Teacher Productivity Vs. Teacher Effectiveness

Teacher Productivity

Many teachers on their first day of work feel naked–shoved into a room with a few behavior theories, some lesson plans, a few dos and don’ts, and not much else.

Like architects and television producers, one must be both an artist and field marshal.

One of the biggest challenges I see in the design and administration of our education system is confusion between what is “teacher productivity” as distinct and separate from the art of teaching or what I’m defining as “teacher effectiveness.”

“Productivity” is a set of tools. However in teaching, “effectiveness” is an art.

For the most part, preparation of new teachers seem to be more on the trappings of teaching, not on the act itself. Professional development about the art of teaching is done in a non-explicit way. Metacognative it ain’t. Learning the art of teaching takes either a natural God-given unconscious talent, real ingenuity, or a work environment that allows for constant co-teaching, coaching and mentoring.

“Productivity” is a term from the industrial age–to increase the rate of output. However, as in that old adage I like to tell efficiency experts, “If it takes a woman 9 months to have a baby, then two women should be able to do it in half the time,” this definition of “productivity” doesn’t fit all situations.

Effective teaching is mixed up with “teacher productivity,” but should be distinctly defined. “Teacher effectiveness,” as I define it, is the ability to cause someone else to learn. It has everything to do with the ability to reach students at that very human level–to pass information from one to another and have it absorbed in a useful way. As with any art form, it also has a set of skills.

In the education system of today, many problems are caused by one of these skill sets being applied where the other should be employed. For example when adult professional development is run like a 3rd grade classroom. Not really the most productive situation. Or when efficiency is strictly applied to children’s learning timeline. You know this isn’t very realistic if you’ve ever been a good teacher.

Effective teaching is clearly important and why we are all here. But what of productivity? If you can teach one student a lesson in 20 minutes, then it should take 40 to teach two? Productivity steps in and one can insert tools into the process allowing 23 students to be taught the lesson in the same 20 minutes.

But for the act of teaching there’s a limit to teacher productivity. There is a point at which teacher productivity (when being applied directly to the act of teaching rather than everything surrounding the act of teaching) reaches diminishing returns. One could imagine a day in which public school teachers might be given bonus pay based on how large a class they could “teach.” I’m sure class sizes and bonuses would grow, and perhaps they could successfully teach to a test, but learning would be negatively impacted.

More and more the “content” of what we need to teach is becoming less measurable in a bubble sheet. The ability to perform on standardized tests, regurgitating information, does not equal success in creating a workforce to sustain the economy.

We are no longer teaching a “working class” as our culture thinks of it in a hold-over definition from a pre-information age. Today’s education system was forged out of the industries of the 19th century–creating little factory workers who could show up on time, do basic calculations, behave and communicate sufficiently to hold a job. In today and tomorrow’s workplace there are few jobs like that. Today, everyone is a web-producing/computer science/technician. From the Safeway checkout clerk holding a laser scanner to a truck driver with a satellite computer on the dashboard, jobs require an interconnected set of skills. Specialization is for insects. Today’s workers (even at the bottom most rungs of the economy) need all the skills of a 20th century manager, plus some: collaboration, critical thinking and a basic knowledge of technology being just a few.

Still, everything in the field of “productivity” does have a place in education. There is no point at which that old definition of productivity gets maxed out when it is applied to everything in education which is not the act of teaching.

So going forward I’m going to focus on these two concepts: “teacher productivity” and “teacher effectiveness.” I’m going to list the tools, means and ways the productivity experts have come up with over the years and how they can be applied to the administrative, troublesome and ancillary aspects of our jobs as teachers. I’m going to list and think about all the ways teachers can become more effective at their craft–the art of teaching. And I’m going to try not to mix up the two.

How we navigate the next few years in education will define the economic growth over the next century. A lot hangs on how we define “teacher productivity” and “teacher effectiveness” because those definitions will drive the redesign.

