Our district is a complex organism. Much like the human body, each organ is responsible for its own functions, but no one organ is responsible for moving forward. It is also true that we have prescribed a number of different remedies for ailing or overworked organs within the district, and each one could be seen as competing for time and attention. After all, if you know you need to exercise your legs by going for a jog, you can’t very well give your heart a rest at the same time. We have competing priorities, and many times, competing initiatives.
But, one school has found a way of integrating these priorities and putting these initiatives into the larger context of their work. High Tech Early College has a principled approach for supporting district-wide initiatives while staying true to their pillars of success: Concurrent Enrollment, Project-Based Learning, and Executive Internship.
In my visit with the principal, John Fry, I saw how many of the things that could compete with each other worked together instead. It was evident in everything from calling an “audible” early dismissal in order to congratulate students on their hard work throughout the statewide assessment to the ability to cohesively articulate and demonstrate how the initialism soup of DTR, SSA, PBL, and many others fit into the classrooms as we walked around. They are concerned not with the individual “initiatives,” but rather how they can meet the specific goal of getting kids college and career ready.
The heavy emphasis on posting and using data to ensure a culture of accountability were clear on every wall. The ability to see the students who were already working on their college degrees from high school was both inspiring and concrete. That is not to say that HTEC has it all figured out. The principal and teachers were the first to admit that they are still working out their execution, but the fact that they are a part of all of these conversations makes me think they are on to something.
The organism of the district is no less complex for them than it is for any other school, but I believe they are looking at it from a different perspective. They are not going to a general practice physician and looking for a single medicine that will cure everything. Rather they are using a wide network of specialists that are working together to help address individual concerns. The real results are forthcoming, but their approach is worth emulating. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be caught up in the complexity, but rather look to our network of support to help us strive toward a specific goal: A more Healthy district, school, and student.