Gerry Petersen-Incorvaia

Gerry Petersen-Incorvaia, PhD, is the assistant superintendent for educational services for the Glendale Elementary School District in Arizona. His work focuses on ensuring all students have access to a guaranteed and viable curriculum.

Moving from a Belief to an Action

In the summer of 2015, I met Dr. Sharon Kramer, Professional Learning Community, continuous school improvement guru and a mentor of mine. She asked the question: What do kids get? I was knocked off my feet as I could not necessarily answer her question. Since then, this question has informed and help shape our work at a district level to make sure an entire urban school district is doing the right work. Since that brain-stretching day, we have worked hard to create systems of curriculum, instruction, assessment, intervention/enrichment, and professional learning to ensure equity of access for every student to a rigorous education.

This leadership mindset of leading with kids in mind helps in the current landscape where some things are changing almost by the minute and also helps when working within a Professional Learning Community; this mindset helps focus the work on student learning and the collaborative processes to ensure successful results. Kramer and Schuhl (2017) share that "it takes a focused and intentional leader to create the effective leadership structures necessary to move teachers, students, parents, and community members toward a collective vision of teaching and learning (p. 8). Moreover, it takes a leader and team of leaders aligning beliefs into action that moves schools and school districts forward.

Saphier (2016) has developed a formula for moving from beliefs into action while moving people towards cultural changes. In a continuous school improvement model, it is important to use this formula for transformational and sustainable change:

  • Say it.
  • Organize for it.
  • Model it.
  • Protect it.
  • Reward it. 

In the context of continuous school improvement, below are sample reflective questions and thoughts a leader can ask oneself in moving the work in a positive trajectory:


Reflective Questions and Thoughts

Say it.

What do you believe in? What are your philosophies? Can you say it, walk it, and lead it? When do you say it? At this level of the formula, saying the belief is ceremonial.

Organize for it.

What structures are needed to ensure training, support and monitoring helps move the beliefs into action forward? This step works with the structural changes, procedures, processes and policy changes.

Model it.

How do you walk the talk? Do your actions align with your belief? Are your actions congruent with one another?

Protect it.

How do you hold the organization accountable to stay on course? How do you protect those on the right track?

Reward it.

How will you celebrate the lessons learned and progress towards the implementation? What data will you collect and celebrate?

When taking any belief you hold and move it into action, it is important to remember that change is complex and it helps to be transparent about the process, the end in mind, and the steps to get there. If you believe all students should learn at high levels and that even now, during these times, student learning is paramount, it would help to collaboratively create a beliefs into actions map of the right work, share it and refer back to it consistently. This process can be done with your leadership team, guiding coalition, and/or collaborative teams.

The most important thing to remember is that this is continuous school improvement. The process and product should be reflected upon and revised as needed to ensure the belief is still central and of utmost importance.



Kramer, S.V. & Schuhl, S. (2017). School improvement for all: A how-to guide for doing the right work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. 

Saphier, J. (2016). High expectations teaching: How we persuade students to believe and act on "smart is something you get". Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. 

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