Putting It All together (Part V)

putting it all together

Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Dean James E. Ryan states, “Right now, there exists an almost ironclad link between a child’s ZIP code and their chances of success.” In this five-part blog series I have questioned policy and practice, over reliant on standardized test scores and indirectly the standardized movement, against the stark reality of few schools providing transformative opportunities for students inside of their school systems.


This is not to say that most schools do good work on behalf of students. That is plainly not the case. The reality is most schools ensure most students make a year’s growth in a year’s time. An even harder reality is the gap between children entering school is as big as five years, with the most advantaged students performing like average eight-year-olds and the least advantaged performing cognitively five years below that level.


Little has changed at the national level in terms of students attaining scholastic proficiency despite more than twenty years of testing and standard focus. I would argue that policy makers and practitioners by extension have focused on the wrong things and this blog series has provided significant evidence to support this position.


So where to start? For schools to improve, we must relentlessly focus on building and sustaining positive cultures. As Peter Drucker stated, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Flawed policy can prompt central office administrators to promote curricular initiatives without first gauging how the school community feels about the school experience in general.


What is a better approach? Truly taking the time to know and measure how each constituency feels about the school environment and ministering to the needs of families, school staff, and above all students. Importantly, seeking and measuring those constituent voices will lead to the ability to create meaningful context for school change and improvement.


Readers of this blog learned about the keys to thirty-eight truly transformational schools in Washington State through The Center for Educational Effectiveness’s Characteristics of Positive Outliers Study found at https://www.effectiveness.org/research-resources. As opposed to the relentless focus on achievement data to improve achievement, a practice as it turns out that seldom gets the intended results, readers were steered to collect and review data across four domains (demographic, perceptual, contextual and achievement) with student achievement data being the area of least focus.


It is my hope that this series has provided each reader, not only rich food for thought but more importantly, access to the research and the tools to make the transformative difference each student deserves in their school journey. We are the wealthiest, most resourced nation the world has ever known. Imagine what would happen in the educational journey of each of our students if we focused on the right stuff?

About the Author

Erich Bolz, MA. Ed.

Erich Bolz

MA. Ed. Vice President

Research and District Engagement The Center for Educational Effectiveness



(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