By the way, I’m importing the content from my previous Clairvoy blog and rewriting it so that it is aligned to this new goal. The Archives will fill back out over the next few weeks.


Special Education Death Sentence

In a cramped elementary conference room a young second grade teacher, from one of the finest colleges on the East Coast, sits with a mother and father, the principal and several other specialists, delivering the devastating news with as much care as possible.

“I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. Smith, this must be very difficult for you. However, it’s clear from testing, your son has a very severe communication disorder. He will probably never learn to read or write. That will make math difficult, if not impossible. If he gets along with his peers, it is possible he could be on a vocational track through High School. But you must prepare yourself. He won’t graduate with the rest of his class. He won’t get a standard diploma. He could get a certificate stating he put in three or more years at high school, but that’s all. It will be very difficult. But if we work hard, and we are lucky, it is possible he could grow up to be something like a plumber’s assistant or something–just not the guy who fills out the paperwork.”

That was 1968, and my diagnosis as a 2nd grader — Dyslexia.

Two graduate schools later, having worked paying my mortgage (for three years sun-up to sun-down) writing for CNN, having created television shows and designed the world’s largest television newsgathering network, having managed companies and 300 million dollar budgets, having lived my life with a big (backwards) scarlet “D” on my shoulder, I really would like to go back in time to 1968, find that teacher and slap her. (That is, if I were the slapping sort, which I am not.)

But she’s is more than 70-years old now and no longer relevant. What is a worry is the 23-year old version of her, now in 2010. What are they saying to parents about children with communications disorders? Even communication disorders which seem so overwhelming such as Autism.

Dyslexia was the “Autism” of its day, in 1968–pervasive, disabling, not understood. A real spear in the side of the then current educational paradigm. But just as it will with Autism, things changed. Our medical understanding of Dyslexia grew, technology advanced, and our educational approach adjusted.




  • I was enrolled in some of the earliest pilots of reading programs which later became elements of the Edmark reading program
  • My mother demanded I remain in general education, making me one of the first “inclusive” special education students
  • Daily tutoring after school for 3 hours
  • Visiting every medical specialist in existence
  • Advent of commercially available portable cassette tape recorders and players


  • Advent of Educational Television (Sesame Street, Electric Company)
  • Increased understanding of Dyslexia in medicine
  • Increased understanding of psychology’s role in education
  • Increased understanding of Dyslexia in education
  • Advent of home video players and educational videos
  • Advent of sony walkman cassette tape players
  • Advent of interchangeable cassettes for white-out and ribbon on electric typewriters
  • Advent of spell check prediction on electric typewriters
  • International direct-dial-up telephone communication


  • First “luggable” IBM PCs with amber screens and rudimentary word processing
  • Computer daisy-wheel printers, with uninterrupted paper feeds.
  • Office newsrooms completely computerized with global mainframe access, word processing & electronic messaging
  • Micro audio recorders

And on and on (over the course of 15 years)…allowing my first job out of Georgetown’s Graduate School of Foreign Service to be with NBC in their Cairo, Egypt bureau.

My 2nd grade teacher’s world of type-written stamp-and-envelope post for business communications and the very rudimentary direct instruction and rote transcription that defined education, was quickly snuffed out by advances in technology, education, psychology, medicine and changes in the the type of work needed in an economy ever morphing into the future.


In advances in communications technologies??

In advances in educational practice??

In advances in medical understanding of communication disorders such as Autism??

In advances and changes in the job skills demanded by the future economy??

In advances in the integration of these four trends with one another??

  • Technology & Education
  • Education & Communication
  • Medicine & Technology
  • Medicine & Education

The answer, WE DON’T KNOW. Heck even the best minds studying the future barely see 1 to 2 YEARS out.


We need teachers who are surfing these trends rather than handing out death sentences based on the static information of the day.

I’m not talking about tilting windmills.  I know many special needs students will never have “normal” careers.  But there’s more to life in the next 15 to 30 years for heavily impacted (read “non-verbal/ID”) people than institutionalization.  There are real opportunities for a fulfilling life of happiness and friendship.

