“A goal without a timeline is just a dream” - Robert Herjavec

I love a good road trip! When I set out on a trek across the country, I don’t start driving without a plan.  I keep Google maps within reach and have a solid route planned with clear expectations of my journey. When things go wrong or I encounter road blocks, my map is a good tool to help me identify a new path to my destination. For me, setting both short and long-term goals that are intentional and purposeful are key to maintaining my motivation and to achieving my success.  The best method for getting to where I want to go is to start with the end in mind and work backwards to establish important landmarks along the way.

Goal setting is an important skill for students to learn as well, but it’s one that is often overlooked and underappreciated.  Setting out a course through middle school and high school –and onto something beyond high school –shouldn’t be that much different than mapping out a route to a destination. Let’s look at an example. Rhonda is in eighth grade. She has a 2.7 GPA and little motivation. She’s frustrated and unengaged.  In the back of her mind, though, she thinks she wants to go to college. She doesn’t quite know what it takes to be eligible for either a 2-year or 4-year college. She also doesn’t know the first about how to start mapping out a plan on how to get to college— or even if college is the right option for her.

At the same time, the line at the counselor’s door is long, and her class schedule doesn’t allow her time to wait outside the door. With a national average of about 500 students assigned to one school counselor, counselors simply don’t have the time to help personalize a reasonable goal or to even help them track their progress toward that goal. There is limited room in the classroom curriculum to teach goal setting, and few-to-no tools to keep students on track to achieve those goals.

UR Turn was invented to serve as the Google maps of education planning – with caution signs, progress tracking and suggested course corrections along the way. Once a student can see progress toward their goal and realize some success, the power of the goal will become real.

Graduating from high school with a vision towards the future is a noteworthy goal.  UR Turn tracks credit attainment toward high school graduation and tracks performance and behavior data that is associated with likelihood of achieving goals beyond high school.

Long-term dreams are fantastic, but shorter-term goals are easier to attain. Sometimes those steps need to be small to be manageable.  UR Turn guides students through the education mile markers so that they set goals that are motivating and important to them as individuals. UR Turn is like having your school counselor on your phone at your disposal when you need help the most.


Ignorance is not bliss

Mosi Zuberi is right to feel frustrated and deceived when he learned that his son was not on track to graduate high school on time.  He thought he was being a responsible parent; he thought he had the information he needed to make good decisions for his kids.  He discovered – too late – that he did not.  His ignorance did not bring him bliss; it brought heartache and feelings of failure.  So what are parents like Mosi supposed to do?

Fortunately for some, the remedy is simple: paying a library fine, returning a gym uniform, or locating a lost textbook. For others, there is no quick fix and the consequence is severe. They don’t graduate. Maybe they forgot to take a full year of fine arts credit. Perhaps they cut history class too many times. Maybe they didn’t turn in their English homework for an entire semester. In the end, it doesn’t matter what they did (or did not do) to get them in this predicament.  What matters is that no one realized what was happening until it was too late to change the result. 

Here’s a classic example. When Darren was in 7th grade at a school with class sizes of over 35 kids, he did not have enough supervision to enforce good attendance.  So, Darren decided to regularly cut gym class. It seemed harmless at the time.  Darren expected to graduate on time and then get his associate’s degree.  He didn’t think he needed gym class.  Nobody seemed to notice anyway.  Eventually, he got a detention, but his parents were not informed, and Darren felt no significant impact from his decision. The problem is that he had established a pattern of skipping classes. He had no idea that his dream of becoming a computer maintenance technician was already slipping away because he got off track. What began with merely skipping gym class led to years of absenteeism.

This didn’t need to happen.  Students and their families deserve timely information that they can act on.  The real tragedy is data exists in every school.  It just isn’t getting into the hands of students and parents.  The challenge is in managing the timely delivery this data in a form that promotes knowledge and informs action. UR Turn can help.   Darren’s trajectory might have changed if both he and his parents had received regular communication - in clearly understandable language - about his progress towards his stated goal. UR Turn’s early alert feature can give students and parents timely information on what is trending and what the likely impact might be. If Darren had realized back in seventh grade that his pattern of truancy was also setting a trend towards late homework assignments and mediocre test scores that were diminishing his odds to get his associate’s degree, then he would have had a chance to change his behavior.  UR Turn provides students and their immediate support system (parents, teachers, guidance counselors) the tools they need to make informed decisions, helping more students stay on track.

Parents, mentors and educators don’t want to see kids fail.  Kids will make mistakes and poor choices along their journey. We want them to understand the consequences of these decisions and learn from them—even before they happen!  UR Turn helps to correct their path and stay on an upward trajectory.  Data that is accessible, transparent, and timely can help us all parent better, teach better, and counsel better.  This way, we can keep more kids on track for success. Let’s give these students a better chance by encouraging them to set goals and giving them a tool that holds them accountable for meeting these goals. We can do more than just cross our fingers and hope for the best.  Let’s not think that ignorance is bliss; it isn’t.