When I work with schools, I’m often asked “How will we know we’re ‘there’?” Well, first of all, we have to establish where “there” is. Is it all kids performing at benchmark by a certain grade level or year? Is it the staff knowing how to teach specific parts of the instruction? Is it progress with sub-populations that we’ve never previously experienced? It’s probably all of these and much, much more.

One of the concerns when we implement something new is that it is another thing on top of everything else that we’re doing. Educators are overwhelmed by the multitude of plans, strategies and such than come with school improvement, but I believe that we are not overwhelmed by the plans, but the execution of the plans – how do we get it all done?

Too often we focus on “getting through it” or “getting it done” and we fail to focus on the benchmarks along the way – perhaps we even forgot to set benchmarks to make sure we are truly on the right track. When we forget to think about the final product, it is like we are hoping and praying and crossing our fingers that it will all be okay and closing our eyes until we’re done – we wouldn’t take this approach with building a house or baking a cake, so why do we with new reform? I wonder if reflecting and planning on the following questions will help your system get closer to real, seeing-is-believing success by going beyond what we THINK to focusing on what we SEE.

  1. What exactly is the new initiative asking us to do?
  2. For what purpose are we implementing this new initiative? What criteria did we meet/not meet in order to be included in this reform?
  3. What will it look like when we are done or have implemented all of the recommendations?
  4. How does this finished picture look similar/dissimilar to our current practice?
  5. What are the overwhelming challenges of this initiative and what are the challenges that we should be able to meet with relative ease?
  6. If this initiative is three years in length (or 1-2 or any other length), what are our markers of success? In other words, what do we want to look like quarterly?
  7. Who will help guide this process internally within our system and what data will they gather for us to look at in order to measure our success/need for adjustment?
  8. What will our approach be if we are lagging behind the important benchmarks? Who will handle this? What evidence will we use to motivate/correct staff?
  9. What will our approach be if we are meeting/exceeding our important benchmarks? How will we celebrate?
  10. When all is said and done, what do we want to be known for? What will the evidence be that we are what we say we are so much so that it’s readily visible to visitors or evaluators?

I encourage you to use these questions with your leadership team, your site level team, as individuals and even with parent groups to open a conversation not only what we have to implement, but how we are going to implement it and what the final product will look like.