“One Team, One Dream: And a Whole Lot of Coffee”

 “Beyond Slogans: Our Commitment to EVERY Student’s Achievement”


“One Team, One Dream: And a Whole Lot of Coffee”

“Education is not just an opportunity; it is a fundamental right that demands our unwavering commitment to every child’s success.”

So, I have a plan with over 200 topics mapped out for blog posts, but sometimes I see something or think of something that I need to write about immediately. That was my experience this afternoon… 

I walked past this school district vehicle from a rural district in California. “Whatever it takes…our kids are worth it,” embodies a powerful commitment to student success. This mindset is essential in education, where the stakes are incredibly high. To honor this commitment, we must recognize that achieving proficiency in literacy and numeracy is not just a lofty goal but a fundamental RIGHT for every student.

Education must be held to the highest standards, much like any critical profession. Just as we expect a surgeon to have the competence and experience to make us whole, our communities need to demand that schools deliver proficiency for ALL students. This isn’t just about working hard; it’s about working smart and ensuring that every student leaves our schools fully prepared for the future. Research shows that proficiency in core areas like literacy and numeracy is crucial for long-term academic and professional success.

Achieving 100% proficiency requires a comprehensive and collective effort. It requires informed strategies grounded in research and best practices, continuous Professional Learning & Doing, and an environment that builds collaboration and encourages innovation. Educators must be equipped with the necessary tools and support to meet the diverse needs of ALL students; no student should be left behind. 

Essentially, education is a RIGHT for EVERY child, not merely an “opportunity” for them. Providing additional opportunities for students basically shifts the responsibility of student proficiency from the school to the child. I once heard a teacher quip, “I provide the instruction and the students have to decide if they want it.” I also heard, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” 

When we offer diverse instructional strategies, interventions after school, or multiple MTSS approaches, we may think our work of providing equity is solid. This, however, often locks us into the cycle of:

“Feeling good, but doing poorly.”

The promise of “whatever it takes” must translate into concrete actions and measurable outcomes. By holding ourselves accountable to the standard of 100% proficiency, we not only uphold the spirit of this example district’s motto but also secure a brighter and more equitable future for ALL students.

Some educators believe lofty, altruistic goals are ineffective and sometimes demoralizing to staff.

My thoughts? 

“I’d rather strive for greatness and fall short than settle for mediocrity and succeed.”

Learn. Apply. Reflect. 

To begin your journey, consider these two points:

  1. Offer this reflective question to your ENTIRE staff: “What specific steps can we, as a team, take to ensure that EVERY student reaches proficiency in literacy and numeracy?”
  2. Bring students, parents, and the community to the table to reflect on achieving the goal and access their views for 100% student proficiency.

Of course, these are just the beginnings. The work will be difficult and exhausting. The plans will be complex and multi-faceted. But we’ll never get there unless we begin with the two steps above. 

On a side note…

Consider the idea that in order to achieve 100% proficiency, more than just the classrooms need to change and become more effective. We have to support the continuous development of the school culture, climate, and system. 

When I was a principal at a Title I elementary school, our staff set a goal to achieve 900 on our California API, or Academic Performance Index, within five years. We created a slogan that “It’s all about 900!” We slapped it on student shirts, in email signatures, and banners across the campus, to name just a few uses. Staff members, students, parents, and community knew about our goal. If they didn’t understand what it meant, we were happy to have one of our students explain it to them. 

Everything became about 900!

“Is that a 900 lunch line?”

“Is this an example of 900 behavior?”

“What type of learner is a 900?”

“Think like a 900!”

The tagline, “It’s All About 900!” became our mantra. This statement permeated our campus and helped  transform the culture of our school to one of focused successes and high expectations. And one with results…

We weren’t doing it at all for the attention and accolades but for the idea that behind that 900 were real students with very high rates of proficiency. We had many visitors to our campus during this initiative. We never got lost in the pride of “doing amazing things,” but felt that if we became a model school, we were building the school that our students deserved. A school that they had a RIGHT to attend. 

We hit our 900 goal in year four.

What could your school’s mantra be?


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