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I had a forum on this site for almost a year and a half, but in all that time, only one topic has ever gotten any traction: the one titled “Is the Leader in Me All It’s Cracked Up to Be?” I originally posted the question to see what teachers and parents were experiencing in schools that had adopted the Leader in Me program. As a parent whose kids go to a Leader in Me school, I was initially impressed by the program, but then started to have some doubts. I wanted to hear from others.

I have now closed that forum because I want to move the discussion here, so more people can talk about how this program has impacted their school and whether, in a time of fiscal belt-tightening, it’s worth the high sticker price.

What is the Leader in Me?

The Leader in Me is basically a philosophy that schools are taught to weave into every aspect of the school day. It’s not a curriculum or an instructional method, but rather a school culture model in which students learn Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Happy Kids, a spin-off from his original book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The program also encourages students to set and track personal goals and to take leadership roles whenever possible. In Leader in Me schools, students are often the ones who run the assemblies and programs, give guided tours around the building, and generally take on many of the responsibilities that were once the exclusive domain of teachers and administrators.

It sounds great, right? In theory, yes. “Overall, I love the concept of this program,” wrote forum commenter 2Sprouts. “I support anything that encourages and teaches kids to take personal responsibility, as well as how to effectively communicate and work with others. It was introduced to our school not long after the Sandy Hook school shootings and I couldn’t imagine a better thing we could do to try to prevent things like that happening.”

But others aren’t so sure.

Problems with the Leader in Me: An Overview

Objections to the program have risen for a variety of reasons. Here are the most common ones:

1. Cost. Franklin Covey is careful not to publish any pricing for its Leader in Me training; scroll all the way down in the Q&A section and you’ll see a non-committal response to the question of cost. They encourage people to call to receive a price quote, what they call an “investment summary.” But the most common figures I’ve seen hover around the $50 thousand mark for the basics. If a school wants to attain Lighthouse Status, they will need to pay for additional training and coaching. When schools are laying off teachers and cutting funding for many programs, the decision to pay for high-priced training definitely raises eyebrows.

2. The feeling that the program creates a brainwashed, cult-like atmosphere. The book that teaches the Leader in Me process recommends the “ubiquitous” approach, where the language of the Seven Habits is inserted into the day’s routine in any way possible: A lunchroom supervisor who sees a kid eating cookies before his sandwich might remind him to Put First Things First. A history teacher might ask students if either side in an international conflict was looking for a Win-Win solution. For some people, this approach feels forced. “At first, I thought people were kidding when they were working the language into every single conversation I was having at work,” wrote teacher KKB in the forum, “I was hearing things like, Well, if we begin with the end in mind, then that will be a win win for everyone, so let’s be proactive and put first things first, and then we’ll really be able to synergize. Seriously. People were saying these sentences. Then I realized that the language was so cliche’ and could be applied so broadly that there was no deeper conversation happening.” Another commenter by the name of 2x2x2 Mom, wrote, “It seemed to encourage everyone into black and white thinking about everything.”

3. The question of efficacy. Another objection is the lack of third-party research about the program’s effectiveness. “The results of this program have never been tested and proven scientifically,” writes mmbaldwin. “However, most schools give glowing reviews.” And some who work with older kids report that the approach is actually less effective than it is with younger students: “It’s way too cartoony and repetitive with the language for 4-6th graders,” writes 2sprouts. “Teachers and kids (and parents) are burned out with the language repetition.” In my own experience, my three elementary-aged kids simply roll their eyes anytime my husband or I use the language of the Seven Habits with them. And although they have been given some neat opportunities to present publicly, apart from that I haven’t seen the program have much of an impact on them. They certainly don’t stop arguing in order to seek first to understand, and the only one who seems to really care about them putting first things first is me. I think the underlying principles of the habits are sound; I just haven’t seen much evidence that they are sinking in with my own kids.

4. Corporate ties and corporate “vibes.” Some who question the program, like commenter mmbaldwin, are bothered by the fact that the training is being “pushed” on schools by local Chambers of Commerce. “The Chamber of Commerce is a big supporter of Common Core/PARCC testing in our area and we are NOT fans of either.” Others dislike the way the program’s structure tends to mimic other corporate models: Molly, a Redmond, WA, parent who protested her district’s implementation of Leader in Me, objected to the fact that part of implementation required promoting the program to other schools, which she said, “screams of pyramid marketing.”

5. Some see the program as culturally biased. “We are implementing it in incredibly culturally diverse schools largely without regard to the fact that these concepts and this language will run contrary to the backgrounds of many of the students,” wrote KKB. “A student from a tribal culture may generally be uncomfortable with the concept of ‘leading’ in the western sense of the word, and is it our job to try to make them comfortable with it?”

6. Finally, some concern has surfaced that the program has religious roots. Commenter elidyr wrote, “Without a doubt it is an indoctrination of our children with Stephen Covey’s Mormon faith teachings. While the habits seem innocuous by themselves, when you start studying Covey’s work you find the deep religious aspect hidden in the habits.”

What’s Happening at Your School?

I have attempted to summarize the issues with the program here, but I’m interested to hear your stories. Is the Leader in Me program showing clear positive outcomes on student learning and behavior at your school? Tell us about it. Have you had negative experiences with the program? Let’s hear it. Without an open discussion in a space that’s not sponsored by any of the interested parties, we’ll never see the whole picture. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. ♦

 

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157 Comments

  1. gahachino says:

    My school has been awarded Lighthouse status… and nobody wants to talk about the cost of the program. I’m seeing volunteers traditionally aligned with the PTA being bled off to assist in fundraising activities to support the Parent Lighthouse Committee. Has anyone else dealt with this? Like most, I’m okay with the basic principles of the seven habits, but I am soundly against the cult-like insistence of it permeating every minute of my kids’ days. The ongoing (obfuscated) cost compared with the lack of return on investment declaration is also upsetting. Looking for more discussion on this. Thanks for posting on it, super helpful.

    • Well FINALLY! This post has been sitting amongst the sound of chirping crickets for months now, and I was starting to wonder if it was just my imagination. I think as the program grows in popularity, we may see others come along and share their concerns as well. Thanks for posting.

    • Robert says:

      Our school just started this program. As a Christian father and a Pastor I am very concerned about this program. Values are to be taught at home by parents not at school ,and as they have told us in a newsletter about the program, retaught to the parents by the children. The indoctrination of the “win, win” goes against what we teach our children at home. “Win, Win’ means that you compromise. We teach our children that there are absolutes that are not compromised. I am going to have a meeting with our principal soon.

      • Virginia says:

        You are entitled to your opinion about Leader in Me, and I don’t completely disagree with it. The program isn’t perfect, and I still have some questions/concerns. However, as a proud teacher I must vehemently disagree with your idea that values are only taught at home. Quite frankly, I find it to be an insult to all educators. Each day when I walk into my classroom I am taking responsibility for not only teaching my students the necessary content, but also what it means to be a good person. I don’t impart my beliefs (religious or non) on any of my students; however, I do teach my students to be kind, respectful, empathetic, sincere in all they do, hardworking, and so on.

        • Jess says:

          Great points. As a parent and an educator, I can see both sides of this. As a parent, I do want to be the one to introduce values to my child, but it is unrealistic to not expect those values to be reinforced in other places, especially school. If the values are a little different, I would take that as a learning/teaching opportunity for my child. Maybe guide them to use their knowledge and power of choice to decide for themselves or teach them to seek guidance through prayer if you wish.

      • Heather Brooks says:

        I agree 100% with Pastor Robert. My first experience with the program left me feeling undermined as a parent. I have lots of concerns, however do not want to sound like I’m ranting. I attended school when every teacher used different techniques and I feel like the differences are a strength to the students.

        • As an educator, it is important to have a common language in the school, just as in the business world. TLiM is not a lock-step approach, but a set of guiding principles and common language that allows teachers and students to work through the habits as best fits their individual needs.

      • I agree with your statement that values should be taught at home; however, we are at a time in our society when, in many homes, values are not being taught at home, or the values being taught run contrary to the best interest of society.

      • Jessica says:

        “Win-win” is not a compromise, but a third alternative. A compromise would be a lose-lose since both parties do not get what they want. For example, you want to watch cartoons on TV and I want to play baseball. A true Win-win would be something new created that we both want to do- not a compromise of watching baseball on TV. I’m not completely sold with this TLIM program- but I have been trained through my school.

      • Norm Bossert says:

        I wish all parents would teach values at home – Christian or otherwise! After 43 years in education, I have learned that some (perhaps like Pastor Bob) do. Many do not. The values in this program work for so many of us – kids and adults. Win – Win also means that we listen and respect opinions different from our own. In the play 1776 I remember a line attributed to Samuel Hawthorne (I think) who said “I never heard anything so terrible it couldn’t be talked about.”

      • Ariel says:

        If you have ever taken an actual 7 Habits Course, you would know that the Habit- “Win, Win” is absolutely NOT compromise and Dr. Covey addresses that directly in his presentation of it. He clearly states that if you are compromising, that is not a win for both sides.

      • Jason says:

        Robert,
        As a 3rd generation Christian and who’s parents served their whole life as protestant missionaries, I have no problems with the Leader in me program.
        First and foremost, you’ve mentioned that you are concerned about the concept of “win-win”; as you may know if you have read the book (7-habits), “win-win” is not a ‘compromise’ but rather finding a way where both parties can ‘win’, this concept in made very clear in the book. E.g. finding ways to come to an agreement while “absolutes/values” are not compromised.

        Second, I agree that values (as well as faith) should be taught at home rather than fully relying on educational and religious institutions; however, I know that am not perfect and that children can learn from everyone; Secondly, even if our households are able to teach these values, we know that not every parent/family is able to do so.
        If I was only to care about my own child, we may not need this program but what is best for all the other children in the school? WWJD?

        Aside from my obvious approval of the program, I do have concerns about how costly this program is to implement in schools.

      • Terry says:

        You have completely misunderstood what “win/win” means. It not about compromise, but about thoroughly understanding another’s point of view and working with them to find another alternative to their way or yours. Covey even wrote another book to expand on this principle/habit/chapter from the 7 Habits book that he called “the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting.” The book is titled “The 3rd Alternative”. And please remember that BELIEFS frequently are NOT the TRUTH.

      • Mary Ellen says:

        I find the premise to be invalid of some homes in our area.
        Values are NOT taught at home. That is the problem. 6 year olds are watching movies such as “Deadpool” and TV shows such as “The Walking Dead”. So when exactly are those children going to be taught morals and values? No, I am not making this up. I can’t.

        • Kelley says:

          Yes! Along with every horror movie and video games like Halo and Grand Theft Auto. I am a current principal and former kindergarten teacher and I had to explain what this was inappropriate on a regular basis. My school is a LIM school and I love the foundation of the philosophy, however I do not see the need to pay thousands of dollars for a banner to say we are a light house school and further market their product. We can achieve the same rewards if we simply continue to use he philosophy and strategies we have learned without paying thousands each year.

        • Cheryl says:

          The school that I work at is in the process of becoming a Lighthouse School. While the 7 Habits are great pieces of advice to introduce to young kids, I don’t think that the entire focus of the school should be centered around this. It seems to be the ONLY thing that matters. Meanwhile, kids are acting out every chance they get because we have put them in charge of themselves. Something is definitely wrong when you have teachers jumping OFF of the bandwagon as quickly as possible.

          • You described my school perfectly! We are expected to make LIM our main focus and the work load just keeps increasing each year. I just want to teach, and I can do that without the label of “Leader in Me.”

      • Win Win is the opposite of compromise. Win Win is about finding a new alternative. It also does not take away from respecting others for their values and beliefs. It is a way to live so where one does not overtake others all the time with their needs only.

      • Jennifer says:

        I am sure you do teach your kids values, but as a teacher/parent I can tell you that NOT ALL parents do!

    • Norm Bossert says:

      It is an expensive program It is also funded in many different ways, some public, some private.

      • Sue Ogborn says:

        I am pretty sure it is a non-profit corporation is it not? Non-profits pay the high ups big salaries; people do all the work and funnel up money to the top. Its called a Pyramid scheme. They have these un-argueable topics, like Bullying and Leadership, volunteering to suck people in. How can someone be against it? Use mind control on people taking their workshops…oh another class, and another class. Look up Stephen Covey with “cult” behind it and you get another perspective. He also attended Landmark Education (Landmark Worldwide as it is now) That is the biggest cult facing people today. Their ways of mind control have put people into a psychosis. My experience with these folks have given me PTSD, and to bring them to our schools is scary to say the least.

        • Donnie Wilkerson says:

          The almost sole benefactor to the “round tripping” I Am a Leader Foundation, Andrew Cherng, is also a big fan of Landmark. Anyone who doubts the Covey cult connection would do well to research this scary group. These folks and their minions spurn free inquiry and as such pose a clear and present danger to liberty and freedom. It’s time for a national exposé of Landmark and Leader in Me! Round-tripping refers to the practice in charitable organizations where contributions (tax deductible!) come full circle to help just an intended select recipient. The IAALF receives about 4 million dollars a year from Panda Express (Cherng’s company). It then issues “grants” (around 100 per year at usually about 40 grand each) to gullible schools who must agree to pay Covey another $7,500 – $8,000 per year for five years from its own coffers. Additionally the school must agree to host annual events to help sell other investigator schools on the program (think pyramid marketing). Interestingly the schools never see the “grant money”, it’s paid directly to FranklinCovey! In effect they get a product that’s worth arguably nothing for the “‘bargain” price of $40,000 rather than its grossly inflated sticker price of some 80 grand . . .the kicker, Panda ostensibly gets a 4 million dollar write- off while Covey adds 4 million (plus the other 4 million from the schools) to its Education Practice Division revenue. Take a look at FranklinCovey stock prices (stock symbol FC on the NYSE) and you will find that, before the advent of TLIM, shares were trading at pennies each (0.72 in April 2003) with the outlook for the company bleak. When this exploitive program came along Covey stock peaked at near 23 dollars (22.50 in June 2014). The stock is most recently trading in the high teens amid less than lackluster performance by the company’s other divisions. Leader in Me has no place in our public schools!

    • Tracy says:

      Our principal informed us today that we will be participating next year. What are your thoughts on implementing it in a pre k classroom ?

      • Autistic Mom of Autistic Kids says:

        The program will be great for a Pre-K classroom. Please remember to keep leadership responsibilities developmentally appropriate for the children and provide appropriate opportunities for any intellectually challenged children in the classroom. As a mom of an Autistic Child in a Leader In Me School the only issue I have ever brought up is that there were not enough opportunities for our kids to be responsible for things. My son’s teacher cured this by making him responsible for the technology in the room. He is good with tech and that worked well. The program is great but sometimes I feel as though teachers underestimate our special needs kids.

      • I am at a school that has been working with the LIM philosophy for 4 years. Before LIM we would use words like “responsible, respectful, honest, work together” these area all words that parents and care givers use with children so that they will see the impact of their actions on the larger world. The LIM language does the exact same thing but in my mind makes it more specific and allows these ideas to transfer into middle, high school, and life.

    • Mike Sherry says:

      A colleague of mine and I just published a story about a Leader in Me controversy in Blue Springs, Missouri. You can see it here:
      http://www.flatlandkc.org/news-issues/character-flaw/

    • Matt says:

      Great read. Every elementary school in the district I teach in is now a leader in me school. I’m not a fan, we are a district that can’t give raises to the staff. It spend money on this! The administration keeps saying grants they get but there’s no way, TLIM needs to make money off this, after all they are a business too. This is my schools second year doing this, our principal keeps adding more work from lim on top of the school things we need to teach. It’s only October and you should see how high strung all the teachers are. 3 teachers told our principal how we need tone down the LIM and all she said was ” get use to it, it’s not going away.

