Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Closing the Summer Achievement Gap

Summer is here, but that doesn't mean learning stops.  Over the summer all kids regress if they do not continue learning, reading, thinking and solving real-world problems.  Sadly many kids return to school from summer break lower academically than when they finished the year.   Now that may not be a massive problem if a student is in the top of his class, but for struggling students, it is a huge problem that we must devote our attention to solving.

Summer and Poverty
My personal kids will get a wide variety of experiences this summer.  Camps, trips, events, and a wide variety of memories and learning experiences will be gained.  When many kids think of summer, they think of adventure and a smorgasbord of experiences where learning is subliminal.  But sadly children of poverty will not have the same experiences or memories of summer simply because the majority of their learning adventures actually happen at school and without those summer experiences they fail to add on to all the knowledge that they learned during the school year.

This video further explains how the opportunity gap exacerbates the achievement gap.

Summer Can't be a Break Anymore
Let's face it.  Kids of poverty will regress over the summer.  That is a fact, and it is critical that all educators view summer as different kind of learning, the kind that is both exploratory and recreational.  We must find ways to take our students places and expose them to historical markers, museums, shows, new places and literature that will help them maintain their present level of performance.

Here are a few ideas that you can use to extend learning throughout the summer for all students, especially those of poverty.

  • Open the library a couple of days per week with a action- filled summer reading program.  
  • Use your athletic programs to offer camps that also include learning and character development.  
  • Create day trips to fishing ponds, local museums, parks, historical places, etc.
  • Partner with local churches or clubs to have water days or craft days.
No matter what you do or where you go this summer, always remember that if we want to close the achievement gap, we must close the opportunity gap first.  It doesn't take must time or resources to offer these experiences to our kids.  Experiences are ultimately learning opportunities, and if schools can make plans to provide those experiences to students of poverty, learning for all kids will never stop, and more importantly students will return to school next fall refreshed without having regressed.

What ideas do you have to close the summer achievement gap?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Unleash your Excellence with The HULE Rule

Success is the goal, but why do a few make it while the rest fake it? To reach the pinnacle of excellence, the most successful understand that it must be pursued with all of one's might and all of one's heart.  Excellence is not a destination but a journey that never comes to an end.

The secret to successfully attaining the highest levels of long-lasting excellence is not found in the superiority of your skill set, nor is it revealed by pounding your chest and proclaiming your abilities and accolades. The secret to finding the highest levels of excellence can only be discovered through your commitment to the Hule Rule.

Hule Rule
If you seek to achieve the optimum level of success, the Hule Rule is your best bet, and by commiting to both tenets within the rule, you will experience unprecedented growth and personal as well as professional success.

Stay Humble
Success is easily attained, but ego makes it difficult to maintain.  The most successful people stay humble.  They rarely mention their accomplishments without celebrating the folks who contributed to the accolade.  Perpetual humility requires constant selflessness, an inflexible focus on elevating others, and a continuous pursuit of improvement.

Humility precedes virtuosity.

Hustle Hard
Continuous improvement can't occur without hustle.  The harder the hustle, the greater the growth.  The greatest success stories don't rest on individual successes but use them as data points to guide them toward their next steps for future effort and hard work.

Good things come to those who wait, but they are only the things left by those who hustle.

Hule is a Product of Wisdom
Humility by itself is nice, but without hustle, it yields no growth.  Hustle without humility may produce results, but it will be at the cost of sustainability as followers are turned off to egotism.  The Hule Rule is a product that ultimately yields wisdom because without either tenet, long-lasting progress is negligible, and positive change is impossible.

The wise don't seek success or the recognition that accompanies it.  They seek wonder and the possibilities that come from elevating others. Furthermore, those that HULE continuously evolve into a better version of themselves each day.    In its truest form, the Hule Rule is wisdom in action.

What other ideas would you add to the Hule Rule?

Friday, May 13, 2016

10 Strategies to Succeed in the Most Important Interview

Winning in an interview requires lots of planning, researching and practice.  Making the right first impression counts.  Finding the right suit, shining those shoes, and getting your hair just right sells the first impression.  Sitting up straight, making eye contact and speaking eloquently illustrates just how well you will perform in your job.  All of these things will help you win in the interview enough to get the job, but they won't necessarily be enough to help you success in the most important interview.

The Most Important Interview
The hardest interviews are not the ones that land you the job.  They take place after you get the job.  Every person you meet is sizing you up.  They are gauging your knowledge.  They are interested in whether or not you are there for them.  Yes, the interview after you get the job is a continuous cycle of questions and scenarios to see if you are truly equipped to do the job for which you have been hired.

How to Succeed in the Most Important Interview

  1. First impressions are golden. Don't underestimate the value of them.
  2. Don't focus on titles and positions; focus on all people by greeting and treating them equitably.
  3. Listening is critical, for it establishes your open-door policy.
  4. Ask questions to show your desire to know more about the people you will lead.
  5. Gather as much information as possible before making big decisions.
  6. Seek input from followers on ideas to make the organization better.
  7. Show your desire to learn from those that you will lead.
  8. Communicate the successes that you see with the entire community because they show you value the work already in place.
  9. Find opportunities for growth instead of weaknesses.
  10. Celebrate the hard work and commitment that you find in both word and deed.
Bonus - Find the expertise throughout the organization, because they are the leaders that you can depend on to more the organization forward.

What else would you add?
The most important interview requires a lot more than just the 10 ideas that I shared, and it requires a passion to connect with every person throughout the organization.  I'd like to know what you would add to this list.  Drop a comment and share your ideas to win in the most important interview.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

4 Questions to Transform your School's Greatness into Growth

I just finished my first week as superintendent of Blue Ridge ISD, and man am I stoked. I am blown away by how polite, respectful and hard-working that the kids are. I'm amazed at how committed and dedicated the teachers and staff are, and I'm blessed by the welcome I have received from parents and the community. It is a true statement when I say that I am blessed to have the honor to lead a great district.

Now in a great organization, it's pretty easy to get caught up in the euphoria of accolades.  It's seductive to bask in the glory of exceptional performance, and it tempting to adopt the philosophy of "don't change anything", but great leaders always remember this.

GROWTH is better than GREAT

By resting on the status of greatness, organizations slowly slip into mediocrity, and exceptional leaders realize that they must capitalize on organizational strengths in order to find the next steps. Furthermore, they know that weaknesses are present, and they leverage the power of staff input in order to identify and then address areas in need of improvement, or as I prefer to call them opportunities for growth.

From Great to Growth
To move schools from Great to Growth, there are basically 4 questions leaders must ask members of their staff, and with the answers to these questions, leaders can accelerate the school improvement process.

  1. What initiatives, strategies or traditions make our school a great place for all students to learn?
  2. What initiatives, strategies or traditions make our school a great place for all teachers to grow?
  3. What are some areas of concern that need to be addressed immediately or in the near future?
  4. What ideas do you have that would help all students in our school grow by leaps and bounds in the next 1 - 3 years?

Think about it.  All leaders want to know the answers to these questions, but only the great ones ask.
To help you get started and gather the information quickly, I created a Google Form template to serve as a model for how you can leverage the power of technology to gather qualitative data that will help you develop your summer excellence plan to take your campus to the next level.