Page 27 - Volume 6 - Issue 1 - DBU Journal for K-12 Educational Leadership

Journal of K-12 Educational Research 25 Introduction Innovative models of learning have been investigated, researched, funded, implemented, and sometimes abandoned over the course of the past several decades. When successful solutions have been found in education reform movements, the ability to sustain them, scale those solutions, and replicate them in other places and contexts has created additional questions (Glazer & Peurach, 2012). As school reform efforts have taken shape, the spotlight on finding school leaders who can navigate reform and increase student success has steadily grown brighter with many principals having difficulty shifting their role to include instructional leader (Senge et al., 2012). The current study examined the New Tech Network school model, referred to throughout as the “innovative school model.” As a part of the innovative school model, schools commit to several design features that include the use of Project Based Learning (PBL), the use of co-taught and integrated curriculum, the assessment of five learning outcomes, and authentic community connections (New Tech Network, 2017). To ensure that there is continuity between the different schools in the model, there are commitment criteria that schools at different levels can use as a checklist or guide for their implementation (New Tech Network, 2016a) Literature Review There are two forces that make innovative schools vulnerable to implementation slumps over time: leadership changes at the school and the predictable life cycle of an innovative school. According to Fink (2000), there are MISSION ADHERENCE IN AN INNOVATIVE SCHOOL MODEL Steffany Gayle Batik, EdD Journal of K-12 Educational Research 2022, VOL. 6, ISSUE 1 four phases that innovative schools go through: creativity and experimentation, overreaching, entropy, and survival and continuity. Characterized as an “attrition of change,” the steam behind a change or innovation decreases as contextual, structural, leadership, cultural, and political factors come to bear (Fink, 2000). Leadership changes at schools impact their longevity and adherence to innovation. The need to train, recruit, and support school principals who can lead school transformation has been the focus of various studies that recommend either creating a pipeline for principal leadership (Gates et al., 2019) or finding ways to improve the training for existing and pre-service principals (Barth, 2001). There is variance in the criteria used to select principals, the types of questions used to screen and interview principals, and the number and types of constituents who participate on interview panels (AmadorValerio, 2016). Another way to understand innovative school change over time is through the concept of mission adherence versus mission drift. The central question of a mission drift model is whether or not schools are meant to naturally devolve from their original purpose, or rather, can schools continue to maintain an innovative mission in full function over time. Mission drift refers to the devolution that happens over time in organizations or to a disregard of their founding purposes that causes them to look very different from what was intended (Greer et al., 2014; Weisbrod, 2004). Mission adherence at an organization begins with intentional practices of staying mission aligned or mission true as the organization considers changes and its future.