What Can You Do in 100 Days?

by | Oct 14, 2019

100-Day Leaders

Turning Short-Term Wins Into Long-Term Success in Schools

Douglas Reeves and Robert Eaker

Dramatically increase student achievement and transform school culture in only 100 days. Using focused, strategic planning and change management, educational leadership can make significant changes that lead to continuous school improvement.

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This post first appeared on the Solution Tree Blog.

Our book, 100-Day Leaders, makes the case for immediate change – change that can take place across less than two school terms. We argue that change must take place now, just as one of Dostoevsky’s best novels and some of the world’s best music were all created within 100 days. This is not just one more leadership strategy; it’s a moral imperative.

Imagine that you took your child along to their first day of school and the principal said, “We’re working on a great literacy program, and we expect to fully implement it in five to seven years because, after all, that’s how long it takes for effective change.” You might say, “Thanks a lot, but my five-year-old child will be 12, and it’s a bit late at that point for your hot, new literacy program to become effective!”

There needs to be a sense of urgency for educational leaders, teachers, policymakers and parents. Teachers and school leaders simply don’t have time to wait; they need short-term wins. Through our research, we’ve found example after example of how great teachers and leaders have made improvements in achievement, discipline and engagement – in just 100 days.

We know that leaders who are clear about their values can articulate what they will not do as clearly as they can communicate their plans and performance objectives. There are many leaders who are thoughtful, deeply committed and genuinely nice, but their leadership attention is fragmented in dozens of ways. These leaders have more than 100 action plans and performance indicators and this fragmentation prevents them from getting any meaningful impact from their plans. By contrast, effective leaders can say what they will accomplish this semester and how they will accomplish it.

100-Day Action Plans

Here are three examples of solid 100-day action plans with measurable results:

Example 1:

“We will reduce the Year 9 course failure rate by at least 50 per cent by identifying every student reading below the expected level in the first week of school and providing daily intensive literacy intervention. We know that this will be inconvenient, will remove an elective class and will probably cause complaints from students and parents. We will do it anyway, because Year 9 literacy is the key to success in every learning area and every year level.”

Example 2:

“We will have every student reading at the expected level by Year 3 by providing weekly assessment, from letter identification at the beginning of Foundation Year to reading fluency and comprehension in Years 1 and 2. We will provide any necessary intervention to help those students meet literacy standards by the time they enter Year 3. We know that this may require changes in our schedule from week to week and will require reallocation of our intervention resources depending on student needs, and that will be inconvenient. We will do it anyway.”

Example 3:

“We will reduce student suspensions by at least 59 per cent by changing practices that lead to student failure and hopelessness. We will meet with every student who was suspended last year and, collaborating with their family and counsellors, create a prevention plan and a positive connection, including daily check-ins, with a caring adult in our school. We will defuse conflicts before they start; identify anxiety, stress and depression before they become debilitating conditions; and we will celebrate every success, no matter how minor, in the lives of these students. We know that some students will not like this attention. We will give it to them anyway.”

Short-Term Wins Are Essential

The common theme of these 100-day goals and action plans is a commitment to effectiveness and impact, no matter how unpopular those actions may be. We know well the temptation for leaders to get bogged down in five-year strategic plans. Senior leaders in particular like to look at the big picture and engage in systems thinking. While some long-term planning is necessary for facilities and finances, we know that when it comes to teaching, learning and leadership, it is short-term wins that are essential for staff morale and student results. Establishing 100-day plans will energise your community and give you opportunities for celebration and mid-course corrections long before the next round of test scores is announced. We hope that you will join us on this exciting leadership journey.


Reeves, D. & Eaker R. (2019) 100-day leaders: Turning short-term wins into long-term success in schools.

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Douglas Reeves Douglas Reeves, PhD, has worked with education, business, nonprofit, and government organisations throughout the world. He is the author of more than 30 books and more than 100 articles on leadership and organisational effectiveness. Read more articles by Douglas Reeves

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Robert Eaker Robert Eaker, EdD, is a professor emeritus at Middle Tennessee State University, where he also served as dean of the College of Education and interim vice president and provost. Read more articles by Robert Eaker

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