• by Blaine Helwig

Scoreboards, Performance, Practice and Reflection

The other night I was watching the latest release of ESPN’s 30 for 30 – a remarkable and interesting documentary series highlighting interesting people and events in sports history. Over the years, I have watched a number of the episodes featuring a wide range of topics. The latest one is called, “The Two Bills,” featuring legendary football coaches, Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells. In one of the video clips, Bill Parcells, the Head Coach of the New York Giants, states extemporaneously to a player in the locker room at half-time,

“You know, they got one of those scoreboards in the stadium, and it is keeping a tally on how each team is doing. I think we need to keep that in mind when we are out there playing.”

These two sentences relating the obviousness on measuring the success of their gridiron efforts is not only humorous, but insightful. Yes, a scoreboard clearly indicates the specifics of the situation in the contest – who is playing well and who is not doing so well. But, professional sports athletes practice prior to the contest, and that preparation should yield a competitive result on the scoreboard. Professional teams possess highly skilled players on each team – but the scoreboard only displays the scoring of the contest. If the result on the scoreboard is not positive, the losing coach and team returns to daily practices with the overarching goal to better their play and change the outcome and their performance in the next contest.

Public schools have obvious scoreboards, too. But, they are keeping tallies that are infinitely more important than any professional football game or sports contest played by adults. Their scoreboard tallies indicate how well they are preparing children both socially and academically that significantly affect their economic opportunities when they are adults.

Standardized testing is a universal indicator for scoreboard comparisons across any given State. For example, all third graders in every traditional public or charter school in the State of Texas or Florida or New York take a grade level standardized test on the same given day. Hence, third grade students’ academic performance attending an affluent school or a Title 1 school in the same city or different cities hundreds of miles apart can all be compared using the same scoreboard.

But, if ALL student groups – economically disadvantaged, children of color, Anglo students, and so on did equally poorly on annual grade level assessments, then poor academic performance is uniform. Hence, there is not an argument of inequity to be made. However, that simply is not the case. Specific student groups incessantly perform appreciably worse than their more affluent peers every school year. At that point, inequity avails itself publically, but this academic disparity is NOT due to a lack of funding allocated to the Title 1 Schools.

When a typical Title 1 School continues to not do well on their scoreboard,

what does that mean?

For one, they did not practice well, for I am absolutely positive the students’ effort on the assessment was given in full. I have rarely seen otherwise in a quarter century. But, when a significant percentage of students do not perform well, it is time to evaluate the classroom practices – systems, instruction and resources and holding the campus administration more accountable. However, if the campus staff continues to practice school year after school year, and their campus scoreboard continues to indicate a poor showing each time, then, it is time for the school administration to reflect and realize that they are NOT addressing the fundamental problem in their work. In a word, when humans repetitively practice, they invariably get better at any given task. When humans engage significant practice time and energy, and they do not significantly improve, something is seriously awry in their methodology.

What are the 10 steps that change chronic academic Title 1 elementary school performance?

1.) Know that the school has a problem - but a fixable problem.

2.) Know that the prior instructional and resource practice has not been effective – and children’s education is adversely affected.

3.) Know that blaming the problem on poverty, a lack of money, kids their parents or some other external issue is counterproductive and pointless, because those factors are not the root cause. The issue is an internal pedagogical and curricular resource problem.

4.) Children's academic literacy and numeracy skill gaps must be directly addressed, or the school's personnel is continually dealing with peripheral issues - and not the basis of the chronic academic problem.

5.) Train personnel and implement literacy and numeracy stop-gap resources to directly address the problem – literacy stop-gap fluency and non-negotiable word programs are all free downloads at www.thenew3rseducationconsulting.com. Student numeracy issues are both current and prior math fact and math processing skill gaps. Both skill gaps must be addressed in a differentiated, daily numeracy program using Formative Loop at www.formativeloop.com. All students must be held accountable to ensure skill mastery.

6.) Ensure that all teachers at the campus engage in effective classroom management and daily routines to preserve instructional minutes.

7.) Implement an effective independent reading program with accountability using Accelerated Reader/MyON at www.renaissance.com.

8.) Investigate, research and implement Bridge Resources with individual student accountability - supplemental application resources from www.Amara4education.com.

9.) Consistently and systematically use these curricular resources with high levels of individual accountability and monitor and intervene, as needed, for all students that struggle – so they are not left behind.

10.) Reread the ninth step, so school personnel focus their efforts on what matters to directly address these academic skill gap issues. Celebrate the school's academic success when the campus personnel's daily instruction and resource practice solves their on-going performance problem from multiple years past.

This listing of action steps may appear too many as a lot of work for campus personnel, but once the front-end loading implementation of this work is done, it becomes easier each school year. Finally, Practice translates to better and better school performance. Most importantly, children of poverty do well in school, and the school's academic scoreboard displays heightened student outcomes - in comparison to the prior results of chronic academic performance that was occurring school year after school year.