Change Management with Rigor

About Cedarburg: Located 17 miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Cedarburg School District (CSD) serves approximately 3,100 students. Cedarburg schools consistently achieve one of the state's top rankings in Math, Science, and Reading, and have a graduation rate of 99%.

Challenge: When the Cedarburg School District decided to implement a 1:1 program, they recognized a rigorous change management process would be needed to ensure a successful program implementation.
 
Journey:  Director of Technology and Assessment Kirstin Rose (CETL) knew the program would need to be rigorously and thoughtfully implemented in terms of both the program management and human change perspectives. Rose and her team took a measured approach, supported by the arrival of a new superintendent with past experience with 1:1 programs. They started by working with consultants to identify the authentic drivers of the program.
 
By the end of year three (June 2017) their goal was for CSD students to be consistently displaying the behaviors and dispositions of Problem Solvers, Knowledge Creators, Life-long Learners working in Authentic Learning Environments. 
 
These goals drove both technological and instructional changes in the district. The district first developed a 10-year technology plan to ensure the buildout of a robust and scalable infrastructure capable of handling a 1:1 program. They implemented the program by grade bands, starting in 5th grade and continuing to add a higher grade band along with a new 5th grade cohort each year. To help teachers change their instructional approach, the district provided comprehensive professional development opportunities for teachers, supplemented with mentoring and support from Rose and her instructional technology administrator. Teachers developed standards-based lessons that leveraged technology and project-based learning templates and linked back to the higher-level district goals. 
 
Following the Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change, CSD focused on building consensus. Leadership ensured stakeholders had the incentives, skills, resources, time, support, and professional development needed for success. Utilizing a change management timeline to ensure the program stayed on track, data was used to inform their decision-making and guide implementation. They looked at each instructional goal within the context of the SAMR model, identified what classroom practices would look like at each level of the framework, and created tools and metrics to track the goals.
 
The district also utilized the change management process to support a makerspace implementation that arose organically at a school. Although the program was not initially  successful, Rose worked closely with the school principal and library technology specialist to identify the program goals and the changes needed to implement them. By focusing on the “why” and the steps of the change management process, they were able to develop a concrete action plan.
 
Take-Aways:
  • Always begin with the “why” before implementing new technology. What are the educational goals, and what will a successful program look like?
  • Involve senior leadership in programming planning from the beginning to improve buy-in.
  • Identify goals and metrics for success. Use data to track goals and inform decision-making.
  • Implement change management in parallel with project management. Consider using frameworks such as the Knoster model or the ADKAR model.
  • Set a goal of continuous improvement and revisit implementation strategies on a regular basis. Reinforce the “why” behind the program and ensure new and existing staff understand the educational goals.