Since founding School Growth LLC in 2008, we've worked with thousands of private, public, and charter schools, around the world. We’ve seen great ones, some awful ones, and a majority in between. With this uniquely broad range of experience, I can confidently tell you that American schools are better than the publicly stated opinions of most politicians and business leaders.
Through our experience, and seeing the disconnect between perception and reality of the United States education paradigm, we are pleased to announce the launch of the School Growth Foundation. Our mission is simple yet powerful: Simplify the path for replicating remarkable schools. SGF is 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was created to build on the strengths of education systems and schools, while overcoming the barriers that impede duplication and scale.
The voice of criticism has been overwhelmingly brutal toward American educators, with the rhetoric repeatedly declaring that the U.S. education system is in an "abysmal state of affairs." But the truth is, the United States has a vast array of remarkable schools that are producing unusually ambitious results. It’s also true that people--especially educators--respond better to success and support because it produces greater confidence and energy to progressively innovate and improve. Building on strengths has huge advantages!
Bill Gates came to a similar conclusion after having invested hundreds of millions in education reform and he’s very well acquainted with how the U.S. compares globally. When asked by an interviewer to name a country with which he would like to swap the American education system, he answered: “None of them!” He went on to explain that the U.S. has remarkable schools, but they just aren’t pervasive enough.
He’s right. America does have schools that are achieving remarkable results, inspiring an unusually high level of short- and long-term achievement. So why aren’t more schools reproducing that success? What causes the U.S. to be ranked so low in international assessments of student ability when its at the top in education spending? The answer is complex, but we believe that the solutions are only found by progressively and intentionally building on the strengths of American schools through a process of validated learning.
Building on Strengths
First and foremost, the School Growth Foundation is building on the strengths of school systems and schools in order to change the narrative to one that recognizes and values remarkable organizations and their leadership. This positive, solutions-oriented approach does not pretend to ignore nor deny the problems. When the focus is on successful outcomes and the progress being achieved, however, impressive bottom-line results can be shared and reproduced.
The best hope for the children in under-performing schools is to accelerate the ability of the leadership to emulate the success of schools that are achieving outstanding results within a similar context, shortening the learning curve with a continuum of breakthrough results. SGF will document these "most-successful" schools to share their stories, making it easier to learn from them and to provide the support mechanisms needed to sustain growth and replication.
American universities, education-oriented think tanks, and even some K-12 schools have produced incredibly powerful research and tools that are enabling successful outcomes. The problem, however, is that this is mostly being implemented in segregated silos where collaboration and scale are severely limited.
For example, one team of university researchers produced a very effective school board leadership training program for Texas, but it has yet to be shared beyond the borders of the Lone Star state. Another team created an excellent methodology for implementing student-centered learning communities, but its only being used in a few schools in Michigan.
By connecting the dots and creating a broader platform of influence, successful research-proven models can become more transferable and ubiquitous from market to market, city to city. It is extremely difficult for a singular entity to dominate the distribution of a quality education, but, our foundation's mission is centered around re-purposing the effective aspects of education and governance models to fit the selected market's needs.
Enabling Educational Entrepreneurship
It seems odd to say, but educators just aren't very good at "cheating" from each other. That it is to say, too many barriers reduce the ability to reproduce success. These barriers are generally inflicted through federal or state policies, political conflict, competitive pressures, and so on. We must enable educational entrepreneurship both from within each level of school leadership and from outside organizations.
In the pursuit of accelerated school improvement, School Growth LLC will continue to offer organizational audit services, uniquely designed professional development programs, and consulting services to achieve growth. The School Growth Foundation, on the other hand, will provide the resources and services make it easier to create, understand, and replicate highly successful schools.
The U.S. education system will continue to experience increasingly accelerated change over the next decade as it makes the adjustments necessary to fully prepare a larger percentage of students for a global innovation economy. Now, more than ever, is an opportune time to chronicle, report, re-imagine and reproduce school models that will impact the future of children, society, and the nation.