ESSA State plans are in – it’s time to get to work!
Many will focus on the end result through accountability goals and assessment – but not necessarily on finding root cause for why expectations are not being met. Lasting and effective change is possible when we look at the data to identify true cause. Finding cause should always be the first step in achieving any educational goal because “If you identify the wrong root cause, you’ll bring in the wrong solution,” said one principal in the audience at the National Principal’s Conference.
Firefighting is not a problem-solving technique
Some organizations start with brainstorming solutions without looking at cause at all. Without pinpointing true causes for things gone wrong, people jump to band aid solutions – solutions that mask symptoms, but don’t permanently solve the problem. Firefighting is not a problem-solving technique – it results in the same problem arising again and again (in similar or different forms), sometimes with dire outcomes and wasteful spending.
As the time approaches to develop and carryout states’ ESSA plans, the skill of identifying root cause could not be more important. ESSA mandates that school districts or other local educational agencies (LEAs), conduct needs assessments and make improvements in the areas of math and reading proficiency, English Language proficiency, graduation rates, and struggling schools. Many State plans also seek to address such areas as graduation rates, achievement gaps, school climate, chronic absenteeism, etc. This work cannot be done right without first determining the true cause of thedisparities.
Successful and enduring solutions for student achievement gaps in all areas start with these 6 core values for districts:
- Be courageous and deliberate in a search for cause
- Use a systematic process
- Embrace the data
- Value the Involvement of others
- Invest in people and their skills
- Create a culture that supports good problem solving
If our ultimate goal is to increase achievement for all areas and populations, then unmasking inequities and determining the cause of the problems are the first steps to successful, long-term solutions. No worthy goals are obstacle-free – how we anticipate, recognize, and address the barriers can make the difference between achieving goals or falling short.