Testimonials for my work and LIFT Consulting

Over the last 15 years, I’ve been lucky to work with some of the best people and best educators (usually one and the same) in the world. A few of them have been nice enough to share their thoughts on our work together… With deep gratitude, I share them with you.

The work with Chris Habetler deeply accelerated the trajectory of my school and ultimately the network at large. Chris’s work was nothing short of transformational.  And what started out as I think more technical, and systems building became an exercise in purpose.

As a result of our work together, I became far clearer on the rationale and the why. And to this day, when we make decisions that impact the culture that best reflects him supports who we are and our vision. I think about the work that Chris and I did together. It was truly transformational and I don’t use that lightly. 

I think when Chris arrived, it would not have been extreme for someone to use the term combustible to describe our culture. It was uneven, it was unsure. And I would say pretty soon after his arrival, we reached a place of stability and predictability. And we’ve built from that and continue to build from that. And objectively would now say that our scholar culture is one worth wanting. So far from where it can be because our kids are amazing and powerful. Chris’s work was nothing short of transformational.

Jerel Bryant – CEO @ Collegiate Academies, Principal GW Carver HS, 

Louisiana State Principal of the Year 2021 

“Chris has been instrumental in helping radically improve school cultures and academic outcomes at AF.

He is strong at three key aspects of the work: helping school leaders design clear visions and strong systems, leading high-quality / practice-based Professional Development sessions, and providing effective site-based coaching.

Our school cultures are much stronger thanks to Chris. Our school leaders name his coaching and support as having a very high impact, and they push hard to get as many “Chris days” at their schools as possible.

Chris’ vision for a great school culture includes the “full symphony” of strong student classroom management, effective school-wide systems, student investment, teacher-student relationships, joy, character development, and parent relationships. Moreover, he gets that school culture and academic culture are linked.

I would highly recommend Chris to any school, CMO, or district looking to make dramatic school culture – and overall school – improvements.” 

Doug McCurry – Co-Founder, CEO, and Superintendent @ Achievement First 

Chris is an exceptional relationship builder and I honestly can’t think of a person who doesn’t love him. This allows him to understand complex dynamics, describe them clearly, figure out how to improve them, and authentically partner with clients to build vibrant and thriving organizations.

Paul Astuto – Chief of Staff @ Prospect Schools

“Chris pushed me to look past my own mental blocks and the limits that I was placing on myself, my teachers, and our students without even knowing it. He asked the right questions to get me to take a hard look at my practice and to make small shifts that made a big difference–especially in the second year of implementation. His coaching was personalized and customized to my school and context, but the lessons I learned have been applicable to a completely different school environment as well.”  

Kendra Engels – Campus Director @ Citizen Schools Santa Fe New Mexico 

“Over the past several years, I have had the great pleasure of working with Chris as he assisted us in transforming our school culture. Chris Habetler is perhaps one of the most thoughtful individuals working on school culture in the field of education today. Through our partnership with Chris, we were able to identify the core “non-negotiables” of our approach to creating a healthy and vibrant school culture that facilitated learning. Rather than a cookie-cutter approach, Chris instinctively pushed us to become clear about what our community truly valued, resulting in a considerably more focused and enjoyable school experience. Since we began our work with Chris, student attrition has plummeted and student achievement has soared. I would highly recommend him to anyone who is looking to transform their school climate.” 

Chris Bostock –  Managing Director of High Schools @ KIPP New Orleans | Former Principal @ AF Brooklyn High

In my first year as a school administrator, I had a head full of ideas and no sense of how to execute them. Chris not only helped me to connect those dots, but he imparted to me the confidence to execute any idea I might have down the road. If a teacher’s most difficult task is to make the most obscure skills feel instinctual, Chris is the best around. He did not change me; he did not manage me; he showed me a more complete version of myself and how to fill that role. By the end of our tenure, I could and did recommend his guidance to any and all of my colleagues. He’s that good.

Dan Parsons – Dean of Students @ Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy

“Chris has had a significant impact across our schools for the past 5 years – driving the implementation of strong school-wide culture systems, which has resulted in dramatically increasing learning time for scholars. I’ve been struck not only by Chris’ unique skill in execution with students but also by his ability to strategically think through building and improving school systems. In fact, I’ve worked with Chris directly as a Principal and Regional Superintendent in our network, and I see how he has skillfully navigated countless adaptive challenges – enlisting dozens of very different school leader personalities in a shared vision and leveraging strong relationships with each individual so that the close collaboration is both welcomed and successful in driving results.” 

