Innovation & Execution: A Colorado Springs Case Study

We need schools that work differently and better.  By differently I mean schools that embrace the shift to personal digital learning: collaborative data-driven teams of educators, high access environments, engaging and adaptive content, and student progress based on demonstrated competency.
By better I mean consistently high levels of execution—what Ted Smith, CEO of MIND Research Institute, calls managing the education process.  Ted is a fan of Drucker.  He trains his staff to help schools build repeatable processes. “If you’re going to use a proven program, you should use it with fidelity.”
Innovation is about doing the right stuff—inventing new ways to meet old challenges.  Execution is about doing stuff well—repeated excellence daily.  It’s hard to innovate and execute simultaneously, but that’s the challenge of this decade.  And in this “decade of deficits” there’s not as much change management capacity as we’d like.
The solution is to manage change in phases like the Colorado Springs School District—an innovation agenda deployed in manageable chunks.   Their adoption of ST Math is a great example.
Assistant Superintendent Jeanice Swift is leading efforts to  “move the needle” in math.  After extensive review her team selected ST Math, a visual game-based approach from MIND Research Institute, as a system wide elementary intervention.  “There’s just nothing else on the market like ST Math,” said Dr. Swift, “most interventions don’t work for struggling students and high end students.”
After selection came what Jeanice calls the “relentless focus on implementation.”  Math facilitator David Sawtelle said the process started by training all K-5 personnel.  He monitors data reports from schools and visits on a regular basis.  Sawtelle said community engagement was key to helping voters understand the productive use of technology school.
The early results are impressive.  Three quarters of Colorado Springs’ second, third, and fourth graders scored proficient or advanced on the last round of tests, about twice the percentage of eighth and ninth grade students with no use of ST Math.
With an innovative program and blended format implemented with lots of support and executed with fidelity, Colorado Springs is a good example of doing the right stuff and doing it well.
MIND Research Institute is a Getting Smart advocacy partner. 

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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