Good Morning, Baltimore?

A couple months ago, a story about Baltimore City Public Schools went viral when the public learned that 23 schools in the District had zero students scoring at a proficient level in math. A mother asked if there was anyone anywhere who would be willing to change this sad state of affairs. This news only strengthened the lawsuit against the District for failing to provide a good education for the city’s students. The District is failing to provide even an adequate education even though it spends over $20,000 per student.

What it Takes

Last week the National Bureau of Economic Research published two working papers about two reform initiatives my team and I put in place in the Dallas Independent School District while I was Superintendent there.[1] One paper showed conclusively the positive effects of the principal and teacher pay-for-performance evaluation system and their ongoing positive impact on student achievement. The other demonstrated the success of the “ACE” program in attracting and retaining highly effective teachers in hard-to-staff schools. While earlier analyses have similarly shown the success of these major reform initiatives, the latest NBER papers are the most scientific.

The Pace of Change

What is the pace of change needed to bring about significant reform? Our profession is fond of saying that leaders need to “go slow to go fast.” In many cases, where districts are looking for minor and continuous improvement, this strategy makes sense. As a blanket rule, however, the strategy is very problematic. I believe districts ought to go at the speed they must.

Higher Salaries Now?

Third Future Schools will begin operating Prescott K-8 Academy in Baton Rouge in July. The average salary will be over $83,000 and the average starting salary will be $78,000. The average salary is approximately $25,000 more than the average salary among the schools in Baton Rouge, and, because our salary plan is not tied to years of experience (except for the three-year mark), even new teachers will start at $78,000 on average. TFS will operate ten schools in seven different cities in three states in the 2023-2024 school year. And in each case, the average salary is at least $8,000 more than schools in the surrounding area. We also provide full dental, vision, and health care for just $50 a month total.

Too Many Consultants

I have been an education consultant and continue to offer support in a consultative role every now and then. Certainly there is a place for consultants in education, especially if there is a need for technical assistance or specialized skills such as configuring technology networks or converting district operations to a new financial platform. Consultants can also be helpful in some specific and limited professional development to train trainers or to improve capacity. The use of these types of consultants should be specific and limited because school leaders cannot effectively implement new initiatives or manage change systemically through consultants.

Gutter Ball

Bob is a bowler and a pretty good one. He prides himself on this skill and works hard to get better. He’s been in a local league, and he and this team are pretty competitive. Bob wants to bring his average score up from 188 to 200. The team, “Mamas and Boys” (don’t ask), have won some smaller tournaments, but never the Annual All City Bowling Tournament. His team’s average score will have to be around 200 for them to come away with the first place trophy.

A Glimpse into the Third Future Blog

We started the Third Future blog three months ago with the intention of sharing our true vision for what a new education system can look like. If you are new to our blog, this is a great place to start. Today we are highlighting our last 11 blog posts with quotes from Third Future Schools CEO, Mike Miles that demonstrate the bigger impact we are working to make in the American education system.

The Art of Thinking (Design Principle #1)

What does truth, a scatter plot, and perspective have in common? Consider the scatter plot below that shows a correlation between time spent doing math homework and success on the math exam. And consider point “A” on the plot and a student’s statement that she “knows that doing homework is not related to success because she doesn’t do any homework and still gets good grades.” You see, the one data point – her dot – is “true” for her and provides some perspective, albeit narrow. Similarly, how many times have you heard a middle-schooler start a sentence with “I know, because . . .” and then provide only one data point of evidence: “. . . that happened to me” or “that’s what happened to my uncle,” etc.

The Cost of Job Security (Design Principle #7)

In my last blog, I wrote about a “culture of essentialness,” which is part of our design principle #7.The other half of that design principle is a culture that embraces accountability for improvement and outcomes. Unfortunately, our profession continues to move away from accountability. The “A-word” is associated with an unhealthy focus on student achievement or an environment that does not agree with an everybody-gets-a-trophy and at-least-we-tried culture. But accountability does not have to be heavy-handed nor unfair. Indeed, the degree of accountability should be accompanied by a similar or greater degree of support.

A Culture of Essentialness (Design Principle #7)

I want to know why Starbucks was open yesterday. The districts surrounding four of our schools in Colorado and Texas closed yesterday because of icy roads or temperatures in the single digits. Most people reading this blog will be so used to school closures when the weather is cold or inclement that they will assume it was necessary – you know, safety and all. And certainly there are times when schools should close due to truly dangerous conditions, but yesterday?