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The power of instructional priorities

For educators, there’s always too much to do, so many balls to keep in the air. But when it comes to fostering instructional change, choosing just one or two priorities to focus on can make a huge difference.

The clarity, alignment, and cohesion created when schools commit to just one or two instructional priorities can result in powerful teaching and learning—and results for students. In Pathways to the Common Core, Lucy Calkins tells us that innovations implemented with low or even medium levels of fidelity have no effect on achievement, while those implemented with 90% fidelity can have an extremely high impact. The ability to focus is literally the difference between success and failure.

The ability to focus is literally the difference between success and failure.

And our odds of success are increased when we narrow our focus with concrete, observable measures. A priority as broad as “text-dependent questions” doesn’t offer a clear picture of what we want to see in planning and instruction. But things become much clearer if we use resources like Achieve the Core’s Instructional Practice Guides to transform the idea of “text-dependent questions” into a concrete and observable priority such as, “Teachers ask text-dependent questions that address challenging areas of the text, and scaffold students toward key understandings, leading to discussion and student writing.” Now we know what we’re aiming for when we step into the classroom.

Click the button below to find the instructional practice guides and related resources to help you create a plan to set and pursue an instructional priority at your school.

We’ve spent ten years learning from thousands of leaders and teachers across the country about the things that make a big difference for schools. Now, we want to give you the opportunity to do the same. This is the fifth in a series of tools, resources, and insights we are sharing from our work with school partners.

Ryan McCarty, an ANet coach in Massachusetts, and Sarah Tierney, a director of new partnerships and former coach at ANet, co-authored this post and resource sheet. If you want to read more about setting an instructional priority, read Ryan’s blog post on Teaching Channel.

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