      Teachers are not happy . The district loves it, which makes me think they are getting kick back or something. I can attest, teaching was so much more fun 3 yrs ago before we started the LIM. Now it’s seems like a dog and pony show. No one will speak there mind because they don’t want to be looked down on from the administration!

      • I can understand how it can seem like more to do – however, it truly is implemented in everything you do. The three main components of LIM are: goal setting and tracking, building leaders through action, and teaching life skills using the habit language.
        Before LIM, I was already setting goals and tracking them with my students and I would be doing this without LIM because it has been proven to increase learning and drive motivation – now I just have a schoolwide structure to do it within. Before LIM, every student in my classroom had a classroom “job” because it increases the feeling of contribution (same reason we have chores at home) and gives each child a purpose. Before LIM, I used words like responsible, respectful, honesty, now I use be proactive, put first things first, and did you seek to understand your friend before you gave your opinion. Same principals just in a structured way that is reinforced from grade level to grade level in similar ways. We know that it can take years for students to grasp concepts and this allows them to have this exposure in a positive, nurturing and supportive environment.

      • Lisa says:

        Oh dear. Should read “their” mind. I hope that was just a mistake due to fast typing? I’m saddened that this is just one more thing added to your teaching. It should not be something extra and definitely not a dog and pony show if it is to benefit the students. Stressing teachers out will negatively impact students because students will feel the negativity if teachers are against the program.

    • D.J. says:

      I have been to many LIM schools-schools that were high achievers before the LIM, remain high flyers. Otherwise, I have not seen turn around being attrubuted to LIM-exception being the school in NC.
      Much more I could write but suffice to say I don’t endorse

    • Smoke and mirrors at best…my five year old son knows the habits but there is no substance…Sure, LIM has increased trainings, PD, etc. but still not much to it.
      Very expensive
      You get much more bang for you buck from Responsive Classroom

  2. KTAU says:

    The school I work at is a Leader in Me Lighthouse school. The culture of our school changed dramatically after we started implementing tLIM 6 years ago! I can’t imagine teaching at a school that doesn’t use this character building program. At first, I could see how it might appear “cult like” because the language being used feels forced. Quite honestly, if you aren’t used to speaking a certain a way, and then you make a change, it would feel foreign to anybody. However, after our first year learning and implementing the 7 Habits, more authentic use of the habits began to happen and has evolved into what it is today.

    If you are a nay sayer, anti-this and anti-that, it will be Greek to you. There’s no use trying to understand it, because you never will. Your attitude will dictate that. However, if you are the type of person who seeks a positive approach to learning something new, you will be just fine! Yes, it takes time for the language to feel natural using it. However, you will reap such amazing benefits if you stick with it!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad to hear from someone who has had a genuinely positive experience with the program, and I appreciate the acknowledgment that the language can be a challenge at first. Have you seen a difference in student behavior and academic performance since implementing the program?

      • JBOOKS says:

        Disclaimer: No person/program/idea is perfect. These are just my very heartfelt pluses about The Leader In Me.

        I feel very similarly to KTAU; I don’t want to imagine what our school (3rd-5th grade) would be like today if we hadn’t been implementing and living the 7 Habits for the past 5 years.

        We have tracked and seen dramatic decreases in both office behavior referrals and attendance issues. Because we combine LIM with Kagan cooperative learning structures, our students are engaged and in charge of their learning. An engaged student wants to come to school. They make it a priority to be present and participate. Behavior referrals have dropped off because many classroom and playground conflicts, which can tend to escalate quickly and require principal attention, are now talked through using the language we share. I’d venture to say that 70% of the time, problems are worked out between students without any teacher intervention. There is severe decline in bullying behavior; our students just don’t stand for it. Rudeness, force, and backstabbing? The students won’t tolerate it. Bullies are shunned and then welcomed back when they can change their ways or are willing to work at being a more productive member of our school society. I think forgiveness is a trait that can be celebrated no matter what your background may be, as are many others that the program encourages.

        The language of the program, I’m sure, can seem cultish. I hated it at first. My husband hated when I used it at home. But now, the students at his middle school have all been through the program when they were in younger grades and he uses it as much as the teachers in my building. The level of language and vocabulary involved in the program is so much deeper than “Think Win-Win.” There are leadership tools, big rocks and little rocks, the time matric, shifting paradigms, W.I.G.s, data tracking, celebrations, and endless other phrases we use frequently when empowering our students to take charge of their lives. The power of a delta (something to work on improving), not a “minus” when talking with a student about their progress; the way an anxious child suddenly lets go of a bit of his burden when he learns about circles of control; when a student is suddenly turning in every homework assignment on time after weeks of bringing back nothing, all because she’s finally setting up action steps to reach her goal of earning a B in math…well, I could go on forever, but these are a few of the priceless ways I’ve seen the 7 Habits very vividly touch and change our student’s lives.

    • I agree with you. The LIM is not a “program” it is a philosophy of how to live life. As an adult you cannot properly model it, share it, teach it – until you live it. It is more about living the habits and then those habits will come through naturally for your students. If you think of it “as just one more thing to get in” it will not work for you or your students.

    • Anna says:

      Our principal informed us today that we will be participating next year. What are your thoughts on implementing it in a special education classroom ? Is special education welcome to this philosophy?

      • Donnie Wilkerson says:

        Avoid at all costs! These impressionable precious kids are especially vulnerable to this corporate/sectarian indoctrination.

  3. a says:

    I agree that children need to achieve positive goals including leadership, however, my concerns are with the methods, the almost mantra like phrases and the true cost. Also that the basis for this method lie in the writings of a Mormon who stated that if he changed the verbiage of his message, he could get non-believers to believe.
    There has been no independent research done about LIM, that I have been able to find. All roads lead to studies commissioned by Franklin Covey. I have voiced concerns to local school boards, the provincial education authority and members of the press. However, it’s like the elephant in the room. Either there’s no response or the responsibility for a decision on implementation is passed to another.
    Has anyone else had this reaction?

    • Would you please site your reference to “changes the verbiage of his message, he could get non-believers to believe.”? What particular “methods” are your cause for concern? Perhaps these methods are the way your school is choosing to implement the 7 Habits and not part of the program itself.

  4. Tracey says:

    We are in our 1st full year of implementation and were awarded Lighthouse Status last summer after just “trying it out” (i.e. investing in the program). I’ve seen some good changes already but am anxious to see the long-term effects. I feel it promotes nothing but positive life long learning, and that ‘s something our society is sorely lacking…

    • I agree that the program does promote some important values — feel free to come back and tell us how things go next year!

    • JBOOKS says:

      No offense, Tracey, but I’ve never heard of a school with less than 2.5-3 years of implementation receiving Lighthouse Status. It isn’t an off the cuff award, there is a 180 point rubric for meeting the criteria necessary to become a Lighthouse School. I can’t imagine your school did all of that in 1 year. I’m sorry to be a doubter…

  5. Anonymous Poster says:

    I am a teacher at a public elementary school. My school has been implementing the LiM program for the last few years. When we were first introduced to the program, the videos and stories were so inspiring. Children were being empowered to step up, speak up, and LEAD! It seemed like an amazing opportunity to help our kids reach their full potential. Everyone voted yes, let’s become a Leader in Me school.

    Before I go any farther, please know that the 7 Habits themselves are wonderful. I have no problems with the habits themselves or teaching them to my students.

    One of the first promises that was repeated to teachers many times was that the program requires no extra work. “Just incorporate the language into what you already do!” That has proven to be incredibly false. On top of our regular duties, we now are responsible for MANY other duties relating to the LiM program.

    Every grade level is responsible for planning and working on a service project. This is presented as a way for the children to lead by serving others in their community. While I love service projects and believe we should by all means serve others, I do not feel that its right to take instructional time away from elementary students to complete a mandatory project each year. The LiM program provides many examples of students “leading” these projects, from brainstorming ideas, making posters, baking cupcakes or making jewelry, to manning the booths to sell items to benefit those in need. While this seems like an awesome thing, I have yet to see any of our students (K-4) have the ability to do this independently. It is the teachers who have to come up with the project, create (or recruit parents to create) whatever product we are donating, or ask parents for monetary donations. Typically the burden falls to the parents to either buy something, make something, or donate money. We also have to create displays for the hallway to chart our progress toward a goal (once again, the teacher’s responsibility).

    We also were required to begin using data notebooks. I think data notebooks have their good points, but it is very time consuming to have kids track behavior, attendance, and test scores, especially in the lower grades. (And this is about to become even more time consuming…)

    We have “school-wide leadership roles,” which the students love, but once again, teachers have to remind them constantly that it is so-and-so’s day to raise the flag/take out the recycle bins/hold the door/etc. because they don’t remember their schedule. These are in addition to classroom jobs.

    We have Leadership Day each year. Teachers are responsible for creating a song or skit relating to a habit, teaching it to the kids, helping the class create artwork to display in the hall, choosing a few kids to stand in the hall beside the artwork to tell visitors how it relates to the habit, and writing/helping them memorize a few lines about what they should be saying. This means more rehearsing – not just the song or skit, but having them rehearse their lines for the hallway.

    (We also have to choose kids to be in various spots around the school to talk to visitors about their data notebooks, our service project, and to serve snacks. This requires more rehearsing. Since the kids are scattered all over the school, instructional time is a goner for these 2-3 hours. And I don‘t care how good of a “leader” a kid is, you have to keep one eye on them while they‘re in the hallway because they will inevitably get rowdy.)

    Now our school is on the way to becoming a Lighthouse school. This means that in addition to everything we’ve had to implement, we now are adding student-led conferences this year. We have to track a lot more information in the data notebooks like classroom tests and school-wide assessment scores (which will take up even more instructional time), and practice with students regularly so they will be able to “lead” their conference when the time comes. I strongly feel that in the time it takes to do all that, I could be teaching my students what they need to know, and meet with their parents myself if there are any concerns.

    The cost is also absolutely ridiculous!!! To hang a banner up announcing we are a LiM school costs something like $1,200 a year! Everyone is required to attend a symposium and the cost of that was at least $300 for each person! We have had several training days with representatives from Franklin Covey and I have been told that these people are being paid about $2,000 per day that they come to work with us. This does not include the cost of the workbooks for students, books for teachers, murals and bathroom makeovers, signs and posters all announcing the 7 Habits.

    I attended a symposium a while back. Now, remember when I said how those initial videos were so neat? These kids standing up in front of a crowd and explaining how they “put first things first by doing their homework before they play” and “synergize by helping their sister with her homework”? Well, the students who spoke at the symposium, as well as the students at the elementary schools we toured, didn’t go off the script much. You could tell that behind all of the beautiful artwork and immaculate school campuses was a LOT of rehearsing. I remember one little girl coming confidently up to me, looking me in the eye, shaking my hand, and announcing, “Hi! My name is ______. Do you want me to tell you about my Habit??” She told me what it was, what it meant to her (the standard line I had already heard a thousand times), then skipped down the hall to grab another stranger’s hand and repeat the same spiel. She was like a 7 Habits robot. Sadly, that was repeated throughout the two days of the symposium. And I’ve seen it in my own classroom. Ask any of my students what it means to “Put First Things First” and they will all chirp in one breath, “Workfirstthenplay!” Well, guys, what does that mean? “IdomyhomeworkbeforeIplay!” Why should we “Sharpen the Saw?” “Balancefeelsbest!”

    I hope I do not come across like a sour, burned out teacher. I love my job. I love my students. I want, more than anything else, to be a good example for them, to help them to be ready for the next grade, and to give them an awesome school year. I believe they should be taught personal responsibility. They should learn to put first things first, to get along with others, to work well with their peers. I also have come to see the LiM as a big marketing scheme. Schools are paying WAY too much to implement this program. It is information good teachers are teaching their students anyway! The only difference is, this program makes schools LOOK great to people on the outside. It is all about paying Franklin Covey a ridiculous sum of money to put on a show.

    • Thank you so much for this detailed response!

      Everything you’re saying speaks directly to what I’ve seen at my kids’ school. I do think they attend a wonderful school, and I feel the administration and teachers are all very much interested in providing the best education possible, but I think the Leader in Me program has been a distraction. As a parent, I see a lot of instructional time being taken away for preparing for leadership days (exactly as you mention above), we have to go out and buy new clothes because they are expected to dress up on these days, and I know that LiM events take time away from the school day. And still, I don’t really see my kids putting first things first or seeking first to understand before they push to be understood…the habit they are best at is sharpening the saw! Overall, I don’t see the habits really sinking in, which should ultimately be the point.

      I appreciate you taking the time to offer your perspective here — the response has been slow to this post, and I have found very little elsewhere online that is critical of the program in any way, so I hope we are providing some kind of resource to help schools make an informed decision when thinking about moving forward with this program.

      • Perhaps the site council of the school needs to present these concerns to administration. Be specific. Be kind. But be honest. Look for a “Win-Win”. (Couldn’t resist throwing this in.) Once again, it appears the implementation has become problematic. The tail is wagging the dog.

      • Childhood used to be “playhood.” Now preschoolers need to be stuffed into yet another mind-numbingly bizarre role as Tony Robbins? They’re little. 3. 4. 5. There is a strong delusion upon the earth right now…

      • erin says:

        You’re spot on – all marketing hype at our school too.
        We’ve been had, but lord knows there’s been tons of scams and misspending over the decades when it comes to public education funds. This one is no different.

    • A Sharp says:

      “LOOKS great to people on the outside”… Yep, that’s what I see going on at the school my kids attend. They along with many of their classmates (the ones who still think for themselves) are quite exasperated with the indoctrination and how their teachers have become more like police than ones who would help our children learn. The worst is that every time the principal sends out any correspondence to parents, she makes sure she slips in every.single.catch phrase in the 7 habits. I can’t help but roll my eyes and frankly it makes me angry because I don’t see evidence of how this is helping any of the students. I am also disappointed because this same principal is so busy trying to get the school to the semblance of this standard that she is neglecting her own children in the process. That quest for greatness? It comes at a price. I guess one would have to choose what is worth the sacrifice. Overall, though in theory, the 7 Habits are good principles by which to live, this whole thing really, really creeps me out. Remember Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”? I thought they were too young to understand things like that but they have managed to figure it all out on their own, and I would venture to bet they are not the only ones. There comes a point in which there’s enough showtime, already, and maybe we, parents and teachers alike, should get back to the business of teaching children all of what they truly need to know to survive once they become adults.

      • Thank you for adding to the conversation. It’s good to know that my own doubts and questions are not completely off the mark. I’m really curious to hear from schools where they are seeing a marked difference in student behavior, attitude, or academic achievement as a result of this program.

    • Teach31 says:

      I’m a teacher in a school that is seeking light house status. You have just explained exactly what every teacher Iour school has been saying for two years! However our principal is so caught up in this he will not seek first to understand but is determined to reach his goal. His goal! The teachers I work with are the best group of women I know and we all take our job seriously. But, now we are being turned into robots for this insanely expensive pyramid scheme. By the way our standardized test scores have fallen to the lowest in the county. We have always been at the top. It is very sad that implementing this program has caused such a dramatic change. And the morale of the teachers is at an all time low. We love our kids but who has time to teach when we are always preparing for a dog and pony show!

    • I can appreciate your views and I see how you might see things this way. I just want to say – every day I hear teachers saying “kids are more than what is in this textbook” , “students are more than test scores”, “we never have time to do community building or character development”.

      This is our opportunity to do all of that. Building 21st century learners is more than academics – it is deeper thinking, problem solving, working with others, confidence, and having a voice. The things we do through LIM ( and it sounds like you guys are doing them all) are teaching our students these skills! It is more work – but we also have to remember that it should be student driven – so if as adults we are taking over to make what could be a small and effective service project into something larger and only do-able by adults – I think we are missing the true picture of why we are doing the service project.

      I will also say that we all know we start teaching students at a young age to be respectful of other people’s feelings – this is a life long skill that takes years and years to perfect and the majority of adults still don’t have it down and they have been working on it since Kindergarten.

      My point is that this is a process – you might not see the long term effects of this continued teaching of leadership right now – but just like with all of our “character ed programs”, academic requirements, etc the effects are often times not solidified for years.

      At my school we began really having to ask ourselves – “Is this about the kids”

  6. Anonymous Poster says:

    Thank you for the original post! I have been wanting to voice my opinion for some time now. Most of the teachers at my school feel the same way I do. I am very frustrated with the program. The added responsibilities keep piling up; I am overwhelmed one year and think maybe the next year will be better – and then over the summer we are told about a ton of new ideas we will be implementing for our “next step in the process.” When educators come to my classroom during Leadership Day and ooh and ahh over our school’s production, I want so badly to tell them, “Run! Don’t let this fool you! You don’t need it! You are doing a great job and don’t need to pay Franklin Covey an arm and a leg for, essentially, the opportunity to put on a dog and pony show.” I believe that it will eventually pass, as most trends in education do. I just hate that all this time and money are being wasted in the meantime.

  7. Nom de Plume says:

    Our school will be adopting LIM this year.

    Thank you for allowing this forum for teachers to speak freely regarding this.

    I fear that if I don’t shave my head, don the sackcloth, and begin chanting that it will affect my evaluation this upcoming year.

    The cost – we are tossing around the rumor of $40K – is outrageous. I thought, “Surely, that can’t be right…” Apparently it is, however.

    That is obscene. I am so disheartened that our Captain Queeg has decided to spend out limited funding in this manner. There are so many other things could directly affect students that would benefit from such an influx.

    And the emperor had no clothes…

    • Thanks for contributing, Nom. The fact that people feel they have to post anonymously is a sign that something is fishy. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

      • Blaine says:

        My school has had big issues with sharing leadership roles amongst teachers. Young inexperienced teachers were sent to observe a lighthouse school and make recommendations. They were dazzled but had little data to support its effectiveness. We spent a year implementing the habits but were looking for more resources. Before you know iit we are looking for “lighthouse status” using a grant from undisclosed sources! The infighting has begun over who is on the lighthouse committee -same damn people picked for everything. I can’t help but feel we have swallowed this whole due to the inexperience of staff members I wished the parents would ask for more explanations as well as the price list. It is not a very transparent program. The seven habits are important but I think it’s so much smoke and mirrors good teachers have taught a version of this in their classrooms and not charged extra to share their knowledge It reminds me of getting sucked into Amway!!!

    • Teach31 says:

      I can’t believe you just said that. Several of us have wondered when we will be called in for a shave!

  8. FALL GIRL says:

    I am very happy to have come across this website. Our school is a brand-new Leader in Me school. The program is being rolled out this year. While it does sound like a wonderful program, I do have some concerns. I am on the PTO board at my school and we are pretty worried about the cost of this program. We generally do well with our fundraising and we support many things at our school. My concern is that all of our fundraising will now be expected go towards this program. While I don’t think our principal will expect that at all, I do worry that parents will be expected to help fund the program on some level (either by outright donations or fundraisers earmarked specifically for Leader in Me). I worry that that will, in turn, affect our fundraisers and thus, affect the programs we have funded for our children for many years. Bottom line, I’m concerned parents will feel like they are writing checks to the school left and right, and in the end that will affect the PTO’s mission. It will be interesting to see how parents will respond to this program when it is officially rolled out.

  9. Matt Thornhill says:

    As the principal of a Leader in Me Lighthouse school, I feel compelled to comment on this topic. There are many comments listed throughout this blog that I do agree with. However, there are comments that draw concern as well. I have seen many initiatives come and go throughout my time in education, and this is one that I hope will continue to stick. I also understand that with any initiative there will be parts of it that may not. We have been implementing Leader in Me for 5 years now and have made several adjustments along the way. However, I strongly believe that the principles behind the Leader in Me are here to stay.
    I often refer to a poem I once shared with my teachers about buzzards and bees, each finding what they seek. The buzzard finds stinky dead things, while the bee finds sweetness. It depends on what you want to see. There are positives and negatives with any initiative and there are certainly more positives with the Leader in Me than the negatives in my opinion. I have seen our school embrace leadership in kids that never happened before. I have seen students take ownership of their learning that did not happen before. I have seen students come out of their shell to do great things. I have seen a deaf and hard of hearing student lead guests throughout our building with confidence through an interpreter. I have seen a student with a reading disability take on a leading role in a play. I have seen a student with a speech disability lead morning meeting. Perhaps we should have been able to promote this kind of culture prior to the Leader in Me, but it certainly has developed and grown since the initial implementation of it.
    I do agree that the cost is ridiculous, but there are a lot of things that can be implemented without spending a dime. However, on the other hand, there are some things that are priceless. Reaching students in a way when other initiatives failed is invaluable.

    • Thank you so much for this thoughtful reply. I really do want to hear from educators who are seeing positive results from this program, and I agree that the leadership opportunities in LiM are impressive…it’s one of the aspects I have appreciated about the program. Sometimes it does take a structured system to get schools to implement things that may have been possible without the program, but if the results are there, that’s what matters.

      I wonder if you can elaborate a little more on your experience as a principal. Can you pinpoint what it is about the Leader in Me program that has produced these results? I think most people who have commented here are generally in support of the 7 Habits themselves, but there’s a certain “Emperor’s New Clothes” feeling about the program and its associated costs…as if no one is quite sure how the funding actually benefits the school making the investment. My understanding is that a large portion of the cost goes toward training for staff. Can you give us some insight about how that training ultimately leads to the kinds of connections you’re describing?

      By the way, that buzzards and bees metaphor is wonderful. Thanks for sharing it.

  10. Matt Thornhill says:

    I apologize for the delay in responding to your questions…
    I believe both your questions correlate with each other – “Can you pinpoint what it is about the Leader in Me program that has produced these results?” and “Can you give us some insight about how that training ultimately leads to the kinds of connections you’re describing?” I don’t think we would have received the results we have without the training. I strongly believe that you first have to work on the “heart” before you change “behavior.” The LIM training opportunities work with the teachers on a personal level. During the training we hear a lot about private victories. It goes along with the concept you often hear teachers remind the kids: “Doing what is right even when no one is watching.” Kids see right through us and if we don’t believe in what we are trying to do, there is no reason in doing it. The training gives the teachers an opportunity to “live it” before taking the initiative into the classroom. We continue our training opportunities throughout the year with booster sessions during our faculty meetings led by our teachers (at no cost) who were part of the original training along with mentoring and observing throughout the year.
    With that being said, I will refer to my original post that I agree with the disheartening of the cost associated with it. However, every year I find myself a bit frustrated with the cost to educate kids in general. It seems every computer program, textbook, website license, etc. is getting out of control. In regards to the LIM, I feel blessed to be associated with our Chamber of Commerce and the community we live in who backed the initiative. They have supported us by paying for our training. They see a direct correlation between what the LIM is doing in the classroom and how it is going to impact the workforce at a later time. There is a slide I have shared with my staff and parents that includes what parents and business leaders want: Independence – goal setting, organization, time management, and planning (Habits 1-3); Interdependence – teamwork, conflict management, creativity, and analytical skill (Habit 4-6); Renewal – fun, desire to learn, good health (Habit 7).
    In regards to the “Emperor’s New Clothes” question, I would say that is all about perception and how you present it. I often say good teaching is good teaching no matter how you package it. As one of the earlier posters stated, a lot of what the LIM is about was already taking place and now finds a new life. It was good then and it is good now. Don’t let the cost of it interfere with implementing strategies that have been proven to help students be successful. I have collaborated with teacher friends from a neighboring district who have attended our Leadership Days and see how there are things that can be implemented without any cost. That is what we do. We read blogs, books, listen to speakers and find ways to implement strong, proven strategies into our own classroom making it our own.

  11. Emily says:

    Last year I worked at a LIM school that was in the final process of gaining Lighthouse status. Being new to the building, I was constantly pulled out of my classroom for training in LIM. I have no opposition to the 7 Habits and think they are wonderful lessons to teach all students. However, I do have a problem with schools spending $40,000 a year for this program, when teachers in my district have not had a raise in seven years. I would feel differently if there was independent research supporting LIM, but all evidence is published by Steven Covey and majority of it is anecdotal. I am in a new building this year in the same district with the same grade level and socioeconomic population of students, but the building I am in now uses PBIS (which is research based). The atmosphere between the two buildings is shocking; last year the students were rude, entitled, and had no respect for adults working in the building. This year the students are kind and courteous and I could not be happier where I am now. I should also note that I teach special education to students with emotional impairments and Autism and have found that LIM is a waste of time for my students because it is far too abstract for them. My students need clear and consistent positive and negative consequences and for $40,000, LIM offers neither.

    • Bonnie says:

      Schools do not pay $40,000 per year. A school that wants to reach Lighthouse Status will typically invest $40,000 – $60,000 over three to four years. Consider it staff development that focuses on 21st century skills, data driven decision making, professional learning communities, response to intervention, project based learning and social-emotional learning. These are all trends in education that a school could spend in isolated professional development. Whereas, TLIM provides a framework that puts it all together. By the way, not only are these trends in staff development but they are also the expectations in teacher evaluations now.

    • KD Young, former Art teacher says:

      Amen. Positively a waste. Negatively takes time from instruction.

  12. anonymous says:

    Thank you all for your insight regarding this program. As a parent, and school board member, I became interested in this program but wanted to do some research on it before asking the administrative team to consider it. The responses above have given me much more information, both positive and negative, to consider. Thanks for your time, and for your dedication to our children.

  13. Donnie Wilkerson says:

    My concerns and objections to the Leader in Me (TLIM) program and its purveyor, FranklinCovey, run deep and wide. My soon to be released expose will document over two years of exhaustive research both anecdotal and statistical which will clearly show why this program does not belong in the public schools of this country.
    Below is a brief summary of the key points contained in the upcoming release entitled Seven Problems with the Seven Habits: Why Leader in Me is NOT for ME!
    1. TLIM as implemented in the public schools clearly violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A long train of evidence documents not only the almost exclusive foundation in Latter Day Saints theology of Covey’s original seven habits but case after case of direct connections to LDS churches and/or church leaders in the origination and implementation of the program. In addition even more pervasive is an embrace of traditional right wing religiosity (non LDS). The evidence points repeatedly to direct connections to religious programs and leaders with the TLIM movement in PUBLIC schools.
    2. The Fourth Amendment is also summarily trampled in this process. Public school students and employees are required by this program to “internalize” Covey’s LDS based habits, to live, model and teach them not only at school but at home and indeed in everything they do!
    3. The program creates an almost cult-like atmosphere in schools that seriously embrace it (Many subscribing schools only superficially implement TLIM and many across the country have dropped it altogether.) Pick schools from every corner of the U.S., peruse their websites and watch their TLIM based videos and you will see students robotically chanting the seven habits and their related mantras. Hallways, bulletin boards and classrooms feature the same ubiquitous tree and silly animal characters from son Sean’s, Seven Habits of Happy Kids. Kindergarteners are taught to use words like proactive and synergize when they can rarely have any real understanding of what those words actually mean (and certainly not from where they originate).
    4. The cost of this program is exorbitant. Even if we could somehow get past the constitutional issues, schools and communities are paying millions of dollars to FranklinCovey for something they could do for little or no money. The cost of the program for the average school for a three year period is 75, 000 dollars or more. FranklinCovey engages in a giant “shell game” to make it seem that some schools get “grants” to help pay for the program. In all but a very few these grants come from the “I am a Leader Foundation”, a “non-profit” charitable foundation whose 501-C-3 status is tenuous at best. Though FranklinCovey maintains its separation from the foundation the distinction is wholly technical. The foundation is led by Stephen Covey’s longtime business partner and its key executives and board members are leaders in and/or large donors to the LDS church (as are a majority of FranklinCovey’s executive team and board) . . . see 1. above! Schools that receive “grants” still have to pay FranklinCovey another 35 grand or so in addition to the monies from the IAALF which go directly to FranklinCovey. Foundation funds are primarily derived from an approximate 4 million dollar annual donation from the Panda Express Company. In addition FranklinCovey stock before TLIM was selling for pennies a share and is now pushing twenty dollars per share with an expert predicted target of twenty-six dollars.
    5. Another very troubling aspect of this program is its reliance on a “pyramid” type marketing model. In order to attain the highest status, known interestingly as an oft faith based term, “lighthouse”, schools must agree to host at least one so-called leadership event each year. These leadership events often consume the entire day of instruction and require weeks of class time and practice so that come show time the kids are all singing and dancing the company line in an effort to woo prospective administrators, parents and teachers from other schools. These folks have paid about 50 bucks a pop to attend, which is FranklinCovey’s suggestion for how schools can help pay their annual Covey required licensing fees. If schools can just recruit enough new members they will not have to be out any money of their own. This, of course, is the tactic used by virtually all network marketers. The Salt Lake City area is home to the largest concentration of multi-level/ pyramid marketing companies in the world and most of them are LDS based. The head of the I Am a Leader Foundation has his own, Legacy Network, which is affiliated with none other than the much larger MLM, ironically named, Synergy Worldwide (LDS founded)!
    6. As of this date there exists NO peer reviewed quantitative research to support the efficacy of this program. The little extant anecdotal research is highly subjective and marginal at best. Due to my research FranklinCovey has now pulled from its website and literature any claims of academic improvement as a result of TLIM. The one attempt at bona fide research out of Western Kentucky University failed miserably as it was flawed from the outset with groups designed to yield favorable results for TLIM. Even with the skewed control group the research showed zero impact of the program even on its now stated main goal of character education! You will not find FranklinCovey saying much about this research however!
    7. Finally, though high sounding and seemingly innocuous, the seven habits themselves bear close scrutiny. It sounds good for the most part to be proactive, begin with the end in mind, think win-win, seek first to understand then be understood, synergize and sharpen the saw BUT are these the be all end all habits we ALL must adhere to? Being proactive and planning is good but often some of our best leaders are those who are able to react quickly when things do not go as planned. Courage and spontaneity are traits often left out here. In the real world there are often clear winners and clear losers and we do a disservice to kids when we lead them to believe otherwise. We would do well to teach them how to be good losers and good winners. It is also important to listen to others but we also need to learn the importance of speaking up and standing your ground. Teamwork (synergy), yes, good to learn but many of our greatest leaders, artists, scholars and craftsmen eschew teamwork preferring instead to work in solitude. Of course, knowing Covey’s origination of these habits makes it hard for me to embrace them even if I thought they were the paramount “paradigms” the proponents of this program would have you believe. Just for example, when Stephen Covey first coined the phrase “begin with the end in mind” he was offering instruction to Mormon missionaries to have a baptism date in mind for potential converts when they first approached them!

