Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
- Take the Right Courses - Assure that students are taking the right courses to gain college admission. This includes taking high-level courses in middle school so that they have access to advanced courses in high school.
- Develop Cognitive and Metacognitive Skills - While taking rigorous courses is important, students also need to develop the cognitive and metacognitive skills that will be needed to succeed in college. These include things like intellectual openness, inquisitiveness, reasoning, argumentation and proof, precision and accuracy and problem solving (Conley, 2007). Such skills are embedded in nearly all college courses.
- Surround Students with Support for College Attendance - Assure that every student is expected to develop a postsecondary plan. Surround them with caring adults who provide the mentoring and support necessary to achieve the plan and build support for their college aspirations.
- Plan for College Costs - While most families believe college education is important many are uncertain about the costs or how to manage the costs. Developing a plan to pay for college is a critical part of planning.
Friday, October 29, 2010
- Provide exemplars for all work and rubrics that students can use to assess their success in completing assignments.
- Adopt a grading policy of A, B, and Not Yet.
- Provide opportunities for students to revise and resubmit work.
- Include support and scaffolding in classroom instruction.
- Include engaging instructional activities connected to real life.
- Act consistently on the belief that each student can learn, will learn, and you power to help them do so.
- Provide quality and timely feedback on student work.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
- What you pay attention to, measure and control becomes important;
- Your reaction to critical incidents and events;
- The way you model behavior and coach others;
- The criteria you use to acknowledge others and allocate rewards;
- How you go about recruiting, selecting and promoting staff.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Last year I completed a project at Royal Oak Middle School in Royal Oak, Michigan. Faced with declining resources a group of teachers, administrators and parents were asked to resolve a perennial middle school problem---how to reduce the total number of minutes of planning time so that distinct individual and team plan times did not exist, and at the same time, continue their exemplary interdisciplinary teaming model.
It was a tough problem with serious implications for both teacher workload and the student day. However, people of good will find a way to persevere and meet the challenge.
I worked with the group to agree upon norms of collaboration, to review the research, to identify priorities, and to develop several alternatives. Balancing competing priorities proved to be the most difficult task.
Over time agreement emerged on a strategy. The length of the school day remained the same but the day consisted of six rather than seven classes. Each class was approximately 75 minutes long. Longer classes provided teachers with additional instructional time, particularly important in language arts and math. Teams continued to be part of the program at each grade level.
Teachers have one daily planning period of 75 minutes (375 minutes weekly). That provides 250 minutes for individual planning and an additional 125 minutes for team planning.
A unique feature of the schedule was addition of a seminar period at the beginning of the day. This period will include several interest-based electives, time for remediation, and allow scheduling of some cross-grade elective classes.
Most importantly, the group reached consensus on the model. Striving for consensus was a powerful indicator of the goodwill everyone brought to the discussion. Consensus almost always assures a successful implementation of any recommendation.
Royal Oak continues to struggle with declining resources and they continue to search for a way to balance their collective commitment to a high quality education with the financial reality faced by the district.
My book Scheduling to Improve Student Learning offers other tips on dealing with complex and contentious scheduling issues. It is available from the National Middle School Association.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Small schools, particularly in rural communities, face real challenges to provide their students with the educational opportunities available in larger settings. For more than eight years the Union Pacific Foundation has funded a program focused on improving leadership in high schools in its service area. The railroad serves the vast western part of the country generally from the Mississippi River west.
While many schools are in urban areas like Chicago, St. Louis, Oakland, Portland, Houston or San Antonio, many others are located in small rural communities along UP rail lines.
West Desert High School is one of those schools. Located in Trout Creek, UT, in the middle of the Great Salt desert several hours from Salt Lake City, West Desert has fewer than thirty students in grades 7-12. Principal Ed Adler described the school as about an hour after the end of the blacktop. Despite its remote location and small size, the staff at West Desert is committed to being the best. It was recently recognized as the highest performing public high school in Utah.
The curriculum is unique in design but meets all of Utah’s curricular requirements. The daily math class includes every student and everyone studies the same subject. One year it may be Algebra, the next Algebra II or Geometry. At West Desert they’ve discovered the power of students working together, regardless of age, to master the content. Similarly, the science program includes only one subject each year. They’ve set aside the age and grade parameters that are taken for granted in many schools.
West Desert is a wonderful example of the power of a principal and teachers working creatively to assure that their students have a quality program. If you ever want to visit Great Salt Desert, you’d be very welcome to visit the high school.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I’ve been traveling in and out of Portland, OR while working on an Oregon GEAR UP project. Whenever I can I like to wander into Powell’s bookstore. If you ever visit Portland you must find time to go to Powell’s. It’s an incredibly complete store carved out a series of inter-connected buildings in the Pearl district of Portland. If you like bookstores you are sure to like Powell’s. I could wander around for hours!
As I often do, I recently spent some time in the leadership section and found myself looking at several books about one’s personal vision. The start of the new school year is a natural time to stop and reflect on your personal vision for your own life and for your school.
The North Central Regional Lab identified a “clear, strong and collectively held vision” as one of the critical components of an effective school. It all starts with your ability to describe your own personal vision. In The Principalship from A to Z we devote an entire chapter to vision because of its importance (Chapter V).
There are lots of good books that describe one’s personal vision. The following examples reflect clear values and beliefs about life and work. They provide interesting insights into how other leaders articulate and actualize their personal vision.
Behar, Howard, (2007). It’s Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks. New York: Penguin Group.
Kidder, Rushworth (2003). How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living. New York: Harper.
Pausch, Randy (2008). The Last Lecture. New York: Hyperion Press.
