Having fought in the trenches of the school improvement battle for a number of years now, I have observed that there is a formula for both success and failure in the effort to reform schools.

First, the basic formula for failure:

1. Be overly concerned with politics.
2. Spend a lot of time coming up with the perfect plan.
3. Have lots of moving parts in your perfect plan.
4. Have a long time window (at least 3 years).
5. Go slow.
6. Ignore the fundamental of quality instruction.
7. Pay attention to morale
8. Don’t upset anyone, if you do, immediately stop what you are doing.
9. Rely on plug and play programs to fix “those” kids.

These are the most common elements of failure and they doom most improvement initiatives. They are insidious because each element seems to either represent a logical, prudent and/or easy path to take. But in each case, the path of least resistance leads to ruin.

Fortunately, there is also a basic formula for success:

1. Do the opposite of the Failure Formula.
2. Train staff in the fundamentals of quality instruction, classroom management and school operations. Continuously review, revisit and re-train.
3. Hold everyone accountable for executing the fundamentals.
4. Provide a common scope and sequence.
5. Provide short-term common assessments.
6. Hyper-monitor instruction.
7. Provide external coaching.

That’s it, the executive summary of any successful school improvement plan. E-mail me if you want to discuss adapting this plan to your school or district.

So the answer to the title question, “school reform – fact or fiction,” is “yes”, depending on which formula you use.

Your turn…