This Super Bowl Sunday the New York Giants will battle the New England Patriots, but here in Denver, we’re still talking about our favorite son, famed Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Here’s a question you probably haven’t thought of before: What does Tebow have in common with public schools that are consistently high-performing?
Though we are very proud of the many high-performing schools in Denver, we're not talking about location. And, although someday they may be forced to fill budget holes by promoting clothing products, public schools are not yet in the business of endorsing Jockey underwear. Rather, both Tebow and high-performing schools take a values-based approach to our work.
Like many other high-performing schools across the country, we at DSST public schools have an intense focus on academic achievement, but our values-based culture is what supports our extraordinary results. From the day we opened our first high school in 2004, we’ve been, first and foremost, rooted in values such as respect, responsibility, integrity, and courage. We aspire to be a place where people tangibly experience those values when they step foot on campus or in our home office. Students, parents, staff, and even our board of directors are challenged to live our values more richly and deeply each day. Living our core values matters more to us than the results we get.
Sportscasters and fans are still talking about how Tebow has placed living his core values over becoming a traditional football star. His conduct off the field is far more important to him than his success as a quarterback. Ironically, it is Tebow’s commitment to live a values-driven life that has further propelled his stardom. It’s no surprise that his jersey is a bestseller—people are attracted to and inspired by people who live their values.
That said, Tebow wants to win football games—ultimately he is judged as an athlete by his ability to score touchdowns and lead his team to victory, just as public schools are judged by student performance and their students' success in college. In an era, for example, when standardized test cheating scandals litter the landscape of large-district reform, it has never been more apparent that values do matter.
High-accountability testing that improves outcomes for students and prepares them for college is critical. But we must also spend considerably more time and effort promoting school and district cultures that care about how results are achieved as much as what is achieved.
We don’t know if next year will be the season Tebow ends up in the Super Bowl, but we do know the manner in which he gets there will still be important to him. Similarly, greater success will happen for all of our students if schools are true to our core values, modeling and living them faithfully in our work.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons