Upstream Thinking . . . How to get early warning of the problem?

“To anticipate problems, we need eyes and ears in the environment.  But we need to be cautious about what we learn:  Sometimes we may detect things that are not as they seem.”

~Dan Heath

The above quote makes connections to the last two Blueprint Bulletin editions where uniting the right people and being “proximate” is critical to finding points of leverage.  What connections might we make between this quote and getting an early warning of the problem?  To have eyes and ears in the environment, or deploy sensors, means we need to have a strong leadership team.   By uniting the right people, this team is the eyes and ears . . . this team remains proximate.  By this team representing the students served, this team will ensure that tunneling, problem blindness, and a lack of ownership will not be barriers as we move upstream.  

In order to have early warning of the problem, we use data. MICIP’s focus on mindset will support our thinking as it relates to having an early warning of the problem.  “The Mindset refers to four elements:

  • a district-driven process with ongoing small improvement cycles in the context of the larger cycle.
  • the needs of the Whole Child addressed and supported by the Whole School and the Whole Community.
  • systems to support the implementation of the entire plan.
  • equity in opportunities, environments, and supports (MICIP Process Guide, p. 5).

Taking this mindset concept one step further, we might possibly need to reframe how we look at the problem. How might we reframe how we look at the problem (behaviorally, socially, through the equity lens) where opportunities, supports, and environments are for every student?  Let’s take equity for example.  How might we look through an early-warning lens when looking at an equity problem?  How are we ensuring that every child gets what s/he needs?  How do we look beyond academics?  As a Blueprint district, what systems and supports might be leveraged to have these impactful conversations?  How does the District and Building Networks utilize the Problem-Solving and Performance Management Systems to assess needs and create ongoing small improvement cycles?  What historical trend data might you have access to that can be an early warning of a problem?  How might your eyes and ears focus through an equitable lens for children?

The Leader’s and Teacher’s Corner sections will support you with deeper thinking around how to get an early warning of the problem, deploy sensors, and look for predictors.