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Effective Teaching

by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
January 2011

Effectiveness Defined:  It’s Not a Mystery

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have been chosen to receive Race to the Top funds to create a nation of effective teachers that will produce student achievement.  What will happen to the teachers and children in the remaining states and US Territories?

Take heart.  Effective teaching is identifiable, teachable, and implementable.

You do not need massive funds to develop and retain effective teachers and principals.  

For over 25 years, we have consistently underscored a single point:

To produce student achievement, produce effective teachers!

The notion seems so common sense, yet it took billions of dollars donated by high powered, nonprofit foundations to fund years of research to come to the startling conclusion:

It is the teacher that makes the difference in the classroom.
It is the principal that makes the difference in the school building.
The more effective the teacher, the greater the student gains.
The more effective the principal, the greater the achievement levels at the school.

We know the components of effective teaching.  We have put this information in a paper to share with you.

Click here to read or download the report, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers and Principals.

Race to the Top (RTT) has funded $4.35 billion to spur reforms in state and local K-12 districts to produce effective teachers and principals.  

RTT funds are not to be used to buy programs, change the structure of the school, or to implement a philosophy or ideology.

RTT mandates states must have comprehensive, coherent, educational reform statewide across four areas:

  1. Recruiting, developing, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most.
  2. Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace.

  3. Building data systems that measure student growth and success and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction.
  4. Turning around lowest-performing schools.          

Recruiting, developing, and retaining effective teachers and principals will supersede and will drive the success of the other three areas.  

For there to be “winners” in the Race to the Top mandate,
schools and school districts must implement
a professional development program that will attract, train,
and keep effective teachers and principals.

Effectiveness Is Identifiable

Effectiveness can be identified and defined.  The key component of this sentence is effective.

ef ▪ fec’ ▪ tive:
having an effect;
producing a result

Teachers who are effective produce student learning, growth, and achievement.

Learning:  Acquiring basic knowledge and skills.  

Growth:  Showing acquired progress over time. 

Achievement:  Demonstrating an act of accomplishment or attainment. 

The Three Characteristics of Effective Teachers

Over 30 years of research have identified the three characteristics of effective teachers and school leaders have used these characteristics to professionally develop teachers who can improve student learning.  The research is in the afore mentioned report, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers and Principals.

These are the three most important characteristics of effective teachers:

  1. They are extremely good CLASSROOM MANAGERS.
  1. They know how to teach a lesson for student LEARNING and MASTERY.
  1. They have POSITIVE EXPECTATIONS for student success.

With effectiveness defined, a district can use the three characteristics of effective teachers as the framework for an effective professional development program to train teachers to be effective.

Effectiveness Is Teachable

Professional development is the logical strategy for teaching teacher effectiveness.  School districts that are serious about training, supporting, and retaining effective teachers have a comprehensive, coherent, and sustained teacher development program.

Strong professional development programs send a solid message to the teachers: 

Learning and growth in the profession is ongoing.  The better trained you are as a teacher, the more skills you will have in affecting growth in students.

Strong professional development programs send a solid message to the community: 

We are creating the most effective teachers possible for your child.  We want your child to learn, grow, and succeed at school and in the world.

Professional development is a continuum of planned activities designed to raise the skill level of teachers.  Professional development is a way to induct teaches into the culture, mission, academic standards, and vision of the district.

A strong professional development program must be

  1. Comprehensive:  There are many activities and people involved for teachers at all levels of professional training.

  2. Coherent:  The activities and people work together logically and orderly.

  3. Sustained:  The process continues over a period of years.

Islip School District – Long Island, New York

In the Islip School District, more than 99 percent of the graduating senior class receive a New York Regent’s Diploma.  They attribute their students’ achievement gains to how they develop and train all teachers new to their district.  This training brings the teachers up to speed with other teachers in the district who have already gone through the process.

Components of the Islip New Teacher Training Program

  • There is a three day summer orientation for all non-tenured teachers.  Orientation includes classroom management strategies, team building activities, model lessons, and how to be successful from the very first day.
  • Teachers new to the district become part of the three year staff development program that is facilitated by Director of Human Resources, Dr. Linda Lippman.  Each year an established curriculum is presented in monthly workshops.

    • In year one, new teachers work on classroom management with our The Effective Teacher DVD series and The First Days of School book.  Linda Albert's book, Cooperative Discipline, is used for training on behavior intervention.

    • In year two, teachers apply the research on instruction using Classroom Instruction that Works by Robert Marzano.

    • In year three, teachers learn assessment techniques from McTighe and Wiggins’ Understanding by Design.  Cohorts also learn how teachers are change agents with Spencer Johnson's Who Moved My Cheese?
  • Coaches work with teachers to hone skills.
  • Teachers work and learn in professional communities.
  • Workshops focus on lesson plan development, cooperative learning, study skills, time management, learning styles, and parent communication.
  • Building and central office administration are involved in the professional development process.
  • The teachers' association supports the three year program and contract language mandates attendance.  The program is also endorsed by the Board of Education and the Superintendent.
  • Ongoing and sustained professional development continues with mandated staff development hours after tenure is granted.

