When my team and I pop onto a campus to coach them in how to improve their scores, the first place we start: defining what it is they’re trying to do!

It’s funny how often folks know they need help, but they don’t know exactly what they need help with!

One of the places that we start in defining what it is we’re doing in their district or school and how we’ll know that we’ve actually helped them, is by defining what’s NOT working.

It sounds negative or defeatist to some, but what we thoroughly explain to our clients is that in order to know what TO DO, we really have to analyze what NOT TO DO!  It’s really a simple step that gets us a lot farther down the road in the end!

So, I’m going to let you in on our simple little formula that helps us determine what problem we’re there to solve.  I tell ya – it seems simple, but it takes quite a bit of work to get specific, data-driven and measurable!

Just saying, “We need to increase the rigor of our instruction,” makes  me want to gag.  I mean, what ON EARTH does that mean?  I beg of you to answer me that!  (P.S. I’ve yet to get a good answer on exactly what it means even though I’ve asked that question 100+ times!)

So, here’s the formula or the fill-in that we use:

Our (insert person/people) aren’t/are ____(insert what is missing or problem behavior).

As a result (insert person/people) are/aren’t (insert the effect of the above behavior/missing behavior).  

This behavior is inhibiting us from (insert desired outcome).

Here’s what a completed Problem Solving Statement looks like:

Our intensive students aren’t growing beyond intensive to strategic or benchmark in a one year period, despite daily intervention.  As a result, the next grade level teachers are having to remediate and re-teach about 50% of the content each week.

This pattern and behavior is inhibiting us from using our intervention programs for only 10-15% of our students who are in great need and from getting through all of our content at each grade level.

The cool part about all of this?  The statement can be created for teacher teams, individuals, district office teams – really anyone looking to truly see measurable growth by focusing on the RIGHT problem to solve!