Let's pretend for a moment you just became the head coach of a brand new football team. You have been given the fastest runners and some of the best receivers in the nation. You head out to the field; only to find out none of them know what a first down is.
Sometimes it doesn't matter who your team consists of, if you don't know what it takes to do the job, then you have to go back to the film room to learn the game.
I would say despite being a 4 yr old school and the growing pains that comes with a 30-40% enrollment increase each of those years, we are doing an average job. Average however, is not where we want to be. So this week our entire administrative team hit the locker room to watch the proverbial tapes.
We started this process three years ago, with a group of only 8 of us. Many good discussions came from the 2 day retreat, but we were barely able to move the mark going into our third year. This in part was due not including the entire administrative team in being apart of the solution.
Last year, before moving into our fourth year the entire admin team was invited to the two day (don't check your email) working retreat. David Reed of Customer Centered Consulting Group, had us break out into our small team groups to discuss how each team was going to move the drive of our school to be more student centered. We needed to maintain all the freedom that our school was built around while also moving the needle on state testing, to prove to the state and all of the haters that we are doing exactly what our school founders set out to do. We came away from that retreat ready to tackle the next school year. We knew what a first down was now it was time to learn how to run the routes.
Skipping through and highlighting this last school year: We grew by 1000 students, added a tutoring program, changed the messaging and the way we communicate to the teachers, students, parents, along with many others changes. This summer we received the preliminary data that judges us to find out that some of the plays we created in the retreat last year, worked. The preliminary data provided by the state looks like we were able to move the mark in the overall pass rates of our students. While there are other numbers outside of my areas of improvement processing that will go into the overall A-F scores, it shows that at least we know what it takes to play in the football game.
This year we met again to discuss the year and to look forward on how to improve on the gains we started in the previous year. In the past we were grouped into our own departments, but this year we were separated into groups with a representative from each department to allow for an outsiders view and possible solution of each "problem area". The discussions were amazing.
Sidebar - I think we can often get pigeonholed into a way of thinking and doing. This goes beyond my school and into all of education. Who do we serve? The students? Or the policy makers? In many districts we have been driven to improve the testing scores at all costs. This type of thinking fosters a culture of high stakes data worshiping. All too often we lose sight of the job; that is to teach and to serve the student's best interest.
Mr Reed's consulting group led our administrative retreat for a second year in a row. The name of the company is Customer Centered Consulting. Our customer is the student. As we move into the next school year, we will be implementing ideas that will not be hindered by the rapid growth we experience each year; the ideas scale for growth. These ideas will hopefully allow us to focus on the students more AND still achieve the rise in state testing scores that the state will be looking for, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The retreats have proven to help us highlight potential areas of growth, identify the problem at it's source and together brainstorm a game plan to increase productivity and increase our "rating". So my questions are...
1. What does your school do? Is there a game plan? Do you go back each year to watch the tapes?
2. If you are a teacher, do you do this for your classroom? What do your running routes look like? Can you be passing a little more? Do your students know they are a key part of the football game?
3. If you are a parent, you are the offensive coordinator. Are you at home making sure your child is eating right, doing homework, reading books? Are you reading to them? Are you in constant communication with the teacher (head coach) to ensure everyone is working toward the same goal?