Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Success Culture Changes Everything!

Is it really possible to change the culture of a school?

Ask the faculty, staff and students at Scriber Lake, a small alternative high school, in Edmonds, Washington. They did it and described their journey in a book with a fascinating title: Creating a Success Culture: Transforming Our Schools One Question at a Time, available from

What did they do?
  • They expanded their focus, linking discussions about credits and diplomas to students’ futures, rather than viewing them as ends in themselves. Their project was called Your Future Now.
  • They developed a one-sentence, future-oriented mission statement that is posted throughout the school and drives student and adult behaviors. When students and adults have the same mission, power struggles pretty much disappear.
  • They dispensed with school-wide rules. Individual classrooms of students established “standards” to ensure that learning isn’t interrupted.
  • They changed the school schedule to create time for “Steps to Success” activities. The students named it S2S.
  • They involved the entire school. Non-teaching adults played major roles in the project’s success.
What were the results?
  • The suspension rate was reduced by 91%.
  • In 2013, the project’s first year, 37 students graduated (about average for the previous decade). In 2015, 61 graduated (an increase of 65%). And every one of those students had discussed their future with an adult from the school.
  • Marjie Bowker, the lead author of Creating a Success Culture, now has a reduced teaching schedule, freeing her to spread the success culture to other schools in the district. How often does an alternative school for struggling students become a model for a district’s “regular” schools?
  • A neighboring school district has committed funds to replicate the Scriber Lake experience in their alternative high school this year. They noticed a difference the first day.
  • A high performing high school in another nearby district has committed this school year to creating a student success culture, and is using the Scriber Lake book to assist them.
If you would like to know more about creating a success culture in your community, contact Cal Crow at the Center for Efficacy and Resiliency, Edmonds Community College., 425-640-1852.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Self-Efficacy, Resiliency, Complexity & Learning

In 2012, the Center for Efficacy and Resiliency began a school improvement project (Your Future Now) at Scriber Lake High School in Edmonds, Washington.

Funded by College Spark Washington, the goal is to create a culture of self-efficacy and resiliency, thereby increasing the number of low income students who graduate from high school and enter college.
Scriber Lake is an alternative school, often described as a “last chance” for most of its students. A few months earlier, narrative writing students at the school had published a book of their personal stories, titled We Are Absolutely Not Okay. Two more books and two plays followed, and the fourth student-authored book is in progress.

Although Your Future Now came to Scriber Lake after the first book was published, it has had an impact on subsequent narrative writing activities, including a curriculum designed around the Common Core Learning Standards. The writing instructor describes the project’s emphasis on resiliency as being “a crucial part of everything we do.”

The Scriber Lake culture has changed significantly since Your Future Now began two years ago. Suspension rates are down, adult/student power struggles are fewer, and students who once “just wanted a diploma” are now talking about college and making plans for the future. Adult-student conversations are also much less confrontational.

An article in the Seattle Times,Education Lab Blog,” features current narrative writing students at Scriber Lake. Although not mentioned specifically, Your Future Now has had a significant impact on how these students view and describe their pasts and futures. It illustrates clearly how a simple event here can become a game changer over there, which in turn affects the culture of an entire organization. A wonderful example of complexity in action.

For further information, contact Cal Crow:; 425-640-1852

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Imagine a High School Where . . .

The mission is to ensure that students acquire knowledge and skills necessary for adulthood. Educators view their job as preparing students to be successful thirty-year olds.

Students are taught from the first day that their reason for being in school is not to take courses, earn credits, pass tests and follow teachers’ directions. It is to identify, develop and maximize their strengths, skills, talents and interests, so they can make their dreams come true. (This school devotes much time and energy to students’ dreams.)

Students can always describe what they are learning (not “doing”), why they are learning it, and how they can use it when they are no longer in school. They can do these things because their teachers, counselors and other adults in the school make them explicit.

Every student has an education/career plan, continually works on and revisits that plan; and curriculum, instruction and guidance programs support these student plans. The school is actually organized around these student plans. The curriculum is viewed as a vehicle to help make this occur, rather than as an end in itself.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

CER Receives Grant for Your Future Now

The Center for Efficacy and Resiliency recently received a three year, $213,238 year grant from College Spark Washington for Your Future Now, a learning improvement, career planning project at Scriber Lake High School in the Edmonds School District. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of Scriber Lake students who enter and complete college programs.

The methods used to achieve this goal will be: 1) increasing faculty and student self-efficacy; 2) providing the environmental factors necessary to help students tap into their natural resiliency; 3) using Appreciative Inquiry to generate success visions of the future; and 4) introducing Motivational Interviewing strategies to elicit desired behavior changes in both students and adults.

