by Brian Balgaard


Determining how to provide support in a changing world

A major urban public school system was faced with implementing a court decree mandating specific levels of service to students with English as their second language, or English Language Learners (ELLs). The English Language Acquisition (ELA) department was operating under the same structure they had when they were first created, when approximately 5 percent of students were ELL students. Now, that number is 37 percent. They were facing a paradigm shift and needed to change their organization to meet the demands of this larger ELL population and a changing societal structure. The organization asked Point B for help.


Transitioning the organization began with assessing how it works today. Understanding this, we shifted to designing what the future needed to look like. We started by facilitating discussions to help define the problem and their vision.  Next, we helped them re-define the products and services the department should offer to achieve their vision and we elicited design principles for the new organizational model (e.g., scalability, alignment to customers).  

We helped them understand the paradigm shift needed to enable a scalable model. No longer are ELL students and their teachers the direct customers. Instead, the customers are the departments and staff that support ELL students and teachers. The department also realized they were responsible for building expertise within existing student, teacher and principal support structures, not providing direct services to teachers and students. Lastly, we shifted the conversation to clarify work roles, and build out collaboration processes and structures. 

Throughout this process we engaged the entire organization, from executive leadership to department team members, gaining mutual agreement on the pain points and buy-in of the design.


Each team member fully supported the rollout of the new model. Also, the new model enabled direct access for key customers and stakeholders (e.g., instructional superintendents, HR, teacher effectiveness coaches, teacher leaders). They are now proactively accessing services instead of being passive consumers. Finally, employee pride in the department has increased and the new model has created clear career progression opportunities and boosted demand for development opportunities.