Consistency is Key in Schools

Success is neither magical nor mysterious.  Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”  –  Jim Rohn.

One of the most important tools in effective schools is consistency.  Research and practice have proved that school leaders and teachers must  be consistent every day in carrying out their duties if they want to improve student performance and conduct.  This is a necessary element in the creation of successful schools.  Educators must say what they mean and mean what they say.  There should be clear rules, policies, requirements and expectations for everyone.  The consequences of any breach of these institutional demands should be spelled out to everyone, so that there are no unpleasant surprises.

By the same token, good conduct, excellent academic and extracurricular performance by students; excellent teaching and best practices by staff, should consistently be recognized and rewarded.  The instructional process should be regularly monitored and evaluated to promote constant improvement.

The rules must be enforced every time they are broken.  Those who break the rules have to be punished in the manner spelled out in the related list of consequences mentioned above.  Consistency is key and there should be no exceptions.  No student can be allowed to wheedle his way out of punishment.  The rules apply equally to everyone.  School leaders and teachers cannot be strict sometimes and lenient at other times.  Students and staff respect those who are strict and consistent because they are predictable and trustworthy.

Students value consistency and they expect to be punished when they break the rules.  Inconsistency causes confusion and leads to accusations  of favouritism, indecisiveness and injustice.  It destroys trust, community spirit and a positive school climate.  Staff and students need definite rules, policies and structure.  This framework makes their everyday lives predictable, fair and stable.  When everyone knows the consequences of infringements of the rules, discipline, safety and academic performance improve.  This happens when they know that the rules will be enforced.

Each school leader and teacher must be consistent in his or her daily practice.  However, there is another dimension of consistency in schools.  The administration and staff must operate like a coherent unit.  They must all interpret, apply and enforce the rules in the same consistent way.  If this is not done, students again become confused and play one teacher off against another.  The teachers who uphold the rules appear to be harsh and those who are too lenient appear to be “cool.”  The teachers who are perceived to be harsh become unpopular.  This scenario seriously undermines discipline, morale, and academic performance wherever it happens.  School leaders must also support teachers who report problems they are experiencing with students.  Administration and staff must function as one.

School leaders and teachers must create what some researchers have called a “culture of consistency” in which everyone knows the rules, the acceptable work performance standards, and what to expect without fail when they are not respected.  This fosters improved school effectiveness and underlines our assertion that consistency is key in schools for administrators, staff and students.

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7 thoughts on “Consistency is Key in Schools

  1. This also works at the leadership level. In the district we’re in, we’ve had 7 superintendents in about 8 years. And the middle school (the lowest-performing school in the district) has had 4 principals in 5 years. Conversely, the highest performing school has had the same principal for at least 10 years.

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  2. Pingback: Consistency; the key element for learning& success | Shahla's Blog

  3. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on consistency. This is a topic that my school struggles with because of the high teacher turnover rate and the high behavior rate. With a new principal this year and three teachers leaving our school next year, consistency seems to be a foreign concept. In addition to our rotating staff members, many teachers in the building hold different views on student expectations based on their experience level. How would you suggest helping to unite our school to make consistent student expectations?

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    • I can see why consistency would be a challenge in your school. I don’t think you can achieve this goal overnight, but by a concerted effort administration, staff, parents, and students can make it happen over a period of time. School leaders and staff must get together on a regular basis to decide and plan exactly what every person in the school should be doing on a daily, weekly, termly and yearly basis. This covers academic and behavioural goals and values. It eventually improves school culture. Administration and staff must ensure that everyone adheres to the plan and parental support must be enlisted. Progress must be evaluated at regular intervals and corrective action taken when necessary. Rewards and praise will keep staff and students on task. Extra-curricular activities must also be included. New teachers need to be guided into the new school culture of consistency. Improved school performance should gradually occur and that, in itself, will help to drive the process forward. These are just a few suggestions.

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      • Thank you for the advice, I can really see a few of these strategies being effective in our school.

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