In response to the discussion on “Programs,” a reader writes:

“I agree programs are not the answer to solving a school’s problems and that leadership which insures effective teaching is what a school really needs. However, I do hope that people do not equate working with highly qualified consultants as the same thing as programs.

My school works with 3 consultants on an on-going basis that have provided both the teachers and the administration with training that has led our school to outperform most of the schools in our district. As with most professions, teachers and administrators need on-going training to improve their skills in order to be most effective, and training provided by consultants is not the same as a program. By providing our staff the opportunity to work with these consultants, our staff has grown tremendously in their knowledge in best teaching practices and how children learn best. None of these consultants are selling a “boxed-program” or a “product”, but they are providing us with research, data, and training to be the best in our field.

Of course, it is the school’s leadership that must make sure that the training is implemented, so as always, school success is based on leadership.”

SC Response
Great comment and excellent points. I’m familiar with this school. In terms of value added performance it is always in the top three in its district. A Title 1 school, they may be poor, but they are scrappy, out performing many of the surrounding, more affluent, schools.

There is a difference between coaching, tools and plug-in programs. For example, consider Read 180, an excellent tool. With the proper teacher training and appropriately selected student, the program is very successful. However, when the tool is used inappropriately (as a program), usually by administrative mandate, it diminishes the capacity of the teacher and can slow down the progress of students.

My rule of thumb is this, if the tool makes better use of teacher time – considered it. If coaching makes staff more effective – consider it. If a program fits a specific and narrow niche of students – consider it.

But if you are taking action in order to succeed in spite of teachers, you are wasting your money. If you are buying a program because working with a certain segment of students is hard and/or uncomfortable, shame on you. And if you are buying a program because you believed the sale people when they told you that it would solve all your problems, let me know how that works for you. Or you could just…

Think. Work. Achieve

Your turn…