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Turning Around Turnaround Schools Volume 2 - Embracing the Rhythm of the Learner Year

by: Joe DeSensi EdD and Frank DeSensi

In the second volume in the Turning Around Turnaround Schools series, called Embracing the Rhythm of the Learner Year, the authors explore the neuroscience of how students learn and then use those insights to recommend a powerful and proven methodology for planning the school year around student need.

Teachers don’t take state tests or college readiness tests — students do. Therefore, our metric of success in K-12 education cannot be how much is taught, but rather, how much is learned.

Have a copy of the book and interested in putting the toolkits to use?

About the book

While the Rhythm of the Learner Year process is not focused on increasing test scores, it stands to reason that if we are creating independent learners who can perform at high levels and are willing to give best effort, increases on high-stakes testing should be a natural byproduct.

The Learner Year teaches the reader (K-12 teachers, principals, superintendents, and other educational leaders) to consider the whole child in program design, taking into account both cognitive and noncognitive abilities and indicators. Ultimately, the authors make the case for a just-in-time approach to:

  • Developing a school’s culture and climate
  • Unpacking standards
  • Building independent learners
  • Making those learners performers
  • Winning hearts and minds to get best effort for assessments
  • Mitigating the summer losses of content and process.


The Learner Year starts with summer planning, which involves reviewing what worked this past academic year, what didn’t, where the faculty were strong, and where professional development might be most useful. This all goes into the opening of school, critical to setting the culture and climate for learning. The authors write that you can’t win the school year in the opening of school, but sometimes you can lose it with a bad start.

In the fall, we increase a student’s potential to learn and store that learning in long-term memory. In the spring, we continue the learning but equally focus on retrieving that learning and performing tasks at the level the students will ultimately be assessed. As testing rolls around, we must make sure that we have hearts and minds to get best effort, and the new school year actually starts with the last few weeks of closing the current school year. It’s a continuous, thoughtful, strategic, and proven way to do exactly what the book’s title suggests — Embrace the Rhythm of the Learner Year.

Like the first volume in this breakthrough book series for K-12 educators, the authors present the practice in manageable chunks and then provide checklists, tool kits, and planning protocols to help the reader put the ideas into action. This book is good for both the novice teacher or administrator looking for higher student engagement, as well as the seasoned superintendent or principal looking to redesign curricula and scheduling. This book is also a good self-study companion piece for educators attending the Ed Directions’ year-long Rhythm of the Learner Year professional development series.

“When looking for a new, fresh way to attack turning around a school, I search for proven examples and suggestions that actually seem doable. Frank and Joe bring just that to administrators and educators in their second book, Embracing the Rhythm of the Learner Year. Thanks to their insightful concepts and a variety of checklist tools to help keep a school on track, change seems certain to happen. I am truly excited to share this resource with my colleagues and staff!”

–Nicole Pacholski, Assistant Principal, St. Matthias School (Chicago, IL)

About the Authors

Frank DeSensi

Frank DeSensi is the founder and president of Educational Directions, LLC, and consults with schools and school districts in the Southeast and Midwest United States. 

A retired educator, Frank spent thirty-five years in a variety of teaching and administrative positions. He taught at the university, college, middle school, and secondary levels, worked in the central office as a curriculum specialist, and held both principal and assistant principal positions. From 1993 to 1998, Frank served as a Kentucky Distinguished Educator (DE), assisting schools that had been labeled “in decline” or “in crisis” under the provisions of the Kentucky Education Reform Act. Frank helped develop the STAR training program for new DEs and served as a trainer in the Kentucky Leadership Academy. 

With two others, he has patented three data-management systems for schools, and in 2011, he led the development of an academic management organization approach as an alternative to the education management organization option for turnaround schools.

Joe DeSensi, EdD

Dr. DeSensi serves as director of operations for Educational Directions and president and cofounder of Informatics Direct. He has an undergraduate degree from Bellarmine University, a graduate degree in Computer Resource Management from Webster University, and a doctorate in leadership education with a focus on managing technology from Spalding University.

Dr.  DeSensi has worked with Fortune 500 companies, federal and local government, and school districts across the Southeast. He has developed custom and enterprise software for helping districts track causal data and target students’ needs, and has patents in school data-management software and database integration. Dr. DeSensi also teaches graduate classes in leadership and technology at Webster University and graduate classes in operational design at Spalding University.