The book, Feedback: the hinge that joins teaching and learning (Pollock, Corwin, 2011), describes simple solutions for creating successful student learning in schools.  It is a companion discussion that teachers can have with their principals or administrators that deals with the "small solutions" to organizational changes.  Page 12 reads,


We [teachers] have been led to believe that school reform requires big organizational changes. Many valuable tomes on leadership explain how to bring about school reform with system-wide change. For example, in 2010, Michael Fullan’s Motion Leadership: The Skinny on Becoming Change-Savvy notes that bringing about positive change on a large scale is so complex that to do so, getting at the “skinny” is to address the essence, or unobscured issues. The skinny refers to the core, unadorned facts, or what you absolutely need to know. Without question, large-scale reform requires particular tools; often the reform also includes changes to the school system for reasons other than student learning gains.

To seek the small solutions—that is, to make gains in student achievement for the small number of disengaged students for whom the conventional tactics of schooling may not be working—one needs to observe classrooms to identify the positive deviants, find the behaviors that are “invisible in plain sight,” and teach the others how to make the conceptual “flip.”


The simple solutions, or making gains in achievement happen when individual teachers make gains by changing their teaching habits or their pedagogical automaticity.

Positive Deviance, identified in the quotation, is a research concept that applies to schools because school works for many students - in fact, for at least 70% nationally (graduation rate). What are those successful students doing that the other 30% could be doing in school? Teachers, learning coaches, and principals who use the simple tools described in the book have seen engagement and even test scores increase in their classrooms and across the school.

Some examples include:

Gains in ACT scores -- Superintendent, Susan Alexander, implemented the Big Four and GANAG districtwide, and in three years reported gains in achievement that showed in ACT gains.  Deb Larson, Assistant Superintendent at d128 in Illinois reported similar results.

Gains in One School's Growth -- Principal Ginny McElhaney in Tennessee recently received the announcement that they "made the grade" in Tennessee.  Leaders released a list of Reward Schools Monday. It represents the top five percent of Tennessee's schools with the highest achievement and top five percent in overall growth. The measure is part of the new classification system implemented with Tennessee's federal "No Child Left Behind" waiver. Washburn made the list of the top 5% of schools with the highest overall growth.

Gains in One Teacher's classroom achievement - Cheryl Spalter, 5th grade teacher in Rogers, Arkansas writes, "When I got the test scores back, I was BLOWN AWAY!!  Almost ALL of my students showed growth in either mathematics/language arts and the majority of them showed growth in BOTH areas!!  Yes, I did a happy dance!! Throughout the year, I shared what you taught me with my students.  They appreciated knowing the goal up front and activating their background knowledge on the objectives...again, as mentioned in the past, it truly helps us see where we are with the information...move fast, slow down, back up and clarify, etc.  The children would get upset if I didn't GANAG!! And they should, right?  I'm so glad to have this structure because it has helped me grow as a an individual!! 

Gains in One Department Chairperson's Communication in PLCs - Christine Tipping, Director of Mathematics, Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne, Australia writes, "

I have some good news to report.  I wish to thank you for providing me (& us) with the skyping sessions we have had.  I find them very beneficial as it confirms in my mind that I have made positive changes within my classroom.  I have also found having the discussions with staff from other KLAs[PLCs] (subjects other than Mathematics) has also allowed me to hear what different approaches are being trialled in their classes, along with your feedback.

Maxine McKewn, journalist, wrote Class Act (2012), featuring one of the schools where Jane has worked for five years.  St. Albans Secondary, in Melbourne, Australia, has made gains in improving student learning, instructional leadership, and teaching critical and creative thinking using technology.