There is a lot of talk about fancy ways to build capacity and how to sustain school improvement efforts through capacity well-checks and measuring tools – and while I think that these tools can be useful, what I’m really interested in is going beyond measuring capacity to BUILDING CAPACITY.

I don’t want to oversimplify here, but here’s what it really boils down to is this: WE BUILD CAPACITY BY HABITUALLY ENGAGING IN THE ACTIVITIES THAT RESULT IN INCREASED STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.

Let me explain…

I have seen some very, um, how to do I say this…SIMPLISTIC school improvement efforts get fantastic results because the schools were focused on several things:

  1. Staying the course by focusing on the heart of instruction and little else
  2. Focusing on collaboration (both informally and more formally)
  3. Continuing to use the data to answer these two questions: What is working? What isn’t working?

Our bottom line with our clients is that we want them to habitually (meaning many times throughout every school day) work their plans for school improvement.  The habits that they build as they’re improving their student performance and working their plans become second nature, really!  And those successful habits are also addictive…they FEEL good because they get results.  And when you FEEL good about something, you want to do them more often.  (Psst…this is where the capacity is really built!)

So, when you’re thinking about building capacity, avoid overly fussy and fancy tools and supposed-tricks and ask your leadership team/colleagues this question: WHEN WE’RE WORKING AT FULL TILT, WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

Make sure that your answers are built around ACTIONS.  Examples could be: “We are using the weekly data to sort our kids for targeted interventions” or “We are using our planning time for collaboration on improving lessons.”  These actions become the habits when you focus on them daily.  And the habits lead to capacity.

And capacity leads to sustained improvement.