As always I would enjoy hearing from you about your vision for your school and how you nurture and sustain in especially during challenging times. I look forward to hearing from you.
Friday, July 2, 2010
- What do we do well?
- What are our biggest challenges in the coming school year?
- What will our school look like in 2013?
Friday, June 11, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
- A middle school student failed a math test and sent a text to their mother about the results. Within minutes the child's teacher received an e-mail from the mother demanding extra help for their son and the opportunity to take the test again.
- The other incidents also involved texting. In one two students were accused of some infraction. Once confronted and while briefly left alone before meeting with the assistant principal, they exchanged texts about the alibi they would use. It's a creative way to "get your story straight."
- The third incident also involved a parent. In this case a student broke his thumb while participating in a physical education class. He sent a text about the accident to his mother and she arrived in the school office before her son arrived from the locker room.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
- Invite them to work on a project outside of their area of expertise;
- Ask they to work with you in dealing with a challenging parent;
- Ask then to help screen and interview potential employees.
- Ask them to serve on the leadership team;
- Ask them to lead a book study group;
- Invite them to chair a curriculum planning committee.
- Encourage them to maintain a journal and reflect don the "good," "bad," or "flawed" leaders they know and observe;
- Talk with them about how and why you handled a situation as you did.
- Ask them to serve as a mentor of a new teacher;
- Ask them to present information to the staff after attending a conference or other PD activity.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
- First, use a variety of communication strategies, some in print, some in person, and some electronic. Technology can be a wonderful tool for communicating but not all families will be as comfortable with technology or have access to technology. Publish a family-friendly school newsletter written in everyday language, avoiding educational jargon. Involve families in a variety of activities throughout the year.
- Second, create and support authentic, meaningful roles for family members. Rather than just holding a meeting provide activities that include training and support. Ask families to participate in meaningful decision-making roles. Create volunteer options for family and community.
- Third, provide support and resources for families. The specific type of support will vary with your population but one possibility is to create a family and community learning center. Identify a physical space with adult-sized furnishings; then add basic refreshments and helpful information. You may want to include information in a language other than English. Or you could create family support groups that deal with topics identified by families and their advocates.
- Finally, support the larger community. Seek ways to move beyond the confines of your school. Identify opportunities for students to participate in community service activities. Celebrate the cultures of your community with specific activities. Collaborate with other agencies or groups in the area to deliver services such as immunization clinics, free health screening, or dental clinics. One school in Mississippi partnered with local doctors to provide a free health screening with only one requirement, that they bring their school-age children with them. Parents got hundreds of dollars of free services, students participated in fun activities and the bonds between school, families, and community were strengthened.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
- First, analyze your environment: Scan the environment in which your school exists---district, community, state, nation, world. Then identify the issues that affect your school and those that affect your community more broadly.
- Monitor changes in your environment. Read voraciously, talk with a wide selection of people in your community and stay current with trends at the state and national level.
- Identify the factors needed for success: Look beyond traditional factors (good teachers, money) and consider emerging issues such as the acquisition of technology, the ability to respond to changing conditions. Identify groups in your community with which you can partner.
- Think about your assumptions: Identify the assumptions you hold about your school and community. Test them by assessing the degree of certainly (high, medium, low) and the level of impact (high, medium, low). Assumptions play an important role in constructing the future.
- Develop a vision of an alternative future: Consider the issue of rigor and identify the factors you identified that are critical for success. Develop a vision of the future different than the current circumstances. Creating several alternatives is better.
- Consider allies and opponents: Identify individuals or groups that may support your efforts as well as those who may resist. Be sure to include those you know and those who may emerge. Develop a plan for building alliances with your allies and understand the opposition.
- Develop a plan for advocating for your desired future: Identify specific steps that can be taken to achieve the anticipated future. Develop both "hedging strategies" that can cope with undesirable futures and "shaping strategies" that help create the desired future.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
- Increased demands at the state and national level for greater accountability for improved student learning mean that educators will be pressed to be more successful with all students.
- Greater access to information about how students learn and research-based strategies for improving student learning will add additional expectations about meeting the individual needs of every students including those with the greatest needs and those most talented.
- There will be continued change in the demographics of students in public schools. Schools will be expected to provide a high quality educational program for groups that have often been underserved.
- Stable or declining ressources will characterize the educational environment. Schools will be expected to be more efficient as well as more effective.
- An ever-accelerating pace of change in knowledge, research about teaching and learning, and technology will change the way schools are organized and the way teaching and learning occurs. Traditional schools may become obsolete and new learning structures will emerge. Learning will be more integrated rather than separated by content, and multi-age learning environments will become the norm.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
I’ll never have an empty inbox.
I’m cleaning out my inbox everyday.
I’ll never get caught up.
Today, I choose to make progress on my task list.
100% of our students can’t meet standards.
I’ll make a positive impact on at least one child today.
It’s impossible to keep everyone happy.
Every interaction I have with people will be sincere regarding their behavior.
Monday, February 8, 2010
I recently completed a project at Hadley Junior High School in Glen Ellyn, IL during which the staff and parents examined their program to find ways to strengthen and enhance their services to students. Several major commitments emerged during the project. First, the planning group worked diligently to keep parents and community informed. They held a series of Town Hall Meetings where they shared information with the community and heard about their concerns. Second, they published a series of newsletters in both paper and electronic format. They are also working to create a series of videos or podcasts of critical school events (6th grade orientation) that will be available for parents. They are also committed to making these resources available to parents and families where English is not the primary language. The commitment of the Hadley community to assure that everyone (families, community, teachers, students) are informed and have an opportunity to share their ideas about their school is significant. The commitment transformed their school.