The Bar is Rising for All Students: Overcoming Terminal Uniqueness

Recently, my colleague Dr. Melissa Matarazzo sat down in front of the cameras with Progress and Promise‘s editor-in-chief, Shannon Nickinson, and Quint Studer, founder of Studer Group to talk about education. During their conversation, Quint used the descriptor “terminal uniqueness” to describe thinking which is sometimes a barrier to moving toward a solution in education:

Sometimes we find, whether it be healthcare or education, I call it terminal uniqueness. People come up with a reason why it won’t work… They always have a reason. When I first came to Pensacola we had high employee turnover; they said, “it’s a Navy town, people move in and out.” Yet, we solved that issue… You talk about [school district] size… People say, “well, the district’s too large” …

As leaders and educators and as individuals who work with and coach them, we are challenged to look for similarities and evidence-based leading practices to move us beyond thinking that our school or our district is terminally unique so that we can work towards providing every child with an opportunity to earn a great education. Dr. Matarazzo shares the why and the how of it:

Indeed, [the bar] is rising for all students… and we expect, and indeed, kids deserve to achieve at the highest levels. From my time as a teacher I remember how different every student was in my classroom… The key, I think, across our field is to get consistency around the individualization of education and the differentiation. So, we have a bar and it’s for everyone and it should be ambitious, but we have to understand that every student and every school and every district may have some different means to get there…

Many districts across the country struggle with achievement gaps whether they be racial or economic… different groups of students achieving at different rates. The key there is student engagement… It makes me think of the School District of Menomonee Falls [WI]… The work they’re doing could be replicated in any place.

In that district, every teacher is setting short-cycle goals with their students based off what they need to know by the end of the year. They take that end of the year target and they break the year down; and every couple of weeks, teachers and students after studying, they assess the students progress, they say whose met it and who hasn’t, and then they have to get creative because if you haven’t met it in the traditional curriculum approach it’s really on the teacher and on the teacher’s team to figure out what else will work… It’s about using that data to try to pinpoint what a student needs for the next period of time.

Over the weekend I was talking with a 9-year veteran high school teacher about Marzano’s research which details the importance of having an effective teacher in every classroom. Marzano’s meta-analysis confirms decreased student learning after 2 years among children who have the least ineffective teacher, even if the school is effective (2003). Does this drive a sense of urgency for moving beyond thinking that our classroom, our school, or our school system is terminally unique? It charges us to look for similarities; to look for what’s right and what works, and replicate it. Improving opportunities for all children to learn is not a choice for education leaders, it’s a responsibility.

StuderEducation

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See the entire conversation via YouTube at: http://youtu.be/hhD9JyzVfq4.

From the Progress + Promise website, its mission is to build a sustainable platform for ongoing community education, investigation, discussion and improvement. There are many people, organizations and groups who get it right; who believe in transparency and accountability; who put community service above self. Progress + Promise wants to build a place where to celebrate successes as a community.

Marzano, Robert J. 2003. What Works in Schools: Translating Research Into Action. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.


Filed under: How to Lead..., Who's Engaged? Tagged: Change, Education, Marzano, Melissa Matarazzo, Policy, Progress + Promise, Quint Studer, Student engagement, Student Learning, Terminal Uniqueness
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