I recently had a party at my house for about 24 people – we were celebrating my birthday (I know it’s weird, but I love to entertain, so I love giving myself a birthday party in addition to all of my other celebrations!).  When I entertain, I like to take my time and figure out the menu, the bar, the decorations, the seating…it’s part of the fun for me!  So, I read all of my cooking magazine and recipe books – I check the Pioneer Woman (if you haven’t used her recipes, you’re missing out big time!) and Young Married Chic (I’m neither young, married and only sometimes chic! HA) for ideas on all about party giving.

For this party I went through three full iterations of the menu and décor and all…

And it finally came back to the dishes and decorations that everyone in that room had seen and tasted before.

Why?  Because tried and true works.

Simple works.

Solid works.

So, we had green enchiladas and red enchiladas, a big salad with a bunch of great fixings, candy cakes my mom made (my Grandma’s famous recipe) and a whole slew of appetizers like rosemary cashews, fancy cheeses, crostini with a spread that’s my Aunt Joanne’s recipe, hummus with pita chips…my mouth is watering just thinking about it!  

For décor, I went to Party City and bought Happy Birthday tiaras (and forced everyone to wear them during the whole party) and lit a zillion little candles everywhere in my house and then floated Camelia’s in simple glass containers and put them all around.  

So, despite the tiaras, it was all stuff I had, or regularly made…nothing new.

The party was a hit (or so they said!).  And I didn’t use anything new – because the feedback from the past told me that people liked all of this stuff, so why not repeat it?   If it ain’t broke…

I think our work in schools is just like this party-throwing that I did: simple works.  In fact, simple and habitual works even better!  If I were to get a message to everyone working their tails to the bone on school improvement, I would say this: Go for what has been proven to work and keep working it.  And when you think you’re done, keep doing it for 14 days longer!

Now, notice I didn’t say, “Everything that is old is new again” – I don’t believe that!  I can think of very specific things in education that we thought worked and that the research has now proven again and again aren’t working or workable.  

But I think the big message here is SIMPLIFY AND REPEAT.

If you have data that’s showing that particular things that you’ve done have worked – then why do we stop doing them?   A particular client of ours comes to mind:  They implemented a new intervention program at our urging (they had 40% of their students at the intensive range and they needed to intervene with a very large group of strugglers and a program that would systematically do that and streamline the interventions was their smartest move).  They implemented the intervention really really well – didn’t cut corners and saw results within the first 30 days that they hadn’t seen in many years.

And then they asked, “What next?”

And I realized they hadn’t learned the lesson.

The lesson is about sticking with the things about excellent instruction that gets results – the things that will never go out of style.  Just like my party – more of the same was a hit.  In fact, people (or in schools’ case, students) come to expect it!

So my question to you is this: What practices or steps that you’ve taken (that got proven results with your students) have you veered from or abandoned altogether?