This post might be a bit rambling. Forgive me if that’s the case.
I recently left my job as a school improvement specialist with the Georgia Department of Education to join the leadership team at Thomasville Heights Elementary School. I left because, at 35, I wasn’t ready to simply consult on school improvement work. I still very much wanted to get my hands dirty, take direct action, and to be held directly accountable for helping to move an underperforming school forward. That being the case, roughly 3 weeks into my new position, I’ve been reflecting on the difference between my former line of work and my current line of work.
1st, school improvement is vastly different from school turnaround. Thomasville is (or will be) a turnaround school. Our team is expected to produce drastic improvements in student outcomes in a very short amount of time. We will accomplish this through a combination of aggressive recruiting of talent, deploying targeted wraparound services to our most needy students, and by implementing ongoing fluid interventions in student scheduling, teacher assignments, and teacher support. 2nd, school turnaround is fast paced and is (will be) accomplished through a mixture of traditional educational know-how and business sense, the combination of traditional and almost venture capital-like private funding, and by regularly evaluating what is working and what isn’t working. If school improvement is a marathon, school turnaround is an ironman race. And as such, I am always exhausted…but I love the work.
I have the opportunity to work with brilliant people to solve big problems in real time. We have to make decisions with incomplete information to solve problems that have the potential to have a permanent positive impact on students’ lives. That kind of responsibility is thrilling.
After only a few weeks I see the major challenge to this work as trying to (1) figure out the practices that work and (2) figuring out how to reproduce and scale this work. Those are the questions that keep me up at night and wake me up in the morning…what are the handful of practices that we know will work to help move vulnerable students forward…and how do we capture that information in such a way as to allow us to improve the efficiency with which we do our work when its time to do it again, somewhere else?What are the practices that will drive school turnaround? How do we capture those practices so that we can reproduce our work elsewhere? Click To Tweet
Other questions come up as well, but they all ultimately come back to the previous 2.
There’s a lot more on my brain, but I really just wanted to capture these thoughts before I put the kids to bed. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. And as always, pardon the typos.