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Educational Thinking – Moving From Inputs to Outputs

Our book Turning Around Turnaround Schools is intended for those who work in or with turnaround schools, though the approach to education presented works with any type of school (public, private, charter, and so on) at any level (struggling, passing, blue ribbon, and so on). We hope to share the lessons we have learned and describe strategies and processes that have proven successful for us. Most importantly, we hope to provide for you a set of understandings and tools that will guide your work and make you a more intentional, effective agent of change.  Find it online at: The following is an excerpt from our book:



When we got into the business of trying to change student scores instead of trying to improve the adults, we had to come to grips with several new realities; we started on a journey that was full of potholes, roadblocks, and wrong turns. We found that turning a school around was more than just implementing programs. It involved an intentional, relevant data approach to improving students in classrooms.

Wrestling with this disconnect between intervention and results produced the first of a series of “aha” moments, which helped us move our thinking from the input side (the adult side) to the output (the student) side of the equation. Chief among them was the realization that input change produced accidental results if it did not meet the priority learning needs of the students who were actually in a given classroom. If we did not focus first on the needs of those students, it was impossible to get the results that we wanted, because only those students would be doing the learning and, ultimately, taking the test.

The needs in underperforming schools were numerous and systemic.

It was easy to identify many of the critical needs, but that in itself was a problem, as trying to fix too many things at once diffused efforts and taxed limited resources, such as time and money. Getting schools to look beyond adult priorities and focus first on the needs of the students as learners and performers required a major change in our and their thinking.

Not having an aligned curriculum is not as detrimental to student performance as having 80 percent of your students unable to read the questions on the state assessment. We shifted our focus from priorities that had no or little bearing on test scores to those that had a direct impact on scores because, like it or not, test scores were the ultimate metric by which we were being judged. Struggling schools must improve as learning institutions, but districts or state departments of education must see tangible results in a single year.

To ignore test scores is to possibly doom a decent plan that might take several years to show systemic results. Band-Aids and quick assessments of the most fixable issues do not get a school to a long-term, systemic fix as an organization, but they can give it some breathing room by helping it show some immediate results.

The development of our approach to turnaround schools didn’t come in one wondrous insight. Rather, it developed in many steps and in leaps and bounds as we came to grips with old realities that were no longer relevant.

Our blog, as well as our book are ways for us to bring together ideas, lessons, and experiences we’ve had that help shape our academic management strategies, our professional development sessions, and our company philosophy.

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