Preview the SchoolSims Simulation Library

Unlike a training manual or a case study, simulations allow participants to immerse themselves in an environment where they can explore learning objectives. The learning is achieved by allowing users to consider options, make mistakes, and draw conclusions from the experience. The overall goal of a simulation is therefore not to provide participants with a recipe for effective leadership but to demonstrate to K-12 stakeholders that they need to fully understand the situation they are facing, evaluate it, identify possible responses, and choose the most appropriate solution. In other words, the focus of the simulation is to encourage judgment and conscious competence and to identify and correct implicit bias.

The SchoolSims library includes a wide array of engaging simulations that create a collaborative environment where current and aspiring school leaders and teachers can improve their critical thinking and judgment skills. Our simulations can be used in both a K12 setting as well as in higher education educational leadership programs. Preview our simulations below.

Simulation Library

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Value-Based Leadership
~45 minutes

This simulation is a decision-making experience designed for the conscious application of the virtues guiding your vision and actions as a leader. It is not a test – you are not being evaluated. It is not a tutorial – this is not designed to teach specific applications, but rather provide an opportunity to make decisions and reflect on choices in light of how virtue may have been applied.

Key characters include: a veteran teacher, a novice teacher, the coach of the football team, a concerned teacher, and various students.

  • Making decisions based on school values while considering context.
  • Supporting staff members while challenging them at the same time.
  • Balancing the needs and desires of different stakeholders.
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Disruptive Teacher
~45 minutes

This simulation is based around a collaborative teaching team. There is one teacher on the team, newer to the school but a mid-career teacher, who is “not a team player.” The simulation begins with another teacher on the team coming to the school leader and expressing concern over the way the disruptive teacher is behaving. The school leader ultimately ends up at a team meeting and witnesses behavior that is inappropriate and over-the-top. The simulation goals relate to school culture and climate, conflict management, and responding to teacher concerns.

Key characters include a special education teacher, 6th-grade teacher, 6th-grade teacher, special education teacher

Trade-offs to consider:

  • Addressing conflict and risking loss of experienced teachers
  • Avoiding conflict and risking loss of experienced teachers
  • Insisting on behavioral changes, possibly without getting to the root causes
  • Exploring root causes of bad behavior, possibly without affecting change
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Building Inclusive Classrooms: Defending Challenged Books
~45 minutes

In this simulation for aspiring and current teachers, a parent contacts you regarding a book report on ‘George’ by Alex Gino. One of the students in the class chose this book for their book report. You have been conducting a year-long focus on reading by having students put up book commercials.

Your Role: 6th-grade teacher

Timeframe: A couple days at the school

Challenge: Navigating the use of books that focuses on LGBTQIA IDENTITY

Trade-offs to consider:

  • Addressing parent concerns while also addressing needs of students
  • Trying to figure out what message will be sent if book not allowed for students, versus concerns of parents
  • Dealing with the administration and school board while helping students advocate for their interest.

CAEP Standards: 1 – Understanding and Addressing Each Child’s Developmental and Learning Needs, 3 – Assessing, Planning, and Designing Contexts for Learning, 5 – Developing as a Professional

inTASC Standards: 1 – Learner development, 2 – Learning differences, 3 – Learning environments

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Small School Budget Crisis
~45 minutes

This simulation involves a new superintendent taking over a small school district that happens to be the primary employer in the community. When a budget shortfall is discovered, the superintendent must decide which resources to involve in the resolution while balancing transparency and strategy among key constituencies. Decide which conditions warrant more persistence versus flexibility while keeping the focus on students.

Key characters include a union rep, board coach, board member

Trade-offs to consider:

  • Considering the needs of specific community members while deciding what is in the best interest of students
  • To what degree can you balance transparency and confidentiality
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Middle School Turnaround (Implementing Change)
~45 minutes

This simulation involves a new school leader taking over a failing middle school with an entrenched staff and little community support. As you seek to get a handle on the school’s finances, finger-pointing abounds. You will have to determine the best path to building accountability, commitment, and trust in turning this school around.

