“Do we juggle too many things in education?”  “Are we trying to take on too many things in the name of school reform?”  I believe so.

Lately, I feel like education leaders are taking a shotgun approach to improving student achievement.  Shoot in any direction and hopefully something works.  However, research shows this approach doesn’t work.  In Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great, he describes that best performing organizations always focus on a doing a few things well.  These high performing organizations do this by hiring disciplined people who are focused on the organization’s mission, monitoring results, and striving for improvement.

Let’s take a step back and evaluate what we are doing.  Ask if this new initiative, reform, protocol, committee, study group, PLC, reading, training, or activity is REALLY going to impact student learning.  I propose we implement a few initiatives, practice it, evaluate the progress, reflect, refine, and get it right, then do too much, resulting in only scratching the surface of its potential on improving student learning.

“Can’t this be simpler?” 

I continually go back to where student learning mainly happens – the classroom.  I continually go back to the number one factor impacting student achievement – the teacher.  This is where the focus should be. 

Questions begin to flow…

With as much money being spent, why not hire (additional) professional development coaches that can systematically assess and provide feedback to classroom teachers?  Have the coaches visit all classrooms at least 2 twice a month and more for beginning teachers.  The coaches provide timely and targeted feedback, just like how we provide feedback to students (Marzano).  Individual action plans, aligning to building or district goals, can be drawn up, monitored, and reflected on throughout the school year.

Why not provide feedback as a means to professional development rather than taking on the negative tone of evaluation?   When did we – as educators – get to hate the word evaluation?  Why can’t we get an evaluation that’s less than perfect and be okay, knowing we aren’t perfect?  There is always room for improvement; why not focus on that area of improvement, so our students can learn more?

Why not have teachers observe instruction and “evaluate” curriculum in true professional learning communities, providing opportunities for teachers to discuss each others’ work in a respectful, constructive manner?

Why not video-tape our instruction, and receive feedback from administration, a colleague, or even a university education professor – thus helping bridge the gap between academia and our schools?

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