Just Implementing Something Doesn’t Mean Your Scores Will Change!

I have many long-time clients who have been implementing their reading programs for over 6 years…and they’re still working on depth.

Deep program implementation comes from a complete mastery over several important areas:


  •     Classroom organization
  •     Preparation and planning
  •     Instructional delivery
  •     Collaboration with the leadership, coach and colleagues

I believe that one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves during long-term program implementation is this: What is the evidence that we are an XYZ school? 

In other words – do we look like any other school with any other program, or do we have obvious maturity and depth in the above four areas?  Trust me, it is possible to be implementing something new and have literally little to no evidence that you are implementing it – that’s not a good thing and surely doesn’t lead to results!

I was working with a client this year and they had been implementing a new language arts program and when we went to view the classrooms, overall there was little evidence that they had adopted their program!

The instruction, the management and the engagement looks pretty much as it had prior to the implementation. So, in this case, we had to admit that there was little to no evidence that they were implementing the program – the implementation indicators were not there, unfortunately.

The problem with that?  The scores won’t change if the instruction doesn’t look different.  They need to be using the new materials differently in order to get better results with the kids – just changing the materials won’t work!

Depth looks like what Joyce and Showers call “Exerting Executive Control” – we know what is going on, have engineered every step of the students’ day and what they will and should be able to produce because of the lesson and contingency plans if things don’t go as planned.

What areas of your reading/literacy work lack depth?  Talk to me by leaving a comment below…we can help!

Putting a Little ‘Vegas’ In It!


I had lunch with a colleague recently and while we devoured our club sandwiches at a swanky hotel near the airport during our layover, we talked teaching…I mean, why wouldn’t we?!?!  We’re confirmed reading geeks.

The conversation moved to what REALLY moves a school from struggling to successful and here’s what we kept coming back to: oomph!

Oomph?  Come on, you’re thinking, THAT’S what makes the difference?

Yep…sure does!

My friend said it best when she said, “Here’s the bottom line of it: YOU’VE GOTTA ADD A LITTLE VEGAS TO IT!”

So…we talked about what that really means…and here’s what we came up with:

  1. Add a dash of lights, camera, action
  2. Add a bit of lost in the casino
  3. Add a bunch of substance

Step 1: Add a dash of lights, camera, action

Whether you’re putting on a professional development session, prepping for a staff meeting where you’re going over the logistics of the district’s assessment policy or your gearing up to teach kids how important diagramming a sentence is (I still can’t see it, but I digress…), everyone benefits from a hook – a little bit of lights, camera, action-type oomph that helps them to get excited about the topic at hand.

Some people will fight me on this because they say, “Yeah, but Jill, when we get too flashy we tend to lose sight of the real purpose of what we’re trying to do.”  BUT, I see master speakers, leaders and teachers using the personal connection to drive their audience or class right into the topic by using a little Vegas to make the listeners putty in their hands.

If you’re in control of your content, a little Vegas won’t sideline you. More on this later in Step 3…

Step 2: Add a bit of lost in the casino

So, in my mind I’m much too smart to fall for the tricks that the casinos use to get me to gamble more, more and more.  I watched a special where it showed that certain changes in the casino environment kept people indoors, throwing money at the dealer even longer than they had intended.

For example, the temperature is set at a certain comfortable level, the oxygen is maximized in the room, there are no clocks, the lighting is regulated to simulate constant daylight…all designed for a maximum effect: to have us spend more money and time in the casinos.

When I think of connecting this to our classrooms and schools, I think about how we need to build the perfect environment so that our students can get lost in the lessons like some (okay, me!) get lost in the casino.

When we keep a swift pace or make real-life connections to kids during the lesson we help them get lost in the learning.  When we give them lots of positive reinforcement and loving corrective feedback, they hear the bell and say, “Wow!  Recess already?”.

When we act like we’ve brought all of our energy to the lesson and we’re giving it all we’ve got, they bring their energy, too.  When we make learning fun and use our enthusiasm to be a catalyst for kids to work harder and for longer periods of time on important content, we help kids get lost in the learning.

