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2017: The Year of the South Carolina Student

Happy 2017 everyone!

Hope this finds you rested and ready to launch into the New Year with renewed ferocity. 

I know it’s a little cliché, but this time of year is great for reflection and goal-setting.  I gave a lot of thought over the holidays to the ways in which I can get better at work and at home—for example, being more present as a dad, how we’ll define success in 2017, and where we’ll double-down strategically as a district.

I don’t have a 2017 resolutions list, but there are a few themes that have emerged. 

1. Keep doing what we’re doing. Far too often in education we chase new, ever-changing ideas.  We change gears instead of executing faithfully and obsessively on a few simple, high-impact strategies.  Last year we did a lot of work internally to define our strategic priorities.  This list is simple: a) authorize great schools, set clear performance expectations and hold everyone (ourselves included) accountable for results; b) ensure access and equity for all students; and c) create the conditions for great school operators to thrive in South Carolina.  Basically, our strategy boils down to opening and growing awesome, educator-led schools in the places where they’re needed the most.  This aligns with our mission, our state charter law, and our “North Star” centered on students.  This year, we fully commit to executing on this strategy—to doing these few things as well as they can possibly be done.

2. Celebrate the awesome work of teachers, students, and school leaders.  Every single day, educators across our state are doing amazing things, inspiring students to new heights and achievements.  This year, we fully commit to shining a bright light on this great work.  The story in education isn’t what happens in any central office or administrators’ meeting—it’s what’s happening in classrooms, hallways, gyms, and anywhere where teachers and students can be found.

3. Speaking truth to power.  Just this week, I was looking at our state SC Ready data showing that only one in four African-American 3rd and 8th graders are proficient in reading and writing.  This data is personally infuriating and motivating for me because I believe in every kid’s God-given potential and in our schools’ ability and responsibility to unlock this potential.  We need to talk and do something about these outcomes—not because they are data points in an accountability system, or because they signal any kind of blame, but because they translate into life earnings and power in our society.  And we are all responsible for them. This year I fully commit to meeting our economic and racial inequity challenges in education through open, honest discussion and decisive action—even if it makes adults uncomfortable.

At the end of every day, I consider myself lucky to do this work in service of our families, and I can’t wait to get at it in 2017.  I’m constantly inspired by what’s possible in my home state of South Carolina and know that if we’re faithful to these few themes, it will really pay off for our students!  Thanks for everything you do to support kids, and have a great New Year!