Should you treat your school like a business?

As parents have more choices regarding where their children go to school, some districts are beginning to view students and parents as “customers” — with surprising results

The idea of treating students, parents and the school community as customers isn’t an entirely new one, but it’s still one that makes some school leaders balk. After all, schools are institutions of learning, and traditionally, they have not been thought of as businesses.

But with the growth of charter schools and online schools, parents have other options to explore if their child’s school does not meet expectations — and when students leave, so, too, does funding.

And in an effort to increase parental engagement and ensure that parents and community members feel as though they are part of their children’s school, the newly-passed Every Student Succeeds Act includes multiple methods to increase parental engagement, including expanded accessibility, regular two-way communication, and enhanced parent and family engagement policies.…Read More

One district’s innovative ideas to engage parents

Free tutors, workshops, and cold hard cash gets more parents involved in Guilford County

parent-engagementAs research suggests, students do better in school when their families are more actively involved in their education. Students with engaged parents traditionally have better attendance, a more positive attitude, and higher rates of graduation than peers with less support.

In an effort to encourage this involvement, North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools has taken several innovative steps—such as offering free online tutoring to every family, as well as online videos and face-to-face training in the workplace to show parents how they can support their children’s success. The district also allows certain parent volunteers to earn a cash incentive for participating.

“We’re doing whatever we can to get parents engaged and involved,” said Chief of Staff Nora Carr.…Read More

Stopping teacher turnover in its tracks

How do you retain the best educators? Observation and feedback, says one school

turnover-teachersGetting new teachers into the classroom has been a major focus of districts across the country during the last 30 years, as turnover has increased, especially in historically underserved communities. School leaders at high need urban schools and elsewhere have resorted to signing bonuses, merit pay, and strong benefits in an attempt to lure teachers in. One public school in Arizona even advertises a four-day work week as a selling point to get them in the door.

Recruitment is important. However, the retention of high quality teachers is equally, if not more, crucial. More organizations are realizing the necessity of developing ways to support teachers to raise retention. Keeping effective teachers in classrooms, particularly in a high needs school, is becoming more of a focus for administrators. One way to achieve retention is through building a common mission and vision. Teachers want to be part of a high quality organization dedicated to a common goal for success.

Milwaukee College Prep, where I serve as COO, is a high achieving urban K-8 charter management organization with four campuses and 2,000 students. The campuses are located in the most poverty-stricken areas in Milwaukee. As a successful urban CMO, one of the most important questions often asked is, “How do you train and retain outstanding educators?” To which I often reply that giving teachers support through observations and feedback is perhaps the most vital piece. Teachers who are passionate about education pursue opportunities to perfect their skills. They appreciate feedback and specific action steps to guide self-improvement.…Read More

8 ways schools can become truly Future Ready

Advice for districts seeking to become better at digital teaching and learning

future-readyBeing Future Ready is about more than just signing a pledge or attending an event. It’s about taking measurable, sometimes scary, steps toward a digital future that is still very much uncertain, according to speakers at a recent ISTE panel discussion on the topic, “Is Your District Future Ready?

The Future Ready effort, championed by the Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education, hopes to permanently intertwine digital connectivity and learning in schools by getting administrators to think more broadly (and critically) about technology, PD, and the curriculum they use.

The backbone of the project is a short pledge superintendents take confirming their commitment to enlightened digital learning and advocacy (about 2,000 superintendents have signed it so far). There are also related regional summits that delve into how schools and districts can achieve Future Ready aims, such as empowering teachers, closing the digital divide, or supporting community efforts.…Read More

What should graduates look like in 10 years?

San Francisco’s Vision 2025 tackles technology and early literacy

graduates-lookIt seems an almost unknowable question: What will — or should — high school graduates look like in the year 2025?

Beginning with a systematic community-wide visioning process in the 2013-14 school year, San Francisco Unified School District developed its Vision 2025 to take a close look at what will be asked of a 2025 graduate in order to thrive and be successful in San Francisco and beyond.

Superintendent Richard Carranza of San Francisco Unified School District and the board of education considered, for instance, that graduates will need to develop and manage their local, global, and digital identities, and be comfortable separating and switching between the three. Graduates will benefit from being bilingual or multilingual; a 2025 graduate must be technologically fluent as well as college and career ready, with the added challenge that many of those careers have yet to be created.…Read More

Educating parents of the Siri generation

In our digital world, some parents may feel lost at sea. Here’s what they need to know

[Ed. note: Carl Hooker will deliver a related session on digital parenting at this year’s ISTE conference on Monday June 29. Previous ISTE coverage has focused on iPads and coding and keynoter Josh Stumpenhorst.]

digital-parentsWhat ever happened to the good old days? When I was a kid I used to listen to music my parents didn’t like and stay out riding my bike until the street lights came on. Today, our kids have scheduled playdates and a steady stream of organized activities, and spend the rest of their time connecting to others online. We no longer live in an analog world, yet why do we think our parenting should look the same as it did back then?

As an administrator in a one-to-one mobile device district, I’ve seen firsthand how access to devices can disrupt learning for both good and bad. But we forget that this disruption also occurs at home when the students take their device home. Our teachers hopefully have hours and hours of support and training for integrating these tools in the classroom, but what help are parents getting?…Read More

How to survive an ed-tech crisis

5 reasons one district bounced back from a one-to-one crisis


When North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools had a tablet charger melt inside a student’s home in October 2013, it could have marked the end of the district’s $16 million effort to give every middle school student a digital device.

Instead, district leaders reacted quickly and decisively, suspending the program until they could ensure the safety of every child. They also negotiated for higher-quality devices and other concessions from their tablet supplier, Amplify, and they kept the community informed at every turn.…Read More

10 ways to use social media to pass bond issues

School leaders share social media strategies that successfully support district efforts

social-mediaAs the fight to get voter approval for bonds becomes more challenging, school district leaders and their supporters are tapping into Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media to win their campaigns.

“Schools that don’t use social media are missing out on one of the most effective forms of communication to large audiences and stakeholders,” said Rick Kaufman, executive director of community relations and emergency management for Bloomington Public Schools in Minnesota.

Social media campaigns have become especially important as more district leaders face tight budgets and a voter base reluctant to pay more taxes to finance repairs and new equipment–even as buildings age, technology grows obsolete, and other expenses mount.…Read More