A matter of expectations
I’ve been thinking a lot about the School Performance Framework (SPF) since the rankings were released two weeks ago.
We’ve seen a tremendous outpouring of support from the public. While some of our critical friends raised some questions, I’ve taken it all in the spirit of love and genuinely believe that both sides want to see our District get better. As I said last week, the SPF allows us to get better, faster and I believe the rankings in future years will reflect that.
Last week, I had a chance to speak to some of our principals about the system and I received some thought-provoking responses. I’d like to share two of them and offer some additional thoughts.
When asked about what makes a 5-Star school, West Prep Academy Principal Mike Piccininni talked about shared vision and goal setting and also mentioned something else I think we should keep in mind: expectations. “People rise to low expectations just like they rise to high expectations,” he said.
Change takes time, but one of the things that must change if we are to continue moving from the fastest-growing to the fastest-improving district in the nation is a change in our expectations. For too long, in our community and in others, we’ve set high expectations for some kids and low expectations for others. If we are to succeed, we must get away from the soft bigotry of low expectations.
That means that it is no longer acceptable to think that “these kids” can’t learn or “those schools” aren’t capable of academic excellence. The SPF lays waste to the idea that socioeconomics prevent our children from succeeding. That doesn’t mean we ignore the effect that poverty, homelessness, malnutrition, or an unstable home life can have on a student; it means we keep supporting those students while they’re in our buildings and stop believing that they’re unable to rise to excellence.
Finally, Principal Jill Pendleton at Clark High School reminded me that, at the end of the day, the most important thing is the students. "SPF has been an amazing tool to help us identify areas of strength and areas where we need to utilize resources,” she said. “Our score went down a little but I don’t think that’s what’s so important to schools, teachers, and community. What’s important is being able to identify areas where we’re doing well and where we need to focus.”
Since we rolled out the SPF, I must say that I’ve enjoyed the festivities and celebrations we put on for our 5-Star principals. But I hope that none of us, myself included, get caught up on how many stars each school received. The most important thing, as Principal Pendleton notes, is making sure we continue to do the things that make schools good and make the necessary improvements in areas that allow good schools to be great.
I cannot say this enough: I am proud of all of our students, teachers, support staff members and building leaders who are striving towards excellence. Keep setting those expectations high for our students. You may be surprised at what they can achieve if we do.