How to drive student achievement during a pandemic

Photo by Daniel Bauer with two of his favorite leaders

“I found my peeps.”

This is what Sarah told her husband after accepting a job years ago at her current school. She’s been at VBE for years starting as an instructional coach and is now in her second year as AP.

Her partner wasn’t too excited about the new job back then. VBE was (and still is) a difficult school serving a historically under-served population.

At many of these schools, the staff and leaders (shoot … sometimes even the community) fall prey to the tyranny of low expectations and make so many excuses for poor performance.

You’ve heard it before:

  • The parents aren’t invested …
  • The kids don’t care …
  • We don’t have enough resources …

These are all excuses, really permission to be “off the hook” for delivering results.

Over the summer some leaders I serve take a much deserved break. This was the case with one of my favorite Ruckus Makers, Sarah.

We paused our coaching relationship for a month so she could do some traveling and vacation with family. Yesterday was our first time back together.

During our session Sarah wanted to discuss the before school retreat her principal had tasked her to organize.

Years ago, when Sarah joined VBE, that retreat is what sealed the deal. She had such an amazing experience, she left fired up and ready to take on the world.

Together, we processed how to create a REMARKABLE experience for her staff. I am thrilled with where we landed and can’t wait to hear the results of her implementing our ideas …

Sarah brings so much positive energy to our calls, I can’t help but smile ear-to-ear throughout the call. But that’s not always the case. She is human after all, and sometimes needs a coach’s outside perspective to get her mindset right.

(Mindset is everything. Mindset dictates our actions. Actions create our results).

We’ve been working together for 2+ years, and I’ve never seen her unable to leave the call with the right energy. To be frank, she only needs to work on her mindset maybe 10% of the time, and 90% of the time I feel like she is using our hour to inspire me as much (or more) as I do for her!

One of her super powers is a “can do” attitude and I love the privilege of holding space for her in the good and challenging times as we wrestle with difficult topics she faces as a leader.

Just like you, she had to deal with covid this year and all the complexity involved with it.

Despite the incredible challenge in front of her, Sarah continued to hold high expectations for her staff and students.

Her goal: to provide a rigorous academic experience and to not let covid be the reason for a lack of results.

This week, the 3rd grade reading scores came out.

The majority of schools in Sarah’s district either stayed the same or actually decreased in achievement.

Not for Sarah. Her school (with the help of her leadership) increased by 11 points.

11 points!

That’s one heck of a year during a “normal” school year, let alone a pandemic …

So when it comes to excellence and results you want for your school, ask yourself: What am I doing this year to LEVEL UP my mindset?

What does your mindset have to do with student achievement?


All the programs, resources, technology, staff, curriculum, and so on, don’t mean a darn thing if your mindset is garbage.

I can suggest a million books to read on this topic, but experience has taught me that the best way to improve your mindset is to work with other high-performing leaders either in a one-on-one coaching relationship or mastermind.

That’s because when you surround yourself with greatness there is no way to hide.

You either level up or you quit (and go back to the same routine and results).

So again … what are you doing this year to LEVEL UP your mindset?

Well done Sarah. I’m so proud to see the results you enjoy as a result of your hard work as a leader!

Keep Making a Ruckus,


Ready to Level Up?

I’ve coached 100+ leaders since 2015. For the first time ever, I have put much of the best strategy, tactics, and tools all in one place, The Principal Success Path™.

You can apply to The Principal Success Path™ here:



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