Amy D’Angelo – Regional Superintendent @ Achievement First 

“I began working with Chris in my first year in a leadership role.  During this time, our new administration had just begun the process of re-setting the organization’s culture with initiatives and policies aimed at raising the academic and behavioral expectations for students. Chris not only helped us “calibrate” our bar for what excellence looks like in the classroom but helped us create clear systems to achieve it.  His work with us went far beyond dictating what rules should and should not be in place school-wide; he pushed us to think deeply about student character, and to constantly frame our decisions in the context of “what’s best for kids.” And over the course of our three-year working relationship, he helped us become a school that invested its students and stakeholders in our mission and values. Chris played a critical role in our school’s turnaround, and his work had a transformative impact on the entire staff and student body of our school.” 

Stu Warshawer – Executive Director @ Artist Year; Former Principal @ Mastery Charter Schools


“I still remember Chris’ first, informal visit to our school. When he visited, the school was just about at a low point. Chris started formally supporting us the next year as I embarked on a complete school culture overall with two new deans of students. Chris’s monthly visits were a catalyst for the dramatic growth we experienced in the following years and still to this day. He was able to gain a deep understanding of our school and staff so that his constant recommendations and development of our deans were really matched to what we needed most at any given moment — and part of a bigger vision Chris helped us form around the culture of our school. On our network’s school evaluation system (the AF Report Card) we went from the lowest-performing middle school to the highest-performing in the history of our network. Truly, Chris was no small part of that.” 

Tom Kaiser – Founder @ Authentic Leaders | Former Chief Talent Officer @ Achievement First 


“Our students described the culture of our school as calm, safe, fun, and student-focused! We were able to create a positive school culture that aligned with our mission by working with Chris. Through building strong relationships with my staff, he led professional development, coached my leadership team, and provided us with feedback that continued to make our school community improve. Chris built the capacity of my school leadership team by increasing their ability to provide feedback to teachers, created systems and structures for our school discipline vision, and supported them with change management. I know that more students are experiencing a rich learning environment as a result of working with Chris!”  

Kinnari Patel-Smyth – President @ KIPP Foundation, Former Chief Academic Officer, KIPP Metro-Atlanta 

“Mr. Habetler spent one and a half days on our campus in year two, but his impression has left a mark for years. In minutes he could identify the root causes of culture breakdowns, and equally important, a list of ways to dramatically alter those breakdowns immediately and long-term. He has remained a thought partner and I know that when I am most challenged to solve a cultural issue, he will be there to talk, share, empathize, and then help me make tough decisions to make my school excellent.” 

Rachel Yanof – Founder and Chief Executive Officer @ Phoenix Collegiate Academy

“If there is one person in the country who I would turn to in order to learn how best to develop and sustain a positive, achievement-focused school climate in an urban public school, it would be Christopher Habetler.  He understands the conditions necessary for students from low-income households to succeed, and he knows exactly which levers to pull to ensure those conditions become part of a school’s DNA.” 

Scott Given – Founder @ The Croft School | Founder and CEO @ UP Education | Former Principal @ Excel Academy 

“Chris Habetler is one of the nation’s leading experts in building high-performing schools. I routinely introduce him as “the Michael Jordan of instruction and school culture.” Let me offer two data points. In 2005, before Chris arrived at Excel Academy as Dean of Students, the school ranked 471st on the Massachusetts 8th grade math exam; by 2009 – after Chris’ fourth year – the school ranked 1st in the state. In 2010 – before Chris started working with Achievement First – the four AF New York middle schools scored at the 38th percentile of all New York City schools on the annual DOE report card (which factors in student achievement, growth, and culture). By 2012 – after Chris’ second year – the same four schools were at the 93rd percentile. These two trends are not a coincidence. Chris brings a tremendous amount of skill and experience that helps schools become game-changing cathedrals of joyful instruction and character. This is, in part, why I tell my school leaders, ‘Listen to every word that he says.’” 

Chi Tschang – Founder @ Excellence Reflex LLC | Regional Superintendent @ Achievement First