When I was just starting out as an administrator, I had to go through the same rite of passage as nearly all admins — the assistant principalship. As a new administrator, I was ambitious about the good I was going to do and then I was quickly dismayed by how difficult it was to get anything done.

As an assistant principal, my main duties involved the management of students; processing disciplinary referrals and following up on student conduct, attendance, and poor achievement. I was constantly putting out fires. I quickly fell into the same trap that many fell into. …


The pedagogy wars rage on, with camps arguing about the effectiveness of specific approaches to teaching various concepts, students, or specific topics. I am not attempting to debunk any of these arguments — I believe that following the evidence of effectiveness is always a good and valuable thing.

However, there is a critical element in the battle for better pedagogy that gets missed way too often. There is a little discussed psychometric principle known as “face validity” which gets at the degree to which the test subject feels the test is valuable and worthwhile. If a student does not feel…


Being great, or even very good, is not about being transcendent or otherworldly in your intellect. Certainly there are people whose intellectual capacity towers over our own and they sometimes achieve tremendous heights. However, just as often, these intellectual giants stumble and get mired in mediocrity.

So, if intellectual capacity is not the key to reaching your aspirations, what is? One of the key elements that we have discovered from our work with numerous leaders is the ability and willingness to focus on doing this thing well. “This thing” is the thing that is most important at the time. …


Being a principal means having to have a myriad of management and leadership skills. You need to be able to run a complex organization with hundreds, or even thousands of people everyday. Their safety and reliance upon you for the efficacy of basic operations is often an understated element of the job. Additionally, you need to be expert in the curriculum and instructional practices of dozens, scores, or even hundreds of teachers.

Given these performance expectations, it is reasonable that you might come to see yourself as an expert in the science and art of teaching and learning. You worked…


How Rethinking Meetings Boosts Productivity

I am a big fan of meetings. I like meetings. I like getting people together, I love the social aspect of them, I enjoy the informal conversation that happens before and after meetings, and I really enjoy the snacks that often go along with meetings.

However, I also recognize that meetings are a big drain on productivity, despite the intention that they improve productivity. It was hard for me to come to grips with this reality that my meetings, which I loved, were the culprit in sapping the productivity of my team. …


In all of the waves of education reform that we have experienced over the last several decades, one critical element has been absent. We have seen waves of reform that ramped up content standards for students, increased accountability for students, teachers, and administrators, shifted governance structures, and tinkered with teacher vs student centered instruction. However, we have not seen a substantive effort to increase the degree of understanding that teachers have of the content they are teaching.

The basic construct of these reform efforts is that the content is reasonably simple and teachers need better pedagogy or more “accountability” to…


Why Fools Seem So Sure of Themselves

For centuries, the concept of knowledge and epistemology has been at the center of philosophical debates. Not just who knows more, or who is a better thinker, but also how do we come to know and what constitutes knowledge. It is out of this vein of thinking that an interesting principle emerged: The more you know about a topic, the less expert you feel you are on that topic.

This seems like a completely counterintuitive principle. When someone becomes an expert in a topic, it is after hours and hours of study and practice. They have forgotten more about the…


Organizational effectiveness does not just happen, it comes about because of intentional action. Making your organization effective means thinking about how to shape the culture and operations of the different systems.

An effective organization begins with clarity about the values that you hold for yourself as leader and the organization. Begin with some reflective practice on the values you hold dear and write them down and keep writing. Continue to write and revise until you feel good about putting these values in large print in a very public place. …


In recent years, public health researchers have uncovered an alarming health crisis in America: the trauma that people experienced as children is manifesting itself in many chronic and toxic health issues. Researchers have identified 10 basic categories of trauma, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, that contribute to poor health. These ACEs can range from suffering physical abuse as a child, witnessing violence, living with an addict, or witnessing domestic violence or emotional abuse. …


We all know what criticism feels like. The sting of unkind words, regardless of who is saying them, can burn deeply if we let it. For leaders, criticism is an especially malignant tumor. It can arouse the worst in defensive and retaliatory behavior when someone criticizes you and your decisions, and when you level criticism at someone it can leave them defeated and unwilling to continue working toward the mission of your organization.

As a leader, one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do is learn to accept criticism, and even welcome it. Train yourself to…

16th Street Consulting

ceo@16thstreetconsulting.com is dedicated to improving organizational effectiveness through equity, focusing on education, health care, and government.

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