5:1 Says that KIPP Journey has Relationships Figured Out

Two days ago, I wrote a post about visiting KIPP Journey in Columbus. In that time, it has become the most popular post on this site. Which is pretty cool. And it’s doubly cool because I didn’t even include everything that blew me away about the school.

In every classroom, there was a blue poster on the wall. All it said was “5:1.” As the day progressed, my peers and I routinely whispered about it. What did it mean? Why should a simple ratio have such a prominent place in the classroom?

We got our answer when we had the opportunity to sit down with Dustin Wood, the School Director and OU alum (Go Bobcats!). ┬áHe said 5:1 is a ratio that comes from psychologist, John Gottman’s study of marriages. Gottman found he could predict the success of marriages with 90% accuracy based on the ratio of the number of positive remarks said on a daily basis to the number of negative remarks said on a daily basis. If a relationship stayed around 5:1, it was probably going to succeed.

Wood and the teachers at KIPP Journey have started using the ratio as a way of ensuring the success of their students. When Wood does teacher evaluations, he records how many positive and negative remarks a teacher makes. The goal is to keep everyone above 5:1.

Observe any class at KIPP Journey, and it becomes exceedingly obvious that all of the teachers are constantly thinking about this ratio. They are like parents. They constantly hand out “I love you”s and terms of endearment and encouragement to their students. Even failures are repackaged as successes.

In one class, student had bell work. The teacher used two different students’ work as examples. One of them didn’t get full credit on the problem, though. But he had done something really great to deserve the first point, and so he was applauded for what he had done correctly instead of chastised for what he had done wrong.

I am convinced that interactions like these make all the difference.

I made a comment the other day that I wish the whole world was run like a KIPP school. The more I learn about the program, the more I am convinced that a wish like that could change everything. What if we made a conscious effort to follow the 5:1 ratio in everything we did? What would that look like?