Technology and communication is becoming much more visual and personal than ever before.  People’s attitudes toward ID and Autism is becoming much more accepting.  People are figuring out how to work with these types of folks more and more.  These trends are going to continue and make things easier for those with communications disorders — no matter how severe.  I’m not saying many will be able to completely overcome their disabilities using technology, but the trends toward the future are promising to have a very positive impact on their ability to function.

We should be looking to sculpt an education and trajectory for these students which will allow them to keep as many options open as possible for a future which is morphing in their direction.

We need special educators who see this.


So the next time you are considering giving a death sentence to some kid…

Telling his parents what’s going to happen to a student 15 years from now…

Remember, they get to live through the next 15 years.  You’re just guessing.

Abbreviations Relevant for the Sensory Integration

Knowing the language is a key to advocating.> ABA = Applied Behavior Analysis
> ABA = Applied Behavior Analysis (therapy method)/
> AD = Alzheimer’s Disease
> AD = Attachment Disorder
> AD/HD = The DSM-IV eliminated the diagnosis of ADD and replaced it with AD/HD (for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). The specifiers for subtypes for this disorder are Predominantly Inattentive, Predominantly Hyperactive or Combined
> ADA = The Americans with Disabilities Act
> ADD = Attention Deficit Disorder. Now replaced by AD/HD
> ADD-RT = ADD that lasts into Adulthood is referred to as ADD-RT (Residual Type)
> ADHD = Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
> ADL’s = Activities of Daily Living
> ADSA = The Australian Down Syndrome Association Inc.
> AEA = Area Education Agency, provides support services to
> AIDS = Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
> AIT = Auditory Integrated Training
> AIT = Advanced Individual Training or Auditory Integration Therapy
> ALE = Alternative Learning Experience
> ALS = Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
> APA = American Psychiatric Association
> APD = Auditory Processing Disorder
> Applied Behavioral Analysis
> AS = Anklyosing Spondylitis
> AS = Asperger’s Syndrome (part of the autism spectrum)
> AS = Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism Spectrum
> ASA = Autism Society of America
> ASD = Autism Spectrum Disorder
> ASL = American Sign Language
> ASPIE = A person with Asperger’s Syndrome
> ATA = Alliance for Technology Access
> AUTIE = A person with Autism
> BAMH = The Burnaby Association for the Mentally Handicapped
> BASC = Basic Assessment System for Children
> BD = Behavioral Disorder
> BEH = Behaviorally/Emotionally Handicapped
> BH = Behaviorally Handicapped
> BIC = Behavior Improvement Class
> BIP = Behavior Improvement Plan
> BMP = Behavior Management Plan
> BP = Bi-Polar (formerly called ‘manic depressive’)
> CACL = Canadian Association for Community Living
> CADRE = Coalition Advocating for Disability Reform In Education
> CAN = An organization called “Cure Autism Now”
> CANDLE = Childhood Aphasia, Neurological Disorders, Landau-Klefner, and Epilepsy
> CAPD = Central Auditory Processing Disorder
> CARS = Childhood Autism Rating Scale (diagnostic and evaluation tool)
> CAT Scan = Computer Axial Tomography – a scan using an xray machine linked to a computer that produces a scan in cross sections catalog of medical diagnoses)
> CCBD = Council for Children with Behaviour Disorders
> CCD = Considerable Conduct Disorder
> CCD = Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
> CCHS = Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome
> CD = Conduct Disorder
> CDC = Center For Disease Control and Prevention (a government agency)
> CDGS = Carbohydrate Deficient Glycoprotein Syndrome
> CF = Cystic Fibrosis
> CF = Casein Free (milk protein)
> CFF = Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
