Focus on the Process
When I was younger I played a lot of baseball in a number of different leagues. I enjoyed myself very much and experienced some success along the way. While playing I was solely focused on getting two hits in every four trips that I made to the plate during each game. It didn't matter to me how I was able to get those two hits: a deep fly ball in the gap, a little blooper, a screaming line drive, or a swinging bunt would be fine, as long as I was able to reach base safely. If I was unable to get two hits in four at bats, I would consider it a failure and would be disappointed with myself. I was not focused on my technique; the only thing I cared or thought about was getting two or more hits in the game. When I finally started listening to my coach, hero and number one mentor (my father) I realized the importance of focusing on my swing, bat speed, and technique (the process) and the hits (the results) would take care of themselves. If I was able to figure out what I was doing wrong during an at bat, I would make an adjustment to increase my chances in my next trip to the plate.
I make this analogy because we do this in schools all of the time. Schools across the country are ultra-focused on making AYP, benchmarks, and having a certain percentage of students fall in the "proficient" range. There is absolutely nothing wrong with goals and learning targets, but they should not be our only focus as educators. We must focus on great instruction every single day and positive, working relationships with our students, families, and colleagues (the process). The test scores and proficiency levels (the results) will take care of themselves if we deliver excellent instruction and foster positive relationships with students and all members of the school community. Teams do not show up to a Friday night football game thinking they will win without the proper preparation, film review, and repetitions in practice. Football games are not won on Friday nights; they are won between Saturday and Thursday each week. The same is true with formative, summative, and standardized assessments. The day-to-day instruction is the practice that our students need to learn, develop, and experience continual growth.
Millions of dollars have been spent by school districts in our country on curricular materials and intervention programs that are "guaranteed" to meet all Core Curriculum Standards, improve standardized test scores across the board, and "fix" all of the problems in education. I think we all have been guilty of looking for a "quick fix" to our educational problems to some degree, and have been overly focused on the numbers from time to time.
We must remember, as Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker) says, that it is never about the programs and it is always about the people. Everyday Mathematics, Response to Intervention, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and other hot curricular programs have been excellent and made positive differences in our schools; however, every one of these things are irrelevant without great educators behind them. Programs and curricular materials are never the problem and never the solution. We are in the people business and it is always about people and never about programs.
The day-to-day teaching and learning in our schools must never be overlooked and must continue to be refined if we are going to do all that we can for our students. When we focus on the process, the results take care of themselves.