Accelerate Institute Releases ‘Hyper Focus’ Report on Transformational School Leadership

Accelerate Institute has released a new report that examines the multi-faceted approach educators need to close the achievement gap in America’s urban schools.

The 13-page report, entitled “Hyper Focus: How to Transform Schools,” offers a high-level overview of some of the principles Accelerate Institute teaches, including:

  • the systematic change needed for a successful school turnaround;
  • how school leaders act as the catalyst that accelerates student achievement;
  • the Accelerate Framework;
  • why a cycle of continuous improvement is so important;
  • and how the 80/20 Rule serves as the driving force for identifying and executing objectives.

“Hyper Focus” is the first in a series of forthcoming reports on transformational school leadership from Accelerate Institute, which has established itself as a thought leader in education through its expansive professional development programming for urban K-12 school leaders of all levels.

“The purpose of our report series is to share our experiences in leveling up schools to help educators have informed discussions and make decisions advised by patterns of success,” says Chief Academic Officer Dr. Catherine Burns. “We know this work is hard and both successes and challenges are faced on a daily basis.”

Below is a brief look at the topics covered in “Hyper Focus.” For the full report, simply download the free PDF.

Schools and Systematic Change

As educators, we can all agree that the measure of our education system’s success is whether every child—regardless of the ZIP code they were born in—has an equal opportunity to thrive as a global citizen.

Success in achieving this ideal, though, has been inconsistent. Too many schools are falling short of the goal of being inclusive places that support every child in maximizing their potential.

Broad-based efforts to turn around failing schools have been unsuccessful because the underlying dysfunction at the root of each individual school’s problems is too often overlooked.

Schools are complex: transforming them requires a strategic, systematic approach to fostering a continuous cycle of improvement.

In other words, we need to reshape the way we think about the systems we have in place. Replicating ineffective practices simply leads to compounded poor results.

So how do we disrupt the status quo of the current systems in education?

Leaders are the Catalyst for School Transformation

To achieve widespread improvement in education, individual schools must be the unit of transformation.

The principal, then, functions as the major change agent and catalyst for creating and sustaining the conditions necessary to cultivate an effective learning environment for both students and teachers at their school.

Since schools aren’t traditionally set up for systematic change, they don’t tend to produce transformational leaders.

The truly effective schools are those that have adopted systems that set themselves up to be healthy, safe environments that are culturally relevant and centered on student learning outcomes.

You can’t reshape dysfunction without a systematic approach to undoing it. We have found this to be true throughout our work and that’s why we have established the tenants of “Hyper Focus.”

The Accelerate Framework

Once a transformational leader puts a productive school culture in place, it is the Accelerate Framework that allows the wheels of a successful school turnaround to take motion.

Over the course of more than 25 years in urban school leadership, Accelerate Institute has identified key commonalities among every high-performing, high-poverty school serving a vast majority of students of color. The Accelerate Framework embodies these principles.

The following criteria are essential for every high-performing urban school:

  • Change Management
  • High-Performing Team
  • Constructive Environment
  • Aspirational Environment
  • Data-Driven Culture
  • Black-Belt Teaching

See the Accelerate Framework in detail here.

A Cycle of Continuous Improvement

The Accelerate Framework is the key driver behind closing the achievement gap, but it actually gets more complex than that.

With the framework acting as a broad set of guidelines, educators then work within the framework to execute the specific objectives that are necessary for their school’s success.

In doing so, they continuously refine their school’s practices. Once one benchmark has been met, the cycle repeats itself again beginning with the first step.

The cycle works as follows:

  • School Assessment and Data Review
  • Creation of a Semester-Long Strategic Plan
  • Implementation of Strategic Plan
  • School Assessment and Data Review

Setting Semester Priorities Using the 80/20 Rule

School leaders have so much on their plate that it often feels as if there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all of their tasks. And it’s true—there aren’t.

That’s where the 80/20 Rule comes into play. Coined by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, the 80/20 Rule originated from Pareto’s observation that 80 percent of the land in his area was owned by only 20 percent of the population.

The 80/20 Rule isn’t limited to land ownership; it’s applicable in any number of scenarios. In education, we take it to mean that 80 percent of an educator’s efforts should be focused on the 20 percent of the school’s objectives that are most important.

Prioritize your objectives for each semester using the 80/20 Rule to effectively accelerate student achievement.


We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about the new “Hyper Focus: How to Transform Schools” report. For the full read, download the free PDF today.

Want to share ideas on how Hyper Focus can be leveraged in your schools to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to thrive academically, regardless of their background? Find us on our social channels (links in the footer) and let’s start the conversation.