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  • by Blaine Helwig

A Title 1 Principal Can't Buy Academic Success

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

In the 1970’s, my father started the first Christmas tree farm in South Dakota. A slotted hole was dug using a long steel spade shovel and approximately 12,000 evergreen saplings were planted. If you ask my father about all those holes, he will tell you how ‘we’ dug them. But, my dad did not dig any of those 12,000 holes – my older brother and I did. As a matter of fact, if my brother and I had taken a rest break for longer than he liked, my father expressed his intentions directly, “Those holes are not going to dig themselves.”

If my father wanted a slew of quality Christmas trees to sell in December each year, it required specific courses of action: fertile land, 12,000 slotted holes, purchasing and planting saplings, consistent labor in both watering and shaping of the trees over time. My parents’ success in their business venture did not occur by happenstance. They carefully planned what they needed and expensed items on only what they would need. They had a clearly outlined goal and understood each element of the process.

Title 1 Elementary School Success Predicated Upon Understanding Students’ Academic Gaps

A clear understanding of the fundamental issues that drive performance is key to success regardless of the activity or business. A Title 1 elementary principal must understand the fundamental issues of their daily work at the campus and directly address it with systems and resources. In short, the Title 1 elementary school academic problem must be fundamentally understood prior to the purchase of instructional resources – an implemented solution at the campus. Currently, there is an instructional transition to digital resources - as if computers and software will SAVE a Title 1 elementary school's academic plight. Daily computer work and software in isolation will not press academic results to heightened levels as is commonly believed. Not going to happen! What will accomplish academic transformation? Motivating, inspiring teachers as well as discrete targeted intervention of each child will produce high social and academic outcomes for economically disadvantaged student populations.

The heightened likelihood that a Title 1 elementary school will achieve equitable student outcomes compared to a non-Title 1 elementary school is wholly dependent upon rectifying students’ fundamental academic literacy and numeracy gaps. Otherwise, students’ prior grade level academic gaps deter teachers’ efforts with current grade level learning. Fortunately, this classroom dilemma is existentially understood via years of classroom experience by many seasoned Title 1 elementary teachers. What is not understood is the methodology to stop and address students’ academic skill gaps.

Academic Performance is Predicated upon Actions and Effort

The most common mistake a Title 1 principal makes when attempting to raise student achievement is not understanding that children of poverty’s academic gaps must be closed. Hence, many principals purchase a myriad of instructional resources with the dire hope that something they buy actually works. Unfortunately, this is a standard management technique in Title 1 elementary schools. However, when another school year slips by without appreciable academic gains, the campus faculty's frustration levels mount.

Again, Title 1 principals must realize that if the fundamental academic and numeracy gaps are not rectified, student achievement will not increase. Stop-gap resources directly address students’ academic gaps. The literacy stop-gap resources are free downloads at The New 3Rs Education Consulting, and the daily numeracy stop-gap program is available at a per student basis from Formative Loop. The extensive labor and efforts over time on my parents’ Christmas tree farm assured a profitable venture. Similarly, principals must exert consistent effort in the implementation and monitoring of the literacy and numeracy stop-gap resources to guarantee heightened student outcomes. Simply put, performance does not materialize with only the purchase or possession of effective stop-gap resources; effort and perspiration must also be expended.

After the stop-gap resources accelerate students 'back' to grade level, a principal can be highly selective and fiscally judicial with instructional bridge and additional resource purchases that fit the social and academic needs of the campus. At that point, both teachers and the students are positioned to be highly successful in the classroom.

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