What Gets In The Way of Moving Quickly To Serve Our Students? (Part IV)

Road Closed

John F. Kennedy stated, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.” The quote is resonant, particularly in this time as since March of 2020, school operations and education delivery have been highly variable across our country. However, it is overly convenient to attribute our difficulty in getting timely supports to children solely because of the COVID pandemic.


In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell provided a compliment of sorts to public schools sharing most schools ensure all children make a year’s growth in a year’s time. He identified other factors such as high-quality birth to five and other beyond the school year circumstances accounting for the opportunity gap we see between rich and poor children.


Most schools are good, defined as providing the expected opportunities leading to expected achievement for children. The opportunity gap is created by factors either outside of a school’s control or at the maximum, factors schools can influence but cannot control. The question then becomes, what happens inside of those very few exceptional schools where we see student achievement at levels the school’s demographic would not predict?


In the last piece, we discussed those key factors leading to success in Washington State’s Positive Outlier study. The factors included leadership, an emotional charge, and a strong commitment by the entire school community to minister to the needs of the students and families served. So, what were the common characteristics for leaders and committed staff inside of these outlier schools?


The consistent factor was trust. The creation of a family atmosphere inside of the schoolhouse starts with a trustworthy leader and results in trust between and among community members. In Patrick Lencioni’s work in his book The 5 Dysfunctions of teams, he outlines five tangible factors in successful enterprises (hierarchically) as trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results.


In so many of our schools we focus on the same list, but in the opposite manner by leading with a focus on results, specifically standardized assessment results. We do this against a national backdrop of very little change in achievement over time. So, what would happen if we spent the bulk of our energy focusing on building and measuring trust, having rigorous, sometimes emotionally charged discussions defining the critical work of adults in the system? I submit we would see committed, accountable schools with extraordinary results. Is your school working on and measuring true difference-making initiatives of trust and productive conflict, or is a hyper-focus on results getting in the way of attaining them? To learn more about the Characteristics of Positive Outlier Schools in Washington State, please visit: https://www.effectiveness.org/research-resources.

About the Author

Erich Bolz, MA. Ed.

Erich Bolz

MA. Ed. Vice President

Research and District Engagement

The Center for Educational Effectiveness

www.effectiveness.org erich@effectiveness.org

(425) 947-5239


Experience: Erich’s educational career spans over 25-year in public education as a remedial reading teacher, pre-K12 principal, central office administrator (small, large, and Educational Service District levels), Adjunct Professor at Heritage University and 2013 recipient of the Violet Lumley Rau Alumni Outstanding Alumnus Award. Board Member at Communities In Schools of Benton-Franklin, WA and Partners for Early Learning serving Tri-Cities, WA. Leading educational transformation:

• Implementing building and district MTSS Systems

• Informing and executing strategic planning

• Grant writing expert

• Veteran Special Education Administrator

• Facilitating process improvement discussions using Compression Planning methodology

• Authoring and publishing on systemic change in education

• TEDx, keynote and conference breakout speaking at a local and national level on MTSS, education, literacy, the importance of early learning, educator care, and community building

• Published author

• Most recent education experience as Assistant Superintendent of 19,000 student school district overseeing 16 elementary principals and the district’s executive team for teaching and learning services including, curriculum, instruction, special programs, and Special Education.

• BA, Central Washington University, Teaching Certificate, Washington State University, Master’s Education Administration and P-12 Principal Certificate, Heritage University, Superintendent Certificate, Washington State University