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Falling Short Can Be Good

Your school’s mission statement promises to solve an important problem in your community.  The promise of a solution is inspirational.  Your donors, staff, board members, other volunteers, and other supporter were initially attracted to your school partly because your mission statement inspired them.

You have many inspiring anecdotes about your successes.  However, unless you provide the statistics that demonstrate that your success is consistent, reproducible, and scalable, the initial inspiration that attracted support fades.

In some cases, parochial schools limit the definition of success to things that they can easily control.  Instead of focusing on the life-changing promise of the mission statement, they focus on the school’s student achievement scores.  The parochial school implies that good achievement scores mean each student will enjoy a lifetime of success.  They expect students to be responsible for their own success beyond academic achievement.  However, stakeholders know that if a student had been capable of achieving a life-altering change, the parents would have enrolled the student in a public school.  Achieving the promises of your mission statement implies more than academic success.  Whatever that more is, it must be measured and it must be durable.

Since short-term success is in conflict with the promises of the mission statement, inspired support is as fleeting as the success of the students.  Gathering the statistics that demonstrate consistent, reproducible, and scalable success increases the sustainability of the energy, excitement, and engagement of the stakeholders.

For many reasons the success rate of your school may be low initially.  That is okay as long as there is a plan to increase it.  The stakeholders were inspired by the promise.  When you layer on a promise to improve your success, you provide your stakeholders with additional inspiration because they have the opportunity to have a bigger impact on your students and community.

Another way to increase the sustainability of your stakeholders’ excitement is to celebrate your successes that demonstrate the promises of your mission statement are being kept.  Whether the celebrations are held annually, quarterly, or monthly is up to you.  It is the public celebration of the success that is important.  It will inspire your stakeholders to know that they contributed to success and their continuing contributions will help to create more success.  In addition, the celebrations will attract attention from non-supporters and help to recruit some of them to your mission.

When was the last time you celebrated your students’ successes?

Next Step:

Ensure your school’s definition of success demonstrates that the promises of your mission statement are being kept

Gather the statistics that prove your school’s success is consistent, reproducible, and scalable

Share your proof with your stakeholders, show them your plan to improve your success, and ask them to support your plans for a better future for all

Celebrate your school’s success often and in ways that attract attention from non-supporters

Celebrate significant changes that result from a failure

Unfortunately, no program is able to guarantee success for every student.  Some students are unable to achieve success.  Reward your staff’s ingenuity when they develop the process changes that prevent future failures.  The celebration of the failure and the innovation catalyzed by the failure will encourage your staff to experiment.  Knowing that problems can be solved will inspire them to look for solutions.  At some point, they will find solutions before failure occurs.  When that happens you will notice a positive change in your stakeholders’ engagement and your school’s sustainability.  You will also notice a significant increase in community support.

Take It Further:

Ask your board to encourage and reward experimentation and innovation

Ask your board to accept experimentation failure as a cost of doing business

Ask your board to use student failure as justification for increasing the budget and providing more funding for experimentation

Ask your board to set goals for consistency, reproducibility, and scalability as well as funding the work necessary to achieve those goals

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