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Formula for Success – Teach, Assess, Reteach. Celebrate and Repeat.

2013 September 5

The second week of the new school year is almost over, and we are off to a great start. Over the past two weeks, I have visited many HISD schools and dropped into many classrooms. What did I see? I saw teachers teaching, and I saw students engaged. I saw clear objectives written on the board, and heard lessons that matched those objectives. What did I not see? Kids with their heads down. Kids staring out the window. Teachers just sitting behind their desks.

We had great teacher training before school started this year. We had the Rigor Institute for all HISD teachers, in with which they were coached on how to create an environment in which every student is expected to learn at a high level. We had the New Teachers Academy for hundreds of teachers new to the district. But all this training will be in vain if teachers don’t implement what they learned.

Teachers need to be teaching, and students need to be learning from day one. There should be frequent assessments to make sure they are getting it. Not more major tests but more pop quizzes. And if they aren’t getting it, reteach until they do. Reach out to students in need and help them grow and improve daily. Change the C students into B or even A students.

Doug Lemov has a website—Teach Like a Champion—based on his first book by the same name, which was based on a study of top teachers in high-poverty public schools. He wrote a column recently on Rigor Collapse, a term that refers to what happens when the teacher asks a really hard question that the students can’t answer. What do you do? You “break it down” until the students are able to leap across that rigor gap. Instead of giving them the answer, you narrow the question until you arrive at the core of the misunderstanding. And then you reconnect to the broader question.

When students do get it, when they do succeed, celebrate. Don’t wait until the end of the six weeks — give students frequent feedback and recognition. Let them know they are doing a good job. Don’t just say “great job!” Give specific feedback explaining why it was good and how they might improve next time. Send a postcard or email home praising them. Display their work on a bulletin board or in the hall outside your room. Choose a student of the week. Reward them with a class job. They will reward you by trying even harder.

We are off to a great start, but we need to keep the momentum going. Refer back to your training, assess your students frequently, and reteach as needed. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes.

Thanks for all you have done, and have a great year!

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