Author Archives: tregoed

How will ESSA change the face of your PD?

The Every Child Succeeds act is shifting control of funding for professional development from the Federal government to the state and district level.

Typical PD is about to change…

In many districts, typical teacher and educational leader professional development (PD) has been short term, “sit and get” workshops or conference sessions.   With the March 2017 ESSA PD planning deadlines looming, many states and districts are working to develop professional development plans to comply with the new definition and standards.  The ESSA defines professional development activities as “sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day, or short-term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom focused.” (S. 1177, Section 8002, page 295, paragraph 42).

So, what should 2017 PD look like under ESSA standards?

Sustained:  Sustained professional development should be a hands-on learning experience with practice time, followed by administrative expectations and support for application embedded in the work that needs to be done.  Following this, successes and failures should be shared, debriefing and coaching should occur and plans made for future applications.  Rinse and repeat to ensure that the current thinking permeates the culture of the district.

Intensive:  Intensive and rigorous work means nothing if it does not address academic achievement goals in a manner that will make a difference.  In order for strategies and solutions to work, they must be aligned with the needs of the students that we serve.  Determining those needs should be the first step in any focused work that we do.  Taking the time to analyze the data to determine true cause will ensure that your intensive work will address the real issues and your work will be focused on true solutions.

Collaborative: Many times work in school districts is done in silos, where expertise reigns, but despite the expertise certain pieces may be missing to make the initiative successful.  Including all stakeholders – parents, students, other departments, etc. ensures that you will have considered all the issues and perspectives necessary for successful implementation, including buy-in and potential problems and opportunities.

Job Embedded:  Professional development means nothing if the learning does not make it into the daily workings of the teacher or leader.  One way to ensure that it does is to have clear expectations and provide support and follow up by sharing successes and failures in a trusting and safe environment.

Data Driven: Many times we have lots of data, we are just not sure what is relevant and what is not or if there are pieces missing.  How do we determine what is and what is not relevant?  How do we organize the data so that it gives us the information that we need?  Using an established tool like Problem Analysis can help you make sense of the data you have and determine what needs to be done.

Classroom Focused: Helping our students achieve is always the ultimate goal of our educational system.  Budgets and logistics sometimes seem to be over-riding objectives when we make decisions.  Ensuring that we are using a decision making process that minimizes bias and keeps decision makers focused on the desired end results can make certain that our educational goals stay at the forefront.

TregoED is proud that all of our signature leadership workshops, which focus on problem solving and decision making processes, have always met the ESSA standards and would be happy to share how we can help you transform your district’s approach to problem solving and decision making to increase the capacity of your staff and move the district forward in student achievement.

Closing the Achievement Gap: Look before you leap!

I was recently talking to a principal from a school that was considered a “Focus” school.   They were not on the list because the overall school was performing badly.  They were on the list because they were a Title I school that has a large within-school gap between the highest achieving subgroup or subgroups and the lowest-achieving subgroup.  The fact was, their highest achievers were really high, higher than the norm, making the gap even wider between those who were not achieving as expected.  Their high achievers clearly demonstrated that they were doing some things right.

It is also clear that something is not right for some of the low achieving sub groups.  The district’s first steps should now be to develop and implement a targeted and tailored solution to meet the unique needs of those students.  Or should they be?

Actually, if they do not take the time to determine what is really affecting student achievement they run several risks:

  1. Fixing the same problem again and again… It’s like using calamine lotion to get rid of poison ivy without ever figuring out where you got it from.  You may get rid of the rash, but if you have not taken care of the cause, it will keep reoccurring.
  2. Going to pet theories and/or worrying more about affixing blame than solving the problem.
  3. Gathering lots of data, but failing to use it appropriately causing ineffective actions and unnecessary expenditures.

The Every Student Succeeds Act now makes schools more responsible for closing those achievement gaps.  Take the time to determine the true cause of the lack of achievement of some students in order to avoid those common pitfalls.

2016 BBT Awards for Strategic Excellence in Education

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” Vincent Van Gogh

The Benjamin B. Tregoe Awards for Strategic Excellence in Education honors TregoED districts who achieve excellent results through the collaborative use of TregoED processes.

Changing the way things are done and opening up the decision-making process can bring significant rewards – but also involves risk.   We applaud these and all districts who challenge the status quo by changing not only the solutions they implement – but the way they approach developing these solutions.

