Justin Thomas at Shining Star Academy (a)
2 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2018 Last revised: 27 Apr 2019
When Justin Thomas began as principal of Shining Star Academy, an elementary school in Alabama, the school had been failing for eight years and was in serious risk of state takeover. One of Thomas's innovations was to implement data-driven instruction, but teachers struggled to change their routines. As hard as everyone was working, progress was minimal after a year. Thomas was heartbroken, and he didn't know what else to try. This case is used at Darden in executive programs for leaders in education and second-year MBA courses on leading change. It would also be suitable in courses covering data-driven instruction, school transformation, leadership, and change processes.
Dec. 12, 2018
Justin Thomas at Shining Star Academy (A)
Shining Star Academy in Akron, Alabama—which served 310 students in pre-K to third grade—had been a failing school for eight years running. Identified by the superintendent as in a cluster of 10 schools that required transformation, Shining Star was in serious risk of state takeover.
Before Principal Justin Thomas arrived, the school had struggled to promote a positive climate and build student engagement, and it lacked a structured process to train and support teachers. Instruction methods were based on exposure rather than mastery.
Thomas had to start from scratch because the school had been reconstituted, which meant all teachers and staff were terminated. He needed to hire everyone from cafeteria workers to teachers to his leadership team. He was looking for people who had a vision for the school that complemented his own and who shared a sense of urgency about the project of school transformation. Unfortunately, Thomas soon realized that the available teachers had neither strong content expertise nor a notable track record of achieving results.
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Keywords: data-driven instruction, leadership, school transformation
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