I recently purchased some new home fixtures and fittings, such as lighting, faucets, curtains, carpets, and an oven. My intention was to update my home to make it look better and feel comfortable. As I went through the house, both inside and outside, to see what was needed, I noticed signs of problems with the foundation, such as exterior brick cracks. As a homeowner, I leaped into inspection mode and sought out other foundation issues. As we all know, the foundation is the first part of a home to be constructed, as it creates a base for the rest of the house.
My fixtures and fittings did not seem so important once I noticed the foundation’s failures. After all, what good is it having an attractive and comfortable home that is at risk of falling because the foundation is crumbling? I immediately addressed my foundation issues by repointing brick and other cement work, replacing windows, and purchasing a new front door and exterior doorframe.
School leaders want to make their school environments inviting and rightly so. They want students, staff, and the community to support, appreciate, and value their schools. Therefore, school leaders often do such things as buy attractive furniture, purchase computers and other technological tools, hang posters on walls, and paint inspiring murals on walls so that they are visible to students and visitors. They create educational partnerships with organizations to come together for the common good of the school or to enhance teaching and student learning, take students on field trips, and display student artwork and essays. These are some examples of improvements to a school’s fixtures and fittings; however, the important question is this: Is the school’s foundation failing? A school’s foundation—and base for the rest of the school’s components—is its instructional core: teaching and learning. I strongly encourage school leaders to inspect their schools’ foundations regularly. Educational research supports the view that schools don't improve through tinkering with their fixtures and fittings; they improve through enhancing the complex and demanding work of teaching and learning. Students need learning environments that offer them opportunities to develop their knowledge by engaging them in rigorous tasks and not simply surrounding them with attractive fixtures and fittings. They need schools with strong instructional foundations.
Needless to say, I addressed both my home’s cosmetic and structural issues. School leaders should do the same with their schools. However, they should first leap into inspection mode by identifying the signs of instructional foundation failures and correcting them.