Key characters include a non-assertive bookkeeper, 7th-year teacher who is ready for improvement, 27th year honors math teacher

Trade-offs to consider:

  • Handling pressure to make immediate improvements, while taking the time to develop relationships
  • Inviting participation in decision-making, while not overwhelming staff who feel blame for past errors
  • Showing determination to establish correct procedures, not unduly burdening classroom teachers, while also requiring accountability and demonstrating transparency throughout the system
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New Teacher Evaluation
~45 minutes

This simulation involves an early-career elementary school teacher. The simulation begins following the school leader’s observation of the teacher teaching a literacy lesson. The teacher teaches directly from the teachers’ manual and the lesson has no higher-level skills or thinking embedded within it. At the same time, there has just been a new teacher evaluation rubric implemented in the district that is based on four performance levels. The school leader must meet with the teacher and coach improvement to instructional practice while also helping the teacher understand that the new rubric, though no longer saying her performance is “satisfactory,” the new rubric does not mean she is “unsatisfactory.”

Key characters include a second-year 4th-grade teacher, experienced teacher willing to mentor

Trade-offs to consider:

  • Investing time directly in improving a new teacher’s instructional skills, while losing the objectivity you need to have to evaluate expected growth
  • Enlisting the aid of an experienced teacher to guide the new teacher, while not ensuring success due to limited time and resources for mentoring
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Academic Goal Setting
~45 minutes

This simulation is based around a veteran social studies teacher in a middle school. The teacher has set goals that are not aligned with the new school goals or the Common Core standards. As the school leader, you must decide what steps you will take to try and move this teacher toward alignment with the school goals, and outside his comfort zone.

Key character is a social studies teacher of 10 years whose engagement with professional development is waning
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Investing the right amount of your attention to motivate a teacher, despite a perception of their reluctance and lack of integrity
  • Persuading a teacher to see skills development as integral to students learning subject content, not as an “add-on”
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Emerging Challenges of Distributed Leadership  
Runtime: 2:41

As a school leader in this simulation, you will face a variety of issues related to working in an environment requiring social distancing and coordination challenges while considering how your intentions, execution, and consistency are viewed by the school community.

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Managing Diversity in a Growing Community
Runtime: 2:41

In this simulation webinar, you are the administrator for a growing school district that is considering adding another elementary school. You will need to anticipate and address the impact this may have on financial and geographical segregation. How will you manage the dialogue with stakeholders across the district to elicit perspectives and optimize a solution? Managing Diversity in a Growing Community was facilitated virtually by Dr. Trent Grundmeyer from the Educational Leadership Department at Drake University.

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Virtually Leading a School Counseling Program
Runtime: 2:41

The Pandemic has had a major impact on our schools and created an environment filled with challenges. In this simulation, you will face, prioritize, and deal with a variety of issues and challenges associated with transitioning to and working in a virtual environment. You will deal with trade-offs between academic rigor and engagement, as well as maintaining structures and systems while building and sustaining relationships, all while managing the satisfaction of a large number of stakeholders with very diverse needs.

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Middle School Budget Challenge
~45 minutes

This simulation involves a middle school principal responding to a request from the superintendent for a 15% budget cut in two weeks. The principal must determine the process for arriving at the cuts, who to involve in the process, and how to drive alignment around priorities. Of course, there are many conflicting perspectives to be managed, as well as a rumor mill working overtime. How will various stakeholder groups be managed to arrive at an optimal result?

Key characters include a school counselor, community activist, district technology director, parent liaison, math department head

Key trade-offs to consider:

  • Communicating with your broad constituency with maximum transparency, while controlling the inevitable rumor mill
  • Making time for listening to and considering each stakeholder, while adhering to a tight deadline
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Special Education
~45 minutes

As the new principal of an elementary school, just before the school year begins, anxious parents of a kindergartner present you with a challenge: to meet the needs of their chronically ill child. In this simulation, you will seek to ensure student safety and security while promoting independence and appropriately utilizing school district resources. Your understanding of the issues and way of communicating with staff and parents will impact the success of your initiatives.

Key characters include the parents of a chronically ill student, school staff focused on individuals’ safety and security, special education director, new superintendent

Trade-offs to consider:

  • Ensuring student safety and security while promoting independence
  • Building capacity while maintaining effectiveness
  • Pleasing parents within resource constraints
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Administrator: First Week On The Job
~45 minutes

In this simulation, your role is an administrator in the first week on the job. You will be faced with the need to manage various stakeholder groups, working to gain the trust and confidence of community members and district employees. You’ll have to balance strategic direction with the shifting demands of daily issues. And you’ll need to determine when to delegate and when to take ownership, and anticipating the broader impact of your actions.

Key characters include an administrative assistant, teachers union leader, middle school principal, parent and community organizer, reporter for local weekly newspaper
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Determining when to delegate and when to take ownership, while anticipating the broader impact of your actions
  • Balancing strategic direction with the shifting demands of daily issues
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Girls Basketball Coach
~45 minutes

A parent at the high school where you are the school leader goes to a school board meeting to complain about the way the girls’ basketball coach is treating the players on the team. You must decide how you address the parent’s concern and the alleged behavior of the winningest coach in school history.

