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As leaders and educators many of us have experience in delivering unsatisfactory news during professional conversations. These conversations were the toughest for me whether it was as a leader talking with a low performing colleague or a colleague from whom much more was expected or as a professor with a student continuing to struggle with the content. What makes these conversations more bearable and a must is realizing that high and solid performing colleagues and students deserve to be in a better work environment (Studer, 2008):

We must [move forward] in dealing with low performers. Our high and middle performers deserve to be in a better work environment. They shouldn’t have to work with low performers, and as I mentioned before, many of them won’t.

Studer suggests the DESK approach introduced in Results that Last (p. 20):

D. Describe to the low performer what has been observed.

E. Evaluate how you feel about what you observed as it relates to organizational standards.

S. Show the low performer what needs to be done and provide an opportunity for training.

K.  Know consequences of continued low performance, communicate these consequences, and then summarize the conversation in an email.

Within any organization—school, business, or otherwise—low performance is never a contained problem. When low performers are not dealt with properly, high and middle performing teachers find it difficult to maintain or improve their own performance levels. They deserve better. School leaders have a responsibility to their students as well. Low performing teachers can cause students to lose as much as two years of learning.

School leaders must enumerate very specific expectations for their low performing teachers, support them with additional training, continuously monitor their performance, and encourage them to shift from being a low performing teacher to a middle performing one. By allowing low performing leaders and teachers to stay on board, schools are neglecting students, their parents, and teachers.



Studer, Q. 2008. Results that Last.

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