Islip refers to its three year program as the New Teacher Induction Program.  As the director of human resources and an assistant superintendent, Linda Lippman has a unique perspective on all teachers new to the district.  As she says, “I hire them, wire them,and provide support to retire them.” 

But it’s better to train and lose that teacher,
than to not train a teacher and keep that teacher.

The major component of the Islip program is the collaborative study group activities and the networking that happens as a result of working together.  Study teams focus on skill-building strategies such as conducting parent conferences, managing classrooms, crafting lesson plans, and implementing cooperative discipline programs.  The groups constantly work on team-building and problem-solving techniques.  They use model lessons and hold sharing sessions in which teachers learn from each other and build respect for one another.

The Islip program not only retains highly qualified teachers, but it also ensures that these teachers are teaching effectively from the very first day of school and through their tenure in the district.  And the test scores at the district validate the effectiveness of the teachers.

John Christie, social studies teacher, says, “At Islip, the New Teacher Induction Program allowed me to share new teacher concerns, realize I wasn’t alone, and discover solutions in a collegial environment.”  Lorraine Knoblanch, a new teacher, says, “The best part of this year was how our relationships with the other teachers developed.  We really have developed into a family.  We share concerns and triumphs and meet after school on many occasions.  The connections are invaluable.”

New teachers are immediately ushered into a team culture and teacher turnover in the Islip Public Schools is negligible.  Click here to learn more about the Islip New Teacher Induction Program.

Islip is not the only district in the country training effective teachers.  Their program was developed after Linda Lippman and a team from the district visited the “mother” of all new teacher training programs at the Flowing Wells School District in Tucson, Arizona.  Click here to read more about this remarkable program that has been in existence for over 25 years.

When Yvonne Bernino reluctantly left teaching in the Flowing Wells School District, she paid them a profound compliment. 

She said, “They taught me how to teach.”

The Hopewell School District in Virginia has another model of a comprehensive professional development program.   Click here to read about it.

All of these programs have been installed for years—long before Race to the Top was a twinkle in the government’s eye.  Training for teachers must start from day one and continue throughout their professional careers.  Building a cadre of effective teachers is the charge of the school district.  Professional development, beginning with a new teacher induction program, is the most successful strategy school districts have to strengthen the effectiveness of its teachers and principals.

Effectiveness Is Implementable

Implementation is the key to success.

A school or school district will only succeed if a professional development program to develop effective teachers and principals is implemented and sustained.  The key component of this sentence is sustained.

The major worry is that school districts will take their Race to the Top money, hire an outside agency or company to spend the money, yes spend, not develop effective teachers, and when the money is spent, the district will revert back to where it was before Race to the Top

Successful school districts stress effective practices.  They wisely invest in their teachers and the effectiveness of their teachers.  They have a continuing professional development process, prioritizing the instructional practices of their teachers and their principals as instructional leaders because they are the major factors in improving student achievement.

Funds spent developing teachers in the skills to guide children to achievement are better spent than money used to buy a package of neatly presented quick fixes for academic woes.   Educational leaders know that an effective teacher can never be replaced by a program.  Effective teachers raise the achievement level of children. 

In too many districts a new teacher is hired, given a handbook and a schedule, and told, “Go to it.”  A barista at Starbucks gets much more training than most teachers get.

If a teacher is ineffective, it is not the fault of the teacher.
Where the professional development of teachers is not implemented,
it’s the school district that is ineffective.

Organized, goal-oriented, lifelong professional develop must be implemented—and Race to the Top funds has nothing to do with it.   But if you are in a district that has received the funds, use the money to establish the workings of an effective professional development plan for the district so it becomes the backbone of your teachers’ and students’ success for decades to come. 

The primary and paramount purpose of a teacher is to teach.  The purpose of the leadership at the school and the professional development program at the school district is to develop teachers who can teach—who can raise the level of student achievement.

Home Grown Effective Teachers

There is an abundance of talent within your school district and schools to professionally develop your own teachers.  Effective teachers will tell you they do not teach out of a textbook or from a company’s program.  Rather, they use a multitude of resources to teach the lesson objectives. 

Likewise, effective school districts do not hire outside agencies or companies to manage their professional development.  Can you imagine a sports team hiring an outside company to manage and coach their team?

For the past 10+ years, our Effective Teaching column on this website have been devoted to showcasing effective teachers, principals, schools, and school districts.  Review these articles and steal from them what it takes to be effective.

All of the materials we produce—from the books, DVDs and CDs, to our eLearning course—all focus on creating effective teachers.  Notice that the word effective is in or implied in all of the titles. 

