The 80/20 Rule

I recently posted the Five Reasons School Improvement Plans Fail, a cautionary tale featuring the dark side of school improvement. While I think the post offers a good analysis on the common pitfalls of school reform – thanks to DuFour and Eaker, I am not entirely comfortable with the post. It highlighted pitfalls without shaping strategies for avoiding them. The first strategy that came to mind is the 80/20 Rule also known as Pareto’s Principle. 80-20-rule-4-main_Full

The 80/20 Rule - “20 percent of something is always responsible for 80 percent of the results.”

Think about how school teams spend their time.

  • How many hours do they spend writing the plan?
  • How many school improvement team meetings do they have after the plan is completed?

In my experience teams spend about 80% of their time writing school improvement plans and 20% of their time implementing them.

Reframing School Improvement

Pareto’s Principle would suggest the inverse. Teams should be focusing 20% of their effort on identifying the “right” activities and 80% on actually implementing them in meaningful, focused ways.

“Pareto's Principle, the 80/20 Rule, should serve as a daily reminder to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of you work that is really important. Don't just "work smart", work smart on the right things.”

Click here to see original source from quotes as well as more information on Pareto’s Principle.

Image from eHow: How to Do Just About Anything.


Michael said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said…
I think you're dead on. The problem is that many times the plan is about compliance. When it becomes part of the culture and the focus, school improvement takes on a positive instead of a punitive aspect.
Pat said…
You and your staff have helped us to provide ongoing looks at data and instruction!! You and your team make if possible for us to make the key changes you talk about in this post. Our schools have changed the focus of how we look at students and their ability by using data and shaping programs and instruction to meet students needs - not our curriculum.
Thanks for keeping us all thinking and exposing us to principles that will keep all students the focus of our instruction!!
You rock!!
Kelly said…

You bring up an excellent point. Part of the implementation piece is getting enough small victories to maintain momentum thereby creating that positive culture you mention.
Kelly said…
Thank you for your kind words! You have an amazing staff... a joy to work with all of you.
kemeigh said…
Implementation is the hardest part of any plan. But, it is the part that makes the plan the plan! It is easy to write it all down - the hard part comes in the working together, gathering momentum, grabbing hold of the vision and getting the work done. In my ever so humble view - the leader is the leader. He/she is the one who sets and prepares the stage that enables others to follow through. Often times - we are stopped by the few who oppose or who do not come on board. We need to focus on those that are with us... they will grow. The implementation will happen and kids will benefit. Thanks, Kelly for challenging our thinking about education!

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