7 Mistakes That High-Performing Schools Never Make

Poverty-ASCD-Cover-75pIn a chapter called “Schoolwide Success Factors” (in Teaching With Poverty in Mind), Eric Jensen spends the last few pages talking about common mistakes in education. He notes that high-performing schools avoid these seven achievement killers:

  1. Overdoing the Pep Talks and Hot Air.  “Avoid the rah-rah speeches about how we all can and should do better. . . . Explain why hope is justified. Talk about what will happen, when it will happen, and how it will happen.”
  2. Planning Endlessly.  “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the more time you spend getting the plan right, the fewer mistakes your plan will have. You will make mistakes; get over it.”
  3. Putting Kids First and Staff Last. Get high-quality teachers, give them better staff development, and make sure they feel supported by the administration. (I write more about this in Want Quality Education? Recruit, Train, and Retain Quality Teachers.)
  4. Creating a Climate of Fear.  “Your staff needs leeway to try out new things, to take risks with students and step outside the box now and then. If the administrative climate imposed is that of desperation and fear, you’re not likely to get results.”
  5. Measuring Improvement Solely Through Test Scores.  “When you focus only on the measurable tangibles, like your test score data, you’ll miss out on some other, equally important data. . . . The ‘vibes’ at your school may not be measurable, but you can sure feel them.”
  6. Treating the Symptoms, Not the Causes.  Whether it comes to illiteracy, behavior issues, cultural differences, or a relational disconnect, be sure to address the core of the matter. “Whatever you do, avoid wasting precious time, money, teacher morale, and emotional energy on ‘solutions’ that only treat the symptoms.
  7. Counting On Big Wins Quickly.  “Improvement is not a race; it’s not even a marathon. It’s the process of life. . . . Start looking for and celebrating the daily practices that will eventually turn the tide.”

Is your school making any of these mistakes?

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