“Are we a learning organization?” When speaking to Randi Klein-Davila, it’s clear that this question is her North Star. Klein-Davila is in her fourth year as the assistant superintendent of Learning Network 7 in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). She spent the past these years weaving cross-collaboration into all relationships throughout the Network.
SDP is split into 13 Learning Networks. Networks are clusters of schools in communities across Philadelphia grouped according to both geography and type of school. This arrangement of the District gives focused support to schools and allows a leader from each network – such as Klein-Davila for Learning Network 7 – to develop deep knowledge around what principals, teachers, and students need most to succeed.
Early on in her role, Klein-Davila identified that it was critical for her school leaders and teachers to embrace the fact that “individually we’re not experts in everything.” She designed a community where the expertise of the group lifts up everyone in unique ways.
Klein-Davila’s approach is working. Much of this success has to do with her focus on collaborative growth: “I had to create a learning organization within my network so we could help each other build capacity and use the experts within each of us to learn, grow, and develop skills during this journey together.”
Collaborative learning extends far beyond the walls of the schools in Learning Network 7. “We have School Advisory Councils,” explains Klein-Davila. “These are comprised of staff, parents, and community partners. The purpose is to get input from all stakeholders involved in our students’ lives. We do collective visioning, set milestones together, and continually reflect on how we can keep everyone informed and create open doors for feedback.”
Klein-Davila is excited to welcome teacher residents from the NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency. “We’re all trying to make change and do what’s right for children. We want partners who are willing and ready to help.” She believes deeply in investing in residents. For Network 7 this means providing access to best practices, a community of dedicated teacher mentors, and professional development throughout residents’ careers.
“I believe we can grow leaders from within, and that starts with new teachers,” Klein-Davila says with conviction. “When you begin your teaching career, you know the community, the kids, and, importantly, the expectations.”
There are specific expectations in Learning Network 7. One of which is to examine student data regularly and plan deliberately for all student sub-groups. “We monitor our implementation of programs and use exemplar models across the Network to learn and prioritize sharing.”
Cross-school visits arranged by topic area are extremely successful examples of the Network’s sharing efforts. “I work with our leaders to identify schools doing really great things. One walkthrough might be on school climate, another might be on middle school literacy.” This has resulted in an enormous amount of trust across the Network: “Our staff [members] aren’t afraid to ask for feedback.”
This collaborative community didn’t just happen; it’s the result of an intentional vision of how best to facilitate growth and support students. Klein-Davila sums up Network 7’s core attributes: “This work cannot be done in isolation. The principals and the teachers in these schools have a true commitment and passion to be there for one another, which makes a huge difference for our students.”
Learn more about the NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency experience at the School District of Philadelphia.