Igniting School Performance

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Igniting School Performance

A Pathway from Academic Paralysis to Excellence


“There are no excuses. The wealthiest, most powerful democracy in the world can fix our underperforming educational system. Dr. Cotter has documented the roadmap to improve outcomes and graduate our children with the necessary skills for both personal success and for the success of our country. These outcomes are possible despite the disparity of social and economic conditions. “Igniting School Performance” is a must-read for School Board members, Educational Administrators, Teachers and Parents with school-age children.” — Thomas J. Marchozzi, former Colonial School Board Member, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Lehigh Valley Health Network

“There is a great deal of talk in the field of education regarding school performance initiatives. Dr. Vincent Cotter provides educational leaders with a framework of how to expect nothing less than excellence from yourself, those that you lead, and the community within which you work when it comes to improving school performance. His second book, Igniting School Performance, is required reading for future Superintendents, principals and school leaders who are looking for a systemic improvement approach and the “will” to succeed.” — Joseph A. Carracappa, Principal, Upper Moreland High School

“Continuing to improve a school or district is essential in order for students to enter a highly competitive society. Igniting School Performance provides practical strategies to engage stakeholders in the critical planning process to improve learning for all students. The “Five Guiding Principles” outlined in the book provide an excellent framework to get the systemic performance results needed in our schools.” — Darlene Davis, former Superintendent of Schools, Cheltenham Township School District

“Igniting School Performance” begins with a simple question. What kind of school do you want for the children in your neighborhood, town, city or county? While the question is a good starting point, other questions such as: Are you willing to make a commitment so that all schools are high performing? How do you define high performing? and How might that goal be accomplished? are equally important. From the outset of this text, there is a focus on involving all stakeholders in the process of improving student achievement and providing an inclusive leadership approach that breaks the internal paralysis or ineptness which contributes to the ongoing status quo of underachievement in far too many schools. Stakeholders such as board members might declare that they are interested in schools that serve their community. Superintendents might focus on schools that create individuals with the desire to be life-long learners. Teachers might indicate that schools are a place where children learn. Parents may simply express that they want the schools to be good. Further qualifying each of these responses may also yield descriptions of schools that are very different from those previously described.

Dr. Vincent Cotter, as superintendent of schools, was the primary innovator of a unique school improvement program which dramatically improved student achievement and for his efforts was awarded the prestigious American Society for Quality’s international Juran Medal (2011) in the field of education for sustained systemic improvement.

September 2019 • 126 pages
Hardback 978-1-4758-5213-4 •Paperback 978-1-4758-5214-1 • eBook 978-1-4758-5215-8
Hardback $50.00 • Paperback $25.00 • eBook $23.50
Please visit www.rowman.com or call (800) 462-6420 to place an order.

Leadership that Ignites Graphics

Leadership Workshop – October 11, 2019

Leadership That Ignites School Performance

1 – Day Workshop Friday, October 11, 2019


RSVP no later than September 3 to receive additional details by sending an email

Highly interactive workshop will provide a school leader with the leadership skills to:

• Build Internal Capacity for Higher Performance

• Create and Facilitate a Synergistic Atmosphere for Continuous Improvement

• Develop a Toolbox of Impact Strategies for Change and Performance

• Customize a Success Plan for Implementation

Cost $180.00: includes the newly released publication, “Igniting School Performance: A Pathway from Academic Paralysis to Excellence” and a binder of activities, a combined $60 value.

Workshop led by Dr. Vincent F. Cotter, Exemplary Schools Co-Founder, Author, School Administrator, and ASQ Juran Medalist

Leadership that ignites school performance Workshop 10-11-19

Excellence or Irrelevance Select one

Harsh? Not really.

With the infotech and biotech revolution upon us, it is more important than ever to embrace the process of building high performing schools for ALL students. Creating equity is not about “teaching to the middle” or mediocrity but rather higher achievement and building student capacity.

One major challenge in reaching higher performance is the identification of skills and standards that will “stand the test of time.”  Recognizing that “change is the only constant” is perhaps the beginning of creating a vibrant and performance-based school.  Improve now, not just in some superficial way that placates those entities demanding it but rather in a substantive manner, or chance being left behind.