    These are but snippets of the volume of work I have amassed on this project. A more comprehensive document with detailed support will be forthcoming during late 2015. Anyone wishing further information please feel free to call or email . . . my phone number is 270-866-1244 and my email address is [email protected]. Thanks

    • Donnie, thank you for taking the time to share this detailed list of concerns. I think these are worthwhile considerations for anyone looking into the LIM program. I still feel the 7 Habits have merit; no, they are not everything and anything kids should be taught, but many of the same principles helped me succeed in school, work, and in my interpersonal relationships (not in this specific format, but the ideas in general). I see the Think win-win habit as an ideal to uphold when resolving conflicts, not in situations where competition is the primary focus.

      The pyramid stuff, though? That’s something I didn’t know about. I am aware of the leadership days, and I don’t love the time they take away from instruction, but I didn’t realize there was a connection between running those days, recruiting new schools, an offsetting other costs. As a parent at a Lighthouse school I deeply trust that my own administration has my kids’ best interests at heart, and because they were early adopters of this program, I doubt whether any of these factors (apart from the cost) ever crossed their minds as problematic. But now that the program has been around a while, I think it’s vital that schools think carefully before jumping in with both feet, and schools that are already somewhere inside that pyramid should move forward with caution, if at all.

      • Jo says:

        I have 2 children who attend a school who is a Leader In Me School. My son is in 5th grade and my daughter in 3rd. My son is very burnt out by the program mainly due to the fact that is was pushed on them all at once and they went from one day being a normal day to the next doing the leader in me stuff. He said he hates how everything in the school is leader this and leader that and the repetitive language. There is a hall leader, lunch leader, book leader etc. He gets annoyed. However there are good things that come out of it as well. Our school has lead groups that the kids attend they range from knitting hats for the needy to staying fit. Those programs are great and provide students with skills they normally wouldn’t get. The students lead everything in the school like assemblies which helps with public speaking and confidence. One thing I was not happy with was student lead conferences. I want to hear from the teacher on how my child is doing not from my child. We sit down to dinner at the table every night and talk I know how my children think they are doing and what they think they need help with, I want to know what the teachers think. Until reading this stuff about the cult like behavior I never looked at it that way but can see how some might. I do not think however that the leader in me program or the school will reverse the impact on the values I teach my children and that our Christian faith and attending church has given them. They know that the Bible is the most important book. I think all in all it is a good program. Like anything thee are good and bad parts, it’s our responsibility as parents to voice our concerns to the school and to teach our children the values they carry with them their entire life.

        • Jo, I forgot about the conferences! I don’t like them either. We basically get nothing out of them, and I feel like an important opportunity to get to know the teacher is completely lost.

    • Becky says:

      I previously had my son in one of the best performing arts schools in the country….and while arts are his passion and we were so impressed after our school tour…my son HATED the school…the teachers and staff were all about test results and didn’t care about the students. Furthermore, my son was bullied…severely. In his last month there he was physically assaulted twice…and they did nothing about it. We actually moved and did a hardship waiver to get him into a Leader in me school….not because it was one of these schools, but because I could see that the kids at this school were different than the other dozen I toured….they were having fun and seemed happy? Strange concept for a parent who only saw miserable kids on every tour I took. Our son got into this school and is happier than he’s ever been. He actually likes school….ALOT! Some nights he’s so excited about going back he can’t fall asleep right away. The kids are all taught to get along…despite any differences…novel concept, eh? He also talks about the 7 habits so much that he begged me to buy the book for home. He’s in 1st grade and can read the whole book…because he loves it that much. He now talks about making goals for himself and treating everyone with respect. He thinks before he acts…he listens before he wants to be listened to….he strives to go above and beyond to help others. Today he luggeg a huge suitcase for his granny to show his “leadership” skills. For my son…this works…can’t understand how it would not be a positive thing for any kid. My so goes to a public school so I’m not paying anything more for this wonderful teaching philosphy…however…if I was asked…I’d most definitely pay for it or contribute my time to keep it going. Btw, Donnie Wilkerson…are you serious? There are “clear losers” …really? That comment alone discredits every single word you wrote. I hope people do their own research about this before believing anything you have to say…

    • Stephanie says:

      Wow. I assume that you are a parent who has watched a child go through this program with your comments regarding a kindergartner not being able to understand. You’ve had a child go through the program? Or are you a teacher that has implemented the program and seen it impact kids? I think if you have real experience as a parent or as a teacher teaching this, that you have every reason to make your comments. If not, they are simply unwarranted. You are an outsider looking in. As a parent of 3 children, I have seen such a positive impact in our school and home life. I have seen my kids make better decisions and do better in school because of this program. This is speaking coming from a school that did NOT have a leader in me school to a leader in me school. These kids aren’t brainwashed, they are learning to become responsible citizens and think about their decisions and the big picture. It seems to me that you are just out to prove a point and I know that I’m not going to change your mind, but you also aren’t going to change mine. As a parent who has a LOT of concerns about what goes on in schools, this is not one of them.

    • Autistic Mom of Autistic Kids says:

      I really have to address this one issue. Mainly because if all your “research” is as faulty as this one principle then what you have to say has very little merit. Dr. Covey’s reference to lighthouses has nothing to do with religion. There is an old urban legend about a self- aggrandizing sea captain that thought his ship was on a collision course with another ship. He ordered the ship to move out of his way since the person he was speaking to was a lower rank than him. Turns out the “ship” was a lighthouse and no matter who he was or what ship he was on the lighthouse wasn’t going to move. Lighthouse principles don’t move. People move, things move, ideas move but lighthouse principles do not move. Paradigm shifts occur with every generation but lighthouse principles stand strong. Coming to understand this and realizing that our children are very capable of applying these principles to their lives is a huge paradigm shift for the educational community. I am glad they are making the effort.

  14. Donnie Wilkerson says:

    Becky,

    I am very happy for the positive experience your son has experienced with Leader in Me. As with any program that has had millions of dollars thrown its way some good will come.

    I work in and value public schools, love my job, my school and my 65 “grand kids” that I have the pleasure of learning with each and every day! Our classroom slogan, very simple, . . . Be Kind, Think Freely and Inquire Often . . . and I believe the order is important. Maybe my comments did not value the first one as much as it should as my realistic comment about “winners” and “losers” seemed to touch such a nerve with you. I challenge you to speak with one of any of the hundreds of students, parents or co-workers I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life and you will be hard pressed to find one who would characterize me as one who would refer to someone as a “loser” as your impression of me seems to intimate. Certainly we are all winners in some context of life, love and happiness. My wife says that I look at everything through “rose colored glasses”. I do believe that NOW is the “good old days” and that on balance we do as a society and world get better each day. Further more I believe that our kids are better, too! I so tire of people who characterize “these kids today” in a disparaging way . . . we simply must value, love and respect them (especially as teachers) to bring out the very best in each. Apparently your son has experienced some of that value, love and respect at his current school and for that I am truly pleased. I will venture to guess, though, that it is more the people than the program responsible for that kindness! If my statement about “winners” and “losers” offended you in any way I am truly sorry.
    Now to the true meaning of my comments, “in the real world there are clear winners and clear losers”. Our kids daily engage in activities, ball games, and competitions of all types and, yes, usually there are clear victories and clear losses! Does that mean that Mitt Romney” as the “loser” in the last presidential race is somehow devalued or less a person or the Friday night football game “winner” is now entitled to brag and berate its opponent? . . . of course not! But I stand behind my comment that we should also be realistic with our kids! In the real world most will face, indeed in their very own scholastic world now, scores are kept. (Now, maybe they shouldn’t be, but that’s a whole other argument!) My point was that it is more important to put those wins and losses, those scores, in perspective and to make sure our kids know how to handle them. To understand why Mitt Romney graciously called President Elect Obama to congratulate him on his “win” while offering assistance and guidance in the future, to understand why still trying not to “lose” the game, the Friday night lights “winning” team also helped carried a terminally ill opponent over the goal line to score a touchdown! But, to have our kids mindlessly chant in a robotic cult-like mantra “Think win- win . . . you win, I win, we all can win” does indeed do them a disservice. Cooperation and compromise are certainly tools we need to model and teach but realism and kindness are at least equally as important.
    I model for and teach my kids to be KIND, to show compassion and TOLERANCE for all. I challenge you to dig deeper into this program and its purveyors . . . learn of the far-right connections to people, groups and programs that are not so KIND or TOLERANT. Go into any one of the scores of TLIM schools across the country who were once private “Christian” schools but are now “public” charter schools and ask gay, atheist, “loner” or transgendered students how well they are received by the principles espoused by Covey and many who now so proudly carry his banner? Ask the Buddhist student in “TLIM Public School X” how he feels about having the Bishop of the Latter Day Saints church across the street as her principal or the gay student at “TLIM Lighthouse Public School Y” how he feels about have a “manly man” FranklinCovey representative who is affiliated with anti-gay groups teach his teachers about “character development” or the “loner” (but smart, creative and compassionate) atheist GBLTQ student how s/he feels about having to “synergize” (“together is better”) with students of openly homophobic parents while sitting in the pews of a church, his now “public” “TLIM Charter School Z”. Schools X, Y and Z above are REAL TLIM schools! Similar schools, A-W and more are also exposed in my research!!
    Is there some good to come from this program or its espoused habits? Of course, but some good also came of Columbus arriving in the “new world” 523 years ago. But most of my students when presented with BOTH sides of his story choose to pay tribute tomorrow, October 12, to the hundreds of thousands of native people he and his men brutally exterminated rather than “Columbus Day”. My students read and analyze primary source documents, examine artifacts of the Taino, read works by Native authors, eat actual period food and drink from their culture and go on Saturday trips with me to places of historic note to better understand this REAL world in which they live. I believe in doing everything in my power to provide my students a rich and diverse exposure to those learning opportunities and in so doing I believe in your best characterization of the word they are indeed all “winners”!
    I look forward to a dialogue with you and would truly love to hear more of your thoughts . . . I may not always “seek first to understand” (ask me later, if you will, what Covey originally meant by that gem!) but I do indeed value your thoughts and appreciate the fact that you stand up for them!
    Have a great and kind day,

    Donnie Wilkerson

    • Morgan Walser says:

      Donnie,

      Your simple statement of “Think win- win . . . you win, I win, we all can win” does indeed do them a disservice. Cooperation and compromise are certainly tools we need to model and teach but realism and kindness are at least equally as important.” Proves that you have not done your research thoroughly, you obviously completely miss the point of Win, win, it has nothing to do with compromise. You slant all your research and facts the way you want them to be seen. Saying how do you think student X and Y feel about the principle’s or leader’s beliefs? That is nonsense, unless you actually have a discussion with a person, odds are you don’t really know what they believe. Such as the fact that LDS are not Anti LGBTQ, they believe it is a sin and have a moral code against such acts, but they don’t hate and discriminate against those who are, or those who are of other faiths, if they follow their own religious rules that is.

      Anyways, you can certainly find connections between “Mormon” teachings and the seven habits, but you can also find connections between his teachings and the bible and many other areas. He isn’t secretly trying to indoctrinate anyone, just trying to improve society by teaching what he had learned in life.

      Also, why is it that you find fault with those who work for FranklinCovey and are actively LDS? I guarantee there are those of other faiths which work there and are also engaged in their religious communities. Since when is it a bad thing for a person to have faith in God and not hide it?

  15. Anonymous Poster says:

    I would like to respond to Mr. Thornhill’s comments. First, I wholeheartedly agree that children should be taught the values embedded in the 7 Habits, as these are unarguably characteristics of successful people. Children will have a much higher chance of being successful in life if they have been taught to be proactive, to get along with others, etc. I also agree that these principles are here to stay, because all teachers who care about their students (and I feel safe to say that describes the majority of teachers) have been teaching their students these principles since the beginning of formal education.
    As to the poem about buzzards and bees… well… (unless I misread your intent) I was a bit hurt that I was being referred to as a buzzard! I sincerely love my job and my elementary-aged students, and I do my best to teach them and make their classroom a safe place for them to learn both the subjects they need to know and also things like self-discipline, self-control, and responsibility. Upon reflecting on the 7 Habits, I realized I was already teaching and modeling these qualities; I just wasn’t using the copyrighted Franklin Covey names.
    Having said that, I would like to remind you that the buzzards are as much God’s creatures as the bees, Yes, bees bring sweetness, pollinating the flowers and making honey, and yes, buzzards seek out the dead, rotten, stinky creatures upon which they feed, but without buzzards, what would happen to these nasty “bad” things? Buzzards have an important job! Likewise, if I am to be labeled a “buzzard,” please see it as it truly is. I am not being an educational “buzzard” – actively looking for things to call stupid, useless, wasteful, etc. There are many positive things about both my school and school system. Sadly, the LiM program is not one of them. It may be at your school, and that is wonderful. But it is not at my school. At my school, it is all a show. Teachers are already overwhelmed with the necessary tasks that come with the job – new Common Core standards, a new math series that has been difficult to adjust to, ACT and Aspire testing, and the day-to-day trials of difficult students and parents. All teachers know it is hard, some years more than others, to juggle all of these balls and keep them all in the air. Then we were offered a program and were told it would give astonishing results with little to no extra work… but once we accepted, we found ourselves drowning in a sea of extra responsibilities.
    I was on the original Lighthouse team. I went to the original training. I got all the books and manuals. I went to the specially rented facility for our training and I helped make posters and “WIGs” and helped decide on how the school would be decorated. And I was excited because I thought it would really help our school. I thought our kids would be like the kids on all the videos, who stand up in front of crowds of strangers and carefully articulate how they found the leaders in themselves. I thought that would be a great accomplishment if we could get our kids to that point.
    But our kids are not to that point. I am going to be very honest, and I hate that I have to post anonymously. Teachers have tried, but the extra work is too much and our kids are no better for it. The kids who were already leaders, are leaders, and the kids who were not leaders, are still not leaders, although maybe some are a bit more proactive than they were originally. Our upcoming Leadership Day is nothing but a “dog and pony show.” Do you know what visitors will see? They will see an awesome LiM school, striving to reach Lighthouse status. What they will not see is me, in my classroom, frantically going through my two kids’ leadership notebooks who will be presenting them to visitors, putting them in order, making certificates because they don’t have enough documented “victories,” pulling our class mission statement from their notebooks and having all of their classmates sign it, because it looks better presented that way. They won’t see me having to type up a speech for my student who will be explaining our service project to visitors that day, and giving it to him to memorize so he looks like a leader. They won’t see me typing up a speech for the student who will be talking about our 7 Habits artwork display, so he also looks like a leader and hits all the buzz words. And this is happening in EVERY CLASSROOM. They won’t see how much practice goes into it, all so it will look “natural.” And it kills me. But I love my job and I love my kids, so I do it, and I don’t say a word against it to anyone in administration, because I don’t want to make my job harder than what it already is. I still have to work with my principal after Leadership Day is over, and while I am not a “suck up,” I don’t want to be on his bad side, either, if I can help it.
    We were promised several times that it was “nothing extra” – just implement the language into what you already do. But that was not true. It was a lie and all of the extras are stealing time away that I could be teaching my kids what they need to know – what is in the state course of study and I am required by law to teach them. Tracking data, service projects, school-wide leadership jobs (that sounds nice in theory, doesn’t it?), and now, Leadership Day, are eating up a ridiculous amount of instructional time.
    The LiM program, from my experience, is not about creating leaders. The LiM program is about making money. If the heart of the Franklin Covey company was focused on helping create leaders, they would not have attached the price tags that they have attached onto these slogans, books, workbooks, training sessions, posters, and banners.
    Furthermore, I am sure you have heard the names Muriel Summers and A.B. Combs Elementary School. We were told the story of how the school was struggling, how Ms. Summers attended a seminar that inspired her to work with the Covey company to bring the 7 Habits to children, and how this program turned the poor, failing school around into the success story it is today. If you know what I am talking about, you may like to read this: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/magnet-k8/report_pg26.html. Apparently A.B. Combs wasn’t struggling quite as much as Franklin Covey would like you to believe, and thus the LiM program wasn’t the magic bullet that erased all of their “problems.” The last time I checked, Blue Ribbon award winning schools aren’t typically known for behavior problems, low test scores, etc. And that is what I was led to believe was happening at A.B. Combs and what the LiM program helped resolve. My question is – why twist the truth?? I think you know the answer to that as well as I do.

