In response to the 8/12/11 post, “A Look in the Mirror – Part 1,” a LYS Principal writes: I loved this post and loved your response today, and I am going to use it. I always feel a little guilty that I am never completely happy with our results. I feel like I struggle between expressing my happiness and gratitude for a job well-done and expressing my belief that we can still do more, so we must keep pushing. This is an area that I am still working on as a leader – finding the balance in between giving praise and in pushing forward. We had a lot of “hurdles” this past year: a new administrative team, pregnancies, cancer, accidents, etc, and we all pulled together, worked incredibly hard and made EXEMPLARY for the 2nd year. We even added two sub pops for the first time, and we worked really hard to get those sub pops, kept a wonderful commended rate, and I am so proud of everyone!!! Yet, what if we had not made Exemplary? Literally, if one more student had not passed in one sub pop, then we would have been recognized. It is really sad to think that making recognized would have diminished all the success we accomplished and the hurdles we overcame this year. As the leader, I struggle in feeling that way and in understanding “the system is what it is” and it is my job to “balance” those emotions, which involves giving praise and still pushing forward. I would love to know others insights in balancing praise and pushing forward. SC Response Part of finding the balance between praise and pushing is understanding that reinforcing the work it takes to achieve success, is a critical component of continuous success. Any improvement without work is simply a function of external variables and luck. The organizations that rely on external variables and luck may achieve a temporary success, but then quickly slip back to the middle or bottom of pack (side note: TPM was an excellent example of both an external variable and luck). Focused work matters, focused work is hard, and focused work is unique. If you are not providing reinforcement and supporting that focused work, the easiest thing for a staff to do is quit working different and just do what all the other schools do. You’re delineations of the hurdles you faced provides a great teaching point. Schools like yours (extremely at-risk student populations) have to do everything right and then get a couple of breaks to remain at the top of the pyramid. Your margin of error is almost non-existent because your staff has to add significant value to almost every student, just to meet minimum standards. Scores of campuses in your district have the majority of their students arriving each year already meeting minimum standards. Which if why the way your district evaluates principals is both lazy and naive. Basing annual principal evaluation solely on raw scores ignores the fact that the job is easier based on the setting. Yes, your district has created a simple and “logical” system to administer, but any attempt to explain that exemplary with 90% at-risk students and exemplary with 5% at-risk students is comparable, is a waste of oxygen. Keep pushing and let the staff know that I still use them as an example of what is possible, all across the country. Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn… Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on! Follow Sean Cain and LYS on Come visit us at the LYS Booth at the TASA/TASB Fall Conference on 9/30/11 and 10/1/11 Attend the LYS presentations at the Texas School Improvement Conference on 10/26/11 and 10/27/11