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The importance of accuracy clarity and relevance to students to advance in their college career

In education, this means that the general underperformance of schools is directly attributable to a failure to implement three simple, well-known elements: We love to talk about these elements, but they are rarely implemented. As Allan Odden writes, our failure to improve schools isn't because we lack funding or know-how. What we lack are the "will and persistence" to maintain a focus on the best practices that we already know but that are grossly underutilized Odden, 2009, p.

As Jim Collins writes, the key to success is not innovation; it is a combination of "simplicity and diligence" applied with fierce, exclusive devotion to what is truly most effective Collins, 2001b, p.

  1. In contrast, the most successful leaders are those who know that "success depends largely on implementing what is already known" p. On the contrary, the most effective actions are "well-known practices, with the extra dimension that they [are] reinforced and carried out reliably" p.
  2. Their impact will be largely realized when most teachers simply apply them reasonably well and consistently.
  3. Rather, it is an abiding commitment to the "smallest number of high-leverage, easy-to-understand actions that unleash stunningly powerful consequences" Fullan, 2010; emphasis added.

According to Michael Fullan, decades of studies have demonstrated that the key to success is neither innovation nor technology. Rather, it is an abiding commitment to the "smallest number of high-leverage, easy-to-understand actions that unleash stunningly powerful consequences" Fullan, 2010; emphasis added.

This book argues that for the majority of schools, the three elements addressed here meet Fullan's criteria better than the importance of accuracy clarity and relevance to students to advance in their college career other initiatives combined; they are indeed few in number, exceedingly high-leverage, and easy to understand.

You'll find evidence for these claims in every chapter. For that reason, these actions all but guarantee "stunningly powerful consequences. As these elements are so potent, they need not be implemented perfectly or with any special skill. Their impact will be largely realized when most teachers simply apply them reasonably well and consistently. This refers to the actual implementation of a coherent, user-friendly curriculum, with topics and standards collectively selected by a team of teachers from the school or district.

The number of essential skills and topics must not be excessive; it should reflect a deliberate reduction of the standards contained in our typically verbose standards documents Marzano, 2003. Such "guaranteed and viable curriculum" Marzano, 2003, p. Think of this as ordinary, structurally sound instruction that consists of just a few elements that educators have known about for decades but that few educators are ever given time and opportunity to master.

As we'll see in Chapter 3these elements were formally codified in the 1960s but are essentially thousands of years old. The pivotal feature of such instruction is the conscientious effort, throughout the lesson, to ensure that all students are learning each step or segment before the teacher moves on to the next one.

This is integral to both what and how we teach. It is, in the words of Phillips and Wong, the "spine" that "holds everything together" in all subject areas 2010, p. Authentic literacy embraces the best aspects and emphases of the Common Core, but as will be explained it rejects the bulk of the grade-by-grade minutiae found in the standards documents. Genuine literacy is still the unrivaled key to learning both content and thinking skills. But it is categorically different from the so-called "reading skills" and pseudo-standards that continue to wreak havoc in language arts.

We'll examine the case for very different kinds of literacy standards—and skills—in Chapter 4. A focus on these three elements would have more impact than all other initiatives combined. In the majority of our schools, they will ensure that record numbers of students are prepared for college, careers, and citizenship. They would wholly redefine what schools can accomplish with children from every socioeconomic stratum.

Because of this, their implementation should be our most morally urgent, jealously guarded priority: Until these elements are reasonably well implemented, it makes little sense to chase after new programs, technology, or other innovations. Once these elements are implemented, any evidence-based innovation is fair game, as long as it does not dilute or distract us from these always-vulnerable priorities.

Does this sound too "simplistic"? Can such simplicity really be the elusive key to better schools? To get some perspective, let's step outside our own profession for a moment. The Power of Simplicity, Clarity, and Priority Consider a football team that loses about half of its games, year after year.

This is a bit autobiographical; I coached football for a short time. Each week, the coaches scour the Internet to find new, complex plays. This confuses the players, who never mastered the last set of plays.

All the while, the coaches never take note of something boring but important: If they paid closer attention to what every coach knows, they would see that their linemen have never mastered the timeless fundamentals of effective blocking, such as footwork and body position.

These fundamentals make a literal "game-changing" difference. Therefore, the solution to this team's mediocre performance is quite simple: The results would be immediate and significant. Now imagine a hospital in which infection rates are high. This is a true story. Internal research reveals this to be the number one cause of illness and mortality at that location.

All of the staff know the small handful of procedures that inhibit infection. According to one doctor, these "are no-brainers; they have been known and taught for years.

In fact, the hospital like the football coaches seldom acquaints the staff with the ironclad case that these simple, well-known hygienic procedures are directly linked to life, death, and infection rates.

The solution to the importance of accuracy clarity and relevance to students to advance in their college career hospital's problem is simple, not complex: In addition, the use of the checklist is monitored to ensure that all medical staff implement these practices consistently.

