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?
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.
One of the most important decisions a school district can make is the high school schedule format. Researchers have long touted the benefits of one format over another. Ultimately the decision comes down to community norms and the available resources to support implementation. Districts across the country have implemented a variety of schedules from traditional 7 and 8 period days to more flexible block schedules of various designs. In July 2016, I set out to review the schedule format and graduation requirements in my school district to determine the impact on student learning.