Step 3: Add a bunch of substance

You must be thinking, “Substance?  Vegas?  This girl’s lost her mind!”

While the jury’s still out about whether I’ve lost my mind or not, I know one thing: that while we’re seduced or drawn into the flash of Vegas, the behind-the-scene managers know exactly what they’re doing.  The flash is the vehicle for spending lots and lots of money and time on exactly what they want us to spend money and time on.

How many times have I said, “Ok, no more quarters at the slot machines…” and then just as I step out of the door to catch a cab to the airport, I throw one more quarter in…all the time!  I’ve fallen into the trap once again!

Teaching is just like that: while kids may describe their learning as fun, the teacher knows better…skilled teachers who bring a little Vegas realize that if they can entice kids to really dig in and pay attention to a “fun” lesson, they can slip them the healthy stuff (ie: the skills that they have to have in order be successful and improving the scores).  In fact, what looks fun is also very calculated and purposeful.

So what are our take aways from this Vegas line of thinking?

  • It’s our job to engage the kids and sometimes a little silliness or fun captures kids’ attention so that the learning can begin
  • By making lessons “fun” for kids, we don’t have to dump the academic quality
  • Excellent teachers that get excellent results know that setting the tone of the lesson is often the very key to the lesson’s success

What do YOU do to bring a little Vegas without losing sight of the lesson objectives – leave a comment below!  See you at the Bellagio….


More States NCLB Defiant – Savvy or Silly?

I’m waffling!!!! (It’s rare, so enjoy it while it lasts!)

This NCLB defiance topic really has me thinking and this article helped me to come to a better understanding of why the states defying NCLB might actually be more savvy than silly. The states that are so far freezing their accountability targets (Montana, Idaho, South Dakota) are doing so to protest Congress’s lack of progress in re-tooling NCLB and their basic standstill in addressing the effect that inflated targets will have on the states’ abilities to support failing schools. The states are claiming that by continually raising the targets, more schools would be considered “failing” and identified as in need for support. If more schools are identified as in need, the states legitimately lack resources to support the schools to bring them to higher levels of achievement. What I’m concerned about is that it looks like these states, and the others waiting in the wings, are saying “We want lower standards”, but what I really think they’re screaming at the government is “Help us and be realistic!”.

Here’s where I’m waffling or still undecided:

  • Are these excuses to keep the bar low(er) or are these legitimate claims in light of the funding crisis?
  • Regardless of funding, isn’t it the right thing to do for our kids to keep raising the bar?
  • Would I want my child going to a school that is performing only because we’ve kept the target lowered? Is this like asking the doctor to give me the test that makes it LOOK LIKE I’m not sick when I really am?
  • What is a logical timeline for Congress to do its work on NCLB? Is there an intermediate plan?
  • I know (trust me I know) that throwing money at a problem does not solve it, but there has to be funding to support increased professional development and accountability to struggling schools?
  • Is this the best/only way for states to get the attention of Congress?

Check out this NCLB update from EdNews.com.

I would love to hear from you about this hot topic!

Breaking News: States Defying NCLB Requirements

In a bold move this month, several states are denying the government’s NCLB requirements, sighting inability to provide service to failing schools. For example, in South Dakota, where if they embrace NCLB’s increased requirements for the new school years, the state department will be unable to provide restructuring support to the schools who would be newly qualified as failing according to the new NCLB standards. In that state, the Superintendent of Instruction has decided to freeze proficiency targets and lower graduation targets for the upcoming school year. South Dakota is risking non-compliance by these actions, but their leaders feel it’s worth the risk but under review as it potentially limits Federal funding.

The state of Idaho has done the same – defy NCLB requirements.

Leaders in these states say that by these drastic moves, they will cause Congress to more swiftly look at reauthorizing and rewriting NCLB – the states are tired of waiting.

Read more here.

What do you think? Leave a comment below…