Our founder, Ben Tregoe, believed implicitly in the power of people and our ability to work together to successfully tackle any problem through effective thinking and rational action.  These awards celebrate districts who have demonstrated these characteristics.  We are thrilled to announce this year’s winners:

Cabarrus County Schools (NC) for creating a system-wide culture of collaborative decision-making and problem-solving.  They initiated a systematic and collaborative budget process which successfully involved all key stakeholders and garnered critical support. In addition, they are using TregoED processes to improve math achievement and implement a comprehensive school choice plan.

Burlington County Institute of Technology and Burlington County Special Services School District (NJ) – for systemic use of TregoED tools to address district-wide issues including: using data to inform instruction, identifying root cause of achievement issues, achieving vertical alignment of organizational goals, increasing transparency, and capitalizing on new initiatives.

Sewanhaka Central High School District (NY) receives the award for the 2nd year in a row, this time for their excellence in handling a specific organizational challenge: increasing student access to technology.  They used TregoED processes to make tough, collaborative choices around:  choosing a device and platform and developing comprehensive student technology access policies and rollout plans.

Please join us in congratulating these three noteworthy districts for their outstanding and innovative work!

To Delegate or Not to Delegate – At Least Ask the Question


“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”  John C. Maxwell, American author

Few of us aspire to only accomplish “small things”.  Yet too often this is all that is possible when leaders have trouble letting go. The small things may be done to perfection, while big, life-changing ones go left unaddressed.  Meaningful and significant change is not possible without collaboration and delegation.

Most of us at one time or another have worked with or for a manager who resisted letting go of anything – or micromanaged everything and everyone.  What impact does this have?  Managers who won’t delegate leave their staff feeling frustrated, unvalued, and often cynical. Because staff capabilities are underutilized, people may lose confidence in themselves.  Staff who work for “non-delegators,”  become reluctant to do things themselves because they know the boss wants do it him/herself – or is only comfortable when it’s done their way.  The impact to morale and productivity can be profound.  However, the most devastating cost is in the lost opportunities for individuals and organizations:  the big, significant problems left untackled, the skills left undeveloped, the organizational capacity left fallow, and the initiatives and goals that falter due to lack of involvement, support and commitment.  The person who is unable or unwilling to delegate often burns out – but the effects reverberate far beyond that individual.

Perhaps you are even one of those leaders who have trouble letting go.  The first step to change is recognizing that tendency and wanting to change.  But how do you know when to delegate?  Consider delegating a responsibility when:

–          A staff member already has the skills and knowledge to do the job

–          Someone needs the opportunity to develop those skills and knowledge

–          There is adequate time to properly delegate and allow for completion

–          It is a recurring task that will need to be done again

–          The payoff to the organization or individual exceeds the risk of imperfection (and how essential is perfection, anyway?)

Effective collaboration requires effective delegation.  And yet being able to let go of things is something with which too many of us struggle.  We will further explore this essential skill in the weeks ahead.  But as you prepare for the start of another school year, consider:  what will be your crowning achievements – and can you really get there alone?

3 Tips to Implement Change like a Well-Oiled Machine

Certainly, anyone in education can identify with Heraclitus’s quote; “change is the one constant that we all face – and yet it is the one thing that many fear.” Change, when just foisted upon us, can cause a torrent of other problems….sort of like when you change one thing on your computer and the next thing you know your printer doesn’t work, you can’t find your files and all of a sudden everything is too slow.

But, change does not always have to be painful – proper planning, a transparent process and working with stakeholders can not only reduce the pain, it can actually feel good and bring additional benefits to your schools. The ability to lead change is critical for today’s leaders. Our leaders need to understand how to create the conditions necessary for successful implementation of any new initiative. You can take some simple steps to begin to create those conditions in your district:

1. Seek clarity: Identify and clarify issues surrounding implementation through the eyes of your stakeholders. School districts are complex entities. Simple schedule changes, for example, may affect not just students and teachers, but transportation, aides, cafeteria staff, contracts, legal issues, etc. Before you implement a change, take the time to listen to all stakeholders to determine the issues that may result before they happen.

2. Collaborate: Meet with your leadership team and stakeholders to determine what needs to be done based on the issues that have come up. This can be done by meeting with stakeholders as separate focus groups or including them in on your implementation team.

