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Yesterday, I enjoyed a great, self-reflective discussion with the Cabinet and Lead Principals of the Chippewa Falls Area School District (WI). After reviewing results from a Studer Education  Straight A Leadership Assessmentand a Baldrige Quality Self-Assessment, we analyzed why different district leaders perceived their responsibilities, employees’ engagement, parents’ satisfaction, and the overall success of the district differently. One theme that arose was the importance of sharing clear expectations – amongst each other and all district employees. By engaging in a strategic planning process that will produce a small number of measurable goals that clearly define success, Chippewa Falls employees will gain increased awareness of what’s expected and will be able to celebrate success with pride.

If you think your district’s goals and expectations are clear, consider how the clarity of any message disintegrates as it travels from person to person, like in that old “telephone” game. To check if you are following this tip, ask yourself:

  • What are our annual goals, and how will we measure our success at achieving them? How will our leaders know if we’ve achieved our goals? How will our teachers know? Goals inform everyone what we are measuring, and therefore, what’s important and expected.
  • What are the few, key strategies we will implement this year to achieve our goals? Key strategic actions should be limited in number, identifiable throughout the organization, and aligned to achieving the goals.
  • What will effective implementation of our strategies look like in our school or district? What should we see leaders doing? What should we see teachers doing? What should we see students doing? Clear expectations for what the strategies look like in practice enable everyone to work towards effective execution.
  • How will we know if we are trending towards our goals throughout the year? How will leaders know? How will teachers know? Pre-identifying progress monitoring measures provides everyone with the opportunity to “check-in” on progress and revise ineffective actions before the year’s end.


Once you’ve answered these questions, cascade your responses throughout the district. Use all of your communication channels to share clear expectations and empower district staff to work towards your shared goals with greater energy and effectiveness.




MatarazzoMelissa is an Evidence-Based Leadership coach for Studer Education, located in Pensacola, FL. Previously, she served as the Executive Director for Achievement and Accountability in the Charleston County (SC) School District. She earned her Ed.D. through the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s (HGSE) Urban Superintendents Program, and received both a Masters in School Leadership and a Masters in Education Policy and Management from HGSE. Melissa has also served as a middle school principal in the Peabody (MA) Public Schools, and as an 8th grade teacher and assistant principal in the Derry (NH) Cooperative School District. Melissa has coached aspiring and novice leaders at KIPP Jacksonville, FL; supervised teacher interns at the College of Charleston, SC and instructed graduate students in administration at American International College in Springfield, MA. Follow Dr. Matarazzo on Twitter at @LrngLdr and follow Dr. M’s weekly post “Try This Tip” here.

Questions were adapted from the book How to Lead Teachers to Become Great, by Dr. Pilcher and Dr. Largue, where Principle 1 (of the book’s 5 principles) is When Teachers Know What to Expect They Perform. In addition, I integrated Studer Group’s Principle 2: Measure the Important Things, which is discussed in detail in the book Hardwiring Excellence, by Quint Studer.

Interested in learning strategies for setting and sharing clear expectations? Contact us for more information about our coaching for continuous leadership development and systems improvement. Register now for a complimentary 1-day learning session with our partners in Chicago, August 6, at #WRIE: What’s Right in Education.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.