This post is not an attack on programs. Programs work. Instead, this is a post about seeing the forest from the trees.

I was recently asked by a superintendent to sit in on a central office planning session in a large urban district. The district instructional specialists were presenting the programs they were bringing in to meet the needs of the students who were falling through the cracks. Each content area had their program of choice.

In this district, there are more students falling thru the cracks than there are those who are successful. This is not a crack. This is a broken system with a handful of students who are able to overcome their learning environment.

Specific programs were championed because they worked in spite of the staff. The root cause of the problem, initial teaching, was never discussed.

The answer is not programs; the answer is better initial first teaching. Quality initial first teaching reduces the reliance on programs, reduces special education referrals, reduces the need for tutoring, and increases the performance of every student.

So you have to ask yourself, how are you using your programs? Are the programs tools that increase the effectiveness of quality instruction? If so, invest. Or are the programs a crutch to hold up poor instruction? If so, ditch the programs and fix instruction and instructional leadership.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…