- Myth 1: Lots of Homework is a Sign of Rigor - For many people rigor is measured by the amount of homework and many teachers pride themselves on the amount they assign. But the evidence is that lots of homework is not an indicator of rigor because "doing more" often means doing more low-level activities. Rigorous and challenging learning experiences take many forms and will vary with the student. More homework is not the answer.
- Myth 2: Rigor Means Doing More - Some suggest that rigor means doing more than they currently do. The evidence is just the opposite. It shows that more often leads to low-level activities rather than the more in-depth analysis and synthesis that is important for long-term learning. True rigor is expecting every student to learn and perform at high levels.
- Myth 3: Rigor is Not For Everyone - There is also a belief that the only way to assure success for every student is to lower standards and lesson rigor. The National High School Alliance says that an agenda of rigor must assure that every student is prepared for post-secondary education, a career and participation in civic life. It is about high-quality, rigorous learning for every student.
- Myth 4: Providing Support Means Lessening Rigor - The belief in rugged American individualism---doing things on your own, often gets in the way of student learning. Barbara and I've found that supporting students so that they learn at high-levels is central to a rigorous school and classrooms. Howard Johnston and I conducted a study where we asked adults, teachers and parents, about rigorous experiences. They invariably described the challenge and the high levels of support and encouragement they experienced. The same is true for students. They are motivated to do well when they value what they are doing and when they believe they will be successful.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Instructional rounds is adapted from the medical rounds process used in the medical schools to diagnose and identify treatment and is based on a belief that by working together educators can solve common instructional practices. It is based on the work of Dr. Richard Elmore.
Rounds is a multi-step process. First is identification of a "problem of practice," or an area of inquiry. Then a team "makes the rounds" by visiting classrooms throughout the school. The observers then debrief their observation and the data is used to identify appropriate next steps.
The South Lane School District in Cottage Grove, OR, an Oregon GEAR UP district, implemented an Instructional Rounds model. In South Lane each school selects a "problem of practice" or an area of inquiry that is their focus for the year. Visits by teams of district administrators makes the "rounds," visiting classrooms to gather information. Following the "rounds" the team meets, debriefs and provides the school's principal with advice about next steps.
The emphasis is on identifying factual patterns from the observations, not personal opinion or personal judgment. The debriefing does not identify specific teachers or classrooms but rather looks for trends across the school's classrooms.
I'd enjoy hearing from you about other ways you work with your teachers to improve instruction in your school.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Schools are awash in data and principals and their staff are expected to use that data to guide improvements. Recently I was reading some materials from NASSP and was reconnected to the idea of a Student Shadow Study.
A shadow study is a different way of gathering information about how students experience your school. They involve selecting students at random and “shadowing” them throughout their day. The process, originally developed by NASSP, charts what students are experiencing every 5 minutes or so. This allows the observer to chart the ebb and flow of activities during the day. The emphasis is on what the student experience and it provides interesting insights into your school’s program.
Of course students quickly figure out that something is going on. So the best approach is to talk with the student you’re shadowing and assure them that you are not gathering information about them to share with the office. At the end of the day, spend some time with the student. Ask him or her about the day and about his or her typical experiences. Provide time for the student to tell you about their school.
Typically, several students are “shadowed” on the same day. The goal is to put together a collection of snapshots that can help design a portrait of your school from the student’s perspective. The data can then be used to complement other data and inform your school improvement efforts.I’d enjoy hearing form you about other ways you gather data directly from students about their experience in your school.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Recently I was talking with Jim Boen, principal of La Pine Middle School in La Pine, OR about his school’s use of lesson study as a professional development tool. Jim discussed how interdisciplinary teams use the lesson study design as a way to focus on improving instruction and building a collaborative culture.
Lesson study, originally used by Japanese teachers, involves groups of teachers in a collaborative process designed to systematically examine their practice with the goal of becoming more effective. It emphasizes working in small groups to plan, teach, observe and critique a lesson.
A sample lesson study protocol:
- Participants should be volunteers
- Members work collaboratively to design a lesson
- One member teaches the lesson in a real classroom while other members observe
- The group discusses their observations about the lesson and student learning
- The lesson is revised and another member of the group teaches the revised lesson while other members observe
- The group reconvenes to discuss the observed lesson
The revision process may continue as long as the group believes it is necessary.
I'd enjoy hearing from you about your experience with lesson study and other strategies for working with your teachers to improve student learning.
Resources on Lesson Study:
Chicago Lesson Study Group - www.lessonstudygroup.net/05lesson_study_resources.html
Friday, September 30, 2011
- "What are you doing?"
- "How are you doing with it?"
- "Why are you doing it?"
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
“I need to talk more on the proposal and require changes to support it.”
“I still need to discuss some issues and I will suggest changes that should be made.”
