A Reader Writes… (Who are We Letting In – Part 2)

In response to the post, “Who are We Letting In,” a reader writes:

“First, let me say thank you for providing the LYS blog-alogue. It is a challenging and empowering opportunity for growth as teachers and students of educational leadership.

Second, I haven’t had any time to participate in the dialogue because our administrative team has been working hard and smart in overdrive since February to promote, create and support student success. We’ve burned the midnight oil to make sure that our students overcome their learning challenges to become achievers of high expectations. We were successful in moving this campus out of AU. This meant we had to get beyond an inherited deficit of over 200 over age students that our feeder pattern as pushed up to us over the past three years. It took holding students and teachers to the same high expectations through consistent monitoring and feedback. We promoted the idea that each classroom was like a campus, the teacher was the instructional leader and the students their instructional staff.

When students began engaging each other in the learning process, quantum leaps were made across the academic gap. Students started asking faculty and staff how to improve their own learning and teaching (peer-tutoring) which led to dramatic improvements with our culture and climate. Teachers put into practice in the classroom the expectations asked of them and achieved a truly shared learning experience.

Hats off to our principal who gave us the permission and support to empower a “don’t blame students for failure” systemic change. We proved that a “one size fits all” education doesn’t work, but being of “one mind for all students” makes us fit to meet the needs of all learners.

Third, that being said, here is my question: “How do we address the disconnect between campuses up through the learning chain?”

A concern for meeting the tested needs on each campus at their particular grade level doesn’t necessarily help students grasp the next expected rung on the grade-level ladder.

Thanks again for all you do to keep us on the cutting edge of successful leadership teaching learning success.”

SC Response
You’re welcome and welcome back! Your story illustrates a coaching point that I had with a campus I was working with last year. Like most schools that struggle, it wasn’t that they weren’t working hard; it was that they were working at everything. Which meant that little was being done well. So I gave them a checklist for short–term survival (and long-term success).

“A” priority: Teaching and learning

“B” priority: Everything else.

What they (and most schools in their situation) couldn’t grasp is when you work on and solve teaching and learning issues at full speed, a big chunk of the other stuff just evaporates. As you have experienced, yet again.

Now for your question, the successful solution to feeder pattern disconnect has a number of inter-connected actions, below are the big three.

1. The High School principal has to take a pro-active role in engaging her feeder pattern principals. She has to meet with them on a regular basis, address common concerns and push for vertical solutions. The High School principal is not the boss, but she is the de-facto first among equals. If she doesn’t fill the void (which over 95% percent of HS principals do not) no one else will.

2. The feeder pattern principals have to assume some responsibility for the success of their students at the next level. That means if a lot of 6th graders hit the wall during the first semester, the elementary has to re-examine their actions. As one of my mentors regularly pointed out to me, “The measure of your success has less to do with how students perform when you are there to hold their hand; and more to do with how they apply the lessons you taught them, when you are not around.”

3. The feeder pattern schools have to focus on more than just meeting minimum performance standards. The High School can not add value if its only viable option is to run a remediation factory.

Can all of this happen? Yes. Does it happen? Rarely. I believe the reason for that is that most campuses are so busy, they can’t see the forest from the trees and they are not looking to create more work. And the last thing central office wants to do is to mandate one more meeting for campuses to complain about. So for the most part, outside of the vertical alignment activities managed by the curriculum department, this vital area of school operations is ignored.

For a reasoned and compelling argument on the “why’s and how’s,” of vertical collaboration, refer to the works of Michael Fullan.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

A Reader Writes… (Who are We Letting In – Part 1)
A Reader Writes… (Urban School Myth – Part 3)

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