• Gene Tavernetti, Ed.D.

Why Students Achievement is Not Soaring: A Shocking Secret


For more than a decade TESS Consultants have been training teachers in how to most effectively and efficiently teach students. Immediately prior to the start of the training, as part of our introduction to the staff, either a district or site administrator will provide to the assembled teachers some comments about our training. In nearly all instances the introduction has included a statement that very closely approximates,

“Our speaker today is going to share some very effective strategies that you will want to have in your toolbox. You may not use them everyday, but they will be there when the need arises.”

The shocking secret as to why students are not achieving is embedded in those all too common words . I will unpack this type of statement to reveal two reasons why, after all millions and millions of dollars are spent on staff training every year, there is not a reasonable return on the investment.

The two reasons stem from the same leadership shortcoming, but is manifested in different areas. The first shortcoming manifests itself in the arena of instructional leadership. The second shortcoming manifests itself in the lack of understanding about how people learn and improve any skill.

Area #1: Instructional Leadership

“Our speaker today is going to share some very effective strategies that you will want to have in your toolbox. You may not use them everyday, but they will be there when the need arises.”

From an instructional leadership perspective these two sentences are very analogous to a teacher responding to the question, “Will this be on the test?”

If the teacher wants to give tacit permission to students to think the the content is not important, the teacher will respond, “No this won’t be on the test. Don’t worry about taking notes. I just thought this would be interesting for you to know.”

The role of the leader, school or district, is to set the vision and provide a path to realizing that vision. If the leader introduces a training by saying, “You may or may not use this information,” the leader immediately discounts the value of the ensuing content. By telling a group of teachers that you may not use the information is the same as saying no one will expect you to use the information and therefore you have no responsibility for anything being presented today.

Can that statement be interpreted any other way? Shockingly, yes. But maybe not a secret.

Area # 2: Understanding of Learning and Improving

“Our speaker today is going to share some very effective strategies that will want to have in your toolbox. You may not use them everyday, but they will be there when the need arises.”

From the perspective of learning and improving, it is ridiculous to believe that teachers will be competent in using these skills by simply presenting some strategies that will be kept in a metaphorical toolbox and taking them out only when they are needed. The only way to improve skills is to practice them deliberately. Deliberate practice includes a sufficient number of repetitions with instructive and constructive feedback provided by a competent colleague. A teacher learning a pedagogical skill is no different than a student learning how to use, for instance, an analogy effectively.

If you believe, as a leader of the district or school, that the training you are asking you staff to undertake will significantly improve student achievement, then you as the leader must tell your staff what you believe and why you believe. You must tell your staff that you expect to see what is being presented actually used in teachers’ classrooms. You must tell your staff that coaching will be available to assist them become competent in their application. In other words, the training is not optional nor is the implementation of the ideas in the training optional.

The shocking secret? Teachers all too often, unfortunately, undergo hours and hours of training and leaders do not support their practice nor do they hold the teachers accountable for the implementation of the skills being presented..

Another shocking secret, maybe not so shocking:

What is important is not what you think or say you know. It is what you consistently do.

#instructionalleadership #accountability #learning #skillattainment #improving

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