Drafting Criteria for Success in Any School Initiative

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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success criteriaIt is that time of year again when new and promising initiatives are around every corner.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a potential way to raise student achievement and you’re considering digging in. Maybe you’re already immersed in work on a given initiative and you hope it sticks. On the flip side, maybe you’ve started an initiative and are crossing your fingers it fades off into the sunset!

It all depends on your point of view, years of teaching experience, what and how you teach.

I recently spent time at a public school in Connecticut working with a group of school leaders. We discussed initiatives and why some flourish while others wither on the vine.

Take a look at the list of criteria we drafted to clarify why some sink and some swim. What do you think?

Criteria for Success in Any Initiative

  • Provide clarity on the “why” — creating ownership and commitment to the idea
  • Demonstrate priority through the allocation of time, focus, resources
  • Offer an engaging learning community (classroom, school, system) early and often to share, problem-solve, and create
  • Trust that the culture (classroom, school, system) supports experimentation, epic fails, and continued growth
  • Embark on a multi-year quest that has regular, intentional check-ins and checkpoints (recalibrating)
  • Explicitly prepare and train with regular cycles of feedback to grow capacity and confidence
  • Be public learners that “play” and experiment in classrooms to improve quality of learning experiences
  • Settle in and do the work!
  • Reflect on practice with others, including experts inside and outside of school
  • Provide incremental and focused expectations to help individuals and groups persevere to achieve a desired result

Common Threads

There are three common threads that run through the list: goal clarity, robust feedback loop, and learning environment that values low-stakes experimentation and revision.

Change is a “bottom-up” enterprise — we have to honor the diverse talents, backgrounds, and experiences of our learners to create a foothold into desired practice.

Funny, that’s what we expect from teachers as well.



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