“I am moderately comfortable with the idea but would like to discuss some minor things.”
“I’m not in total agreement but feel comfortable to let this idea pass without further discussion.”
“I think it’s a good idea and will work for it.
“It’s a great idea and I will be one of those working to implement it.”
Friday, July 1, 2011
- What do you see as your strengths and how will they help you in this position?
- As you think about your past work experience, what has been your biggest challenge?
- Talk with me about the things you consider when designing a lesson.
- When you're teaching a lesson how do you monitor whether students are learning?
- Imagine you were hired for this position and it is a year later. What was the best part of your first year and what was your biggest challenge?
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The most effective principals possess a clear personal vision. They know themselves and their personal ethic. They also recognize the importance of vision to guide their work with teachers and other school personnel.
The frantic life of a school principal rarely provides time to step back and reflect on those beliefs that shape and guide your personal and professional life. The summer break can be a great time to stop, reflect, and identify those things that contribute to your personal vision for your school.
Preparing a written statement of personal vision provides an opportunity to think about the words you use, to consider their nuances, and to grapple with balancing multiple values and priorities. One principal I worked with described writing a vision statement as “the most challenging thing I ever wrote. But also the most valuable.”
A four-step process can be used to reflect on your own personal and professional life, and to identify those things of greatest value. These insights can be used to develop your personal vision.
Process for Developing a Personal Vision Statement
Step 1:Think about your personal and professional life. Make a list of what you would like to achieve and the contributions you would like to make. Describe what it looks like and feels like. For example, hovering in a hot air balloon over your life, imagine it as successful as it might be---what would you see, what would you feel, what would you hear?
Step 2:Consider the following things about what you have written---relationships, personal interests, and community. Examine each item in your list to ensure that it still fits.
Step 3:Develop a list of values. Identify the most important values in your life. Once this is done, review the list and rank them from most to least important. Remove the least important. Re-rank if appropriate. Check for relevance with your earlier list. Eliminate any item that is not relevant.
Step 4:Use the items from the first three steps to develop a statement of personal vision. Review and edit the statement as often as needed until you believe it accurately reflects who you are and what you want to be.
Clarity about one’s personal vision, or ethic, has been described as one of the most important things a leader can do. I hope you find this process helpful and would enjoy hearing from you about your personal vision.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
- Inviting them to work on a project outside their area of expertise;
- Asking them to help screen and interview new hires;
- Encouraging them to attend district meetings with you;
- Asking them to work with you to deal with a challenging parent or instruction issue;
- Inviting them to lead a book study group;
- Asking them to serve on the school leadership team;
- Asking them to serve as a mentor for a new teacher;
- Encouraging them to become a member of a professional organization;
- Asking them to present information to the staff after attending a conference or other professional development activity;
- Inviting them to maintain a journal and reflect on the "good," "bad," or "flawed" leaders they know and observe.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
- How often is your school website updated? Is the information current and easily accessible to families?
- Does your website include information about your vision for your school?
- Does the website provide information that families can use to become involved in the education of their children?
- Does your school have a presence on social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook)?
- If so, what sort of messages and information do you share? Doe you use it regularly to communicate?
- Do families and community know your school has a presence on these sites?
Monday, February 21, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
- Myth #1: Lots of Homework is a Sign of Rigor - For many people this is the most prevalent indicator. Many teachers are proud of the amount of homework they expect of their students. It is often built on the idea that "more is better." Unfortunately the evidence is that "more" often means doing more low-level activities, often repetition of things done earlier. Because students learn differently it is important to vary the instruction with the student and to use homework as an opportunity to deepen understanding of what has been learned.
- Myth #2: Rigor Means Doing More - There is also a belief that students need to do more than they are currently doing. Tony Wagner of Harvard found that classrooms are often characterized by low-level, rote activity. A study by Howard Johnston and me found that parents saw rigor as doing less but doing it more in-depth. That is often difficult for principals to reconcile when talking with teachers and other school personnel. True rigor is expecting every student to learn and perform at high levels and requires that students delve deeply into their learning, engage in critical thinking and problem solving, and be curious and imaginative.
- Myth #3: Rigor is Not For Everyone - There is a belief that if everyone is engaging in rigorous activity, it somehow lowers standards and lessens the value. There is growing recognition that all students must be provided an opportunity for a rigorous educational experience that is more than just a set of courses. It is anchored in the belief that every student can be successful if given adequate time and sufficient support.
- Myth #4: Providing Support Means Lessening Rigor - Rugged individualism characterizes the fourth myth. It is that if students are provided and accept support, it is a sign of weakness. We've found that providing support is an essential component of a rigorous school. Students are motivated to do well when they value what they are doing and when they believe they have a chance for success. When Howard and I talked with teachers and parents about their own rigorous experiences they invariably shared the support that they were provided.