As the scores from state accountability tests roll in over the next couple of weeks and as you begin to get ready for the next school year, consider this.

Over the past twenty years I have been working with and studying both exceptional and struggling schools.

Some quick vocabulary work:

  • Exceptional School – a school that consistently outperforms schools that serve similar populations.
  • Struggling School – a school that either lags behind or struggles to keep up with schools that serve similar populations.

By the above definition, many schools that are seemingly high performers aren’t and many schools that are seemingly average performers are much more than that.  So the question becomes, what sets the exceptional school apart from the rest.  There are of course a variety of factors at play, some random, some consistent. And here is a factor that is almost a given.

The non-exceptional campuses allow themselves to be defined by external actors and/or minimum standards.  This practice attacks the collective psyche of the campus and creates a pervasive victim mentality.  Because it doesn’t matter what the campus accomplishes, it is never quite to par.  In this environment, people work but lose the unifying purpose that leverages mind, body and effort. 

The exceptional campus defines itself internally and creates its own performance standards that are beyond the scope and scale of minimum standards.  This practice builds and focuses the collective psyche of the campus.  People have a compelling, motivating and unifying purpose to engage in the work of school.  Performance measures (internal and external) are welcomed, not because they define, but because they time. No longer is the campus good (whew) or bad (uh-oh), the campus is either closer to (don’t stop, we’re almost there) or further from (step it up so we don’t fall behind) where it is going.

So who defines your campus?  

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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