Key characters include an alarmed parent of a basketball player, local newspaper reporter, diligent superintendent
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Addressing a parent’s concern and risk losing the winningest coach in school history

  • Admitting that you dropped the ball early on with the parent, and losing credibility with your superintendent

  • Keeping confidentialities, while giving the impression that you are hiding or ignoring a problem
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Student in Crisis
~45 minutes

Suicide is a tough reality among our teens and, as such, an inevitable tragedy for our schools. This simulation focuses on supporting the school leader as he/she navigates a loss due to suicide. From the first moment of notification, through the nuances of sharing the news with your students, staff, and community, and into the days and weeks after the tragedy, this simulation helps define what considerations to make when crafting decisions that will impact your community on every level.

Key characters include  unnamed positions of an SRO, multiple APs, guidance counselors, teachers
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Being timely and efficient in your notifications, while also being accurate and sensitive
  • Prioritizing communication and summoning staff resources, while also acknowledging strong feelings that may arise, even for your leaders
  • Allowing time for a process of grieving, while also assuring that students and staff proceed with learning
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End of School Year
~45 minutes

As a first-year principal of an elementary school wrapping up the school year, you are responsible for building and staffing a plan to improve academic achievement in the coming year. In this simulation, you will encounter stakeholders in the plan whose needs vary and must be considered fairly. As a tool for practicing school leadership and decision-making, you will first reflect on your own core values. Through the simulation, you will receive feedback on how your choices influence degrees of stress and buy-in at your school.

Key characters include a parent of a 5th-grader at risk of retention, precocious 4th-grader and informant, veteran math teacher, new well-trained teacher, veteran teacher and union representative
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Handling the many, various, sometimes conflicting, interests of stakeholders fairly and transparently in your planning, while also adhering to deadlines
  • Weighing decisions as they may affect degrees of stress and buy-in at your school inversely
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Board Relations
~45 minutes

This simulation takes place in a suburban school district at the end of the school year. After the prom, two students trespass on the high school principal’s property. It turns out that one of the students is a board member’s child. The superintendent must navigate the relationship with the board member and board chair and also decide how to support or manage the principal’s reaction to the incident.

Key characters include a high school principal, concerned parent, board chair
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Responding locally vs. district level
  • Managing stakeholders vs. taking direct action
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Stakeholder Management
~45 minutes

This simulation involves a school leader at a struggling high school, seeking to build relationships and improve academic achievement while working with multiple stakeholder groups. Engaging with teachers and administrators, you’ll have the opportunity to confront behaviors that get in the way of academic achievement.

Key characters include two administrators held over from previous principal, alumna/actively involved parent, experienced teacher struggling to engage students, young and enthusiastic teacher

Trade-offs to consider:

  • When met with recalcitrant AP’s, continue insisting on best practices, while risking ever gaining their buy-in
  • Upon discovering a practice among teachers that does not help students, insist on a policy change, while risking ever gaining their buy-in
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Difficult Conversation: Race
~45 minutes

This simulation considers just how complex the issue of race is–in the classroom, in the community, and in the broader societal landscape. Playing the role of principal at a suburban, racially and socioeconomically diverse high school, you will address sensitive issues such as conversations about race with students, and how teaching professionals and district staff can support those conversations.

Key stakeholders include an active community member, young and idealistic english teacher, assistant superintendent who is wary of fads in education
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Addressing sensitive issues such as conversations about race within the classroom while identifying how teaching professionals and district staff can best support those conversations
  • Balancing curriculum needs with demands from students and community to go beyond the prescribed curriculum
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Teacher Blog
~45 minutes

You are a principal in a school district committed to expanding the use of technology. You must deal with issues that arise between increasing communication and protecting privacy. You have received a district mandate, and your staff has received training. Now, is time to promote use of technology among many reticent teachers, while reigning in one renegade without squashing enthusiasm.

Key characters include a 3rd Grade Teacher and trailblazing blogger, pleased parent, inquiring parent, displeased and insistent parent

Trade-offs to consider:

  • How do you stay alert to and curb recklessness when also encouraging the adaptation of new, quickly advancing technologies, especially when some parents have voiced interest and support?
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School Safety
~45 minutes

In the face of a potential threat to students, you will work with others to respond decisively, while balancing conflicting considerations. How you measure the situation and choose to act will bear different consequences. In the process of this simulation, aspects of your leadership style may be revealed.

