A reader asks, I work in one of the many districts that works with LYS. I would like your opinion on a situation that we are dealing with. As a district, we have adopted a common scope and sequence. In the midst of this adoption, we have some campuses that are not performing at an acceptable level. Much of this can be attributed to poor instruction, but it is the scope and sequence that gets the blame. Even though it is questionable whether or not the scope and sequence is even being followed. Now these campuses have received permission to dump what they were not using in the first place and adopt a new scope and sequence. Here are my concerns with this: 1. LYS talks about how the “great” districts have a common scope and sequence. This we now have, but now we have some campuses that have been given permission to not use it. 2. They have no data proving that the scope and sequence was not effective on their campuses, but that fact doesn’t seem to matter. 3. Finally, I am a proponent of education equity. By changing the curriculum at a few campuses, we are saying that we don’t hold those students and teachers to the same expectations as we do for other students and teachers in the district. Last note, we actually have proof points that we are on the right track. We have campuses that were on our watch list last year that implemented LYS training at full speed and followed the district mandated scope and sequence. Each of those campuses experienced significant increases in student performance.

As you say, your turn…

Think. Work. Achieve. SC Response No one can say that the LYS Nation is afraid to discuss any topic, no matter how raw. So everyone take a deep breath, because here we go. 1. In general, instruction is an issue at every campus. It’s just that most campuses don’t recognize this because their students bring enough prior knowledge and life experiences to the table to overcome marginal and/or inconsistent instruction. As such, I’m highly sensitive to teachers being unfairly blamed for system failures. All that to say, if you have marginal instruction at the poor campuses in your district, 7 times out of 10 you have marginal instruction at the rich campuses in your district. 2. On a struggling campus, it is typical for the staff to blame their failures on any and every thing other than themselves. This is not because they are bad people, it simply is human nature. In a system where leadership is in flux, you are forced to let the adults on campus work through their series of excuses until the only thing left to fix is their own individual practice. Unfortunately, this can be a painfully long process that creates a significant amount of collateral damage (marginalized students). With effective leadership, with either a clear mandate or significant credibility, you can short-circuit the dealing with the list of excuses process and get straight to work. An easy concept on paper, but the leaders who do this well, usually don’t stay in one place for very long. 3. If you don’t have short-term common assessments you don’t have a scope and sequence, you have a poorly implemented myth. The campuses that improve rapidly, monitor critical campus functions and make continuous adjustments and corrections. Short-term common assessments are the way to monitor scope and sequence implementation. Your successful campuses were doing this in an informal fashion. Your unsuccessful campuses avoided anything that resembled this practice. 4. I have no problem giving a campus permission to change. If a whole campus convinces itself that a particular “something” is a problem, “it” becomes the problem. Take this problem off the table. But to do so means that leadership and staff have to realize that they have willingly entered into a high stakes risk/reward proposition. First, they need to be clear on their implementation plan. Second, they need to be clear on the performance marks that they will meet or exceed. Third, they need to understand that if they are successful, they will get the credit and the district will look to copy their solution. Fourth, they need to understand that if they fail they will be gone. The high wire is an exciting place to work, but you don’t get a second chance. 5. Finally, when it comes to equity, fairness is not sameness. The answer that meets the needs of the many does not always address the needs of the few. Sometimes you have to do something different in a different setting. The question that has to be answered is if the “Different” is designed to benefit the student or the adult. The situation, as you describe it, leads me to believe that students were not the impetus for going off script. This is not the typical recipe for success. Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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