Confronting the brutal facts is often cited as one precondition to improvement. Educators are inundated with data and the pressure to improve can become debilitating. Under those conditions it can be tempting to pursue a risky pathway toward improvement that seeks to control outcomes despite the demonstration of efficacy. These strategies often meet our unspoken beliefs about high expectations and are designed with good intentions for students. This is often the case regardless of the specific improvement target (attendance, achievement, behavior, college readiness, etc.). But what if our intuition leads us astray, or has us chasing a mirage?
Over the next few months our district will meet with the community to cast vision for the future. This is an exciting time to dream big and look beyond past challenges. The visioning process has always captured my attention with the hope and optimism that accompany it. One thing is clear after experiencing the process multiple times in multiple settings, it’s hard to make your vision stick.
How does an organization implement an improvement framework with fidelity and intentionally plan for sustainability over time? This challenge is not unique to particular initiatives and applies broadly to the continuous improvement efforts of many schools and districts. Research suggests that specific practices can support the fidelity of implementation and support the sustainability of change efforts. The real question is whether we will do the difficult work to narrow or avoid the dreaded knowing-doing gap.