3. Set expectations: Use the issues that you have clarified to develop a plan of action around each one. For each issue determine “What needs to be done?” “By whom?” “By when?” Keep your plan visible (on a chart, whiteboard, google doc, etc.) and follow up to ensure that the work gets done.

School districts are complex entities with many moving parts.  When you add “change” to the equation some of those moving parts will need a little lubrication to get moving.  Giving those parts the opportunity to discuss their issues and be part of the process gives the process transparency, increased buy in and a plan that will have you working like a well-oiled machine.

See the Trees – Fix the Forest

We all know the old saw about not being able to “see the forest for the trees.”  And it is true – sometimes we can get so caught up in details and what is right in front of our face, that we miss overall patterns and the bigger picture.

But when problem solving, the opposite can be true, too.  Seeing the bigger picture and looking at things from the “birds-eye view, can definitely be helpful.  It can help us see the extent of the “forest” and how it looks from above.  But if there are problems with the forest– e.g. parts of it are sick or dying, we need to get down to ground level and take a closer look at individual trees.    Sometimes this is challenging because data is often aggregated and needs to be pulled apart so we can make sense of it.  Aggregating often helps us recognize problems, but is not necessarily helpful in solving them or finding their root cause.

Often when we work with clients to identify root causes to critical problems and disparities– e.g. student achievement, disciplinary referrals, lack of academic progress – we find that data is not disaggregated enough to be able to start getting at specific root causes.  For example, to begin to understand what might be going on with student disciplinary referrals, you may need good data on rates of referrals by school, staff member, infraction, student type, timing, etc.  When you can’t get this kind of data, you are forced to look at everything from 35,000 feet which is helpful in identifying broad patterns, but not in finding specific contributing factors to cause. There are almost always areas where the problem is nonexistent or not as big – we need to be able to identify those and start getting at why.

So we need those trees – they provide indispensable clues about the problem.  We need to be able to see them up close – and then step back and see them in aggregate in order to be able to get the full picture.  TregoED’s Problem Analysis technique can help us do both – but it is only as good as the data we are determined and courageous enough to examine.

Where do you need to look more closely at the “trees”?

Summertime Planning ensures Success in your New Position

Summertime is a time of transition for all of us in education.  Kids change grades and teachers, teachers change students and activities, administrators change staff members, curriculums and policies.  All of us spend at least some of the summer thinking about the changes that are to come to ensure that those transitions go smoothly. For most, these are the changes we take in stride year to year.  Some of us, however, are facing big changes with new positions, new districts, new curriculums, new systems and policies that requires that we do some serious planning.  Where do you begin?

Taking Stock

Summer is a great time to take stock of what is to come, i.e. to make an appraisal of resources and potentialities if you are in a new position (or revaluating at year end).    You know the old saying “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” – Breaking down huge tasks into bite-sized pieces is a great way to help get the job done.

Superintendent Dan Foster wrote a great article in School Administrator titled “Planning for a Smooth Transition” based on Sean Covey’s advice “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In the article he shares the 5 areas that he worked to develop an understanding of:

  1. Board
  2. Administrative Team
  3. Teachers
  4. Community
  5. Self-evaluation

Ask the Right Questions

So how does one begin to talk to each of these stakeholders?  Encourage those stakeholders to brainstorm a quick list of the issues (including the positive) and then go back and ask them to clarify those issues that are important from their perspective. You might start the conversation by asking questions that will help each share their pride and their concerns:

  1. What issues seem to be important to you?
  2. What opportunities do we face?
  3. What threats do we face?

Listening to stakeholder’s concerns is a great first step in building the trust and rapport you will need to move forward.  Based on the issues that come up, you can begin to prioritize and develop a plan for the week, month and year ahead.

What is your best advice to new leaders?

