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Author: Leadership helps test scores

| Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010

In the final days of George W. Bush's presidency, Stephen R. Covey had the opportunity to meet with him in the Oval Office as Covey was training the presidential transition team.

"I tried to point out why 'No Child Left Behind' was unsuccessful, because it only dealt with working with teachers to work with kids to take tests," Covey, author of the best seller "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," said to the rousing applause of a room full of educators. "It doesn't deal with their character, their integrity. It doesn't deal with team building, problem solving."

But work on those aspects and teach children leadership skills, and test scores will increase and discipline problems will decrease, Covey told a group of teachers, principals and counselors from around the world gathered at California University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 educators from 33 states and 14 countries came to the campus Wednesday and today for The Leader in Me Global Education Summit, sponsored by FranklinCovey, a worldwide professional services firm co-founded by Covey.

This marks the third year Covey has brought the event to the Washington County campus with prior conferences held in 2007 and 2009. The university has offered training in Covey's "7 Habits" for the past 13 years.

"The Leader in Me" refers to a Covey book and program of the same name that aims to integrate leadership principles into school curriculum at all levels to improve achievement.

The program is based on Covey's "7 Habits" and got its start in 1999 in a North Carolina magnet school that was floundering with low enrollment. The principal changed the school to a leadership magnet school and began using "7 Habits" in the classroom.

The school saw sharp enrollment growth and a substantial improvement in test scores, which led to numerous accolades from state and national government agencies and organizations. School officials attribute the change to teaching the children the habits: be proactive; begin with the end in mind; put first things first; think win-win; seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize; and sharpen the saw.

Students from that school, A.B. Combs, played a large part in Covey's keynote presentation. The students -- dressed in suits and lovely frocks -- highlighted the seven habits they've been learning since kindergarten by giving examples from their own lives.

One boy talked about putting together a leadership plan to help him with his goal of mastering higher multiplication. Another talked about finding the thing in life he was most passionate about: baseball. A young girl talked about the arts lessons she's taking to figure out what she enjoys and is best at.

The kids offered their advice to the principals in the audience. Don't think about the test scores, be kind to students, and get out of the office and know all their students' names.

In an interview after the presentation, Covey said parents, children and educators need to shift their thinking.

"(Students') sense of worth comes from other people's opinions rather than their own identity," he said.

He thinks back to his first days as a university professor and how he approached the classroom.

"I'm working for every person here to get an A," Covey said.

Covey said the biggest lesson educators -- and any leader -- can learn is that everybody brings different talents and voices to the mix.

"I hope they take away a vision of what's possible and the concept of not comparing people," he said.

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