A Reader Writes… (Urban School Myth – Part 2)

In response to the posts relating to, “Urban School Myth,” an old school LYS Principal writes:

“It is always good when Brezina likes a post.

Of course, I know there are scores of problems that make the job of education exceedingly difficult. I also believe that many of those problems are self inflicted. In rural schools, we talk about not having the resources needed to compete with those big city schools. In the big schools, both urban and suburban, we look around and ask ourselves, “What resources are they talking about?”

The urban school myth is but one of a collection of excuses I have noted that educators use to explain away the lack of student success. While working in a large urban district, I made the mistake of discussing my thoughts concerning this particular myth with an assistant superintendent who hid behind the urban school mantra. After presenting the case and laying out the facts, you would not believe her response. She looked at me and said, “Well, you do understand we are not a true urban school. We are an inner city school.”

What? That’s the best you can come up with? If you can’t logic your wait out of a corner, just restate the excuse using synonyms? At that point, I realized that my skill set in this particular non-LYS district was a waste of their money and my time.”

SC Response
Let me start with your “self-inflicted” observations. During my career as “school-district-state plumber,” the sad truth was in most cases the problem is easy to pinpoint, all you had to do was hold up a mirror. That’s both bad news and good news. The bad news being that we are at fault, but the good news is that we can do something about it. If we work, at full speed, on the things that we can control, the uncontrollable (myth) problems solve themselves.

Up until the mid-2000’s, the resource issue was a valid excuse. The rural schools had no infrastructure support. Not because they didn’t want it, but because it didn’t exist. Now you can buy infrastructure (scope and sequence, data processing, etc), and it becomes more affordable every year. If you are in Texas, you need to thank two people for making this possible, Dr. Shirley Neely (Commissioner of Education) and Dr. Nadine Kujawa (Aldine ISD Superintendent). Nadine and Aldine ISD stepped up and gave a cohort of struggling rural school, their scope and sequence, for essentially free. Or as the Aldine leadership team told me, “Let them know, as far as we’re concerned, they are Aldine now.”

Shirley used Aldine and the subsequent success of rural school cohort as the lever to force the ESC’s to step up and better fulfill their purpose. Jump to 2010 and now you have C-Scope and C-Cap, two excellent and evolving curriculum sources that weren’t worth the paper that were then printed on, just six years ago.

Now that tools are readily available, at every campus in every setting, the critical variables are the adults and the quality of leadership (or lack thereof). One of the Maxwell’s Fundamental Laws of Leadership states that a subordinate leader will not work for a leader of inferior skills (in the long run). When you can’t attract good leadership candidates from the outside, nor retain good internal candidates, you have to seek out and address the root cause. This brings us back to the mirror.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

School Dysfunction, Part 3 – Quick Hitters
A Rare Sighting

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