Since I wrote Every Child Every Day, I have wondered why Roger Cook and Taylor County Schools have been so successful and other districts have struggled to achieve the same results. I have been rereading Michael Porter’s articles on strategy lately and have begun to formulate a theory based upon his writing and research.
Solid strategy provides a general direction, but is not prescriptive. The activities are the specifics and are tailored to that strategy. They are designed to yield the desired results you have outlined, but not just any results…they should be nearly perfect. Why? Let’s assume you have designed five activities and each of those activities are 90% effective and are co-dependent. In that case, you will only achieve 59% of your goal (.9 x .9 x .9 x .9 x .9) Not what you had in mind? That’s why each tailored activity must be nearly 100% effective.
Roger Cook’s goals are simple – no students will drop out, no students will fail, no students will be held back due to their chronological age. The tailored activities that I have outlined in the book are not random, they have been created and implemented to yield these results. Not some of these results, but 100%. That is why they have had no dropouts for eight consecutive years and continue to have test results in the highest categories.
How do you duplicate this success? Establish a strategy (a simple set of goals) and then create a handful of activities you think that will result in those goals. Find a way to continuously monitor those activities (not an annual event) so that you know when they are done with fidelity and are 100% effective. Adjust them until they consistently accomplish the goal. This is not the end, it is just the beginning. It is your baseline.
Conditions change. Maintaining the results you want can be just as difficult as getting there. So you must create a culture in which the activities you have tailored can be tweaked to improve performance. Again, anything less than 100% is not desirable, particularly if these are nested activities.
My experience and research with Taylor County Schools convinced me that success even at the highest levels is possible. Not because of a special set of circumstances, but as a result of a great deal of planning and hard work.