Learning Walk, we were able to see the stocktake process firsthand at the district level and at two different schools. At first glance, the meetings looked like a typical staff meeting with the school or district leader driving the conversation and a notetaker standing by. After a few minutes, it was clear how different this meeting would be. The stocktake is a data-rich conversation focused on celebrating progress, identifying challenges, and engaging in collaborative problem-solving. It was clear in the sessions we observed that school team members are partners with district leadership in truly owning the work and driving the outcomes in their respective areas.

By placing data at the center of the conversation, leaders and their teams were able to take focused action and move the needle in key areas to ultimately improve district performance and student achievement.

Transparency and Trust

One of the most memorable aspects of the Stocktake process is the level of vulnerability and transparency shown by participants. It was evident that the leaders we observed spent a significant amount of time building trust with their teams to create a safe space to have these critical conversations about progress or the lack thereof. Team members weren’t trying to explain away the data or make excuses, instead they were honest about where they were, where they were struggling, and what support they needed to get back on track.

Mr. James Long, Principal of Gateway High School, described what he had come to appreciate about the Stocktake process: “If something is wrong, the Stocktake is a place to talk through it and have a real opportunity to fix it.” This approach to the work not only improves instructional practice and student achievement, but makes everyone a stronger leader along the way.

Collaborative Partnership

Although school teams have been expected to step up as leaders in a new way through this process, school and district leaders have also stepped up to provide the support and guidance needed to meet these new expectations. From our visit, it was clear that there was a culture in which school teams see each other as partners, and that everyone is “in it together.”

Even with more than 30 leaders from outside Osceola County observing the Stocktake processes, the two school teams we observed welcomed us and were willing to discuss their challenges in front of the group. This is a testament to the strength of the relationship and the trust the district has developed with schools through this process.

Cadre Shared Learning

In each of the learning walk experiences, it was clear that there is significant real-time learning among cohort members. Seeing what works in one district gives valuable insight about improvements that can be made in another, with many of the visiting district leaders immediately deciding to return home with portions of Osceola’s stocktake process.

The next Districts for Impact Learning Walk will take place at Collier County Public Schools in January 2020. Learnings from Osceola County will be captured and shared across the state in a “Case for Impact” in the coming months.

You can also learn more about the learning walks at https://impactfl.org/districts-for-impact/.

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