Success for all?

The term “success for all” is used often in school mission statements, visions, and education plans. It is an important statement, but we need to really ensure we define what it means.

When I went to school, the term “success for all” seemingly meant that educators would do whatever possible to get as many students into post-secondary education programs. Obviously if that was the standard at time, many were not successful.

When I started teaching, “success for all” meant that students would be able to improve and do better. For example, if a student had a ‘C’ in language arts, and moved to a ‘B’, for that child, their was success. I found that this “definition” was more meaningful, but something was still missing.

As we have seen education evolve, I see the term “success for all” meaning that we empower students to find their strengths and interests, so that they can be great, contributing citizens to society. Building upon their passions and creativity will lead to some amazing innovation (See Ken Robinson). With this definition, students not only can be successful, but they can excel.

What’s your definition?

“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success


  1. I agree with your statement, and so do my students. I have been talking with many of them about school–the purpose of it (“to prep them for their future” was the unprompted answer I got from ALL my classes of gr 7-10), what they want from it, what’s working/isn’t . . . and I believe success for all means that students leave our institutions feeling ready to tackle the rest of their lives. For some, it will be university; for others, starting a business, for some; the work force; for others, it may mean not finishing school. For all, it must mean that they are confident moving forward with the knowledge and skills they need or the ability to gain the knowledge and skills they’ll need.

    March 13, 2011
  2. Jack Hill said:

    What goes deep with you? Ken Robinson asks?
    What goes deep with you/me we are all asking?

    I see some succeeding – as per the standard of the system and I see others who struggle because they not only don’t meet the standard of excellence and sometimes barely achieve the acceptable standard – but have the spirit of self confidence torn from their hearts because they believe they can’t do it.

    What goes deep with me is the desire for us all to believe we have a voice and are worth being heard and recognized as a light that shines in this vast universe of wonder. Obama said it in the last elections – ‘I can do it – we can do it – even Nike understood this spark of humanity – “Do It!” Do we believe it? Discovering our creativity – having the opportunity to be creative – even writing in a blog is being creative. Let others see the creativity in us so they risk to be creative. I admire all those who write these reflections because they model an avenue for success in creativity.
    Where is your creativity ? Where is the spark in your students?

    March 13, 2011
  3. Another good post George, thanks. I agree with the evolution of the phrase Success for All that you have described. The comments that are posted above mine are spot on too. To me, I like that the phrase Success for All serves to focus our attention on individual students. I think if we can keep the focus on individual students, and stress the urgency of changing our practice to support every individual, we might be more likely to generate the critical mass of believers needed for systemic reform.

    I also have been thinking lately, however, that this particular phrase might also take on a different meaning depending upon the level at which it is being used. When teachers are talking about Success for All, their focus can, and should be, on each individual student in their class. When a superintendent, or a Board member, talks about Success for All I think it should refer to indviduals, but also should refer to the community context of success as well.

    As I read Johnathan’s comment I was reminded of the conversations we used to have with students at the last school I was at. Students in grade 7 are only 6 years away from graduating and moving into our neighborhoods as independent adults. We used to engage all students in conversation about what it means to be a good neighbor. Those conversations were based on comments from their parents about what they wanted to see for their children upon graduation. I am willing to bet less than 5 parents had seen Sir Ken Robinson speak, but when asked, they all shared the same dreams for their children!

    If we can engage our community in helping us define, measure, and report to them on how we are doing with respect to Success for All, we will form the relationships we need to achieve our vision for students. Those community partnerships, on a deeper level than is typically used to refer to partnership, have the potential to lend strong support for us as we change how we do things at school.

    Just something I’ve been thinking about lately….


    March 13, 2011
  4. I think this is a question worth asking our students. I just might post this on the school blog.

    March 14, 2011
    • I like the idea that success for all does not have to mean finding a ton of different instructional approaches, but can start with the mindsets of the adults teaching those students. I think the idea of believing each student can learn has been tossed around so casually that it has lost its meaning. To truly understand Carol Dweck’s ideas you need to read her book.

      I run a service for school leaders (The Main Idea) by summarizing one important education book a month. Coincidentally, I just summarized her book, Mindset, this month. I wouldn’t mind sharing a complimentary copy if you shoot me an email.

      This is an important topic!


      March 17, 2011
      • Thanks Jenn! I just sent you an email 🙂

        March 17, 2011

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