Effectiveness is our mission and our forté.

We’d love to share with others what you are doing in your school or district to create effective teachers.  Please write to us at and allow us to share your story with others on our Effective Teaching column.

Every day that a child spends in the classroom of an ineffective teacher is a travesty to the child and to the profession.  Effectiveness is not a mystery.  It is definable and more importantly, implementable—without any additional funds.  Everything that an effective teacher does in the classroom does not cost 1¢ to put into practice.  No additional textbooks are needed; no special equipment is required; no special government funds are necessary.  To be an effective teacher is the goal of every professional educator. 

Our children deserve nothing less.



For a printable version of this article click here.

» More Gazette articles...

About Effective Teaching...

Harry and Rosemary Wong have been writing columns for Teachers.Net for over 13 years and the columns all have a distinctive style. They write about effective teachers, administrators, schools, and school districts featuring techniques that are immediately replicable and at no cost. More importantly, they work to enhance student learning. An archive of past articles can be found at the end of every column, with an abstract of all articles at the end of the most recent June column.

For over 30 years, helping teachers become effective has been the passion of the Wongs. Writing for Teachers.Net is just one of the many ways they reach out to educators with their ideas on how effective teachers improve student learning.

About Harry & Rosemary Wong...

Harry and Rosemary WongHarry and Rosemary Wong are teachers.  Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science.  Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.

Harry Wong has been awarded the Horace Mann Outstanding Educator Award, the National Teachers Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal.  He was selected as one of the most admired people in education by the readers of Instructor magazine.  Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award.  She was also honored as a Distinguished Alumnus from her alma maters, Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana State University.

Harry and Rosemary have been awarded the Upton Sinclair Award and were nominated for the Brock International Prize in Education. They have built and sustain a school in the jungles of Cambodia.

The Wongs are the most sought after speakers in education today, booked two years into the future. Their presentations are practical, offering a common sense, user-friendly, and no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success. Over a million teachers worldwide have heard their message. In spite of their heavily booked schedule, Harry and Rosemary have agreed to write this monthly column so that more people can hear their message.

How They Develop Effective Teachers...

Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to developing effective teachers, one teacher at a time.
To do this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO.

THE Classroom Management Book is what everyone has been waiting for. It is an exhaustive extension of Unit C on classroom management in The First Days of School.


  • Turn chaos into student achievement
  • Reduce behavior issues; increase learning
  • Step-by-step plans to a well-managed classroom
  • 50 procedures in detail
  • 40 QR codes with additional resources
  • 320 pages in full color
  • Complete first days of school plans
  • Suitable for all grades, all subjects, all teachers
  • Costs no money to implement

How to Be an Effective and Successful Teacheris an audio CD set that was recorded live before 800 teachers in St. Louis.  Listen as they walk you through classrooms that hum with learning and share how you can replicate the same success in your classroom.  In 2 hours and 40 minutes, Harry and Rosemary can transform you into a very effective and successful teacher at no cost!

This presentation has transformed the lives and teaching success of hundreds of thousands of teachers.
Learn how to


  • Begin the school year with a plan
  • Start class immediately
  • Have a well-organized and structured classroom
  • Reduce discipline problems
  • Have students who are engaged and working
  • Teach procedures and responsibility
  • Maximize classroom instructional time
  • Use lesson objectives so students know what they are to learn
  • Use rubrics to assess for student learning
  • Deal with at-risk students
  • Improve student learning and achievement


The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 3.8 million copies have been sold. It is used in 120 countries, 2,114 colleges, and most every new teacher induction program. The fourth edition has been translated into five foreign languages and includes:

  1. An additional chapter on procedures
  2. A new chapter on assessment with rubrics.
  3. A new chapter on Professional Learning Teams
  4. A new chapter for administrators on implementation 
  5. Additional information in Going Beyond Folders
  6. A new DVD, Using THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL, presented by Chelonnda Seroyer
TET The Wongs have also produced the DVD series, The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.

They also have a successful eLearning course, Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong.  The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience.  The outcome of the course is a 2 inch binder with a personalized Classroom Management Action Plan.

This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all effective teachers.  Details for the classroom management course can be seen at

You can hear Harry Wong LIVE on a set of CDs, called
How to Improve Student Achievement
, recorded at one
of his many presentations.  He invites you to steal from him the secrets of effective teaching for all grade levels.
Never Cease to Learn has the power to transform your
attitude and your life.  In this DVD, Harry shares his journey on the road to success and tells listeners how to become the educators they were meant to be.

When the books, video series, CD, DVD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective professional development training tool for producing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction:  How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers.  Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at

Helping you produce effective teachers is our passion.

Harry & Rosemary Wong Columns on Teachers.Net...
Related Resources & Discussions on Teachers.Net...

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