Key characters include a nervous 7th grader, assistant principal, SRO
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Highlighting safety vs. routine
  • Transparency vs. privacy
  • Security vs. ease-of-access
  • Keeping a focus on your building vs. on the wider community
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Cyberbullying
~45 minutes

In this simulation, you are a middle school principal responding to challenges associated with advancing technology. You must identify and successfully deal with challenges associated with cyberbullying and its impact on school learning environment, students, faculty/staff, parents, and the community in general. You will become acquainted with and comfortable applying the growing body of law and court cases addressing cyberbullying and first amendment rights.

Key characters include a 6th-grade teacher, leading user of technology, pleasant student targeted by on-line postings, very popular 8th grader who is a target of derisive postings, daughter of PTA President, no-nonsense football coach, parents of offenders
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Guiding your school and community as students gain increasing access to technology, to maximize learning opportunities while addressing the serious downside potentials of life on-line
  • Identifying and dealing with challenges associated with cyberbullying while knowing and applying the growing body of law and court cases addressing cyberbullying and first amendment rights
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Student Support (Transgender)
~45 minutes

As the principal of Fairlawn High School, you must address the needs of a family whose 16-year-old student is transitioning gender. You will have the opportunity to become acquainted with current laws and accommodation requirements associated with transgender students. You will also be provided a tool to assist in identifying/prioritize risks and developing mitigation strategies to ensure all student needs are met.

Key characters include engaged parents of transitioning student, a resourceful and respectful school counselor, experienced and cautious administrator
Trade-offs include:

  • Clarifying the issues for all stakeholders while ensuring security for all students
  • Promoting understanding/acceptance of gender-fluidity while protecting privacy and acknowledging uneasiness some will express
  • Addressing fears and misunderstandings of community members, in the absence of written policy guidelines
  • Managing effects of gossip when privacy is breached
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Difficult Conversations With a Novice Teacher
~45 minutes
As the principal of an elementary school, concerns from staff have been raised regarding the clothing being worn by one of your novice teachers. Before you are able to address this issue, additional concerns surface about this novice teacher’s instruction. In this simulation, you will need to facilitate difficult conversations with this novice teacher to address these concerns. 
 
Key characters include a teacher in problematic spring wardrobe, staff members who point out the problem to you, and an instructional math coach who is concerned about the novice teacher’s mathematics instruction.
 
Trade-offs to consider: 
  • Should the principal address the dress code issue alone or include the school counselor, while risking embarrassment either way. Does the principal’s gender play a role in this decision?
  • Should the principal address all criticisms in a single conversation or address the most important issue first, risking confusion either way. Are dress code concerns more important than concerns about mathematics instruction?
  • Should a principal divulge the exact source of concerns, divulge a generic source of concerns, or avoid mentioning the source of concerns, risking issues of trust. Is it all right to share the source of concerns?
  • What is the process for instructional coaches to share concerns about a teacher’s instruction?
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Comprehensive Role of School Counselors
~45 minutes

As a new assistant principal at Thornbush Middle School, you are tasked with improving the student’s experience by enabling a stronger, more meaningful relationship between them and the school counselors. Your understaffed counselors at Thornbush spend a majority of their time completing administrative tasks and are justifiably defensive. Further, you’re faced with apathy and resistance from seasoned teachers and staff. To successfully engage counselors in activities aimed at preventing rather than responding to problems, you’ll need to identify root causes, redistribute administrative tasks and lead change efforts despite growing resistance.

Key characters include a no-nonsense principal, counselor with experience in business leadership, recently promoted to Counseling chair
Trade-offs to consider:

  • The clarity of role that your proposed process will produce vs. the speed of implementation
  • Considering overall school climate, including faculty and staff morale, when building trust and moving toward the execution of your vision
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Playground Mishaps
~45 minutes

Dealing with difficult parents can be one of the most challenging responsibilities for a school administrator, especially when it involves making difficult decisions. Teachers can complicate these difficult situations when the decisions he or she makes jeopardizes a student’s safety. Administrators must be diplomatic in the decision-making process, thinking every decision through without being rash, to find a solution that is in the best interest of the student.

Key characters include an upset parent, classroom teacher, overburdened AP
Trade-offs to consider:

  • While being pressured by an angry parent, taking the time necessary to collect all the facts, while keeping focused on the student’s best interest
  • Addressing a teacher whose choice to bend a policy jeopardizes a student’s safety, while also not allowing the angry parent to dictate your decision
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Navigating the Politics of Equity-Based Budgeting
~45 minutes

In this simulation, you will play the role of superintendent in a traditionally well-regarded district that is experiencing significant population shifts with a host of changing needs. Your challenge is to work with a variety of stakeholders to develop and pass a budget that will provide funding in an equitable manner. This will call for a different process than that which has been used in the past – it is a significant change that must be managed.

