(NOTE: As the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals continue to accelerate, more and more US schools will be categorized by the pejorative brand: “Program Improvement School”.  NCLB’s kiss of death.  By 2014 as many as 90% of America’s schools could be categorized as underperforming “Program Improvement” schools.  Perhaps it provides a handy label for politicians to rail on public education in general… but inside our schools, where we know our children’s names and faces, it is a different story.

This is the SECOND POST IN A SERIES as Mueller Charter School awaits its test results from the 2007-08 school year. Look for the SERIES every Monday as we get our results, assess the trends, and make strategic adjustments for the coming year.)    


In “Good to Great” Jim Collins uses the metaphor of a flywheel to describe the buildup of organizational momentum:  the first three, five, fifteen, hundred turns take exceptional effort, but once the flywheel is turning, the momentum makes it easier for each turn to go faster with less effort. This pattern within “fast” organizations creates sustained excellence—  an accumulation of visible results.  People become energized by those results, the flywheel builds momentum, and the process creates its own fuel and its own fire.

For schools, the force of the flywheel is exactly the same.  Getting to extraordinary academic results is about forward momentum, organizational learning, strategic adjustments, and picking up speed.

At El Milagro we have never missed an AYP goal and our Academic Performance Index has gone up every year. So the flywheel lurches forward and fosters more growth.  

But we also know that our growth is occurring too slow–  too slow to stay ahead of AYP, too slow to reach 90% within this lifetime, too slow for that 3rd grader sitting in his desk with that familiar and bewildered look of a second language learner.  

Every year we grease the flywheel.  We now have standards-based curricula, state of the art technology, a powerful formative assessment system, targeted staff development, shared leadership… and every other “best practice” that has been vetted and launched in schools.  

For all the energy and focused effort that we have collectively applied to that flywheel, you’d think the freakin’ thing would have broken free and gone airborne by now.  But it hasn’t.

So we feed the momentum even if momentum is all we have to show for our efforts.  In two weeks or so… we’ll get our CST results and know what sort of energy we have produced.   

We are prepared, regardless of the outcome, to keep pouring on the gas for all we’re worth.  If we let up—even just long enough to lament the disappointing test results from the year before– the flywheel will begin to lose momentum, and we might never get it back again.  

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