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It's Time to Dream in Color

Dust off that school improvement plan. Most of you will find a mission and vision statement in the first few pages. Take a look at the vision statement -- what do you see? I bet you'll find a few sentences of pro forma language about how the school will respect diversity, strive for excellence, get all students to proficiency in reading and math. These are all good ideas and nice words that might feel right, but such visions are boring. Honestly, they aim too low. These vision statements are dreams in black and white. To achieve true school transformation, teachers, leaders, students, and community members need Technicolor dreams.

Boring vision statements are one of the early snares that doom school improvement and turnaround efforts to failure. These statements fail to motivate; they don't provide a compelling level of urgency or the fuel to sustain changes in behavior necessary for getting different results. Change is hard and uncomfortable. It is human nature to cling to old comfortable ways that are ineffective rather than attempt new struggles. However, transforming school performance requires us to break old habits and routines that don't produce the necessary results.

As you and your colleagues begin the process of updating your school improvement plans this year, I urge you to unleash your ability to dream in color. Create visions that ignite passion through an appeal to emotions and the intellect. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, suggests that leaders create "big hairy audacious goals" to achieve in 10 to 30 years. These goals should be ones that resonate with the staff implementing the change and powerful enough to give purpose to their actions.

Learn from great companies such as Nike, which had the stated dream to "Crush Adidas" in the 1980s. The statement had meaning and it conveyed passion. Nike's employees rallied around the vision and executed their strategy with discipline to achieve this Technicolor dream. With a bold vision and precision in implementation, your school can too.

M. René Islas
Director, Center for Results
Learning Forward

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