Education system leaders starting the new school year can learn a lot from Steve Sarkisian’s play book. Yes, I am talking about the new “hurry up” offense. The end of the season will show us its efficacy, as the team’s record will document.

The reason I write about this is not to analyze football fine points, but rather to highlight the wisdom of the coach making such a strong, strategic move. He was not happy with the past season’s results and without changing things up, he was pretty much guaranteed a mid-pack finish. Not bad, but not good enough, either. Coach Sar knows his players – their strengths and weaknesses – and he knows what their opponents can throw at them. He knows that winning more games and being an elite team will require doing things differently, so he changed his offensive strategy. Coach introduced the new system during the spring and then practiced it relentlessly so that when game time arrived, the team was prepared to execute well. The change to the offense was meant to help the team score more, but it also helped the defense because the Husky defense had to practice against their own team’s new “hurry up” offense, which made the defense then much quicker and better at reading what will come at them as defenders. Changing something major impacted the whole team. Big change will do that.

The decision to change something so fundamental is not easy, but it is necessary if the goal is to get different results. Sometimes education administrators won’t change their basic systems and practices because change is unpopular or inconvenient. Sometimes they won’t lead for change because they are not absolutely sure the changes will work. Sometimes there just is no sense of urgency. Without question, Sark feels urgency.

New tactics don’t always work (especially not right out of the gate) but doing the same things over and over that are not working well enough makes no sense – not if we are really focused on what is best for students. So, this year, as the new school “season” begins, please support the courageous education leaders of our region as they attempt to try some new things to get better results. Things like:

  • Shaking up the way students are assigned into more challenging courses
  • Knocking down the walls of the master schedule when it has become the master rather than the servant of students
  • Changing the dysfunctional and disproportionate discipline paradigm
  • Linking arms between early learning and primary grades, and engaging parents – the child’s first teacher – in much deeper ways
  • Making good use of the senior year of high school

My list is much longer, and I am sure you have yours.

If we want more students to be better prepared for postsecondary success, we must alter the status quo. Change is essential, and for kids’ sake, we’d better “hurry up.”

Mary Jean Ryan is the Executive Director of the Community Center for Education Results.

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