    To respond to Donnie Wilkerson’s comments – I read on the LiM website that one of the requirements of becoming a Lighthouse school is to host a Leadership Day and invite other schools to show them what the program is all about. I thought it was just a one-time thing but was sorely disappointed to learn we have to do this every year! So yes, it definitely sounds like a pyramid scheme. I do not know if our visitors have to pay to come see us… but I went to a LiM symposium where I listened to guest speakers and toured two LiM schools on their Leadership Day, and my school paid my way. I believe my ticket for the two-day show was around $300. Our school’s Leadership Day is not part of a symposium though, so it is probably free to guests.

    Reserve me a copy of your book, Donnie! If I had the nerve I’d leave a copy on my principal’s desk as well. Maybe I’ll find the nerve to sneak it in. He definitely needs to read it, because he has bought this whole LiM thing hook, line, and sinker.

    • Thanks for your contribution. I also hate that you have to post anonymously, but I completely understand why it’s necessary. Your description of all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a perfect Leadership Day is disheartening, and sadly, I think it will ring true with many teachers at LiM schools. I remember touring a LiM school myself and being SO impressed by the poise of the children, by the nice-looking leadership notebooks, and the overall pride everyone seemed to show in their school. But that’s kind of the idea, isn’t it? To impress visitors. It worked on me and lots of the other people I toured with. But logically, it doesn’t make sense that those things could come together as a natural consequence of simply integrating the seven habits into regular instruction. And I think that’s the premise visitors are meant to buy.

      You sound like you care deeply about your students and you will work hard at whatever task your administrator sets before you. This is why your post is so important: You’re not just seeking things to complain about. You’re not just trying to shirk responsibilities. You’re not just being a naysayer for the sake of dragging everyone else down. You genuinely want what’s best for your kids and are putting hours into an initiative that may not really be helping them. I believe you speak for many teachers who will continue to quietly do what their administrators ask of them to preserve their relationship and support the school as a whole, even if they believe in their hearts that it’s stealing precious resources–both time AND money–from other endeavors that could make a bigger difference.

      So here’s my next question: If a school, an administration, has already gone pretty far down the LiM path and is starting to feel as if the payoff isn’t quite worth the investment, what’s the next step? My guess is that one important move would be to invite teachers to have an honest conversation about their concerns, assuring them that you really want to know what their experience has been and whether they are seeing true benefits in student learning, behavior, and self-efficacy as a result of this program. If their response is consistent with the experiences you describe here, what then? Is it possible to keep the baby but throw out the bathwater? Continue to teach the habits, set goals, track progress and provide leadership opportunities without the dog and pony show? Or does Lighthouse status come with a set of promises schools are contractually bound to keep?

    • A comment and a thought. . .
      Comment- I don’t know what grade you teach, but it appears you are doing a lot of the work that students might be able to do. You mention a lot of typing up of this and that, practicing, etc. Can the students step up and do some of this work themselves? They can rehearse their presentations at home.
      Thought. . .Can the good of TLiM be implemented without all the $$ going to FC and selecting only the parts of the program your site deems most necessary? I find that not all the bells and whistles of a program are necessary to gain the benefits.

      • Bonnie says:

        Well said, Len! If teachers are living the habits, then they don’t need to fake anything or frantically put things together. Those that struggle with making the process work in a real and rewarding manner have not gone past the first three habits themselves. They are stuck at a dependent level, waiting to be told how and when to do everything. They burn themselves out.

  16. Anonymous Poster says:

    In my school system, the elementary schools and middle school went through the 7 Habits training. After the first year, the teachers at the other schools were very vocal about the faults they found in the program and don’t do much, if anything at all, with it anymore. My school is different because as far as I can tell, my principal was the one who pushed the system to adopt it. He was even being paid at one point (not sure if he still does) to go to different school systems in our area and train their staff. He asked us to vote on accepting the original program but nobody got a say in whether or we tried to get Lighthouse status. I know as long as he is the principal we will keep on with the LiM but when he retires, I doubt we will do much with it anymore.
    Once a school reaches Lighthouse status, I’m not sure if they have to work to keep it… I am guessing Franklin Covey doesn’t come take it away though, if for no other reason than it would make the company look bad. And another poster here said something a while back about her school trying out the program and then being given Lighthouse status.

  17. Healthy Skeptic says:

    After five years of “Seven Habits” and “Leader in Me,” I am grateful to find a forum to honestly discuss these programs. I am a middle school teacher. Our feeder elementary school started the Covey program several years ago. At District-wide meetings, teachers were shown videos of the elementary children reciting and signing the 7 Habits. The District leadership praised this superficial display as evidence of a great program. About five years ago, the program came to my school. We learned the habits. We made posters. We used the terminology. Three years ago, we started the Leader program, with the training, the terminology, the Lighthouse Committee, and signs around the school. This year we moved up to something they call Core Academics, with the committee, the notebooks, the leader period every two weeks, and…no measurable improvement in our students’ behavior and continued decline in their academic skills and work ethic. We are wasting time, resources, and energy on a program that does not improve the things that are wrong with my school. It is very frustrating. The administrators have bought into the program. The District receives grants and say wonderful things about the program because they like grants and good PR. The administrators have never asked teachers for feedback, and those of us who are skeptical are looked on as not caring about the students. The administrators do not want to hear honest opinions. They do not want to do the hard work necessary to fix our problems. It is easier joining the “cult” and reciting the “gospel” of Covey.

  18. Dawn says:

    I have read all of the posts with great interest. Apparently, I am late to the TLIM movement as I just learned about it this weekend! Prior to reading all these comments, I was thinking it all sounded really great. Now I am rethinking my original assessment. I have ordered The Leader in Me and 7 Habits books and plan on taking from them what I find useful, but I am not going to mention anything about TLIM program to my principal, which was my original intent.

  19. Covey 7 Habits in Higher Ed says:

    Beware! Covey’s 7 Habits is coming to YOUR community college and possibly to your local university. The Alamo Colleges in San Antonio (the local community college system) has adopted Covey’s 7 Habits as its Educational Philosophy. No kidding. It’s is now a Board policy, which means that it can be sole sourced (no bid contract) since it is board policy. How they got away with this is beyond me. It’s the biggest joke in the state. ALL employees are required to go through 3 days of training (imagine the cost in personnel hours – someone estimated this to be nearly $10 million). The Alamo Colleges has spent more than $4 million dollars on Covey’s 7 Habits training. The intention was to make Covey’s 7 Habit part of the core curriculum. The faculty fought it because the program was never vetted by faculty, and now administrators are trying to figure out what to do with all the books they bought. There are over 60,000 students at the Alamo Colleges. It’s scary. The whole thing started with the Chancellor making a casual observation of a kid who took part in Leader in Me program. The kid shook his hand confidently when introduced. The Chancellor claims that this incident is what sold him. Cute story but a horrible reason to spend 4 million on a program that has no theoretical basis and no research to support its efficacy (higher education, not habits). The Board of Directors even approved the management system based on Covey’s 7 Habits – 4DX. It’s forcing faculty and staff to come up with metrics for 7 habits improvements and display progress on large boards – like elementary kids. They parade these poster boards with cute graphs and pictures to the Board of Directors to show how much they (staff/faculty) have moved their markers. No one takes it seriously. The whole thing is a joke. It would be funny if it didn’t cost millions – millions of tax dollars and student tuition money wasted on a self-help book. Guess who supported Covey’s 7 Habits at the onset – the Greater Chamber of Commerce (of San Antonio). Beware – it’s coming to the higher education institution in your area. Pearson has partnered with 7 Habits to promote their self-help version of the 7 habits aimed at college students. It’s an aggressive sell to Board members. They seem to work through the Chambers of Commerce first then move into Boards. It’s consistent with the privatization movement across the country.

  20. Susan says:

    Hello, I am a teacher at a Middle School which has been a Leader in Me school for four years and is almost at Lighthouse Status. Our principal is the most zealous advocate for the Leader in Me program that you can imagine. The LIM program does indeed tout that this puts no additional work on teachers. This could not be FURTHER from the truth. Another teacher has posted a detailed list of all the additional things that teachers must do and I do all these duties plus more associated with LIM. The focus at my school is completely off academic achievement (until students fail or parents complain) then the principal temporarily shifts her focus to question the teacher about why students are failing. Teaching the habits during instructional time, constantly decorating the school, classrooms, and habits with 7 Habits themes, attending LIM PD rather than instructional PD, setting up and maintaining student leadership roles (yes, we had some of those before LIM ), assisting each student make and maintain a data notebook (or also called a Leadership notebook), creating and implementing a service project, creating and maintaining a “club” for students to attend monthly for a half day (at the expense of the teacher monetarily and at the expense of instructional time),teaching students and assisting them to do student led conferences, setting up assemblies to celebrate LIM and constant decoration for such LIM activities (at teachers’ expense monetarily) the list can go on and on. At LIM schools, all focus on academic achievement is shifted to LIM initiatives. Other than the data notebook and student led conferences, there is no focus on academic achievement. Yet, as a teacher I still feel my primary job is academic instruction. Are there some benefits? Yes, there are some. Some students really begin to understand their “data” and do better. Students LOVE all the activities that get them out of class (service projects, clubs, LIM assemblies, class time that is spent “learning” the 7 habits). Some students also actually benefit from learning the 7 habits. However, as a teacher of 20 years, most of us teachers incorporated character building into our curriculum long before LIM. I will close for now, but I honestly feel that the extra work this puts on teachers is so very unfair and something should be done.

    • Susan, thank you for your detailed contribution. Unfortunately, so much of what you say is consistent with others’ comments here. The time away from academics is a serious concern–maybe even more so than the money spent on the program, because there are already so many other things competing for that instructional time. This is even more true in Title I schools that have disproportionate numbers of students who read below grade level. Again, thank you for sharing your story.

  21. Unhappy Mom says:

    My daughter is a special needs 6th grader. Over the summer we moved to a new state and ended up in a LiM school. At the two prior schools my daughter attended, students were encouraged to let staff know if another student was breaking the rules, bullying, being rude, etc. At the LiM school my daughter gets reprimanded for telling a student if their shoe is untied. The teachers and students say “mind your own” and both have called her a “Tattle-tail”. My daughter is only to focus on herself 100% of the time unless a student is harming themself or someone else. The staff expects my autistic child to magically retrain her brain, not help others and not report other students being rude/bullying/disruptive in class. I have another meeting tomorrow with staff about this. The last meeting was horrible. I called the meeting, but when I walked in the principle took over and started spewing LiM crap and gave me a LiM pamphlet. I am not a fan, at all of LiM because these students are being taught to live in a bubble, not assist, not be proactive and not help things run smoothly. Tomorrow will prove to be interesting.

    • Hi, thanks for taking the time to write. It sounds like you’re in a tough situation. Some of the things you’re describing don’t sound like they are in line with the LiM philosophy. As far as I know, LiM doesn’t discourage kids from reporting on problematic behavior, and it certainly encourages kids to work together (that’s the whole “synergize” habit), so there may be some crossed wires at your new school. It may just be that they happen to be a LiM school, but that the culture was already leaning toward this “bubble” mentality? I’m not sure. As you can see from all the comments here, there are some issues with LiM that are fairly consistent across the board; this is the first time I have heard about students not being allowed to report problem behavior. I’m curious about whether there’s a connection.

      It must be very difficult to transition to a new school with a child who has special needs, since no one knows her very well yet. I hope tomorrow’s meeting is productive.

  22. Natayle says:

    Jennifer,

    While I am not commenting in relation to my experience with LiM, I am commenting to see if you know anything comparing the principles and student results from LiM and Bobby Deporters 7 Keys of Success. I am coming from a school that used the 7 keys of Success from Quantum Learning (at low cost) and I absolutely love teaching them, however I want to add a little more in my character-building program so I am looking at LiM. Do you know much comparing the two?

  23. Peter Kotski says:

    Our school quickly went from a Leader in Me school to a Lighthouse school. We are not allowed to discuss that decision. Some people have been punished for doing so. The small Lighthouse committee, made up of a few staff members, has complete control in our school and have created an elite community in our school. The only children allowed to have leadership status are those that have recommendations from their parents.Since the backgrounds of our families are all over the map and most are unable to provide written recommendations this policy excludes 95% of our population. Thousands of dollars are being spent on signage, training, books, t-shirts, curriculum, etc… I am very embarrassed for our school.

    • Donnie Wilkerson says:

      Peter,

      The concerns you relate echo those of many others across the country. Sadly, the recrimination and retribution you alluded to is all too common. The proponents of TLIM are quick to point out the overwhelmingly positive support found for this program on the web. I believe that many are simply afraid to speak out against TLIM and Covey. Fortunately that is beginning to change. My research indicting this program grows daily but it is vital that more teachers and parents come forward with their horror stories . . . we still do live in the United States of America with the constitutionally guaranteed right to speak out. I teach in an elementary school that did not choose to participate in TLIM but had the program foisted on us as part of a regional “Race to the Top” grant received by the Green River Regional Education Cooperative. Fortunately I work in a district that, though its leaders may not necessarily agree, allows me to speak out as long as I do so on my own time and at my own expense without invoking the school or district. You and all teachers should be extended the same privilege! If this program is as great as those who still see the “emperor’s new clothes” purport it to be, they should not be afraid to hear criticism?

      I recently took one of only three personal days ever taken in my 12 year tenure as a teacher to peacefully protest at the “Leader in Me Symposium” held in Owensboro, Kentucky. I handed out hundreds of informational flyers outlining the many problems with this program (FranklinCovey was not happy!). I would love to see others do the same in their areas. Another initiative that can help will be for those of us who see this program for what it truly is, a sham, to contact schools that are near TLIM schools especially as their “Leadership Days” approach and let them know the “rest of the story”! I am happy to apprise any who wish to contact me of upcoming “Leadership Day” and “Symposium” dates. (These dates are readily accessible on the TLIM website but upon notice of this comment it would not be unlike the Covey folks to take them down . . . I have a printed copy!) If you would like to share more about your experience I encourage you to contact me. I implore others who may read this to do the same. I assure all of my willingness, upon request, to keep confidential your name or any information supplied. My email is [email protected] and my phone number after school hours is 270-866-1244.

      Thanks for your time . . . please have a great and kind day!

