Do you all remember the classic “Now & Later” chewy candy? After having gone many years without popping one of those tasty morsels in my mouth, I thought about the candy as I began to write this post about Education Northwest’s school improvement approach, called Success Now!
In this data-rich era of accountability, schools are increasingly called upon to zero in on improving classroom teaching and learning, while at the same time building a stronger school culture and operation. Teachers and principals are pulled in multiple directions as they strive for both individual excellence and common goals. Add to the mix numerous mandated initiatives, and schools quickly face overload. The high-accountability environment and pressure to see fast results often leads to a “fits and starts” improvement approach ― and disappointment.
To help schools with challenges like these, we at Education Northwest have created a framework — based on research and our nearly 50 years of providing technical assistance to educators. This framework can help schools focus their efforts and see quick gains in student success while working toward long-term goals and sustainable change. Like “Now & Later” candy, our Success Now! approach helps educators take on change in bite-sized pieces that last a really long time.
The process works by engaging schools in a series of change cycles that are designed by teachers and administrators with coaching support from Education Northwest. Lasting 10–12 weeks, these cycles examine the root causes of challenges that impede academic performance and mobilize the entire building to implement a solution backed by research. The cycles build from one to the next while school teams strengthen the system conditions needed for long-term success along the way.
Success Now! schools receive technical support up front from Education Northwest until they become highly skilled at running change cycles on their own. Coaches from Education Northwest also provide support in other ways, such as guiding teachers in the use of formative data so that they can easily monitor whether their instructional strategies are working. Coaches tailor their work to each school or district by drawing from a mix of deep content, leadership, and system change expertise to address specific, local issues.
One Success Now! school saw a 27 percent increase in the number of students scoring proficient in a targeted critical reading skill from pre- to postassessment data over the course of a change cycle. Their progress was further reinforced when students took their state test, and 20-30 percent more students in each grade met benchmarks on the same skill.
What I like about Success Now! is that it helps schools shift from urgency to purposeful action; from initiative overload to shared commitment and success; and from individual practice to shared leadership and learning. It not only helps teachers and administrators do their own work better, it also helps them work together to address what they determine are the school’s most pressing needs.
We believe that the field is moving from an era of accountability to an era of inspired and intentional action. And, while access to many sources of data helps schools paint a picture of their current reality, the underlying driver of change is educators’ passion and commitment to provide every child with a world-class education and maximum opportunity for success. But moving from aspiration to attainment is a big task, and there are many challenges along the way. Success Now! is here to help.
What elements of Success Now! would you like to hear more about?
Check out our white paper, "Overcoming the Challenges of School Improvement Through a Research-Based, Collaborative Approach," that cites the research behind the Success Now! approach.