Thursday, December 8, 2016

The High Failure Rate Teacher at a Typical School

I was recently looking at some data from a campus assessment I did 5 years ago. I realized the findings might be useful as campuses are planning for the Spring Semester. 

The back-story: A Principal at a large, urban high school called me during the Christmas break because he had a problem.  No, his school wasn’t in “trouble.” Overall, student performance was satisfactory.  But there was an anomaly.  At the end of the Fall Semester, seven teachers had class failure rates above 20%.  No one else on staff had a failure rate higher than 10%.  The Principal was trying to decide between writing growth plans, reassigning classes and/or extensive professional development for the seven teachers in question.  I suggested he wait and let me come observe the campus for a couple of days as soon as school got started again.

So the LYS Team went to assess the campus in early January.  Here is what we found.  In almost every case, you could not distinguish between the high failure rate teachers and the low failure rate teachers (which is why the Principal called us), except in 2 areas (revealed by PowerWalks):

1. The High Failure Rate Teachers spent significantly less time in the Power Zone. 16 percentage points less time.

2. The High Failure Rate Teachers used worksheet assignments a lot more often. 19 percentage points more often.

So here is what we suggested. 

1. The High Failure Rate Teachers take 2 steps away from the board, moving towards the students.

2. Implement “No Worksheet Wednesday.”

Did the High Failure Rate Teachers like this? No. They hated it... At first.  Then it became a habit.

The results:

1. The high failure rate teachers from the end of the Fall Semester were still the high failure rate teachers at the end of the year.  This makes sense; they started out behind the 8-ball. But...

2. All of the high failure rate teachers cut their failure rates by at least half.

3. No one needed to go on a growth plan.

4. No one got fired.

5. The Principal was happy.

Teacher location and authentic academic tasks matter... A LOT.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on! 
  • Upcoming Conference Presentations: TASSP Aspiring Principal Workshop (Multiple Presentations), Learning for a Change Spring Summit (Keynote and Multiple Presentations) 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Timer (Fundamental 5 Delivery Tool); PowerWalks CLC (Networked Formative Observation Tool) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

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