Our Academic Philosophy

Educational Directions’ approach does not consider curriculum to be only the content that has to be delivered. The curriculum plan is a plan to get students from where they are to where they need to be in all content and skill areas. Where possible, Educational Directions tries to parallel the district curriculum map or content set.

For more about our origins and our approach to helping schools, please see our book Turning Around Turnaround Schools: What to Do When Conventional Wisdom and Best Practice Aren’t Enough. Second Edition.

Our Organizational Goals

The focus of our program is to move the schools to self-sufficiency in terms of identifying and implementing best practice.
In most cases, this takes from 3-5 years.

Improve Student

We use a number of strategies to improve student learning and academic achievement. The core of our approach is our understanding and attention to the Rhythm of the Learner Year and the types of experiences students need to have in each part of the year. We use a variety of data points other than test scores to identify and to track student performance.

Teachers and Educational Directions staff utilize data, portfolios, and assessment samples in PLC discussions to inform decisions about student needs. 

Increase Learning

Another core element of the Educational Directions approach to students is focused on equal opportunity in experience as learner and performers. Academic and management rituals and routines are used to build an equal experience basis for all students and performers.

As part of this, we use diagnostic tools to determine where students are as learner and performer as a starting point to develop a plan to move all students to the transition expectations established for that particular academic year. 

Innovative Learning

Educational Directions encourages innovation by training school leadership and teaching staff to do student-focused unit and lesson plans. We establish goals for the year, which are translated into course, unit, and lesson plans and used to establish specific competencies expected of all students.

The diagnostics that identify where students start that learning process help determine the types and levels of work that students need to move from where they are to where they need to be by the end of the academic year. 

Progress Monitor

The development of a true “plan backwards — deliver forwards” curriculum depends upon extensive monitoring of not only student scores but also upon the learning and performing competencies, attitudes, and perceptions required for the student to demonstrate a potential as a performer and to make successful transitions to the next level.

We have developed several different types of assessments over the years that help us and our school partners decide exactly what students know, and what still needs to be learned.

  • Educational Directions has developed a student-focused approach to the school year based on learner needs.
    The model is call the Rhythm of the Learner year. In this approach, instructional leaders look at students as both Learners (processing information into long term memory) and Performers (accessing that memory and using it at the level they will be assessed).


The Opening Period

  • Enculturing
  • Preparing all students for success in class
  • Mastering management and academic rituals and routines
  • Building adult access to students
  • Establishing work and performance expectations
  • Jump starting critical reading, thinking and writing

The Formative Period

  • Building an independent learner and increasing potential as performer
  • Building operational language
  • Using critical reading, writing, and thinking strategies
  • Building basic reading and performing competencies
  • Building a best effort comfort zone

The Calibrating Period

  • Building proficient performance
  • Mastering uses of content
  • Successful equivalent performance
  • Operational language fluency

The Testing Window

  • Enable long term memory
  • Ensure best effort
  • Transition to the End of Year work

The End of Year Period

  • Establishing student ownership of learning and performing
  • Enabling successful transitions
  • Establish summer expectations

The Summer Window

  • Reduce performance loss
  • Encourage interests and talents
  • Build access
  • Review of data
  • Planning, planning, planning

Educational Directions has a just-in-time professional development series that presents these concepts just before entering a new learning period. The strength of having a common session to introduce concepts and critical vocabulary and then follow up with onsite coaching to help the leadership teams apply those concepts in the real context of their schools is one of the greatest strengths of our turnaround programs.

"We put students through scrimmages, where they either know the content or they know the process, to see if they can do the other.

For example, if I want to test content, I'll make sure they know the process.  If I want to test process, I'll make sure they know the content.  And then I'll put them through a real-time scrimmage which duplicates the test."

- Dr. Joe DeSensi