Is Your Company Smarter Than a Sixth Grade Class? Underperforming Colorado School Unites and Excels After Discovering Talents

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Plano, Texas-based CoreClarity helps individuals see strengths and work better with one another to accomplish goals. The corporate consulting firm introduced proven productivity enhancing and conflict resolution strategies to a Colorado middle school class and produced tremendous results in a very short time period. Similar results have been achieved with corporate employees using these breakthrough technologies.

What do you do when more than 50 percent of incoming students are underperformers in basic math?

Last year Nathan Smith, the principal of Del Norte Middle School, knew there had to be an answer. The question was, "What do you do when more than 50 percent of incoming students are underperformers in basic math?" The district ranked 161st the previous year - just seventeen slots from dead last in the state, which landed the southern Colorado school on academic watch. To correct the district issues, the school board hired a new superintendent.

The bigger concern for Smith was how to help his new students plug into learning. His new boss, Michael Salvato, a turn-around artist for under-performing school districts, challenged Smith to see if plugging into student's innate talents would lead to student academic achievement.

Through Salvato, Smith was introduced to a woman from Texas who was doing talent-based work with company employees, helping them increase productivity and improve interpersonal relations. Seeing the similarities between his school and the corporate world, he asked what he could do to bring this same tool to his students.

"Our teachers are top notch. They were already noticing patterns within the student body," Smith says. "We just didn't have the language and tools to identify and work with the dynamic we were experiencing."

The first week of school, every 6th grade student was assessed and each one received a list of his or her top three innate talents. The question posed to Candace Fitzpatrick, president of Plano-based CoreClarity , was, "What's next?"

Fitzpatrick quickly created a color-coded mapping system that allowed teachers and students to relate to each other based on their core talents. Two district employees were sent to Dallas for training in group facilitation methods developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs. They went back to Colorado and held a focused conversation during which the students agreed their mission was to make sure that no child was ever left behind in the 6th grade at Del Norte Middle School. Then, through a consensus building workshop, they created their own seven point plan to make sure they accomplished their mission.

What came next was nothing short of miraculous.

During the first reporting period, more than 88 percent of the 6th graders were on the A/B honor roll. The others had no less than C averages. Throughout the school year, 75 percent were consistently earning As and Bs, the others were in and out of the A/B honor roll, but never with anything less than a C average. They brilliantly executed their plan.

The shift in the environment at the school could literally be felt not only at school but at home as many parents called to report changes they were seeing in their children.

The talent-identification tool, which is owned by Gallup, Inc., is called the StrengthsExplorer. CoreClarity works with the results of this tool to map and provide a system and language so simple that students easily incorporate it into their daily lives. The color-coding also highlights for teachers how individual children best learn so they can modify their lesson plans to create a positive learning experience for all.

Parent/Teacher meetings have changed tone from focusing on the student's academic struggles (perceived weaknesses) to highlighting their innate gifts. Communication has improved at home, too.

Denise Benavides, 6th grade math teacher, says, "It has changed the way we view ourselves, our abilities and each other. Each child, as well as each teacher, has a map of his or her talents. Now, we relate to each other in a fundamentally different way. It's been truly amazing."

One of the resource children, after receiving his results, exclaimed, "It's not blank! I have talents!" In this way, each child can focus on what is best about himself or herself, yet still learn to work with others who are better suited to other activities.

Another child who opened his locker and found himself overcome by the contents falling to the floor cried out, "I need an organizer! Where's an organizer?" Two students who excel at organizing things immediately rushed to assist him.

"Our school has moved from a place that needed to be fixed to a place where individuals are celebrated and honored," says Smith. "Bullying is down by 75 percent in this class. In all my years in education, I've never seen anything like this. These students will never forget this experience."

For a baseline, the class was assessed using a national test in September 2006, then again in December and May. They not only excelled as a student body, progressing two or more years in science and language arts, and a full three years in reading and math; but in September 2007, the results confirmed that as a class, they retained 100 percent of what they learned last year.

Fitzpatrick's corporate clients have experienced similar, dramatic and accelerated changes after utilizing the company's proprietary program. From leadership groups to nonprofit organizations to Fortune 500 companies, CoreClarity has helped individuals unite under one mission, increase individual and team performance, and work together more harmoniously.

Clients who have experienced the program have called CoreClarity an "Excelerant" - because they accelerate the removal of years of accumulated personal debris and move individuals and teams quickly to excellence. This clearing allows the true essence and excellence of individuals, teams and organizations to shine through in both adult and student programs.

For information about Del Norte Middle School contact Mr. Smith at nsmith @ del-norte.k12.co.us. For more information about CoreClarity visit http://www.coreclarity.net. CoreClarity is not affiliated with Gallup, Inc.

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