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.