      Donnie Wilkerson

  24. why teach critical reading if you can't do it yourself says:

    We were told in not so many words we had to “buy in” or else we would be fired. I heard another school used the same approach. Why aren’t more teachers talking about this? Why is it so hard to find differing viewpoints on google concerning this program? I mean it’s google, I can find differing viewpoints on my hygiene products, but almost nothing on this, Well everyone’s job is on the line. Period, “100% buy in” is a term they use. You don’t have to believe, just keep your mouth shut and do it and don’t get caught voicing any negative views of the program.

    • Donnie Wilkerson says:

      Well said! My research finds many more folks disgruntled with TLIM than a cursory Google search might turn up. Some simply fear for their jobs but I think another big factor in this reluctance to speak out lies in the clever marketing and exploitation of kids that Covey so masterfully performs. No one wants to appear critical of those cutesy 7 habits song and dance routines and other staged events so typical of their Lighthouse status required “leadership days”. Talk to the kids . . . they will tell you (if allowed to speak freely) that they do not like this robotic regimentation and “Covey compliance”! I love and care for my students and will do anything in my power for them including fighting this wasteful, cult-like corporate grab of precious minds! Join me in the fight . . . email me your story. I’m happy to keep confidential anything at your request and will independently research your school and its TLIM implementation saga to add to an already voluminous data base of Covey chicanery condemming this shameful program! [email protected] 270-866-1244

      • The Kentucky Teacher says:

        Dearest Donni-

        First and foremost- I love you! You are my new Favorite!
        I too teach in a leader in me school…eh, um, well…sort of. We were one, I think? Wait– No we aren’t– we were last year- (we did have a banner)- but we aren’t now…even though we still (gag) have to teach the habits, and our leader is still trying to come up with ways to still make this happen (why? I do not know).

        Our district never backed the program enough to fund it (or help fund it) especially in a school with a population where 100% of the students are on free (yes FREE- as opposed to reduced) breakfast AND lunch, and are at 92% minority.

        Sadly, I too bought into TLiM as well.
        In the beginning I was amped about it! I thought “YESSS!!!! This is great, I love it! Student leadership in a tough school, that is what we need!!” However, once investing in the cookie-cutter pyramid long enough it becomes an eye-opening shocker that it’s not so hot after-all, and now realize why our district was hesitant to agree with shelling out money initially, annually, for life, and beyond.

        The year that our school was the MOST invested in this program…and truly was leader in me(ing) everyone to death- our school dropped- to the bottom of the state- in test scores-

        Our school stated teaching the habits (10 years ago) when we first decided student leadership was something that needed to be focused on. Our convocation series was a hit, Pat Williams even came to our school that year.
        Since then, FranklinCovey simply (and smartly) capitalized on the naivety of school and tells them- “Your school can too, just come and see one of these schools in action.”

        Perhaps the real reason the little boy who left the performing arts school for a leader in me school LOVES it is because it involves A LOT of student led performing– acting, dancing, singing, learning lines for tours, etc, etc, etc, blah blah,–

        It does require SO MUCH teacher time- SO MUCH teacher money- SO MUCH wasted instruction–

        I recognize your area code and am guessing you’re in the western part of the state where the symposium was cancelled because of the blizzard last February-Did you know the $$ people paid to attend was not returned, instead- they still held it for one day in Bowling Green and then gave everyone a pass to attend something in August for 2 days in Georgia, I think I still have the email. Nonetheless, LiM doesn’t even staff the symposiums with their own staff, teachers across the state volunteer and in return get to attend for “free” where they are mostly stuck on buses all day, or running the check in desk. No lodging or meals are provided. It’s basically free labor.
        Oh, I could go on for days about the lies I bought into– However, I won’t. I sound like a scorned woman, but I’m just sad that I thought this language was authentic. It isn’t.

        While I admire Covey’s work, and do think his intentions were good, I think this million/billion dollar money making scheme just takes from an industry that cannot afford to lose a penny- If it was really about “creating leaders for life” it would be free or at a low ONE TIME cost-

        We can’t even access the LIM website anymore without paying additional dues- but…who am I?
        Just another lowly teacher 🙂

        Hmmm….Charter Schools may be in our future in KY- maybe we should start our own school….
        just dreaming the dream.

        • Teach31 says:

          Ms. Kentucky,
          The school I teach in had the lowest scores in our county. The teachers feel like it is a side effect of all the focus being on obtaining lighthouse status and having kids pulled from class so much. I wish there was something I could do. I’m close to retirement so I am the only vocal teacher in my school. It is obvious that my principal has become disenchanted with me the last couple of years.
          I feel like it is my responsibility to rid our school of this program. I also agree that since implementing lim our students have become rude and behavior has been an issue daily. Our principal doesn’t want to deal with behavior so that too falls back on the teachers.
          As I said I’m close to retirement but I still Love my students as much as ever and I want the best for them. LIM isn’t best for them. Teaching them respect, responsibility, and how to deal with disappointment if it happens is best for them! Oh, and subject
          content!

          • Teach31 says:

            I forgot to mention that we are the only LIM school in our county and before this program we were the top scorers ALWAYS EVERY YEAR IN EVERY SUBJECT.

        • Debbie says:

          I’m a dyslexic mother with dyslexic children. One severely dyslexic…Mean while “Jonnie can’t read” and my school chooses to spend money in this I stead of sending special Ed, reading specialist , teachers or para pro to a MI Dyslexia Institute to help the “SLD” otherwise known as Dyslexia or the unidentified “SLD dyslexic kids stuck in RTI with an EVADENCE BASED READING INTERVENTION SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN TO TEACH CHILDREN TO READ. It’s up to ME to Pay a private Orton Gillingham tutor to teach my son to read….Yet here we are with wasted time and money spent in this LIM. Leadership day was yesterday and it was a ” practice” run so parents attended this day . It made me sick to hear CHILDREN speaking about the importance of ” putting first things first” and doing homework before playing with my dollies after being in school ALL day long

    • LeaderInMeConcerns says:

      My kids’ school started this program a few years ago until a group of us parents worked to stop it. We did it largely without the support of the teachers, though, because they were scared to talk to us. My child’s teacher said she was worried about being seen talking to me when I was known to be a parent fighting the program. My own child’s teacher didn’t want to be seen talking to me??!! Red flag. She did, however, tip me off to go talk to another teacher. It was like some clandestine scene in a spy move. The teacher she told me to talk to said that he had voted against the program, had been told that was not ok – all the teachers had to buy in – and now he was on probation (for unrelated performance problems). He also told me that when they voted, the choices were “I want to do LIM, I will do LIM if everyone else wants to do it, and I don’t want to do LIM”. Most of the votes were in the middle, his vote was the only no. The principal told the parents who were fighting this program that the teachers were 100% on board with the program. Which gave the impression that they all wanted to do it, which was not the case. What they wanted was to not go against the principal who was the one who brought the program to our school and was crazy in love with it. They feared they would lose their jobs. I admit that this principal was a big part of our problem. We actually got rid of the program by getting rid of her, because she had many, many failures as a principal. To me, though, it felt like LIM saw her as a mark – a weak principal that would allow them to get a foothold in our district. Our school was the first, but other schools in our district picked this up after ours did, on the recommendation of our principal.

      As to why we don’t see more negative information about LIM on the web? I admit I feel like a conspiracy theorist saying this, but since I read it back in the days when I was desperately searching for information about LIM, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Read this article about how Mormons use the web to control their own image. And then try the searches they mention at the beginning of the article, and see what shows up in the top 3-4 results.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/mormons-using-the-web-to-control-their-own-image/2011/08/11/gIQA1J6BMJ_story.html

  25. Donnie Wilkerson says:

    Teach Kentucky and Teach31,
    Great to hear some words in support! Though few speak out, many share our misgivings with the Covey program . . . they are often simply afraid of recrimination. I am building a nationwide network of folks who like you and me love and care deeply for our kids (as I believe most of the folks in support of TLIM do!) but do not believe this is the way to best show that love and care. Free thought is being trampled and lots of scarce education dollars wasted! I do not relish being a naysayer and anyone who knows me understands that, but this program and all it entails begs for scrutiny and exposure. If you would feel comfortable sharing more about your particular schools and experiences I would love to hear those thoughts. I am happy to keep your identities confidential or even if you simply want to disclose the names of your schools . . . I will research from there. You may email me at [email protected] or call 270-866-1244. We are out of school today for a special election and there is every likelihood that we will be out tomorrow for inclement weather so would be a great time to call. I’m also willing to drive anywhere within a reasonable distance to gather data . . . my files grow daily but I want to have everything fact checked and in order before going public with my research. I am in Jamestown, Kentucky by the way. Thanks again for your love and concern for kids.
    Have a great and kind day!
    Donnie Wilkerson
    (Sorry for any typos or grammar faux pas . . . found an “is” where there should have been an “are” in one of my earlier posts!)

    Donnie Wilkerson

  26. Personally, I do not like the underlying message of TLIM. While some may have more of a dependent mindset, I prefer to teach the values of independence, free thought, open questioning and good-old rugged individualism to my kids. I find TLIM’s message contrary. I know that the 7 habits have adopted “interdependence” to attempt to counter this concern but that is still teaching kids dependence. This is not superior to independence, it is the same as dependence.

    While the 7 habits sound good as sound bytes and have cute little pictures associated with them… they promote concepts that are contrary to the value system that we encourage for our family. For my kids, I drafted an alternative version of the 7 habits that we use to counter some of the nonsense and educate our kids on values that promote liberty… I included them in a blog article last November which is linked below for those that might be interested.

    Overall, I think that the current message at our school is a unsettling combination of group dependence, emotional decision making and “save the world” goal setting. It seems that many of these concepts are atleast partially influenced by TLIM program.

    Finally, even if you love the program surely you can see that it is unhealthy to promote these 7 habits in every aspect of our kid’s education. At least at our school the message is in everything from morning announcements, to lessons, to group sessions, to emails to parents, event themes, banners, posters… everywhere. As pointed out above, the habits are not an end-all solution, they are not universal wisdom… ***the kid’s deserve much more***.

    I hope to see TLIM discussed more openly in the near future. Unfortunately, at this time our school is not interested in feedback on the program.

    https://littlepuppydogs.wordpress.com/7-habits/

  27. WHY TEACH CRITICAL READING IF YOU CAN'T DO IT YOURSELF says:

    Our school continues to progress towards this horrid, drink the kool-aid or take a bullet, program. Teachers who have been vocal against have started to get reprimanded for anything admin can think of. They say we have not gotten the program but everything points to the contrary including a newspaper article that quotes the principal as saying we are bringing it in. Parents are not paying any attention and the few that came to a parents meeting were for it because it does indeed sound just peachy. Leaderinmeconcerns, that was a good link, thank you. If anyone else has anything I can use to push against this please post a link. Thanks

  28. Cybergogue says:

    I’m in a middle school fed by 2 elementary schools. One of the elementary school principals has ensured that it is faithfully applied; the other is less so. The students who come from the more rigorous “Leader in Me” School can’t stand it and see it as a chore. The middle school has implemented it loosely; we use some ideas and have students reflect on their weeks, but the ideas (circle of control, first things first, etc.) are offered as a language to express themselves and not as a requirement.
    My personal concerns were both raised by you, Jennifer:
    1) Its origins aren’t outwardly religious, but are certainly informed/influenced by Covey’s beliefs. And it smacks of assimilation and blindness to multiculturalism.
    2) The students see through it.
    We’re trying hard to use some of the program’s strengths without immersing our school’s culture in its waters, but there’s already a strong backlash from our students despite their young age. They’re sick of it.

  29. 7 reasons. This program concerns me deeply, and my Kindergartner has only been in the school for 3 months. #1 Why is any school trying to create 500 leaders? #2 The Lighthouse term is misleading, it is a term used by the Blue Ribbon commission and if they thought this was a remotely respectable program they probably would have sued by now. #3 My son has gone from being highly successful, well-liked, and happy… to constant punishment with a backpack full of notes home daily about bad behavior since moving to this school. #4 The language is impossible to comprehend at any age let alone by grade school aged children. #5 You are actually creating followers, and many many memorized rules to get rewarded. #6 Please trust the teachers to love the kids enough to teach them to be polite, forward thinking, independent & respectful throughout the day and let them get on with academics and art. #7 It is a gimmick A very expensive one.

  30. Savannah says:

    Can you please site your evidence? I completely agree. I’m actually doing a research project on this!

    • Hey Savannah,

      I have found almost nothing online that criticizes the program. I’m sure at some point there will be studies on the efficacy of TLIM that are not sponsored by Franklin Covey. Until then, the best we can do is gather personal accounts from people who are experiencing the program themselves. I’m finding that the comments that have been generated by this post certainly offer anecdotal evidence that the program is problematic for some folks. Good luck on your paper, and let us know if you come across any empirical research!

  31. The seven habits require personal change, personal growth and reflection. This is difficult and challenging because we need to be willing to work on ourself. The habits require self-discipline and time to integrate into one self. Many of us are not prepared to do this. We would rather work hard opposed to working on ourselves. In the case of teachers, it is easier to focus on academics – there is a strong cultural bias towards this tendency. Moreover, teaching character is complex, some schools are good at telling their students what character is, but very few are good at enabling their students to develop character. It is unrealistic to think that the LIM programme will work for all pupils, teachers and schools. Most importantly, for this to work the teacher must believe in it, and be open to it, and willing to apply the seven habits to their personal and professional lives. Only, if I am willing to apply these principles to myself can i stand a chance of teaching them to others. We can’t externalise the LIM onto teachers and expect change – you can’t force buy in. We are all unique and a one size fits all never works effectively. The seven habits will lead to life changing circumstances for some and no change for others. In the same way, the LIM will be a success in some schools and for some pupils, and be failure in other schools and has little affect for some pulls. This is normal. Nothings works all the time. It all depends on the teacher, on the pupil and the family culture. Personally, I believe programmes such as the LIM should be the beginning of how we redefine education for the teacher and the child. I believe, the teaching profession in society can be elevated to new heights if we can empower teachers with the skills to change children lives for the better opposed to mostly feeding children with information to pass tests.
    School needs to be a place that has high relevancy to life, for the teacher and child. It needs to become a place where teachers have the skills to teach children how to live a happy and successful life – this is not possible with too much focus on academics and test scores, Character has a critical role to play and programmes such as the LIM correctly developed can make a positive contribution. It may not be the answer, but it could be part of the solution. One more thing about the LIM, it would be so much better is FranklinCovey’s emphasis was less on enriching their pockets and more on enriching children’s lives. Corporate pricing strategies have no place in the educational market place.

    • Addie says:

      Very well said Clinton. I am at a TLiM school striving for Lighthouse Status. I have applied the 7 Habits in a way that is life changing, therefore it affects my students much differently than the teacher who is slugging through it. If anyone is seeing cult-like behaviors, you are doing it wrong. If anything, my students are learning to question systems and the actions of others. I am trying to pull them out of their reactive lizard-brain thinking and get them to see bigger pictures. As far as the corporate entity, I agree, its a bit much and kind of disheartening.

  32. SynergizingwithaDictatorialPedagogy says:

    All these comments scream, where is the research (peer reviewed) data to show LiM effectiveness? Even LiM’s own website cites a Research Literature review from the University at Rochester that questions its effectiveness. Why would a school spend SOO much time, money, resources, and professional development on something that is NOT evidence based>? Practices like PBiS or a plethora of other (character development) practices are available? The scary part is that some actually think LiM is a behavior intervention and not a character education program. Only in education would a business spend that amount of money on an unproven practice with a clear motivation for creating Covey worshiping. If it was so good, wouldn’t someone other than Covey’s SON be running the show? Wouldnt there be some sort of peer reviewed study? odd indeed. If you do everything the training asks of you and it isnt working—- it doesn’t mean you aren’t doing it right– it means it isn’t working. Synergize? First things first? how about begin with the end in mind? All platitudes— no substance. Try “reinforcement” “antecedent” and “skillbuilding”.

