As mentioned in the 8/2/16 post, “Rely on People or Rely on Systems,” the A+ priority of leadership is designing, building, and revising a system that prioritizes effort for the purpose of maximizing results. But I didn’t expound on which results.  In education we can pick any number of result categories to focus on.  Three common categories are spending, adult comfort and student success.  What I would like you to consider is that two of these are a zero sum game (if one wins, the others lose).  Only one path yields the elusive win/win, and only in the long term.

First, let’s look at the focus on spending.  It is possible to create systems that minimize spending.  Hooray, I win the budget cutting game!  However, the ultimate win in this game is to stretch staff and facilities to the point where the school provides low quality day care in decrepit warehouse like environments.  This is a miserable loss in terms of adult comfort and student success.

Now let’s look at adult comfort (which too many education leaders mistakenly call morale.  They ARE NOT the same thing).  It is possible to create systems that maximize adult comfort. Hooray, I win the my staff is happy game! However, the ultimate win in this game is to overpay staff to show up and teach whatever they want, whenever they want, anyway they want.  Scores and performance don’t matter, because any lack of success is the fault of students, their families, the community, in fact everyone other than the person actually teaching in the classroom.  From a budget standpoint, the taxpayer foots a bill with next to nothing to show for it. This is a miserable loss in terms of budget and student success.

So let’s look at student success.  It is possible to create systems that maximize student opportunity.  Hooray, I win the students success game!  However, the ultimate win in this game means that I have to pay staff fairly and invest in training, tools and facilities.  In the short run, this means that I’m losing the budget game.  But in the long run, schools that improve student outcomes enhance the taxable value of local real estate and create a more skilled workforce that generate higher levels of tax revenue and attract a wider array of businesses.  This is a long-term win.

Also, to win the student success game, in the short-run, adult comfort in negatively impacted.  Staff have to train, plan, adjust, collaborate, reflect, and break a sweat, all day, every day.  In short, they have to work, which is darn near an antonym to comfort. However, when educators see the positive effect of their work on student performance, they become highly satisfied and increasingly motivated. I’ll take that over comfort 10 times out of 10.

All of this to illustrate the following point. If as a leader in education, you are focused on anything other than student success, ultimately you are playing a loser’s game. 

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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