Friday, June 5, 2015

Are We Getting Better?

Are we growing to plan or planning to grow?  With the improvements we made in the culture and the procedures in our instructional rounds process, I see we spent much of this year planning to grow.  More and more of us are understanding not only the "why" of our growing and improving, but most importantly, we are growing to see the urgency for our students' sake.

If we want to improve, we have to continually ask the hard question, "So, how did I do?"  This is not always the most welcoming question because the answer may not be so heartwarming.  However, if we are about growing, we welcome the tough conversations, and we are not afraid to face reality.  In fact we seek it out.

The following is how I have learned and how I have seen some growth in my life and work this past year:
  • I have grown to appreciate the power of the people that work in our district.  That includes their professionalism and competence that brings our ability to trust them to make tough decisions.
  • I have grown to understand more and more how the saying "plow deep and slow" really is important when it comes to change and improvement.
  • I continually appreciate the truth that frustration is only a manifestation of my inability to stay focused on the right things.
  • I have grown to appreciate the strength and quality of our school district, and how our value and effectiveness is not judged by one number (API or AYP).  I have learned to appreciate multiple measures:  
    • 60% decrease in expulsions, 60% decrease in suspensions. almost a 50% UC/CSU graduation rate, 3% increase in attendance, 26% increase in student writing K-12, CHS winning the athletic league championship trophy three out of four years, a doubling of the number of 8th grade students being promoted to the high school, a 15% decrease in unexcused absences, a drastic decrease in the number of fights on our secondary campuses, large gains in the growth in our intervention programs, to name a few, . . . . whew

And learning: I see us becoming more of what some call a "learning organization."  What does that mean?  It is simple.  We focus not only on learning from our students, but we focus on learning for all.  But there is much more to it.  That means we do not just say we learn; we demonstrate a change in our behaviors aligned with the new learning.

As the "chief learner" here are some "learnings":

  • I have been challenged to learn more about personalized learning with our new association with the Company Education Elements as part of our fellowship with the Lexington Institute
  • I have been challenged to understand and embrace the term "iteration" not only in our day to day work, but also in the work of our teachers and students
  • I have been challenged with the whole "Future Ready" initiative after attending a conference at the White House
  • I have been challenged to reflect on my values, mission and vision, and how I am communicating those to our staff.  A key challenge question given to me in April:  "What are my non-negotiables, and do people I work with know them?"
In summary, the good news is I am growing, our staff is growing, and most importantly, our kids just seem to be getting better and better.  There is one thing I have learned: that my friend is not an accident! 

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