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When It Comes to Improving Academics Hope is Not a Strategy

Did you know that 62% of students with disabilities spend 80% of their school day in general education classes (OSEP, 2015)? This doesn’t even take into consideration the at-risk students who didn’t qualify for services. They of course spend 100% of their day in general education.

How about the complete other side of the spectrum; your academically gifted students, or your twice exceptional students. They too are in those same classes.

So, my question for you is: How much professional development, feedback and training during the school year are you providing your general education teachers on how to effectively lead students who are disabled, at-risk and/or academically gifted?

Before you go questioning whether or not you should be leading the school realize that you are not alone here. The first two years I spent as a principal our school was great for 50% of our population, good for 35% and the other 15% we did our best with. Our strategy for the last 15% was more hope than strategy.

However, Hope is Not a Strategy. 

Our economically disadvantaged students would outperform our non-economically disadvantaged students each year. If you asked us how we closed that gap, my answer would be that it's not that we had a different strategy, but our best strategy was let's get REALLY, REALLY GOOD at executing our education plan and our results provided us feedback that this strategy was working. 

Our best strategy to serve higher performing students was to create a math or English class one grade level higher than they were placed. Was it the best strategy, I doubt it, but it was the best strategy that we as an organization knew how and our collected evidences confirmed our strategy. 

At this point of the year, getting ready for Thanksgiving with friends and family you should know, not think, whether or not your new plan is working. What I mean is you have actual tangible evidences, data, facts and figures, demonstrating the effectiveness of the plan. These evidences allow you to make the subtle tweaks necessary to maximize improvement through strategies. 

However, the truth is probably most of you have barely had the time to identify “what’s going well” and answering the question “How do I know?” Maybe you are all alone in trying to figure this out. 

Simon Sinek, best selling author and speaker, made an incredible point about the mistake most leaders make is making decisions in a silo. He asked, "If all of the authority is at the top but all of the information is at the bottom, how can the decision makers make effective decisions?"

Is this your strategy? If so, how well is it working for you? 

Building an effective, cohesive leadership team might be your most important strategy to execute. If you're not sure how, I encourage you to join our study group. If you have a cohesive and effective team, but not sure if you have an effective strategy or whether your education plan is effective, you only need to have the answers to these three simple questions. 

  • What will students learn? (The curriculum) 
  • How will they learn? (The instructional methods)
  • How will we know they mastered it? (The formative assessment)

Sit down with your team and work through these questions. If the answers are not clear to your team, they are probably not clear to your teachers.

And to be unclear is to be unkind. 

Your friend,

Tom 

 

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