Monday, March 31, 2014

Questioning the Value of Walkthroughs

A recent study found that principals spend an average of 12.7% of their time on activities to improve instruction and 5.4% of their time on classroom walk-throughs. The time was slightly higher in elementary school than in secondary schools. But what's really interesting is that the study found that classroom walk-throughs were negatively associated with student performance, as measured by standardized tests, particularly in high schools. On the other hand, the same study found that there were achievement gains when principals worked to improve the school's curriculum and/or spent time coaching teachers.

Principals reported that they used walk-throughs to "check up" on teacher performance and to be visible throughout their school. While principals saw the walk-throughs positively, their teachers found them less valuable and even intrusive.

The study published in Educational Researcher (Grissom, Loeb & Master, 2013), gathered data from the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Observers followed principals one full school day for each of three years. Follow-up interviews with principals provided additional data. This article from Education Week summarizes the findings.

Walk-throughs are widely used in American schools as a tool for instructional improvement. But this study shows there is much to learn about their link to improvement. I'd enjoy hearing from you about the use of walk-throughs in your school. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Using Social Media for Instruction

Recently the Metro Nashville Public Schools decided to gradually allow access on their wi-fi network to Twitter and YouTube. It's a significant change for the Nashville schools because they've blocked students from accessing many social media sites, including Facebook, when using the school's wi-fi system. The restrictions will be lifted first in high schools and then in middle schools. The change is driven by teachers who plan on using more social media to improve instruction. This decision reflects the growing recognition that social media is a powerful tool to access instructional tools and resources. The policy change will also be accompanied by lessons about the appropriate use of the Internet and social media. You can get the details of the change in this article from The Tennessean, the local Nashville newspaper.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about the use of social media for instruction in your school.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dealing with Resistant Teachers

One of the biggest roadblocks to educational change is resistance from teachers, parents or other stakeholders. I understand that everyone deals differently with change. Some are more accepting, others more resistant. People often resist change because they are anxious about the implications. Often resistors have legitimate needs for information, training or support. There may be a conflict between their personal beliefs and the proposed change or there motives may be driven by concern for students rather than outright resistance.

While it is true that some people resist because that's who they are, they love being the "known resistor, most people don't readily embrace that role. They are genuinely concerned. A recent article on ASCD Express share strategies for "turning resistant teachers into resilient teachers." It outlines four categories of resistors and provides strategies and tips that school leaders can use to overcome the resistance.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about your experience with resistance and how you've worked to overcome that resistance.

Friday, March 14, 2014

STEAM rather than STEM: Adding the Arts

For the last decade there's been a discussion about the importance of STEM programs in schools (science, technology, engineering, math). But in the past couple of years educators have begun to add another component, the arts. The result is adoption of STEAM programs that include everything mentioned earlier but recognize the valuable role the arts can play in student learning. The prevalence of STEAM programs in several central Washington school districts illustrates the impact. A recent article in the Tri-City Herald (Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, WA) describes the positive impact of STEAM programs on students in several elementary and high schools in the area. Even though the program is having an impact there are still concerns that the arts will some how be lost in the curriculum.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about STEM or STEAM programs in your school. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Different Kind of AP Course

Across American high schools have added Advanced Placement classes. The program is booming. Those classes are known for their rigor and the way they help students prepare for college. But six years ago AP teachers in the Bellevue School District near Seattle teamed up with researchers from the University of Washington to make their AP government classes far more interactive and project based. Role plays and simulations are a central part of their curriculum. What began as a change in AP government and politics courses now includes AP environmental science and AP physics.

The results are impressive. Students in five dozen classrooms in Washington, California and Iowa score as well or better on AP exams compared to students in lecture-heavy traditional AP programs. For example, last year 88% of students in two high-poverty schools that are part of the program passed the AP US government test compared to 24% for comparable schools across the nation.

Here's a story from the Seattle Times describing the changes. You can also watch a short video about the program. I'd enjoy hearing from you about your AP program and what you think about this modification.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Interviewing for a New Job

It's the time of you when many school leaders think about looking for a new position. It's often a move to a larger school or a school at a different level. It might be a position in the central office or even the superintendency. I'm often asked by my students for advice about the process and how to be successful in that search. One of the resource I've found is the NW Jobs Career Center Blog. The posts offer really specific advice about how to be successful in your job search. Here are some recent posts that I found very helpful.

     A Job Interview is Simply a Conversation

     5 Tips for Creating a Positive First Impression

     How to Manage Job-Interview Anxiety

I'd enjoy hearing from you about your tips for being successful in the job market.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Twitter and Other Social Media for Instruction

One of the fastest growing trends in education is to encourage students to bring, and use, their own technology---smart Phones, tablets, laptops. Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs are underway across the country. The most notable challenge with these programs is that students know far more than most teachers about how to use the devices for tasks. Often educators focus on the misuse of technology but the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that most students use their devices appropriately. That's let many schools to encourage teachers to incorporate technology and various forms of social media as a way to both motivate and engage students. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently showcased the efforts in several Wisconsin schools to use Twitter and other social media, once banned, for instruction.

It's a rapidly growing trend and recognizes the powerful ways technology can transform teaching and learning. Howard Johnston and I wrote about the trend and how social media can be used with 21st century learners to improve their academic experience. Our book, The School Leader's Guide to Social Media, is available from Routledge Education, at and

I'd enjoy hearing from you about how your teachers are using technology and social media to improve instruction.