What’s Missing? 7 Skills You Can’t Lead (as Effectively) Without

In a recent Forbes article, “7 Leadership Skills Most Managers Lack,” the author asserts that not only has today’s workplace changed – so have the expectations and needs of employees.  Centralized, autocratic leadership doesn’t work anymore – people (and here is a shocker) “want to be included and respected at work.”  If this is a surprise to you, you are almost certainly lacking in at least one of the following 7 skills:

  • Perspective-taking – the ability to understand or see an issue from another’s perspective or point of view
  • Allowing – not being totally reactive when we get bad news – sometimes we need to allow a situation to unfold before we can take effective action.
  • Intellectual Curiosity – asking questions to help us gain understanding and expand our knowledge – not shutting ideas or people down
  • Critical Thinking – considering multiple aspects of issues and situations – “thinking beyond what we’ve been taught”
  • Connecting the Dots – being able to see beyond a single problem or situation to problem-solve with the bigger picture in mind
  • Humility – Recognizing that others have valuable input and ideas – not using title or position as a bludgeon to get things done.
  • Coaching Skills – supporting employees to be the best they can be through involving them – asking for their input and ideas, listening to their answers, helping to stretch their thinking

Are you missing one or more of these important skills?   If so, relax – you are not alone!   This list is a good reminder that often those “softer” or less quantifiable skills may not get the respect or attention they deserve.  They are critical – although, perhaps sometimes harder to find! Which skills are you going to work on this summer?

Hiring? Tips for Making High-Quality Choices

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for hiring that is! 

How do you ensure that you are hiring the best possible person for the job?  Just like making the finest wine, we know we need high-quality ingredients (candidates) and a great process to be able to select the very best for the job. Now is the time, while the pool is deep and wide, that many districts are working on “getting the right people on the bus” for next year.


How do you ensure the best candidates?

  1. Timing could be everything:

Robin L Flanigan, states in Edweek, that early hiring is essential – “of the teachers hired through June 2014 for the 2014-15 school year (in Cleveland), 14 percent were rated as “accomplished” (the highest rating) using an evaluation that includes student-achievement data; only 2 percent of those hired in July and August shared that designation.”  She states that it is crucial to really “maximize the pool when it’s at its deepest and widest.”

      2. Go beyond “gut instinct hiring”

Many districts are turning to mining data, using companies that provide questionnaires and applications, rather than resumes and cover letters.  Data-focused hiring practices  are helping districts determine which teachers are most likely to be successful in the classroom and would be a good fit for their district.  But what data are you looking at?  What should you do with it?

Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone who looked great on paper, only to be disappointed when you met in person or saw them teach a lesson?  Or visa-versa?   When it comes to candidates, we get data, experience, opinions and people.  So how do we ensure that what you see is what you get?

Using a process allows you to focus on the data that is important, remove biases and helps you get a clear picture of the best person for the job. 

The process that you use should enable you to:

  • Involve key stakeholders to gain different perspectives and get buy-in.
  • Collaborate on criteria to define the characteristics and skills that will make a person successful in that position before you start.
  • Prioritize the criteria and choices in a clear and systematic way.
  • Organize the data so that your thinking becomes visible.
  • Evaluate to determine which candidate best fits the criteria that you have set.

Using these guidelines, the basis of TregoEd’s Decision Analysis process, can help ensure that you get the best possible and most successful candidates in the positions that you are filling.  What are your best hiring practices?

What Kind of Leader Are You?

Collaboration produces higher-quality solutions and greater commitment to the outcomes.   When people feel valued and are fully engaged, they have higher levels of job satisfaction and feelings of efficacy.  Yet not all leaders embrace collaboration or use it as fully as they might.

In “Collaborative Leadership:  6 Influences that Matter Most”, author Peter DeWitt cites 4 main leadership styles:

The Bystander – this leader is passive and does not seek to define goals and enlist others in figuring out how to achieve them.  These leaders seem to prefer office time to interacting with people.  Silos proliferate in these organizations and there are few opportunities to break them down.

The Regulator – as the name implies, this leader is results-oriented, but seeks compliance not collaboration, controlling the environment to produce untended outcomes.  This leader walks into a meeting knowing what result or opinion they want everyone to walk out with.   This style creates resentment and hostility.

The Negotiator – these leaders use collaboration to build support for predetermined goals.  They define goals alone or with a select few, and then use collaboration to build coalitions of support.  This approach can work as long as others buy into the goal, but it is not true collaboration and can be perceived as manipulative or disingenuous.

The Collaborator – this leader uses collaboration to create goals, and build consensus and energy about how to achieve them.  This leader tends to value honesty and transparency.  Employees and other stakeholders feel valued and committed to achieving results.  These leaders may have pre-conceived opinions, but they are open to having these changed.  They create environments where people are engaged, results-oriented, and willing to try new things.

Most of us can recognize these leaders and the legacies they leave.  What will your legacy be?