> CFIDS = Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome
> CFS = Chronic fatigue syndrome
> CHADD = CHildren & Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder
> CHDD = Center on Human Development and Disability
> CNS = Central Nervous System
> CP = Cerebral Palsy
> CPS = Child Protective Services
> CRC = Clinical Research Center
> CSE = Committee for Special Education (called MDT in some states)
> CVPD = Central Vision Processing Disorder
> DAS = Developmental Apraxia of Speech
> DCD = Development Coordination Disorder (DSM IV 315.4)
> DD = Darling or Dear Daughter (in email)
> DD = Developmentally Delayed
> DD Council = Developmental Disabilities Council (Each state has one)
> DD = Development Disorder/Developmental Disabilities
> DS = Darling or Dear Son (email)
> DEF = Deaf
> DH = Darling or Dear Husband (in email)
> DH = Developmentally Handicapped (used in some areas instead of DD)
> DHH = Deaf and Hard of Hearing
> DHS = Department of Human Services
> DMG = Dimethyl Glycine (a supplement)
> DSM = Disablity Statistical Manual (enormous industry-standard
> DSM-IV = Diagnostic Statistical Manual (edition IV) the current
> DSMR = Diagnostic Statistical Manual (Revised)
> DSPS = Disabled Students’ Programs and Services
> DVD = Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia
> DX = Diagnosis
> EASe = Electronic Auditory Stimulation effect
> EASI = Equal Access To Software And Information
> EBD = Emotional Behavior Disorder
> ECG = ElectroCardioGram – records electrical activity in the heart
> ECS = Early Childhood Services
> ECSE = Early Childhood Special Education
> ECT = ElectroConvulsive Therapy (electroshock)
> ED = Emotionally Disturbed
> EDS = Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
> EEG = ElectroEncephaloGram – records electrical brain-wave activity in the brain
> EI = Early Intervention
> EMH = Educable Mentally Handicapped
> ENS = Epidermal Nevus Syndrome.
> ESD = Educational Service District
> ESE = Exceptional Student Education
> ESY = Extended School Year
> EYSD = Extended Year Special Ed
> F2F = Face to Face
> FAPE = Free Appropriate Public Education
> FAS = Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
> FC = Facilitated Communication
> FDA = Food and Drug Administration
> FERPA = Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act
> FMS = Fibromyalgia Syndrome
> FNS = Functional Neuromuscular Stimulation (also see TES & TENS)
> FRAXA = Fragile X Syndrome
> FSP = Family Support Plan
> FVS = Fetal Valproate Syndrome
> FWIW = For what it’s worth
> GF = Gluten Free (protein in small grains)
> GFCF = Gluten Free / Casein Free diet
> GI = Gastro Intestinal
> GT/LD = Gifted & Learning Disabled
> HDSA = Huntington’s Disease Society of America
> HFA = High Functioning Autism (autism without mental retardation, e.g. w/IQ of 70 or higher)
> HFS = Health Food Store
> HI = Hearing Impaired (all of us in general)
> HIV = Human ImmunoDeficiency Virus
> HOH or HH = Hard Of Hearing
> HSLDA = Home School Legal Defense Organization
> IBD = Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
> IBS = Irritable Bowel Syndrome
> IDEA = Individuals With Disabilities Education Act
> IED = Intermittent Explosive Disorder
> IEP = Individual Education Plan
> IME = Independent Medical Examination
> IMMV = Individual Mileage May Vary (your experiences might be different)
> InLv = Independent Living (support group)
> IOW = In Other Words
> IQ = Intelligence Quotient
> LD = Learning Disabilities/Differences
> LDA = Learning Disabilities Association
> LF = Lactose Free (milk sugar)
> LFA = Low Functioning Autism
> LI = Lactose Intolerant
> LICC = Local Interagency Coordinating Council
> LINC = Learning Independence Through Computers, Inc.
> LKS = Landau-Kleffler Syndrome – a form of aphasia with seizure-like activity
> LLD = Language-based Learning Disability
> MAO = monoamine oxidase inhibitors – a type of antidepressant
> MBD = Minimal brain dysfunction (another name AD(H)D has been known by)
> MBD = Minimum Brain Dysfunction
> MBTI = Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
