There's no one thing that frustrates me more than the constant parade of initiatives that seems to make its way through our schools and our conversations on reform in education.
Most long-time classroom teachers are simply exhausted by the list of programs that our districts attempt to implement all at once. While we can see potential in almost every program embraced by the school leaders, we also know that we can't possibly implement every initiative well when they're all heaped on at the same time.
What's more, we haven't got a ton of motivation to really master new initiatives simply because we know they're probably going to be pushed aside in favor of something different before the end of the year.
That's why I was so excited to hear Doug Reeves—one of education's real superheroes—speak at the Learning Forward conference last week. Reeves—who has done extensive research on school change and who has written a new book on transforming professional development that I'm dying to read—argued that:
- Focus is the most important factor in the success or failure of schools. Every school claims to have priorities, but some have dozens of strategic initiatives. That's not prioritizing.
- If you're not going to implement an initiative deeply, then don't expect great results. If you've got more than 6 initiatives, you can't monitor them carefully enough.
- Good practices that are implemented poorly is a leadership issue. Even the best initiatives will fail without leadership focus.
- Every school and district needs to take an initiative inventory every year, identifying programs that are worth pursuing and those that can be pitched.
How do your schools measure up against Reeves' statements? Are you maintaining focus on a small handful of important initiatives that can be easily monitored? If not, why not?
More importantly: If not, what are you going to do about it?