While some researchers suggest that we shift to exclusively teaching communication, collaboration and creativity, a combination of those skills with having essential knowledge in various fields appear more prudent. Possessing information has always been powerful but having the knowledge to interpret it leads to innovation and real solutions. Having the ability to discern fact from fiction and to go beyond the obvious to that which is inferred provides students with the foundation to think critically and proactively.

Moving an organization to embrace such skill sets and high standards for ALL students remains a daunting task as evidenced by the myriad of underperforming schools.  Evidence suggests that breaking through stakeholder paralysis to commit to higher performance is a risky venture for those in leadership roles. The reality is that leaders really do not have a choice. Select Excellence or become Irrelevant.

Performance is Key!

Time for a New Beginning: Imagine, Believe, Act!

The 2018-2019 School Year is Here!  Schedules are built and Orientation Assemblies, Welcome Back Programs, and Class Meetings are planned.

It is a routine that is repeated in almost every school in America. While many students call these programs “rule assemblies” and many administrators dread them, almost everyone considers them a necessity. No matter how you “dress up”
these programs or make them a moment of celebration, they are essentially
information sessions. Our program followed a format: first, the Welcome Back,
then here’s some good information and by the way, here are the rules, regulations, and consequences. To some degree, it was almost like a “good cop, bad cop”

The counselors, nurses, class officers and class advisors, reviewed activities,
events and key dates in the coming year while the assistant principals reviewed the
“nuts and bolts” of the school handbook. If done well, it is a well-choreographed
dance that set the tone for the year to come.

From my perspective as principal and later as superintendent, the opening of
school was an exciting moment. It was a new beginning, an opportunity to
motivate but more importantly, a moment to inspire. It was an opportunity to reach
out and to have students reflect on what was possible and to set goals for the year.

With over 1,000 students in the auditorium for one such meeting, I asked them to
reflect on their last year. To close their eyes and to reflect about what went well
and what could have been better. Next, I asked them to open their eyes and
recognize that it is a new beginning.

I repeated the activity but this time I asked if they could Imagine what type of life
they desired and to reflect on what you have to do to get there. When they
opened their eyes, I assured them that it was great to Imagine and Dream but it
is more important to Act on those dreams and to Act one needed a Plan. I
encouraged them to develop that plan by thinking about three things that can
help them to fulfill that dream. For many, it truly was a new beginning and new

Regardless of past level of performance, I asked them to set a goal that they
thought was possible. [It may be as simple as becoming a better student. If you
were a D student then set your sights on becoming a C student. If you were a C
student, then set your sights on becoming a B student and so forth.] Again, I
asked what it will take for them to make those gains. It was explained that we
All have an opportunity to improve. No one is perfect and we should All seek

The same concept was also extended to administrators and staff. For them,
Continuous Improvement was never really an option. The faculty and staff
regularly participated in district and building goal setting along with developing
plans for an aligned professional development program. While it was recognized
that activities and events were critical to the social and emotional fabric of the
organization, performance was our priority.

Too often, managerial and operational minutiae obscure the instructional focus of
an organization from its real mission to maximize student potential. If authentic
student growth is going to take place in the 2018-2019 school year, then, the
“disconnections” that hinder student achievement must be identified and
plans with measurable performance standards which ignite growth must be
adopted immediately.

If we dare children to Imagine and to Believe that those dreams are possible, then
we must Act to develop a culture in which those dreams become a reality.
Accepting mediocrity is not an instructional culture that nurtures improvement.
“Good Enough is really Not Good Enough!”

Let 2018-2019 become a new reality in which the goal of improved performance is
the instructional priority for ALL children and that it becomes the real focus for
ALL leaders in the organization.

Vincent F. Cotter, Ed.D.
Co-founder, Exemplary Schools Organization.
Co-Author, “Performance is Key: Linking Leadership to Excellence.” Rowman
and Littlefield Publisher.
Former Superintendent, Principal, Asst. Principal, Department Chair and Teacher