Will it work?

Will it work?

Some questions:

  1. If we succeeded in getting almost 100% of students, nationwide, to close to 100% grade level mastery going into 5th grade, how big a deal would that be?
  2. If the students and teachers put in the effort and needed support and resources were provided, then do you believe the great majority of 4th graders will be able to achieve 100% grade-level mastery by the end of the 4th grade?
  3. If almost everyone pledged to do what is needed and there were a lot of ongoing personal interaction and encouragement with teachers and volunteer mentor/coaches and ongoing publicity (with lots of local name mentions – “bragging rights”), etc., do you believe we would be able to keep most students, educators and others engaged for the entire year?
  4. If we succeed in a week long nationwide publicity and communication campaign as described and we have the support and endorsement from many politicians, education unions and organizations, national tutoring organizations, celebrities, etc. do you believe we can get most of the needed pledges for this initiative?
  5. Can we succeed in creating a nationwide buzz (awareness) for the initiative through a combination of media events and personal communications?

Hopefully you answered yes to questions 1 and 2 and at least a “maybe” or “don’t know” to questions 3, 4 and 5.  We will look into each of these in more detail below.

This is not a do it and let the chips fall where they might initiative.  If we need more buzz, we will work on that.  If we need more mentor/coaches, we will work on that.  Whatever we need more of we will continue to work on. 

What constitutes success?

Currently, less than half (50%) of 4th graders achieve 100% grade level mastery.  Our target is to increase that to close to 100% of students (we have to aim somewhere).  But what if we only increased that number to 80% or even only to 60%.  Every 10% is about 450,000 students.  What if we only increased the number by 1% (about 45,000 students)?  (One has to keep in mind that most of the failure to improve will be in schools that simply do not participate.  That means there are almost no costs involved.) 

Is there any other current initiative that is likely to dramatically improve the achievement for even 45,000 students in a single year, let alone 450,000 or even 2 million?

What if half the students put in only half the number of desired additional hours and therefore only improved by half as much as we had hoped.  Is that improvement not significant and valuable?

This is a no-lose initiative.  Every additional hour of effective learning is a plus that remains forever.

Back to the Will it Work Questions

3. If almost everyone pledged to do what is needed and there is a lot of ongoing personal interaction and encouragement with teachers and volunteer mentor/coaches and ongoing publicity (with lots of local name mentions), etc., do you believe we will be able to keep most students, educators and others engaged for the entire year?

  1. Scenario 1: students that the teacher feels are on track to achieve 100% grade level mastery by the end of the school year.  Teacher reminds students almost daily of where they are in their learning plan.  Teacher and students basically just continue doing what they are doing.  Teacher immediately identifies any student that falls behind by even a little and takes action to catch that student up (e.g. encourages them specifically to put in a little extra effort, organizes a study buddy who is doing well to help them, etc.).  Do you believe most of these students will continue to put in the effort for the entire year?
  2. Scenario 2: students that are not currently on track to achieve 100% grade level mastery by the end of the school year but have pledged to do their best and work hard to achieve that goal and are reminded daily of that pledge via the colored wristbands they are wearing (plus a daily pep talk by the teacher or mentor/coach).  In addition, these students are hopefully receiving personalized, differentiated learning assistance (e.g. working personally with a volunteer mentor/coach using learning tools such as Khan Academy to remediate any holes in their prior learning and get them on track to achieve the goal of 100% grade level mastery by the end of the school year).  Do you believe most 4th graders working with effective learning tools (that let them continually see the progress they are making and provide an early warning alert to those trying to help them anytime they have difficulty) and with personal mentor/coach on a daily basis (which can also be the teacher him- or herself) will continue to put in the effort for the entire year (note we said “most”)?

4. If we succeed in a week long nationwide publicity and communication campaign as described and we have the support and endorsement from many politicians, education unions and organizations, national tutoring organizations, celebrities, etc. do you believe we can get most of the needed pledges for this initiative?

  1. If the publicity campaign has worked and much of the general public (and especially the teachers’ unions) seem to be supportive of this initiative, do you believe most teachers will pledge to do their best to get ALL their students to 100% grade level mastery by the end of the school year?
  2. If the publicity campaign has worked and the parents of many students encourage them to participate and the school principal, teacher and a number of high school students come to class and encourage them to pledge and they see many of their classmates pledging, do you believe most students will pledge and start wearing the initiative wristband (whether they do so due to personal commitment or just to go along with the crowd is not so important at this point)?  (Keep in mind our scenario.  Teachers show students a hype video and perhaps the principal and/or some high school students or others visit the class and announce the initiative.  Teacher then provides a pledge sheet and colored wristbands for all students that pledge – and a letter and wristbands for the students that pledge to take home to their parents.  Can you envision most starting 4th graders signing the pledge?)
  3. If the publicity campaign has worked and much of the general public seem to be supportive of this initiative, do you believe many resource providers will pledge to do all they can to ensure all students have access to the needed resources?  (Keep in mind that the number of targeted resource providers is quite small and which vendor do you think will stand up and say they will not help improve education with their products/services.  We WILL put them on the spot with direct questions.)

5. Can we succeed in creating a nationwide buzz (awareness) for the initiative through a combination of media events and personal communications?

  1. Do you believe that we can find a significant number of high school students that would participate in letter writing campaigns to publicly issue the challenges of this initiative?
  2. Do you believe we can find a significant number of students that would participate in a public rally to issue the challenges of this initiative (in NY, LA, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, etc, – especially if they view it as a competition to see which city can create the most impressive challenge rally)?
  3. Do you believe that if they were publically called out by name that a number of personalities would respond by publicly declaring their support for the initiative (e.g. imagine a huge number of high school students in Times Square, in front of the “Good Morning America” cameras issuing personal challenge to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, the President, mayors of major cities, etc., to support a student-driven initiative to dramatically improve education in the US; or a public letter in the NY Times).  Can you imagine many of those named would respond with a public announcement of their support for the initiative?
  4. Can you envision all the various parties that stand to get a lot of recognition from this initiative (e.g. educational software publishers, computer device manufacturers, etc.) making public announcements (or advertising) their support for the initiative?
  5. If we can create newsworthy events and can keep creating them for a week around the country, can you envision that the media would publicize the initiative (especially if there are significant media personalities involved in making the initiative succeed)?

Hopefully, some of these points have increased or strengthened your belief that the initiative could succeed in creating the buzz that would support getting students, teachers and others to pledge and to work on fulfilling those pledges for an entire year (by which time this will hopefully have become business as usual for many of those involved).  This might be a good time to go back to the top of the page and review what constitutes success.