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Having established a background for thinking about differentiation, we turn our attention now to the sorts of plans that leaders must make and put into action if change is to happen broadly across schools and districts, rather than in scattered individual classrooms. This sort of broad change is called systemic change. Promoting systemic change toward differentiation is the goal of this book.
An individual classroom teacher, without any system or school support, can take steps toward differentiating instruction in his or her classroom. Many teachers have done so. Even within a single classroom, however, moving toward a philosophy of accommodating academic diversity and individual needs generally constitutes a change. The likelihood that a teacher will be able to make such a significant change—even within the confines of his own classroom—is greatly enhanced by accompanying change in the school culture as a whole. At the very least, a sense of support and approval from the administration goes far to encourage classroom change. More powerful support is provided by alterations in the organizational structure that are catalysts for classroom changes. Therefore, the task of the school leader—whether a school administrator or central office staff member—is to design systemic strategies that encourage teachers to implement differentiated instruction in the classroom and that support teachers in honing the skills of differentiation.