Sure-Fire Ways to Ramp Up Student Achievement ASAP


My goal is to help you become extraordinary this year. Every single strategy listed below is a teaching “factor” that ranks in the Top 20 of ALL contributors towards student achievement (sources listed at the end of this newsletter).

Below, you’ll want to turn these “teaching factors” into reality. Take just one of these and practice it until it becomes automatic. That could take you as little as 30 days or as long as a school year. In either case, once it becomes automatic, you congratulate yourself, and then add the next goal.

Here is the list to choose from (limit one per educator)…


The research for these strategies is located in the section “citations” at the end of this newsletter.

Dr. John Marzano’s research cites subject-specific, grade level strategies so you know what to do in each class, and at each grade level (e.g. “Use of graphic organizers in grade 8 science class”).

Dr. John Hattie’s research uses “factors” which embrace and include dozens, hundreds and even thousands of studies within a single domain (e.g. relationships). I use multiple researchers because no one approach (or person) covers ALL the bases. For example neuroscientists might give me a new angle on how or why, but then I go to the classroom research to find the effectiveness.

1. Use the 7 Minute Rule this Year

Do you believe in high goals? Can you set a high goal for your own class for engagement? Engage every student, every day at least every 7 minutes. Why? Classroom climate is a top 20 contributor to student achievement. Plus, engagement is a top 20 contributor to student achievement. Engagement keeps students in school and helps them learn.

Here are some reminders of how easy it is:

Get students up for a stand, stretch or activity break (Simon Says, Follow the Leader, play an imaginary sport, circle 3 tables, touch all corners in the room, lead a group in dance, etc). Have students develop simple portfolios for formative assessment on their work. Ask students to present topics to their peers or to those at a lover grade level. Have students brainstorm a topic. Do a quick partner summery of new learning. Ask students to take on roles in your class like “personal trainer” for a team of five, or “human resource manager” to keep the team on task. These are just a few examples; there are hundreds of ways to engage.

Set your smart phone up front with the timer for 7 minutes (no buzzer or alarm needed). Every time you engage students, reset the timer. This will retrain your brain to engage more often. Within 30 days, you’ll have amazing engagement everyday.

You can do this. This will make your class the most amazing class on campus. Kids will go bananas for your class.

2. Set Gaudy Goals

Student expectations are a very strong predictive factor in how they’ll actually do. Start with Day 1 and raise every student’s expectation of how well each one can do.

Tell them you’ll guarantee them an “A or B” grade as long as they do just 2 things (be nice and help another student get an A or B). Create a one page, simple agreement that states the terms. You sign it, students sign it, and their parents sign it, too. Ask students to share each week how they are doing, so you stay in touch.

Now, for your class goals: think HIGH! This year, make it your objective to help your students get 2 YEARS worth of gains for each year you teach them. Why? For many kids, they won’t graduate unless they have multiple teachers who do that for them. Can you do this during this upcoming school year?

By the way, once you have set the BIG yearlong goals, create short mini-goals for each week of the school year. With long and short-term goals, you have a powerful combo!

3. To the Brain, Relevance is Everything

Tired of re-teaching? Here’s a secret; develop learners who remember more and stay engaged. Why is that? Most teachers think re-teaching comes with the job. But HOW MUCH re-teaching needed is up to you.

Remember, if the brain’s not buying, the brain’s not changing. Minutes and hours of irrelevant information almost “force” the brain to “tune out.” Focus on building curiosity and relevance for everything you teach. For those subject areas in which you see less relevance, use other strategies to get “buy-in”.

Examples of “buy-in” include temporary strategies to build curiosity. “How many of you would like to learn something really bizarre about…?” Or, “Wow, this is going to be amazing. Here’s how it works…” Or, “My last class only scored a 72 average on this. I looked at your scores and think we can beat that by at least 5. Ready to give it a go?” Remember this, straight from the peer-reviewed studies in neuroscience: “If the brain’s not buying, the brain’s not changing.”

4. Relationships of Empathy and Caring

How much do student-teacher relationships matter? It depends on the student.

When students have safety and emotional stability at home, the classroom teacher is seen more as a teacher and part of the school team. Not every student needs a second “mom” or “dad” at school.

But, when things are dicey on the home front, a school relationship with a caring adult is critical. I know that from my experience as a kid. I had instability and danger at home, so the teachers that connected with me were rock stars. I worked my tail off for them. Remember that the next time a student is not giving you the effort you’d like.

Getting to know students often comes second in a busy, fast paced teaching environment. But, you’ve got to prioritize your minutes, and relationship building is important. The more likely a student has instability at home, the more they need a stable adult relationship with you. The greater the likelihood that a student will act out, disconnect or get in trouble, the more important the relationship is between you and him (or her).