In two years, the infection rate plummets from 11 percent to 0 percent. If we educators can't see ourselves in these two examples, I fear for us. They clarify why so many schools fall short of their potential: We don't even share the evidence for why these deserve to be our highest priority.

In subsequent chapters, we'll see detailed evidence for why these elements should be our highest priority—implemented before we adopt any other initiative. To ensure this, perhaps we should require a warning label like this one on all notices of upcoming workshops, trainings, conferences, or book studies: If you or your staff do not already implement a reasonably sound, common curriculum that 1 is taught with the use of the most essential, well-known elements of effective lessons, and 2 includes ample amounts of meaningful reading and writing, then please don't sign up for this training.

It will have no effect on learning in your classroom or school. Master the above fundamental practices first. Then, if you still need this workshop and you might notwe look forward to seeing you. Have a nice day. It dictates that we select, clarify, and then focus on only a few things at a time: Education has never been so beholden to complexity, the enemy of clarity and priority.

Why is grammar important?

Three books can help us to correct this. The Art of "Ignoring": Good to Great, by Jim Collins Jim Collins's book Good to Great 2001a is the best-selling organizational improvement book of the last generation. Collins found that "the essence of profound insight" into organizational improvement "is simplicity" p.

That's why he reveres the hedgehog of Aesop's fables, who does one thing well rolls into a ball to protect itselfas opposed to the fox, who plans and plots as he "pursues many ends at the same time.

That's why they fail.

  1. Even something as simple as a misplaced comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Worse still, leaders have a bias against "old ideas and simple prescriptions," even though these old, simple ideas are the key to better results p.
  2. Good to Great, by Jim Collins Jim Collins's book Good to Great 2001a is the best-selling organizational improvement book of the last generation. With the United States being a melting pot of nationalities and foreign language speakers, hearing proper, consistent English is extremely helpful to encourage any newcomers in becoming fluent.
  3. The Art of "Ignoring". And the core must be monitored obsessively.
  4. Are the most effective, evidence-based practices "reinforced and carried out reliably" in our schools?
  5. Until these elements are reasonably well implemented, it makes little sense to chase after new programs, technology, or other innovations. On the contrary, the most effective actions are "well-known practices, with the extra dimension that they [are] reinforced and carried out reliably" p.

In contrast, hedgehogs focus only on "what is essential and ignore the rest" p. On some level, the educational community knows "what is essential.

In addition, it is especially difficult for us to "ignore the rest": An ironclad law is at work here: Collins 2005 had schools in mind when he wrote that "social-sector organizations" must overcome their addiction to doing too many things. To succeed, they must "attain piercing clarity" about what is truly most effective and "then exercise the relentless discipline to say, 'No thank you' to opportunities that fail the hedgehog test" p.

It's All About Implementation: For an organization to maintain a focus on its highest priorities, it must routinely clarify them so that everyone in the organization knows implicitly what to do and what not to do. If they aren't regularly clarified, practiced, and refined, they are always at the mercy of our natural forgetfulness, and a failure to protect them from the encroachment of new, but far less effective, practices or programs.

The result is stagnation or decline. Worse still, leaders have a bias against "old ideas and simple prescriptions," even though these old, simple ideas are the key to better results p. Many leaders would rather launch new initiatives because it excuses them from the harder work of ensuring that their highest, simplest priorities are implemented—that is, are "actually done" p.

In contrast, the most successful leaders are those who know that "success depends largely on implementing what is already known" p.

They know that "simple prescriptions" conveyed with "clarity and simplicity" are the hallmarks of effective action and leadership p. At the successful companies profiled by Pfeffer and Sutton, the primary driver of improvement was "the implementation of simple knowledge" p. It is critical that schools learn that "best practice" is rarely new practice. On the contrary, the most effective actions are "well-known practices, with the extra dimension that they [are] reinforced and carried out reliably" p.

Are the most effective, evidence-based practices "reinforced and carried out reliably" in our schools? To ensure that they are, we must make continuous efforts to clarify, reinforce, and reward their mastery and implementation by teams and teachers. Which brings us to the findings of Marcus Buckingham.

He found that successful organizations carefully determine their focus and then make every effort to clarify and simplify those priorities. According to Buckingham, survey data reveal that employees crave clarity; they want to know precisely what they must do to be most effective—and not be distracted from that. Their highest priorities must be clarified incessantly. In his interviews with employees in multiple organizations, he found that "everywhere, the wish was the same: To protect the core, leaders must "sift through the clutter" in order to "apply disproportionate pressure in a few selected areas" Buckingham, 2005, p.

This "lopsided focus" fuels people's productivity, creativity, and morale p. Leaders must be seen as clarifiers, focusers, "keepers of the core" who incessantly "cut through the clutter … to distinguish between what is merely important and what is imperative … those few things you must never forget" Buckingham, 2005, p.

And the core must be monitored obsessively: Let's now look at how these principles play out in some of the organizations Buckingham describes. Their implications for schooling will be obvious.