“Without the ability to think critically and independently, citizens are easy prey to dogmatists, flimflam artists, and purveyors of simple solutions to complex problems” (American Association for the Advancement of Science, Project 2061)
We all dream of the “magic bullet” – a solution that is concrete, easily understood, easy to implement, and 100% effective. We see the drive for magic bullets in the number of wonder diets, parenting how-to’s, exercise fads and yes, even curriculum solutions. Often these simple solutions for complex problems are doomed to failure. But the promise of a magic bullet solution continues to tempt us.
New Brighton Area School District (PA) recognized that there were no simple solutions for addressing their flagging math achievement issues. District leaders could have thrown some magic bullets at the problem – new curriculum, math labs, blended learning, etc. Some of these things might actually help. But without knowing in advance, we risk taking ineffective action. Or we throw multiple solutions at a problem never knowing which actually did (or didn’t) make a difference. So, New Brighton rolled up their sleeves and applied TregoED process to really understand the problem and its true causes before taking action. In the course of their efforts, they discovered:
- Hunches may or may not prove true – but any conclusions are more powerful when backed up with data, facts, and proof.
- Having a process allows people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to work effectively together – even when they disagree
- Enduring, systemic change is a marathon not a sprint
- In applying analytic process to solve one problem, other benefits may arise, e.g. a shared language and approach for future problems, tools to share with students and new populations, increased confidence in one’s own and others’ capabilities.
Because of their systemic use of process in tackling their student achievement issues, New Brighton deservedly won the Benjamin B. Tregoe Award for Strategic Leadership in Education. Strategic leadership requires maintaining focus on critical priorities and resisting the promise of magic bullet solutions that fall short and distract us from lasting change. Congratulations to the New Brighton team on a job well done!