> MCS = Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
> MD = Muscular dystrophy
> M-D = Manic Depression (Bipolar depression)
> MDO = Major Depressive Disorder
> MDT = Multidisciplinary Team (teacher, SLP, OT, psych and
> mental retardation, e.g. w/IQ lower than 70)
> MIDD or MC = middle child (late deafened or hard of hearing AFTER spending life as hearing)
> MR = Mental Retardation, Mentally Retarded (IQ less than 70) (Preferable Term is ID or Intellectual Disability)
> MRI = Magnetic Resonance Imaging
> MS = Multiple Sclerosis
> MSDD = Multi-Sensory Developmental Delays
> MUMS = Mothers United for Moral Support – support group
> NAAR = National Alliance for Autism Research
> NADDC = National Association of Developmental Disabilities Councils
> NDA = Not Diagnosed with Anything
> NEA = National Education Association
> NEC*TAS = National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Systems
> NLD = Nonverbal Learning Disability
> NOD = Not Otherwise Defined, Often appears alot with DX by psychologists
> NOS = Not of Specific Origin/Not Otherwise Specified (usually
> NRSI = National Reading Styles Institute
> NT = Neurologically Typical (no diagnosable neurological disorder)
> NTID = National Technical Institute for the Deaf
> NVLD = Non-verbal learning disability
> OCD = Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
> OCR = Office for Civil Rights
> ODD = Oppositional Defiant Disorder
> ODS = Orton Dyslexia Society
> OEA = Overseas Education Association
> OHI = Other Health Impaired
> OMA = Ocular Motor Apraxia
> OT = Occupational Therapist or Occupational Therapy
> P&A = Protection & Advocacy
> PCA = Personal Care Attendant
> PDCA = Physical Disability Council Australia ( Peak National Body)
> PDD = Pervasive Developmental Disorder
> PDD/NOS = Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
> PDR = Physician’s Desk Reference
> PECS = Picture Exchange Communication System
> PET Scan = Postronic Emission Tomography (a nuclear scan that measures
> blood flow in brain, heart etc.)
> PHP = Parents Helping Parents
> PLAN = Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network
> PM&R = Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
> POHI = Physically or Otherwise Health Impaired
> POV = Point of View
> PPA = (PhenylPropanolAmine: A D-amphetamine analogue)
> PPS = Post-Polio Syndrome
> PT = Physical Therapist or Physical Therapy
> PTI = Parent Training and Information Centers (Each State has at least one)
> PTSD = Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
> RA = Rheumatoid Arthritis
> RAD = Reactive Attachment Disorder
> RDI = Relationship Development Intervention
> RL = Real Life
> SERT = Special Education Resource Teacher
> SI = Sensory Integration
> SIB = Self-Injurious Behavior
> SICC = State Interagency Coordinating Council
> SID = Sensory Integrative (or Integration) Disorder/Dysfunction
> SIDS = Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
> SIS = Shaken Infant Syndrome – also referred to as SBS
> SLK = Severely Labeled Kid
> SLP = Speech Language Pathologist
> SLP = Speech and Language Pathologist
> SLT = Speech Language Therapist
> SPED = Special Education – also used in referring to a Special Ed Teacher
> SSI = Social Security Income
> SSRI = Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor – antidepressant medication
> includes Prozac, Paxil, Luvox, Zoloft
> TA = Technical Assistance
> TAN = Tangentially
> TASK = Team of Advocates for Special Kids
> TBI = Traumatic Brain Injury
> TCS = Tethered Cord Syndrome
> TEACCH = Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children
> TEF = Tracheo Esophageal Fistula
> TENS = Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
> TES = Therapeutic Electrical Stimulation
> TMH = Trainable Mentally Handicapped
> TMJ/TMD : Temporomandubular Joint Dysfunction
> TNI = Targeted Nutritional Intervention
> TRIP = Translating Research into Practice – a teaching/learning strategy
> TS = Tourette Syndrome
> VQ = Verbal IQ
> VR = Vocational Rehabilitation