The Evolution of Beat the Odds
In 2001, the Morrison Institute for Public Policy released its landmark report, "Five Shoes Waiting to Drop on Arizona's Future," which identified one "shoe" as a huge hole in Arizona's educational system – the lack of educational success of Latinos. The report reminded Arizonans that Latinos are fast becoming the majority in public schools and that they suffer from low achievement gains and graduation rates. The report also reminded Arizonans that education is the key to prosperity – for individuals, for families and for the state of Arizona as a whole. Without a successful turnaround in Latino education, Arizona simply will not make a successful transition to the 21st century economy. This awareness eventually led to a new study on high-performing Latino schools – "Beat the Odds" – released March 30, 2006.
Using the methodology of Jim Collins from his book "Good to Great," Mary Jo Waits and her research team, under the sponsorship of the Center for the Future of Arizona and the Morrison Institute, found 12 elementary and middle schools in Arizona – schools whose students are mostly Latino and mostly low-income – that were "beating the odds" on reading and math scores.
With Jim Collins' active involvement, the research team found six keys to success that can translate into broader messages for education policy and strategy. These are clear bottom line; ongoing assessment; strong, steady principal; collaborative solutions; stick with the program; and built to suit. Describing this study as the "second wave" of education reform, the authors have recommended a package of policy changes and strategic initiatives aimed at engaging policy makers and empowering educators with the tools and skills necessary to help students succeed. Key among the recommendations is the creation of leadership programs for principals and teachers, with the goal of sharpening analytic skills and creating collaborative environments that allow effective, knowledge-based and customized education within schools and classrooms. The study called for the creation of a dissemination mechanism to bring "best practices" into every school in Arizona.
The Beat the Odds Institute and the BTO School Partners Program were established in 2007 to support Arizona school and district efforts to implement the six Beat the Odds principles school-wide. Beginning in 2011, Beat the Odds expanded programming to include assistant and aspiring principals. With training and materials designed for their unique needs, these participants receive an orientation to BTO concepts and have the opportunity to share and learn from peers in the program.