On our recent Summer Statewide Roadshow with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, we were not surprised to see business leaders were the quickest to embrace the A for Arizona mission to help more low-income students attend an ‘A’ school. CEOs embraced our vision because of how we want to get there: by growing high performing schools that are showing results, not fixating on improving those that aren’t.
You see it’s just good business sense. We should invest in what works and continuously provide high-quality options to meet consumer needs. We can achieve this by growing ‘A’ seats, replicating existing success models, teaching others to do what’s working, or attracting other highly performing national local education agencies (LEAs) to Arizona.
When you view phenomenal low-income school leaders through an entrepreneurial lens, you see how the same basic business principles that make a company successful can also make a school high performing.
First and foremost, our leaders protect their brand quality at all costs. They act with purpose towards their big goals and are driven by their mission. Like a global business, they strive to produce the best results possible with the best talent possible. That could mean interviewing hundreds of teachers for each position in order to find a quality educator who is passionate about their mission and practices. They strategically invest in proven tools, like Galileo and Beyond Textbooks, to maintain achievement and reach graduation goals. By doing this, they protect their school’s reputation with its most important customers: the students and their families. Brand success shows in the many high performing district and charter schools that have extensive waitlists.
Another major business tenet our leaders exhibit is high ethical standards and principles. Each model has developed a clear set of values and practices that all staff must follow and embrace. There are no excuses for why high-risk students cannot learn or achieve, and parents are often held to these standards as well through family contracts or verbal commitments. Not only are standards communicated internally, but they are also posted on walls, classroom doors, and websites for any visitors to see.
Entrepreneurial school leaders also market themselves appropriately. Extra time spent with community members, small businesses, and local foundations is essential. It has helped these schools lock in support, resources, and grants to achieve success in our competitive school choice marketplace.
Entrepreneurial, business-minded school leaders are truly the drivers of our effort to build or expand great schools. I would encourage those in the business community to tour one of our ‘A’ campuses and get a feel for what is possible. Ask the leader what it will take for them to expand their impact. Each of our ‘A’ leaders has found the “secret sauce” and we think it’s time to share the recipe.