Improving school culture is the key to successfully implementing new programs and efforts in classrooms, say two West Virginia University alumni who wrote a book about the changing landscape of K-12 education. Schools, much like successful businesses, must focus on building a strong team environment to find the best solutions to serve their customers – students and their families.

WVU graduates Lydotta McClure Taylor and Jill Meredith Fratto provide guidelines for creating and fostering a better learning environment for administrators, teachers and students in “Transforming Learning through 21st Century Skills?The Who Took My Chalk? Model for Engaging You and Your Students” with Pearson Learning.

Part of the book’s title refers to a trademarked teacher training model Taylor and Fratto developed (“Who Took My Chalk?”). Taylor completed additional research on the model while earning her doctorate from WVU’s College of Human Resources and Education. The publisher of the book, Pearson Education, Inc. provides textbooks and other resources to K-12 schools internationally.

“Our book provides a change management program designed to assist schools and leaders in building a positive school culture as the first step in transforming learning environments.” Taylor said.

She said 21st century tools, global competition, and instant communication create a need for change in the instructional delivery of content for today’s students. By focusing on the culture of the school, “teachers, administrators, students, parents and the community are connected to support and implement new ideas, policies and programs,” she said.

It’s not enough for teachers to have access to the latest technological tools or to receive training on how to use them. To compete in the 21st century, school leadership and teachers must embrace change and work together to best deliver and integrate new concepts into the educational experience. School leaders and teachers must set goals to guide the growth of the school.

Although that advice seems simple, schools and school systems often suffer from problems typical of a growing business, Taylor said. Through life experience and research, Taylor realized that many schools miss opportunities for growth by ignoring the importance of culture and accepting change.

“Schools, like any organization have underlying issues that can stifle their growth,” she said. “Providing opportunities for teachers to come together to voice issues and concerns, set goals to address the issues, and plan actions for the goals can be a very effective process to improve the culture of the school. These opportunities often lead to asking many in the school to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. With support and clear direction, stepping out of your comfort zone can be very helpful in advancing the school culture and instructional practices.”

Taylor speaks from experience. She was a math and computer science teacher at Morgantown High and the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Monongalia County school system. She founded and is the CEO of The EdVenture Group, a local non-profit, education-based organization that provides K-12 technology integration through the latest learning programs, personal and professional development, life balance workshops, leadership training and consulting. The company, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, works with national clients including WVU, NASA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

She is also an adjunct professor for the WVU Leadership Studies program and serves on the Board of Directors for Leadership West Virginia, the WVU College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Visiting Committee, the WVU College of Human Resources and Education Visiting Committee and the Student Affairs Visiting Committee.

Fratto earned her MBA and an undergraduate degree in psychology from WVU. She is a certified professional coach by the International Coach Federation through IPEC Coaching and owner of Enlighten Consultant Services, a coaching and training company. Fratto has worked as a consultant for The EdVenture Group for the past ten years, developing programs and resources for education and business clients.

-WVU-

10/11/11

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