Virtual School Meanderings

March 18, 2023

Scaling For Impact: Highlander Institute Goes to Harvard

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 10:04 pm
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An item from a K-12 blended learning organization.

Takeaways from our team’s experience


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Highlander Institute: Leveling the Field for All Learners

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Scaling For Impact

From L-R: Maeve Murray, Stephanie Castilla, Erin Brouillette, Malika Ali, and Shawn Rubin attend the Scaling For Impact program from March 8-10, 2023

Highlander Institute Goes to Harvard!

During the first week of March, a five-member team from Highlander Institute attended the Scaling For Impact program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Over the course of three days, 18 teams in the education space from across the country came together to discuss case studies, explore frameworks and guidance for scaling, pitch our work and receive feedback, and hear from expert faculty and advisors. This was the first time the program has been held since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the palpable energy and excitement of the in-person learning experience was electric. In reflecting on this experience, our team highlighted the following takeaways:

  • Takeaway #1: Investing in Deep Work IS Scale
  • Takeaway #2: Stories Bridge the Individual Why with Collective Care
  • Takeaway #3: Critical Friends are Invaluable

Investing in Deep Work IS Scale

Prior to this experience, when hearing the word “scale”, our minds typically jumped to the idea of expanding our work to more schools, more students, and more geographies. But as Chris Dede framed for us in his session, the education system is not like a fast food franchise, and people are not french fries. In many instances, focusing on implementing your model in depth through aligned, multi-year partnerships is a dimension of scale in its own right, preparing you to meet the needs of a local context.

Our Culturally Responsive School Change Model has been evolving, becoming more comprehensive since 2019. The disruptions brought on by the pandemic shifted our capacity but did not shift our values and our commitment to centering student experiences, shifting instruction through an instructional equity lens, and elevating stakeholder voices in decision-making. And as showcased in our 2022 Annual Report, this model is working, with our most successful stories of impact yet. Our approach is complex and purposefully aims to work amidst multiple layers (classroom, school, district, student, family, and community). It felt exciting to see this vision validated as we continue to build momentum.

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