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red arrow bulletSuperintendent's Corner

The Monti Navigator May 2017
by Tammy Mangus, Superintendent of Schools 

The Formula to Inspire Change

students in wood shop work to construct boatTrue leaders not only act, but think. It seems logical, right? At Monticello Central School District, we are taking this to the next level, as we encourage our staff and students to truly THINK.

For our district, THINK has become an acronym for inspiring change. The acronym breaks down like this:
• To circulate Truth, we must ponder multiple viewpoints. The viewpoint that is fastest and easiest to get, is probably the furthest thing from the truth.
• To be Helpful, we must get to the purpose, our WHY. There are plenty of nice things to be done in our world, but if we strive to be helpful, our actions must be centered around a powerful purpose.
• True Inspiration is catching. You can’t escape its power, and the lessons learned haunt you as you go about your day.
Necessity goes hand and hand with that powerful WHY. It helps us zero in on our outcome expectations and target each action we take.
Kindness is diplomacy….it is not creating a false reality to make life easier. Each day there are important, critical messages to be shared. How we share them can make all the difference.

 And more than the acronym, we’ve turned THINK into a formula for achieving our goals. By believing in people and inspiring them to realize that they truly are as amazing as we think they are, we allow, and indeed encourage, lofty goals, because we know that our staff and students are capable of achieving them. It’s apparent in the growth that our students have achieved over the past two years.

The THINK formula we use is as follows:

T K + H N = I, so it becomes Truthful Kindness + Helpful Necessity leads to Inspiration.

To truly THINK means that we are TRUTHfully KIND about where we and our students stand. We mark our baselines and use HELPFUL, NECESSARY steps to close the gap and ensure success for our students. In other words, we communicate truth in a kind way and add in the helpful necessary steps to inspire. With this formula, the impossible truly becomes possible.

 It sounds like a great message, right? But how do we put this formula into action? It all starts with establishing baselines for where we are currently at and goals for where we need to be. To establish baselines, our district uses 4 levels as a scale of mastery. Then we are able to create an action plan to move from the baseline to the end goal. We implemented this process in our high school where graduation rates were struggling. We knew we were below average when it came to high school graduation rates, and we wanted to be above the state average. So we set a target goal of 80% graduation rate with our standard baseline at 65.4%, and using the THINK formula helped us put a plan in place to achieve our goal.

Here is the process the high school principal and staff implemented to achieve the impossible of increasing the graduation rate:

guidance counselors discuss the grad grid around a tableThe high school team developed the idea of a Grad Grid, which looks at every student individually and assigns them a level based on various data points, like successful completion of coursework required for graduation and each students’ status on each Regents Exam required for graduation. The team applies a 1-4 level scale to set baselines for each individual student. Level 1 is considered a mastery level while Level 4 notates that a student is not likely to accomplish the goal. Using this information, the team crafts an individualized needs analysis that is applied to each student to help them reach their goal of graduating.

 Here is an example of how senior students would be evaluated to set a baseline:
• Level 1: These students could have graduated already. They passed all exams and have taken all required coursework, With this level, the students require very little attention. They are in school because they seek to complete on the traditional pathway and are merely awaiting the proud June walk across the stage.
• Level 2: These students are on track to graduate. However, they are currently enrolled in a course required for graduation. With these students, we need to be careful. They have the chance to get lost in the mix and develop senioritis. We watch them carefully, consistently checking their averages and make sure they are not in danger of failing any subjects. If they do get close, the team is truthfully kind to them about their current stance, and contact is made with parents. By staying in communication about the helpful necessary steps they need to take to graduate, these students are more likely to be successful.
• Level 3: These students are missing one of the five Regents Exams and are taking more than one course required for graduation. We look at them differently, as we make sure that we get them exactly what they need to graduate. Whether it’s after-school tutoring, extra time in the classroom, etc., we are closely watching these students to ensure that our applied solution EXACTLY matches the equation they need. Of course we are also communicating and holding parent and student meetings regularly at this level.
• Level 4: This level notates that “on-time graduation” it is not statistically possible, but we never give up on these students. Although they have several exams to pass and multiple classes to make up, if they follow the action steps laid out for them by the team, these students can graduate on time…..But there is a TON of effort and heavy lifting needed from everyone, especially the student and their family. Our team is proud to report that we have had Level 4 students graduate on time, and many more who were able to graduate in August. With staunch attention paid to the TRUTHfully KIND message and applying the HELPful, NECESSARY steps to complete, these students were inspired to achieve the impossible, and they did.

It should be noted that the team meets to review the Grad Grid and their goals for each student every 2-3 weeks. Using student data, they constantly evaluate each student and watch what is happening with the data trends. They have approximately 220 students to evaluate two times per month, but it is simplified because they know where the students are and where they need to be. Constantly monitoring the students and tweaking their action plans allows everyone to have a hands-on, individualized relationship with each student. They are watching everything every minute of every day because that is what it takes.

This is just one example of how the district uses THINK as a means of making what seems impossible become possible. However, the formula works for any goal a district is working to achieve.

Everyone needs inspiration to succeed, and knowing that there is action behind the ideas, helps districts succeed in achieving the ultimate goal – student success. It may seem like a daunting task at first when you are focusing on long-term goals, and it might feel pretty uncomfortable. However, I can assure you that after the initial push, it truly works as a means of inspiring.

We build up our staff and students so that together we can rise. THINK about that as we move forward.

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