  33. RW says:

    We are a Lighthouse School and I quite frankly LOVE The Leader in Me programming. It gave a great framework and set up a system across the school for teaching strong decision making, conflict resolution, and encourage independent self excellence. I do feel the investment paid off for our school. At the same time, while TLIM is a framework, our school did not stop there. It is simply one tool in the arsenal. If the expectation is to bring in TLIM and see dramatic overhaul overnight, it isn’t going to happen. A school has to look at the concerns they want to fix, and build a comprehensive approach. For our school, TLIM was a great jumping off point. From there, the learning and advancement of skills has certainly continued beyond the program. I agree it is not a great program for older kids from the instructional standpoint. But our school doesn’t really use the materials at that age range, so it isn’t an issue. We are fortunate to be in a position where the program has advanced enough that virtually every kid in the school has been exposed to the concepts since Kindergarten. Thus the system now is, the foundation is laid in K and First, then they start to deviate away to broader concepts & approaches to self-responsibility, decision making, and conflict resolution skills. TLIM language is still heard, but it is certainly not the end all for meeting this area of education of the school. And rarely is anything from TLIM the first approach that you hear teachers using when they are supporting problem solving and skill building needs in fourth and fifth grade. The kids have simply advanced beyond it, and the teachers and staff kept introducing further components, not allowing TLIM to limit or hold back the opportunities to grow. TLIM simply provides the jumpstart to learning, and provided the “buy in” so to speak to get all staff on board. Seeing what I have seen in our school, I would pay the price all over again to get the same results. At the same time, we are a school that is very financially sound. There are not dollars being diverted from Peter to pay Paul by any means. Leader In Me has actually been paid for entirely through PTA fundraising dollars without having to sacrifice too much on other wishes for the school. (This year, TLIM was paid for, and there was still enough fundraising dollars left over to fulfill the technology wishlist of the teachers.) We are also a school with a tremendous amount of parental involvement and support due to the community area. I fully recognize that these circumstances do most likely put a bias to our experiences. If I had to choose in the budget between paying for TLIM and having Assistant Teachers available to support the classroom, TLIM would be gone. We luckily have the blessing to not have to make that choice! (From a standpoint of changes in the school, the school did keep data. I don’t have the exact numbers, but we have seen a significant drop in discipline referrals, completion of homework and assignments in a timely manner has improved, and from what we hear from the Middle School, the kids coming from our elementary are much better prepared for the new independence and self-regulation required in that environment. And as all the elementaries feeding the middle school are of similar financial standing and community background, the only thing we have concretely found to account for it is TLIM. Anecdotal evidence of course carries bias, but in all the things I love about our school, TLIM just stands out as being a big part of it!)

    • RW, thank you so much for this detailed and thoughtful contribution. It is nice to hear from a school that has had a positive experience with TLIM, and I appreciate the concessions you make regarding having enough budget to cover the expense, which I think is one of the primary issues people have with the program. Thanks again.

  34. Looks like I am a little late to this party, but I must say I work at a school that had TLIM going strong, we couldn’t afford to pay for the program anymore, and now our school culture is CRUMBLING. Now, to say I blame it all on taking TLIM out of our school culture would be false – there are other issues – but the students lack some of the basic tenants of TLIM that they used to know. Our behavior incidents are up, our counselor referrals are up, and our student smiles are down. That leaves me as a concerned educator – and while this is a multi-factored problem, losing TLIM’s core is definitely a part of our conundrum.

    Absolutely, like any program, TLIM has its flaws – but sitting at the core of TLIM is a program which positively impacts kids. I know TLIM can be “done” without paying for it, but I truly believe in the program. I wish Franklin Covey would recognize that it’s a win-win for them and for us to reduce the high costs of this program.

  35. blythe sinclair says:

    Anyone who goes along with this ridiculous program has rocks for brains. The principal at my last school fell for this hook, line, and sinker. Nothing mattered to her but The Leader in Me. She put thousands and thousands of dollars into this program and took money out of resources for our students (books, Math resources, gym equipment, you name it). She spent thousands of dollars on having the 7 habits painted onto the hallway walls of our school. Out of approximately 45 teachers on staff, only about 5 or 6 actually buy into this nonsense. EVERYONE else is against it. The behaviour in our school has become a joke. Just because you call a child a leader, it does not make him one! My recommendation is this: If your school is thinking of implementing this program, RUN, DON’T WALK to a school that does not have it. Every newspaper should be running articles about this pyramid scheme. Don’t let yourself be taken in by this. It is such a sad and sorry mess. Thankfully, that principal will be retiring (it’s about time) in only a few weeks. Let’s hope the new principal has some backbone and gets rid of this time and money waster.

    • dave says:

      Blythe your experience with the Leader in Me is very similar to the experiences I have had. We had a very active school with many activities and an egaged staff. When the Leader-in-me became the school focus many of the teachers stopped being as active in the school. The focus on non-curriculum activites like leadership day, binders, using Covey instructional workbooks made teacher’s not as interested in doing the activities that they once participated in. The choir mistress wanted to sing songs for the students, not to sing songs about leadership, the drama program lost it’s funding for plays because of the high costs of the LIM. The Principal’s vision was that activities were to be student directed (basically a way to minimize the dedication and effort put forth by the teachers). Instead of a well rounded amount of extra-curriculars the students only wanted “dodge-ball”. In the six years that the LIM was being implemented in the school about half of the staff moved to new school and even more teachers applied out but were unsuccessful. The program costs a fortune, classroom budgets were cut, the computers and technology were not being replaced. Proffessional learing at the school was all directed towards the LIM, board directives and focuses were being put on the back burner. The school was to track “behavior” this ment that nothing was being done with bad behavior. A student would never be suspended for hurting staff, students or parental volunteers. A very small number of the teachers were active supporters of the program, most of the staff went through the motions. Any concerns about the Lim were addressed by administration as “if you don’t like it apply out”. We were not able to ever get a straigh answer to how much money was being spent. The library budget was raided to fill the shelves with Covey storybooks (which believe it or not are actually worse than the Berinstein Bears) the office budget was used for printing reams of paper for the program, we decorated the school for the Leadership day with new murals and posters. It was very superficial, the students were able to parrot of the seven habits but none of it really stuck with the students. I was lucky enough to see the Lim as not compatable with my teaching style. It was too dogmatic, and very superficial. I moved to a new location which has; Leadership, an engaged staff and a commitment to student success, funny enough the other staff members have never heard of the Leader in Me. The underlying message isn’t bad in the Leader in Me, but you can do it alone, find activites for character development on-line, keep your staff motivated, spend money on the students, not to a huge company. When the Leader in Me sales staff comes to your school, try to convince your staff that this is a shallow program but a huge money pit.

  36. GTMom says:

    My child’s school is talking about implementing this program. Apparently several teachers and staff members have been to see it in action at other schools. When I said it sounded cult like I was hit with “you are a negative nelly”. After reading many of the comments here I see my thoughts are similar to what many have experienced. Has anyone ever gone against a school trying to implement this program? Has anyone ever had a gifted child in this program? What happens if kids don’t conform to this?

    • blythe sinclair says:

      If I found out my kid was going to a LIM school, I would withdraw him immediately and enrol him in a school that does not have it in place. This is a corrupt program. The Covey Foundation only wants money, money, and more money.

  37. Donnie Wilkerson says:

    If you don’t care to send me the name of your school I will make sure its key players each receive a comprehensive expose of the program. I have been communicating with prospective TLIM schools and believe that I may be making an impact in at least stemming the growth of this horrible, non-research based, unconstitutional program. Yes, others have been successful in preventing implementation and many schools that were previously TLIM have now summarily dropped this exorbitantly priced charade. Prospective schools would do well to check into what happened in Sammimish, Washington or even more telling the now dearth of TLIM schools in the once golden Decatur Alabama schools so prominently touted in the Leader in Me book. Call me at 270-866-1244 or email at [email protected] and I will be happy to at least do my part toward stopping the further exploration of public schools.

  38. anon says:

    My child’s school is doing this, I the midst of financial crisis in the district. I am livid, but the culture is such that speaking up will mean I’m no longer welcome at the school, and I spend a LOT of time there.

    Recently, a paper with the seven habits came home, and I actually glanced at this one (previously, they’ve gone straight to the recycling bin). I was upset to see, under “Sharpen the saw”, “pray to God everyday”. We are atheists. This is a public school. I’m dumbfounded. Is this something our school added, or is this part of the program?

    I wish there were a way out, but I believe we are past the point of choosing another school for next year.

    Can someone please enlighten me as to what the heck is going on?

    • dave says:

      I suggest sending the religious indoctrination pages to the ACLU local in your state. Chances are after a letter or phonecall comes in the administration will back down. https://www.aclu.org/

  39. Donnie Wilkerson says:

    I am so sorry for your child. No public school student should be forced to participate in this shameful charade! Send me the name of your school and I will be glad to take on the TLIM cult pushers in the building and district! So many folks in school after school are faced with this same fear and intimidation . . . so sad! They say they want 100% buy in and when they don’t get it, the pressure is put on. The good news is that through forums like this resistance is finally resonating. We are making progress! My email is [email protected] and my phone, 270-866-1244. Any information you wish kept confidential will be so honored.

  40. KRN says:

    I just interviewed for a job at a school that has this program. It is foreign to me so I wanted to research it, and found this site with all these interesting insights. I had actually two interviews back to back. The first was very formal, a little intimidating, but otherwise typical. This was the school without this leader program. My second interview, with the leader program, was the exact opposite. It was very casual, relaxed, no set of rigid questioning, and I left with a smile. Now I know the opposite atmospheres of my interviews cannot be correlated to the implementation of this leader program in one school and not the other, but there was a definite positive feel in the school that had the leader program. The comments made by the two second grade teachers and principal interviewing me were positive about the program, however, as they started explaining more in detail the seven leader steps, and how much work they put into it, I felt a little overwhelmed. I even commented, feeling ignorant, that I would have to learn the program lingo. Even though their response was positive it still left me scared to feel expected to learn this, seemingly intense, leader program, hence some research into it. As I looked more into the program I really like the seven steps (please excuse me if I am not using the right terms…and grammar ;)). I like some of the simple projects and bulletin board ideas I have seen used. I like the idea of our kids being taught leadership skills (my middle schooler does student lead conferences. Sometimes I like it, but sometimes I feel it’s a teachers way to avoid talking to parents), but from comments and slowly getting an idea of the depth this program goes I would not use it. I feel like a simple mole hill was made into a very positive yet complex mountain. Teaching our students to be good leaders, good citizens, and just good people doesn’t need to be so complex. It can very simple, and still have lasting effects. So thank you to everyone, positive and negative, for your comments. Every school district has their own unique culture, customs, circumstances, etc. So I understand each own’s perspective. I am not against this program, but I am not in favor of it either. It does sound like more research needs done before it’s worth the investment in more ways than one (aren’t we supposed to be using scientifically researched based programs anyways?). I probably will not take a teaching position at a school with this program. I see a much more simple and effective way to teach the same leadership skills without consuming funds and student learning time (and having to learn a new language). I was going to mention this program to my own child’s principal, but we are too poor a school and we’re teachers, we should be able to come up with something of our own that will work just as well. So thanks to all for some needed insight. With that said, I am LDS or more known as “Mormon.” Please do not get our religion mixed up with one man’s philosophy. Yes, Covey is Mormon but his teaching ideas are his own. They may stem from values we believe in, but they are not the doctrine of our church. Please don’t mix the two. Thank you.

  41. Mike Sherry says:

    Last post got buried. Here is another alert. For story about Leader in Me controversy in Blue Springs, Missouri, see this link:
    http://www.flatlandkc.org/news-issues/character-flaw/

  42. Elizabeth says:

    My PRESCHOOL did this. Our corporate office highly encouraged the franchise schools to participate. While I absolutely loved what it taught the employees, I was concerned about the appropriateness of teaching it to 3 year olds or even infants. I liked that the language was the same, no matter what teacher was in the room, but many of the concepts were just not what should be expected for preschoolers. The cost is what ended up causing our school to stop. We were well on our way to Lighthouse status when we determined the cost could not be shared between the corporate and franchise locations. To be honest we kept some aspects of the language, but overall we abandoned it.

  43. Blythe Sinclair says:

    Happy to announce that the new principal of my former school has announced that no more money will be spent on the LIM and that it will no longer be a focus at the school. I think he was able to see what a total waste of money the LIM is. Let’s all hope that no one else puts money into this pyramid scheme which only serves to increase the wealth of the Covey Foundation!

  44. Darlene Huten-Von says:

    Springtime is a change of season and this year it is also a time of change of administrators.
    After being at a Leader in Me school for eight years a new Principal has come in and has essentially killed the program.
    Our old principal had a bad case of tunnel vision. She believed that her staff was all supportive of the LIM, and she believed the program worked and she was getting great value for money being spent.
    Our new principal started the last week of May. After stating the school had NO MONEY for anything left including start up supplies for September he asked for staff opinions on everything. After a very productive staff meeting he discovered that the staff didn’t see the value in TLM. Only 5 people of a staff of 75 thought we should continue to support the Leader. Most of the comments said that the staff “didn’t see any value in it”, “behavior is worse”. “not worth the cost”, “better things are available for free”. Starting in the fall “if you want to do it yourself fine, but no school wide focus and no money for it at all”.
    When we look back at the amount of money, hours of training and time being redirected from curriculum and into the LIM it really shows what a useless program it is. The school I was at was a stop on the bus tour at the last Leadership Symposium. Painted slogans, banners and children who could parrot the habits.
    Before your school signs up for the program ask how many schools drop it after 3 years 5 years 10 years. Unfortunately the Leader in Me becomes a money trap, the more money a school spends the more they think they need to continue. Hopefully fresh eyes will see how much of a money trap it is

  45. Donnie Wilkerson says:

    If only all prospective TLIM purchasers could read the overwhelming majority of posts to this blog, Leader and Me would soon be a thing of the past! I am working day and night to stop this program . . . if you know of a school or district contemplating TLIM (in the “book study” phase or simply raising money for a possible future purchase) please let me know. You do not have to be involved . . . simply email the name of the school or district and I will take it from there. Your name will never be mentioned nor will I divulge my source (unless, of course, you want me to). I have already been successful in forestalling implementation in several schools but the map of new TLIM schools continues to grow! Please help me get the word out about this over-hyped, non research based, exorbitantly priced scam and stop this encroachment upon the personal freedoms of public school students and staff. Email me at [email protected] or feel free to call anytime at 270-866-1244.

  46. Blythe Sinclair says:

    Donnie Wilkerson, please continue to fight the good fight! This program needs to be stopped. It is very dangerous.

  47. new hire says:

    I am a new hire at a school implementing this program. I have found the training very problematic, but have no idea who to turn to with my concerns.

