The Word new in stars


Syndrome of School Improvement
(*pronounced Lint, Tint, and Nint)

We have all experienced the LYNT, TYNT and NYNT syndrome of school improvement efforts in our career as educators.  Nothing deflates the energy of staff more than a feeling of “here we go again” with a new program to improve our performance.   Our experiences as a former superintendents, building principals,  classroom teachers and now as independent consultants have clearly demonstrated that the Last Year’s New Thing (LYNT), This Year’s New Thing (TYNT), and Next Year’s New Thing (NYNT) approach to school improvement has not only dominated many school improvement efforts but is alive and strong. 

All too often it seems that someone reads an article or attends a conference and learns about a new program promising to improve student performance, close the Achievement Gap, improve student engagement, enhance teacher instructional skills, etc., etc., etc.  Usually, these are followed by new initiatives, expenditures for new programs, new texts are put into place or new professional development strategies are introduced.  These new models may be approached with great enthusiasm only to fall short of their intended results.  As independent consultants, we have the opportunity to visit many schools and witness, all too often, what stands in the way of realizing the promises made and the skepticism these implementation flaws create. 

Before any new program or initiative is introduced we propose that an evaluation of the current program/approach be conducted to identify the nuances that are standing in the way of realizing the desired results that the current programs promised.  In other words, how and what can we do to improve our current programs?  This is the hard work of school improvement and requires a roll up your sleeves mentality.    

A great example is the current focus on improving teacher evaluation tools to enhance instructional skills in our classrooms that almost every state has required. The instructional framework and rubrics developed by various researchers are excellent tools designed to improve instructional practices and, in turn, improve student improvement. 

However, after working with districts throughout the country, we have seen that the new models are not necessarily changing practice or delivering the improvement promised.  The deficiency does not rest with the models but rather an all too often common problem – a flawed implementation process.  We have come away with a feeling that new requirements have been implemented in a check-off manner (TYNT), and school leaders are already looking for or addressing next year’s new thing (NYNT).    

We propose that instead these new efforts, programs, initiatives need to be kept front and center and continually revisited over the long run.  Instead, however, we have returned to schools/districts and have heard the all too often refrain in so many words,

“We did that!”  And, they are now focused on the “Next new thing.” 

We can all agree that teaching is one of the most complicated and difficult skills.  Therefore, we cannot continue to operate in a “We did that” mode?   This is just one of the many examples of the LYNT, TYNT and NYNT model.  But, there are many schools/districts that do understand what must transpire for real change to take place and improve existing programs.  We encourage you to share some of your success stories that have changed the results in your school/district. 

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