Key characters include board members with individual agendas, cabinet team with different priorities, community leaders focused on disparate issues
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Facilitating discussion and exchange of ideas in balance with directing toward what you believe to be the optimal path
  • Taking action on your own vs. managing dialogue among stakeholders
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Equity: Exploring Beneath the Surface
~45 minutes

As a principal supervisor, your goal is ensuring equitable learning opportunities for students of color, while also attending to your own and others’ biases while framing your message about equity. In essence: building policies and structures to serve equity, while acknowledging both material differences and political interests.

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Community Partnerships – Digital Readiness
~45 minutes

In this simulation, co-authored with the National Parent-Teacher Association, you will be addressing communication strategies as they relate to Community Partnerships, one of the seven gears within the Future Ready Framework. In the role of superintendent, you will work with your leadership team and community members to optimize the roll-out of technology to your district. In an era of connectivity and connectivity gaps, being strategic about how you meet families and the community where they become critical to the inclusive learning community you strive to create.

Key characters include a local business owner and parent, assistant superintendent who is new to the district, various district-level administrators, most promoted from within, who have financial, curriculum, IT, and professional development areas of responsibility

Trade-offs to consider:

  • Balancing strategic considerations with tactical concerns, keeping an eye on the long-term while addressing immediate needs
  • [In an era of connectivity and connectivity gaps, being strategic about how you meet families and the community where they are becomes critical to the inclusive learning community you strive to create.]
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Social Media: Integrity in Community
~45 minutes

This simulation involves a school leader finding a phone with messages describing an underage drinking party going on. As events unfold, you will need to collaborate with school and community constituents, responding to a diversity of interests. You will be challenged to act with integrity and fairness while promoting the success of all students in an ethical manner.

Key characters include a popular well-rounded student, mother of two socially active students, girls basketball coach with two teenage sons, school alumnus who is well-connected in the community
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Recognizing the bounds of your authority and the extent of your responsibility
  • Acting assertively when you perceive a true threat to students’ safety and well-being, whether in school or in the community
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Recognizing and Reporting Abuse and Neglect
~45 minutes

As a school leader, you must know the signs of child abuse and neglect, and know how to act sensitively, accurately, and legally toward all parties involved. When accusations are made, you need to act promptly and appropriately, as well. This simulation gives you practice recognizing and responding in a variety of situations and also provides you with an application tool for assessing and mitigating risk.

Key characters include an outgoing and single teacher, a new teacher to the school who is newly divorced, P.E. teacher and coach, dance teacher who is married with 2 children, veteran 2nd-grade teacher and mentor
Trade-offs to consider:

  • When accusations are made, you need to act promptly and appropriately, as well
  • Trusting that the information given by staff is always in the best interest of students vs. being open to underlying psycho-social issues
  • Practicing discernment, while not being afraid to act
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Cultural Competency
~45 minutes

This simulation places you, a month into your new position as principal of Waterside School, in a district experiencing significant shifts in demographics, which in turn leads to challenges balancing needs and perspectives of long-time residents with those of newcomers. The district has a stated commitment to “Create High-Quality Learning Experiences that Meet the Needs of Each Child.” Your job is to uncover specific needs, and resolve discrepancies in the treatment of students, wherever they may exist.

Key characters include a concerned parent of an honors student, active parent of an average student, well-established and popular teacher, results-oriented superintendent
Trade-offs to consider:

  • Balancing needs and desires of long-time residents with those of newcomers
  • Uncovering specific needs, and resolving discrepancies in treatment of students
  • Addressing biases and counterproductive habits of entrenched faculty
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Finding and Leveraging Voice (ELL)
~45 minutes
In this simulation, you’ll take on the role of a school principal to find your voice in determining the best strategy for your ELL program. You’ll be able to leverage that voice in contributing to an ESSA plan in collaboration with local and state resources. How well can you actualize your strategy in the face of shifting demands?
Key characters include two ELL teachers, veteran elementary classroom teacher, parent of new ELL student
Trade-offs to consider:
  • Actualizing your strategy in the face of shifting demands
  • Navigating difficult decisions to meet pressing needs in your building, while also determining your level of engagement at the district and state level, advising on the same topic
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