Yesterday the AASA named Marc Johnson of Sanger, California the National Superintendent of the Year. I happened to meet Marc a few weeks ago at a superintendents' conference and was very impressed with him. He is passionate, wise, and committed to kids -- and very modest about his accomplishments -- he was able to turn around a failing district in just a few years - and not with millions in federal funding. Read here to learn more.
What Marc did was focus on a limited set of critical results for student achievement and then depend on teacher collaboration to develop solutions. Good teachers want to improve the learning environment for students and they generally know how to do it. Marc Johnson knew this and initiated professional learning communities in Sanger, and then got out of the way.
Teachers collaborated to develop, implement and measure strategies to make every student successful. Now the district is no longer in school improvement and most of the schools are achieving at high levels. The results are magnificent!
What did the teachers do? They identified minimum standards for students to achieve at every grade level and then committed to help every single child achieve those objectives (rather than pushing them to the next grade unprepared). Through the PLCs they shared best practices and coached each other. They always focused on the kids - not politics - and the school leadership ensured that everything that worked was measured and replicated.
It's not that complicated, but in most districts, there are too many distractions on 'new programs' to perform miracles rather than focusing on the processes that work.