A New Era for Accountability, Leadership, Teaching, and Learning
Douglas Reeves
March 23, 2012

The last session of the day has left me feeling challenged. This is a common occurrence when hearing speakers at national convention. Sometimes it is the sheer magnitude of the content that is staggering. This session had its share of quality content but it left me rethinking that which I thought to be true.

Douglas Reeves spoke of those things that he professed to be true and has since had to offer a disclaimer. The evidence of study does not support some the things that have been traditionally taken as truths.

Experts told us that POLICY matters. If you give teachers mandates, threaten them, and offer them financial incentives, you will have influence to make positive change.

The evidence tells us differently. Two of the strategies that were shared are great teacher modeling and feedback (not evaluation) lead to positive change. I really like the idea of covering for a teacher who needs improvement so he or she can observe a teacher who has shown mastery of the skill you are trying to improve with the struggling teacher. Reeves also said we overevaluate our teachers when they are much more interested in and will respond more positively to feedback that is free of evaluation.

In order for change to take place you must first have buy-in. The problem with waiting for buy-in is that you may never get past the planning stage and never end up trying anything. We were told that "real buy-in" takes place when teachers see the results and positive impact an initiative is having on the achievement of their kids.

I used to think that change would get easier with time and training. The school officials that Dr. Reeves has worked with have told him that they wish they would have known that change does not ever get easier. The truth is that change is risky. It is better to risk a change and get a bloody nose than to not try at all. If you can make it through the rough spots and show that the change has helped kids (measurable) than your efforts will be worth it.

I used to think if I implemented change gradually it would work better. The evidence shows that only deep implementation of change will be effective. Change that is made slowly over time is more likely to die, only to find another idea for change to follow the same path of destruction.

He suggested the following action steps:

  1. Actively talk about the three biggest bloopers you have made and what you learned from them.
  2. Communicate how your belief has changed.
  3. Set a 100-day goal and celebrate it. Goals longer than 100 days are less likely to be accomplished.

The last topic that I will share has to do with what Dr. Reeves considers "true innovation." In order for something to be truly innovative it must be disruptive. Change is messy. If someone isn't feeling uncomfortable then there really isn't any change taking place. True innovation must be experimental. You need to be willing to try something that you haven't done before. There is a lot of failure when you try to be an innovator. So much can be gained if one is willing to learn from and admit his or her mistakes. Finally, you must be focused. Anything beyond six strategies or actions is doomed to be a failure. The idea of learning more deeply and not a mile wide and an inch deep fits this last idea well.

My challenge from this session is to be willing to think differently and to take risks for the potential positive change it can have on the education of the students under my care!

David M. Hanson, elementary principal, Wyndmere Public Schools, North Dakota


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