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Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Implementation Dip

An Implementation Dip is a well documented phenomena when new policy or programs are implemented, not just in school, but also business and industry.  How many of you don't buy the first version of a new smart phone or vehicle, so you can let others "work the bugs out?"  These bugs as we call them are unintended consequences of the policy or program shift that can largely be ascribed to three impacts of change:

1.  The lack of new skills that are needed to be successful within the change.

2.  Staff have a determined desire to continue doing the same things, therefore staying in our comfort zone.
3.  Push back from those opposed to the policy, or challenge by those favoring the status quo.

The third quarter has been unusual to say the least, four late starts and six snow/cold days have disrupted school and extended our school year into June 5th (so far).  Our implementation dip has occurred in this quarter when it comes to eligibility policy for co-curricular activities. Our new eligibility policy, approved by both boards last summer, applies to students in all performance activities, not just athletics and drama. We have a large number of students ineligible for activities this quarter.

The policy says that we don't start enforcing eligibility for the first 20 days of the semester so that grading can be a reliable reflection of student work.  It would be unfair to make an eligibility decision based on one grade in one week, so we give them 4 weeks to establish their level of work.  When 20 actual days days of attendance occurred (Jan 24) office personnel ran the eligibility report and there were a high number of students ineligible for that week.  This week, many of those students were also ineligible again only now is the week of a concert and an FFA contest.

Seeing the spike of ineligibilities, parents and staff started questioning if this is a fair policy to enforce at this time, they attribute it to unfair enforcement of the policy, or extenuating circumstances that unfairly impacted grades.  We had full days of school on 16 of those 20 days of attendance, and with a school issued laptop in every student's possession, is this really an excuse not to have maintained passing grades?

This policy is new and unpopular.  There is always an implementation dip somewhere in the beginnings of new things.  I see this occurrence as just that, a lack of skills or motivation to get work done, a fall back into old habits, which replaced higher effort that probably sustained eligibility in the first semester, and the dreary third quarter when academic productivity was difficult.  We need to set high expectations for students, if we cannot continue to expect work completion through weather disruptions, then how can we expect it when the thermometer hits 70 degrees for the first time this spring?

Students will rise to the expectations we set.  It is their responsibility to get their academic work completed. That is the reason for the policy, we will continue to support the policy and the students will rise up to the expectations and meet them.

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