Every year for the past 25 years, we’ve scoured the country to identify our nation’s most rapidly improving schools. Every year, we bring them together at our Model Schools Conference, a platform for these schools to showcase and share their innovative practices.
And every year I’m asked, “What makes these schools work?”
The answer is surprisingly simple – although not simple to implement.
Creating a Culture that is Focused on the Future
Above all, these schools focus on getting their students ready for the world after school!
They are not as worried about the next test, the next grade or the next level of education as most schools are. Rather, they try to envision what society and the workplace will look like in three to five years. They then build their programs back up from that point. They analyze how technology, information systems and the global economy will change what employers expect graduates to know and do.
Our Changing World
These schools understand that technology has vaporized many entry-level and middle-class jobs. They know global competition is dramatically increasing because businesses can move work to workers anywhere in the world.
They know their students live in a digital world, which has transformed how students communicate and socialize. They understand that social media will replace today’s newspapers, television networks and radios.
Creating a Culture
The successes of these model schools are not based on any single initiative. Rather they take a systematic approach: They start by creating a culture that supports change at all levels – specifically, organizational leadership, instructional leadership and teaching.
What is your vision for students? What are your core values? What are your goals? How will you achieve them? What do you believe about student learning and achievement?
You’ve heard me say this again and again: Culture trumps strategy. Until you can articulate a vision, you will be spinning your wheels. Until you create a positive culture for change, any strategy you employ ultimately will fail.
That’s where you start.