Dramatic Turnaround in One Semester: Another Case of 100-Day Leaders

Want to know who the real #EdHeroes and #100DayLeaders are? They are the teachers and administrators working in exceptionally challenging circumstances who bring honor to our profession by their commitment to students and, more broadly, to the principle that effective teaching makes a difference.

This past week I was privileged to watch Michael Doll, Tom Pham, and Steven Flitch present their findings to every administrator in one of the largest school systems in the nation, San Bernardino City Unified School District. More than 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, and a large number of the students do not speak English at home. Ten years ago, the high school graduation rate was barely above 60 percent. Today it exceeds 90 percent and continues to increase.

But this week’s blog post is not a story of decade-long success. It’s about what these three amazing educators did in a single semester. Mr. Doll  teachers ninth- and 10th-grade math. Mr. Pham and Mr. Flitch teach high school science. What they all have in common are three things:

1. They have high expectations for the academic rigor that their students must achieve.

2. They made dramatic changes to their grading practices in order to focus on student proficiency rather than sullen compliance.

3. They dramatically decreased the failure rate for their students.  

Let me anticipate the questions you might have upon hearing this:

1. That’s great for the committed new teachers, but what about the veterans? All three of these teachers are veterans of more than 20 years in the classroom.

2. The union/state law/long-term practice won’t allow any changes. No contracts or laws were changed. Teachers, union leaders, and administrators all have a common interest in improving student achievement and reducing failure. All teachers benefit not only from fewer failures, but also from the better discipline, climate, and culture that is associated with fewer failures.

3. We can’t make any changes without changes in policy by the board, school, or department. Baloney. This district believes in inside-out change, using pilot projects and teacher-to-teacher mentoring and support.  They don’t need to wait for board, school, or department policies to change in order to start improvements right now.  

This is just one of hundreds of examples of #100DayLeader stories that my friend and co-author, Dr. Bob Eaker, and I are collecting.  If you have other examples of 100-day changes that positively influence student achievement, please share them with us.

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