Teachers Want an A as Much as Their Students Do. With This 15-70-15 Formula, Principals Can Help Their Educators Shine

April 23, 2019

To become more effective, principals have to unlock potential — not just the potential of their students, but also of their teachers and the other adults in the building, including themselves. For students, that progress is simpler to see and track: Every year, they start at the bottom of a learning curve, move along toward the top and jump to the bottom of a new grade. That progression of learning from the beginning of the year to the end can be visualized as an S curve.

Students often start their year on the flat part of the S curve, where learning happens slowly and feels like a slog. Over the course of a year, if the class gels, the students put in more effort and their teacher supports them, they accelerate into the steep part of learning. Neurons are firing. With this engagement comes confidence, but toward the end of the year, as summer vacation beckons, class rhythms lag and the sense of challenge wanes, students can become bored.

What some principals fail to realize is that everyone at a school is on this ride together. To harness the power of teachers to provide the best education possible for students, principals need to understand where their teachers are on their S curves.

Based on the research in Whitney’s book Build an A Team, you want to have roughly 15 percent of teachers in a school at the low end of their learning — new to the profession, the school or the discipline they teach. Seventy percent should be in the sweet spot where they know enough but not too much, and 15 percent should be at the high end of their learning, masters of their craft.

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