In addition to increasing the number of Scriber Lake students who enroll in and complete college, other projected benefits include higher grades and standardized test scores; reductions in the number of absentees, dropouts and discipline referrals; more engaged learners; and increased parent participation.

The project has garnered enthusiastic support from the Scriber Lake principal, faculty and staff, as well as from Edmonds Community College (where CER is located) and the Edmonds School District.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why Don’t We Use What We Know?

We’ve known for some time that self-efficacy and resiliency play major roles in a person’s success. Yet it is difficult to find either of these attributes mentioned in discussions about improving education, increasing employability, or meeting the needs of returning veterans. I’ve heard several conversations recently about math anxiety, but none about math efficacy. Most workforce development staff that I know are more experienced at identifying barriers to employment, than on helping individuals acquire the resiliency necessary to overcome them. And while many professionals who work with veterans are well aware of PTSD, few mention the power of self-efficacy and resiliency when addressing it.

To address these concerns, the Center for Efficacy and Resiliency (CER) was launched just about a year ago, and has generated a considerable amount of interest in Washington State. Nine individuals recently completed two days of CER Facilitator Training, and are now spreading the efficacy-resiliency message throughout their organizations. Some of them want to become CER trainers. We have also teamed up with a sister agency, the Veterans Training and Support Center, to begin offering efficacy-resiliency workshops for individuals and organizations that serve veterans. (Note: Self-efficacy and resiliency are as important for organizations, as they are for individuals.)

Last month CER submitted a Letter of Interest to a funding agency proposing that we help create cultures of efficacy and resiliency in two alternative high schools. Our goal is to transform the schools from being curriculum-centered to becoming student-centered. We want to utilize the research suggesting that increasing self-efficacy and resiliency for both students and faculty will improve learning and retention rates as much as (or even more than) more traditional approaches, e.g., changing the curriculum, buying off the shelf motivation programs, hiring tutors, or lengthening the school day.

We at CER strongly believe that understanding the power of self-efficacy and resiliency, and helping others understand it, can contribute immeasurably to our nation’s growth and survival during these difficult economic times.

Question: Why aren’t we using what we know about self-efficacy and resiliency? If you are using this information, let us know what you are doing and how it is working. We are always looking for good ideas. Best wishes to all.

Cal Crow
Director, CER

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CLC is Expecting!

After a quarter century of providing workshops, conferences and other activities covering a myriad of topics, CLC has decided to add another “center” to the family. It will be called the Center for Efficacy and Resiliency (CER), and will have a simple mission. To help organizations create cultures of efficacy and resiliency that help people to maximize their potential. The rationale for such a center is

We know that self-efficacy (my belief that I am able to perform a task or manage a situation) is a major predictor of success in school and work. We know what contributes to it, how to increase it, and how to destroy it. (Note: Self efficacy is not the same as self-esteem, which is a feeling. Self-efficacy is a belief.)

We know that resiliency (my ability to overcome obstacles and rebound from setbacks) is also a major contributor to success. We know that everyone is born with it. We know how to increase it, how to help people maintain it throughout their lives, and how to stifle it.

Individuals and organizations can improve their success rates significantly if they learn how to increase their selfefficacy and resiliency. Following are examples of how such a center can be of service to individuals.

► It can assist WorkFirst parents who doubt their ability to become self-sufficient.
► It can assist ex-offenders who really wonder if it is possible to find employment and integrate successfully into the community.
► It can assist students at all levels who find it easy to give up when times are tough and classes are “hard.”
► It can assist educators and other helping professionals who wonder if they will ever be successful with “hard to reach” students or clients.

The Center for Efficacy and Resiliency can also assist organizations that do not have a culture of self-efficacy and resiliency. Examples include:

► Educational institutions that want to improve achievement levels and retention rates
► Educational, governmental and non-profit organizations seeking assistance to deal with turbulence and change
► Organizations wishing to acquire and make better use of the collective knowledge of their members
► Organizations that would like to take the risks necessary for a successful future

The payoff from helping individuals and organizations become more self-efficacious and resilient can be significant. Some possibilities:

► Higher student achievement levels
► Lower dropout rates
► Fewer attendance and discipline problems in our schools
► More motivated students and employees
► A reduction in violence, crime. and recidivism rates
► Improved quality and productivity in education, human services and non-profit activities
► Improvements in staff morale
► More effective decision-making
► A reduction in the number of people needing public assistance

Many of the topics that CLC has addressed during the past several years have a connection to self-efficacy and resiliency. Because of this common thread running through so much of what we already do, a logical next step seemed to be to create a center driven by those two major correlates of success.