    • Regretful says:

      I am in the same boat. I was hired by a middle school this past month. I went to the school today to pick up “materials” for my classroom. I was shocked when they handed me several books by Covey. The staff happily told me about the program and suggested (or rather told me) that I should have the four books read by the first day of school – which is two weeks away. Reading the books make me feel uncomfortable, as does ready a lot of the comments here. Plus, students must complete a 40 lesson workbook every year. I was given a teacher copy, with a very creepy script. It feels very cult-like, and I really wish the school district had mentioned they use this program before I took the job. I’d rather have no job than be apart of a cult-like program.

  48. LetThemLearn says:

    Mormon business character trait programs should have no place in public schools. Making money off the backs of children and their communities needs to stop. It is a child’s right to attend a public school that supports and facilitates their journey to make sense of the world around them through personal discovery, inquiry, and experience. Children should not be subjected to top down, indoctrination(s), of a predetermined vision created by non-experts in the field of education. Please, read The Leader in Me, The 7 Habits, AND The Divine Center. Research who Covey was, what is convictions were, and how he made his money. If any person does so, and still feels this is an okay program to impose on children, their credibility as an educator should be questioned.

  49. JESSICA says:

    I work in a High Poverty Title 1 school that is beginning to implement The Leader in Me habits. When we began looking into the book, we discovered that there was a lot of the things already happening with in our building, but we lacked a common language. When contacting TLIM organization for a quote, we just about fell over…it was going to cost us about $88,000!! Now we do not have this type of money.

    As a staff, we did our own book study and decided to break down the habits over a 2 year period. We did not want this to become “one more thing” for our teachers and staff. We recently changed our Reading structure to follow with the Daily 5/CAFE in which we utilize a lot of trade books to teach comprehension and reading strategies to our kids. This also plays well into teaching the habits because we can pull out when a character is illustrating a habit very easily as part of our daily instruction.

    This year, we are focusing on the first 3 habits that center on independence. Most of our students do not take their education seriously and have a sense of entitlement about everything they do or encounter. We want them to learn and understand that they must own their education and ultimately all the decisions that they make everyday. At the end of the 1st nine weeks, we are already seeing students begin to state that they were being reactive and not proactive in their choices.

    Our counselor has tried to purchase the curriculum to use as part of our character education and we are being told that this is not necessary until after the training that we are also trying to set up with the company. The cost of this training changed after our original quote and so we had to decrease the number of our staff members that will be able to attend because we can only secure a portion of it in grant money from outside community organizations. If TLIM refuses to except what we are able to do to incorporate their program into our students lives, then we will continue to teach the habits and utilize the language without them.

    • Jessica, this sounds like a very sane, reasonable approach. I think the book has plenty of information in it that can be useful all on its own, and without the pressure of the high price tag, I feel the concepts could be integrated into a school culture at a less frenetic pace. Thanks for sharing this.

      • Blythe Sinclair says:

        Jennifer, there is no sane or reasonable approach to implementing this program. Character education can be taught very well without paying one cent into the Covey foundation. I cannot stress how wrong it is to fall into this mess. Avoid it at all costs!

    • Blythe Sinclair says:

      This is a very dangerous and costly program. Do all you can to avoid being taken in by this company. The school I taught at no longer uses the program (the very gullible principal retired and the new principal got rid of it after requesting staff input). The staff was so relieved to be rid of this nonsense. You can teach a good solid character education program without being duped into paying for the Leader in Me. By the way, most of the kids can ramble off the 7 Habits but really have no idea what they mean.

  50. Lesa says:

    I realize that this is an old post…however since the inception of this cult into my daughters school a couple of years ago, I have seen the school decline. Communication between the teachers and the parents is null and void. Conferences are now given by my 10 year old and have very little teacher involvement. There is a huge sign that says we are “sponsored” by the local bank. The disciplinary system is not consistent and is really held over these kids head as the dreaded trip to the win room for not tying your shoes will ensue. There is little to no emphasis on free thinking. I could go on and on with the many problems that I see with this program, but it falls on deaf ears. I used to be an active member of the PTO and my daughter is straight A student on the academic team. I am an active and involved parent. Just what a leader in me school does not want. To top it off we are in Kentucky and are forced to take part in the four day testing joke known as KPREP. The end of year test that they spend all year teaching. They “practice test” at least four times a year. The amount of pressure that is placed on these kids for this asinine state testing is crazy and the fact that the test is four days long is even worse. Last year the kids even came home with their practice scores painted on their faces. A “P” for proficient and a “D” for distinguished. Imagine my confusion when I pick up my daughter at the end of the day and see a big P and D painted on her face. It went from a good and caring school to…I don’t even know what it is now, but its no good.

  51. Jeff Young says:

    My child’s school, Darwin Elementary in Chicago, has been implementing this program for the last few years, it replaced PBIS. While I like the ends that the program pursues, I have some concerns about the means it achieves them and the costs of the program. From the beginning I saw this program as corporate messaging which raised my skepticism alarm as I do not feel that there is any place in the classroom for it.

    I still struggle with it. I’m now on our school’s Local School Council, a post that I worked hard to get elected to. As such, I am aware of budgetary decisions the principal is making. We haven’t yet spent tens of thousands of dollars but I worry that we will. I also worry that the magnet focus of our school (currently a bilingual program) may be changed to this program. CPS is facing a fiscal crisis – this is one expense our district doesn’t need. I wonder why we can’t just incorporate the underlying message of this program into our school culture instead of having to pay for it. Everything the program teaches; being responsible for your own decisions, treating others with respect, maintaining good habits and practicing them – these are all valuable lessons. I don’t know why we have to pay for them.

    I see a glaring problem when the program you are paying thousands of dollars is the same one that will “certify” your school as to it’s effectiveness in implementing it’s program. I’ve debated pulling my daughter out of the school many times as a result, but finding an immersive bilingual program as good as ours will be hard.

    I was given the LIM book by our principal, which is what lead me here. After years of reserving judgement on this program, the saccharine nature of this book made me really doubt this program. None of the assertions in the book are backed up by data. Were the effects of this program on academic achievement truly studied, there would be data and papers cited in the appendix backing up the assertions. There are none.

    I’m beginning to plan how to address this at the school. Does anyone have any ideas?

    • Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for sharing this. As I still believe the habits themselves are pretty sound, I don’t see any reason why a school couldn’t continue to incorporate them into their school culture without all the expensive PD that goes along with it. This is how it was originally done at A.B. Combs (I believe), and taking this route would mean you’re not necessarily abandoning the principles, but you’re re-assigning the funds to more pressing needs. That would be the angle I would probably take, but I would be curious to hear what others suggest.

      • blythe says:

        Jeff, Jennifer,
        In my experience, I have seen that most school boards have developed their own character/social skills programs. I really must question as to why individual schools think that they need to pour tens of thousands of dollars into LIM when such programs already exist. Teachers tend to be very creative people with many, many ideas. I am sure that most teachers would be able to provide character skills activities for their students without paying into a money-grabbing program like LIM. It is interesting to note that the principal of one very large school I know fell for the LIM hook, line, and sinker. The program lasted about 4 years. The school was on the circuit for a LIM symposium. People at that symposium were put on buses and taken to visit that school. Two weeks later, that principal left the school and a new one came in. One of the first things he did was give the staff a survey asking their opinions of the LIM program and whether or not it made a difference. Only about 5% of the staff thought it was worthwhile; the rest pretty much indicated that it was a costly waste of time. The LIM no longer exists at that school (thankfully). STAY AWAY FROM THIS RIDICULOUS MONEY-SUCKING PROGRAM!

  52. Constanze Conrad says:

    Hi there, last year we moved from Germany to Northville, Michigan and at the beginning I did not pay much attention to the program since I had no clue what is it about. I am teacher for German as a second language and have a master in Comparative science of religion. This school year I began to wonder what is it all about The leader in me program and … was shocked. If you see the cult like structure, the vocabularies used and take the author´s backround. I got goosebumps. I wonder…aren´t the public schools secularized in the USA? If you look around in our school…mostly all you see is (in-doctrine like) trees of the seven habits, posters, paintings and so on). I wonder…if you are not a leader…what are you??? With this black and white thinking…follows you are a looser. So you grow a bunch of kids that do not know the feeling of being just fine. Fine is just average……nooo…excuse me: WE are building leaders!!!!! Welcome to cookie-cutter-robot kids, who in worst case bully kids that do not follow the seven habits. I am sure they will become kind grown-ups that actually care more about putting a smile on somebody´s face than being a leader. Sorry, that was sarcastic…put described pretty much what I observe in school.

  53. Gary Eisenberg says:

    At our school, we had to give up 3 days of our summer vacation to be trained in the Leader in Me….. WITHOUT PAY!!!!! I believe the Leader in Me was Covey’s attempt to make more money by imposing his business model on schools. Our schools are suffering enough with this ill conceived idea that we can improve our kids’ education by imposing the business model on public education. It is no longer about educating the “whole child” but instead the whole focus is on the collection of data, posting goals and objectives, and spending much too much time on testing rather than teaching and learning. Covey’s work may be great for corporations, but when did elementary school become business school? You state that Leader in Me may work better in the younger grades. From my experience in Grades K-3, the language of Leader in Me is not developmentally appropriate since the students really don’t have sufficient life experience to understand the terms. Show me a student who really understands what it means to be “Proactive” in the younger grades, and I’ll show you a student who is talented and gifted beyond their years. We had a great Character Education in place already which we had to scrub to make room for Leader in Me. Leader in Me is not for kids, it is for adults who want to have bragging rights about how artificially special their school has become.

  54. Thanks for posting. I was looking for info on this program as part of a job search. I’ve decided NOT to apply to work as a part of this program. We need more open thinking in our schools, not robotic, catch phrasing.

  55. suburban mom says:

    I just found out that this is in pace in my 5th grader’s school- and today is Leadership Day! I am a skeptical of these types of educational fad programs that carry huge costs, and am heading out to see for myself. I might be calling Donnie soon…

  56. The Leader in Me is a great program. I am now a senior in high school, and this program was implemented when I was in early elementary school. I think it’s important to start kid out young with this program, as they learn the true meaning of the habits in elementary, begin actually implementing them in middle school/junior high, and then are total experts in using the habits in high school. My school is almost 100% student-led now. Any programs that the school does, pep assemblies, character education, it’s almost all ran by students. Our school also almost never has any fights, bullying isn’t too prevalent but of course it’s there, it is high school after all, and the students seem to know how to deal with conflict. I couldn’t imagine going to a school where the staff doesn’t trust the students enough to lead. The leadership skills I have learned are ones I will use for the rest of my life.

  57. Erin says:

    Our school adopted LIM 2 years ago. It was heavily and insistently marketed to us by a staff member/teacher who is a member of the LDS church, then a local police officer who works with youth – also an LDS member, and lastly a paid lobbyist who came to our school to present it to the staff with a great video presentation of smiling children around the world and Lighthouse schools (Lighthouse schools are LIM schools that have jumped through enough hoops). They key words here are LDS church and paid lobbyist. The programs was presented as “free” and “.,.They will come in and transform our school.” Neither of which proved true.
    The “free” aspect amounted to teachers on staff writing federal/state grant justifications to get money for this program – tens of thousands of dollars; as of this writing our school is into it for over $50K, oh, but no worries because it was “grant money” aka tax dollars. The Steven Covey Institute has designed an ingenious plant to get tax dollars for a moderately veiled religious organization. Not that this hasn’t happened before but…
    No one came in to “…transform our school.” We’ve had a few professional development days and a trainer/coach has shown up a couple of times.
    I agree with all the points in your above list. All true – excessive cost, cult-like atmosphere, non-existent efficacy, corporate vibes (more like corporate scam – I’d say Wall Street could take lessons from Harvard MBA Steven Covey’s business model – except they already have as these guys come from the same schools), religious undertones (one day on the morning announcements it was suggested that students help in their community by attending church sponsored events), and cultural bias for sure. We have atheists, Sikhs, Jews, agnostics, those who care not to lead, and those who have the wherewithal to to achieve.
    Teacher on our staff who fully support this are primarily within the younger grades 1st and 2nd and feel that this program helps students organize and get work done.
    Walt Disney, Ray Kroc, cigarette companies, and other corporate giants know well that convincing children that products (logos, phrases, language use) are good and wonderful will result in customers for life. Steven Covey Institute knows this too. Just like cigarette companies used Joe Camel, LIM plants the seed language now and then when LDS missionaries come knocking in 10 years and drop a few key LIM phrases like “win-win” or taking care of oneself full physical and spiritual self by “sharpening the saw”, well hey, we know who gets the customers or converts.

    • erin says:

      Why? Anonymity makes this a better forum. I will say that my school is west of the Rockies and rural.

  58. Manda says:

    My children attend a lighthouse school. When we moved here, I had a prek, kindergarten and 5th grade student. They came home singing and talking about the 7 habits and my kindergarten child was given a copy of 7 Habits of Happy Children. As I looked over, it was clear that they were teaching these children to create a business plan. It has created an environment where children realize that there are consequences, good or bad, for every action and they act accordingly. I am very conservative in my views and still love this program. I saw so many who had a problem with win win and I did at first, but after stepping back and looking at it, that is what we do as professionals. We give others what they want/ help others and in turn get what we want (payment).

    • Blythe Sinclair says:

      Manda,
      Teaching children that there are consequences for every action can be taught in much better ways than through the “cultist” LIM program. If you had any idea of how much money is paid to the Covey Foundation for this ridiculous program, I think you would be sick to your stomach. There is a school I know where the extremely gullible principal bought into this program and poured thousands and thousands of dollars into the hands of the Covey Foundation. This money came directly out of the school budget. Classrooms suffered through lack of books, art materials, resources, pencils, glue, etc. The gym budget was hacked by one third. The library lost half its budget. There was no money left for extra-curricular clubs, teams, etc. If you think this is still a good idea, I would suggest that your parent council ask the school administrators to open their books and show you exactly how much money is wasted on this program, The social skills you want for your children can be so much better taught through other means. On the whole, teachers tend to be very caring, resourceful, and creative. I know the majority of teachers have better ideas of how to teach social skills than the Covey Foundation. If you look at their storybooks, you will see that they are extremely poorly written (and boring). The workbooks are nothing short of a joke (and the Covey Foundation is laughing all the way to the bank). The school I spoke of got rid of the program as soon as that principal left, by the way. They are now struggling to get by because of wasted funds. Out of a staff of about 40 teachers, only 4 or 5 could see any value in the program. The others were adamant that this program needed to end for the good of the students. Please do not be duped by the LIM. The LIM should be renamed The Loser in Me!!!!!

  59. Betsy says:

    I have not read the comments so forgive me if I am repeating someone’s sentiment. I opened this hoping to see pros and cons. Unfortunately, the article only presented one side.

    • Hi Betsy,

      I wrote this post to share my own concerns and asked for others to share their experiences. I was genuinely hoping to hear about people’s positive experiences, and some of those have been shared in the comments. I believe Franklin Covey’s website does a perfectly good job of highlighting the pros.

      • Blythe Sinclair says:

        Jennifer,
        Of course Franklin Covey’s website does a perfectly good job of highlighting the pros. They are raking in thousands and thousands of dollars for their foundation. They won’t tell you any negatives of which there are many. This program is extremely dangerous. It is nothing short of a pyramid scheme: Use this program in your school and then hold “Leadership Days” and invite other schools to see your work so that other schools will buy into it and line the pockets of the Covey Foundation with money that has been taken out of school resources (less money for books, resources, extra-curricular, pencils, erasers, art and gym supplies, libraries, desks, chairs, spec. ed. , etc., etc. etc.) Similar programs can be done in schools at little or no cost.

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