How to Lead Teachers to Become Great (Fire Starter Publishing, 2009) recognizes that great school leaders and great teachers are what makes great schools. How do we get there? Leaders must recruit, retain, coach, and support effective teaching in their schools. The book’s premise is that “to create school environments where students want to learn and are inspired to achieve… school leaders [must] first recognize that the teacher is the most important variable affecting student learning” (VIII). This premise is reinforced by a meta-analysis completed by Marzano (2003) which found a student scoring at the 50th percentile is likely to continue scoring at the 50th percentile after two years at an average school and in an average teacher’s classroom. However, consider additional findings from the study:
Most effective school, most effective teacher: After two years student increases from 50th percentile to 96th.
Least effective school, most effective teacher: After two years student increases from 50th percentile to 63rd.
Most effective school, least effective teacher: After two years student drops from 50th percentile to 37th.
Least effective school, least effective teacher: After two years student drops from 50th percentile to 3rd.
Developing excellence in our teaching practices is not a choice, but a responsibility! Evidence-based classroom learning, a set of actions built on clinical expertise and experience from professional practices, provides a framework for improving human performance in organizations. Its importance? It allows teachers “more time to create and integrate creativity in their classrooms and to pay attention to the specific needs of every student… allows teachers to focus on student learning… [and] allows teachers to make a difference in the lives of those they teach each day” to improve student learning and increase parent satisfaction (IX-XI).
Leaders must train and support teachers to get student learning results that last. Start by communicating expectations to teachers. Just as we communicate expectations for student learning to our students in our classrooms, a leader must communicate his/her expectations to teachers. Communicate/Apply the following elements adapted from Results That Last (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., publishing, 2008) by Quint Studer to get results from teachers:
- Communicate that you care about and value your teachers.
- Provide teachers the tools and equipment needed to practice effective teaching strategies (the student engagement framework).
- Provide teachers opportunities to learn and/or re-learn effective teaching strategies (the student engagement framework).
- Recognize and reward teachers for their good work.
- Deal with low performing teachers and stop hiring more of them.
When leaders implement these elements they begin to create a school culture where low performing (least effective) teachers simply will either improve, quit, or be removed from classrooms. The importance of this for our students is evidenced in Marzano’s findings outlined above; the importance of communicating expectations to our teachers is evidenced in Studer’s work (also above): Over 90 percent of employees perform when they know what their leader expects from them and when the leader practices the five actions/elements above.