Yes, make it a priority.

Based on Steven Covey’s first of 7 habits, remember seek first, seek to understand. Take a deep breath before you assign blame to a student. Hold the judgment about any of your students. Get to know students first.

Kids have far less control over their home environment than you do at your home. They didn’t choose their parents, their home, their neighborhood or their school. Many did not get taught manners, proper behaviors or how to carry themselves. Now, let’s connect the dots for a cool activity.

Next Monday, begin class with an amazing and powerful activity. In grades 3 and higher, ask students to write 2-4 paragraphs on the following topic: “What are some important things my teacher should know about me?” They must do it on 1 piece of paper and turn it in, and with no name on the paper. The responses will blow your mind AND your teaching will improve. GREAT relationship builder.

Relationships require MUCH more than an occasional, “How ‘ya doing?” Make it a goal to know 3 things about your 30 most “needy” students in the first 30 days. That means learning about a hobby they enjoy, their family, their favorite music, their dream, a favorite sport, the TV show they like or the dream car they would like to have one day. When you care about them, they’ll start caring about class. It’s like magic; try it!

5. Manage your stress or they’ll achieve less

Reduce your stress by half this year.


There is no stress out there in the world. It’s all in how your own unique brain processes the experience. You stress you out. That’s as simple (and truthful) as I can get.

That’s why 50 people in a room will have 50 different responses to a local stressor. You can choose to live with serenity and balance.

YES, some problems DO need to be dealt with. But your brain gets fooled a lot. Not everything that excites you, or stresses you, is actually a REAL and RELEVANT problem that has your name on it.

For example, everyday a kid may say something that may be unfair to you; let it go. Kids may accuse you of playing favorites; let it go. They may complain you don’t offer enough time; let it go. They may wish they could work with their best friend instead of a stranger; let it go. They may complain of too much homework; let it go. They may not like the testing; let it go. They may wish they could surf all day on their smart phones; let it go.

Life is not fair.

It’s not fair that one kid is born better looking than another. It’s not fair that some are born in poverty. It’s not fair that some go on summer vacations to fun places and others don’t. It’s not fair that some may get a scholarship while another (who deserves one, too) may not get a scholarship. It’s not fair that some kids are not liked as much by their peers as others.

Life’s not fair.

The bigger question this year is, “Who are you?” Are you going to wake up every day and show up as a “bag of complaints”, or are you going to either: 1) do something about it, or 2) let it go? Life is WAY to short to be miserable. Make this year the most joyful year of your life.


Make a choice every day that if you can’t do something about something, just let it go. Otherwise you get stressed and carry the weight of all the world’s wrongs and problems in your heart. The more stress you generate within your brain and body, the less effective you are. You’ll feel better, regulate your stress and probably live longer.

Just let the daily problems go. Focus on what you have influence over: helping students graduate job or college ready. Each night, count your blessings, get a good night’s sleep and you’re be ready for another great day.

Your partner in learning,

Eric Jensen, PhD
CEO, Jensen Learning
Brain-Based Education


Gruber, MJ, Gelman, BD & Ranganath C. (2014). States of curiosity modulate hippocampus-dependent learning via the dopaminergic circuit. Neuron, 84, 486-96.
Hattie, J.A. (2002). What are the attributes of excellent teachers? In Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence? (pp. 3-26). Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
Hattie, J.A., (2003). Teachers make a difference: Building teacher quality: What does the research tell us? Paper presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference in 2003. Retrieved on 3/18/12 from:
Hattie, J.A., (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London, UK: Routledge.

Hattie, J.A., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback Review of Educational Research, 77, 81-112.

Marks, H. M. (2000). Student engagement in instructional activity: Patterns in the elementary, middle, and high school years. American Education Research Journal, 37, 153-184.
Marzano, R.J. (2000). What Works in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Development.
Marzano, R.J. (2003). What Works in the Schools. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Development.
Marzano, R.J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum and Development.

Marzano, R.J. (2009). Setting the record straight on “high yieldstrategies. Phi Delta Kappan, 91, 30-37.

Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D. & Heflebower, T. (2010). The Highly Engaged Classroom. Centennial, CO: Marzano Research Laboratory.

Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D.J., & Pollock, J.E. (2004). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum and Development.
1 reply
  1. Ismael
    Ismael says:

    Oh dear. Why on earth would anyone want to ruin it for all the rest of us? Gaah! It is mldliy tempting to head over and watch it, but the regret would be instant, and awful.We have waited patiently for months and months and months… We can do this. We can get through the next 4 days, together!Because seriously Nikki… if we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone.

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