These past couple of weeks I've been spending a great and unnatural amount of time diving deep into Cresthill's school performance data - both end-of-year data from 18-19 (CMAS), and beginning of the year data for kids sitting in our teachers' classrooms today (iReady). It's what principals do this time of year: it is important and necessary work; and good leadership is always about the courage to look hard in the mirror and take honest stock of your strengths and challenges as a school.
In general, I'm very happy with what I see - Cresthill has the highest performance rating possible on these state mandated tests!, and I feel like our school results are a celebration of the fantastic job our teachers do every day for our kids. Drilling down to more granular levels, the data always smack me in the face and yell: "Hey! What about this subgroup of kids over here on this important academic skill? They aren't performing as well as they should be... what's up with that?!" And I try to listen to what the data are telling me, I have lots of conversations with wise people, I lose sleep, and I eventually put actionable steps in place to see if this challenge can be addressed.
The danger in doing this sort of data autopsy is it can take on a life of its own and it can subtly distort the bigger picture and actual story about a school. Einstein once said, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that is counted counts." A lot of wisdom in these words. The American school system has become addicted in the past decade or so to measuring that which is easy to measure, and as a consequence, as a society, we have fallen into the dangerous habit of valuing more these things that can be measured over those things that are not so easy to quantify. How kids score on one test given on one day (without a whole lot of personal skin in the game...) is easy to quantify. I've staked my career as an educational leader on the belief that "sturdiness" as a human being is about far more than just academic prowess and skill acquisition. As important as it is for us to do well the solid work of academic growth and mastery, at Cresthill (Journey Learning) we have a higher vision of what we believe our calling to be.
Tough to measure, but essential to develop are human attributes such as: compassion, creativity, reliability, empathy, resilience, enthusiasm, courage, civility, persistence, imagination, curiosity, resourcefulness, humility, and even sense of humor. These things will likely never be high school graduation requirements, but study after study shows us these are the things that both employers are begging for from our public educational system, and that highly successful human beings seem to have in abundance. I want to be found guilty of taking seriously the idea that schools should be developing within our youth such things as a joy of understanding, a zest for life's possibilities, a craving for wisdom, and the self-regulation necessary to acquire these things.
And I am profoundly convinced that these things can never be "taught" but can only be "caught." We can't stand in front of kids with outlines and tasks to complete and turn in for a grade to develop the attribute of, say, perseverance. Joy and a sense of belonging can't be taught with a Powerpoint slidedeck or Google site. But kids "catch" SO much more at school everyday than we should ever be comfortable with, by simply being immersed day-in-and-day-out in a culture and climate. It's all about the adults and what kind of culture/climate they create. And the quality of that culture and climate has everything to do with the strong development of these important human attributes. So we put a lot of effort and energy into this at CMS. Our desire is that there is a distinct 'feel' to our school - one that oozes positivity, abundance, joyfulness, patience, affiliation, kindness...
We're doing great as a school with fulfilling the part of our mission of preparing kids academically for the next level (top neighborhood school in the district in mathematics - woot woot!), and we are forever dedicated to making Cresthill a place kids love to be at and feel supported in. It's been a great start to the year so far. And we're already halfway through the first quarter! Can you believe it? Thanks for being an amazing community of support.