"the vast majority of educational change that deepens learning and allows everyone to benefit from it neither spreads nor lasts." (Hargreaves & Fink, 2003, p. 694)
Sad, but true.
What makes educational improvement sustainable?
Sustainable improvement demands committed relationships. It contributes to the growth and the good of everyone. It requires investment in building long-term capacity for improvement, and creates an environment that stimulates ongoing improvement. To make changes that last, improvement must truly foster learning, not merely change schooling. It must be supported by available resources. And it must not negatively affect others.
The question is: How can leaders ensure that changes in their schools are sustainable improvements?
School leaders must make sure that their central focus is on learning. They must maintain this central focus even in the face of competing pressures that pull their attention away from it. Long-term improvement matters more than short-term results, and true learning will be reflected in higher test scores and the like in the future.
The overwhelming demands of leadership can only be met by using everyone's intelligence and skills. Distributed leadership is more than mere delegation. It means creating a culture of initiative where all teachers are encouraged to propose new directions and innovations. Leadership can not rest on the shoulders of the heroic few.
Leaders must make plans to ensure that their improvements do not disappear when they leave. They must put processes and structures in place to ensure some continuity beyond the scope of their own leadership.
I think one of the most important points that this article makes is about the relationship of resources with the sustainability of change. There is no point making grand plans for change if you don't have the available resources for it. There is no point spending all your money on initiating change, if you don't have any money left for ongoing maintainence of it. Any plans for school improvements should be made with the available resources (time, money, staff etc) firmly in the picture.