6 ways to optimize your school’s SEL curriculum

When I became principal of Brookwood Elementary School five years ago, I came with a deep understanding of the value of social-emotional learning (SEL) for K-5 students. Having used the 7 Mindsets SEL curriculum for roughly six years at my prior school, I knew right away that I could help my new school optimize its SEL curriculum, which had been in place for about a year.

I didn’t have to convince them that they had a great SEL curriculum in place because they had already adopted it and were using it. We just needed to put some more systems in place for the teachers to really buy into it.

Here are six steps we took to make that happen:…Read More

4 things to help a school principal lead through the pandemic

Despite vaccinations being distributed in record-breaking time, the COVID surge continues to be a wearisome reality for the third consecutive school year. The ongoing pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis evoking strong and divisive emotions and disrupting PreK-12 education. A school principal leading in these demanding and chaotic circumstances faces relentless pressures, limited options, and sleepless nights. 

Emotional exhaustion and physical fatigue have eroded school leaders’ job satisfaction, as evidenced by 42% of U.S. principals indicating they were considering leaving their position and 70% stating they had felt close to their breaking point (NASSP & LPI, 2020). A veteran Iowa school principal lamented, “I have been a principal for 20 years, and this was, by far, the most taxing year on me professionally, emotionally, and physically.  I would have to change things in all three categories in order to survive another year in a pandemic.”

School leaders have carried the weighty responsibility for adhering to pandemic responses, processes, procedures, and protocols, many of which have changed overnight. Principal leadership has been critical to guiding school teams while avoiding professional burnout. To learn more, we administered a survey, which was completed by over 350 Iowa administrators, which found that leaders who not only thrive in uncertainty but retain positive job satisfaction demonstrate four vital leadership traits: purpose-driven, self-care, self-awareness, and self-efficacy.…Read More

4 ways to use SEL to prepare students for life beyond high school

Preparing students for life beyond high school can mean many things. It can mean making sure they have the knowledge and technical skills needed for a specific job. Or helping them achieve the GPA or course requirements needed to get into a certain college or university. It should also mean focusing on what are sometimes called the “soft skills”–I call them “life skills.”

Life skills are the social and emotional skills that help someone succeed, both in academics and in life–skills like relationship-building, personal responsibility, and decision-making. When you start to look at what the ideal graduate looks like, they would have both academic and social and emotional skills.

I serve as principal of the 540-student Business Technology Early College High School (BTECH) in Queens, New York. Our focus is on underserved youth who are interested in careers in information technology and computers. We have many pathways and partnerships to help prepare students for college and career. …Read More

5 ways to address inequities in pandemic teaching and learning

Remote learning is consistently associated with decreased instructional opportunities and student outcomes when compared to in-person schooling, according to data from a RAND Corporation study.

Researchers surveyed teachers and principals to gain a better understanding of K-12 students’ learning opportunities across a variety of learning models (in-person, hybrid, and fully remote) during the 2020-2021 school year.

The decreased outcomes associated with remote learning include less curriculum coverage, more student absenteeism, and lower principal-reported math and ELA achievement.…Read More

How a former music teacher approaches school leadership and learning

The pandemic has taught us that change is inevitable, but being prepared can set a school apart. It’s important to bring together research and outside learning tools to a team that is always striving and driving in the same direction. As a principal, I’m enthusiastic about what lies ahead for our school and district after a year of adjustments.

Like the characters in the Ron Clark book, Move Your Bus, we are all independently and collectively moving together to reach a positive objective. As a former music teacher, I see it as an orchestrated process where all members, from school leadership to teachers to custodial staff, realize their role, importance, and dynamic in the school’s overall symphony. It takes communication, organized teamwork, and a belief in modern data-driven approaches to bring forth learning success.

A school is an orchestra…Read More

Nebraska public school districts begin unified effort to prioritize principal leadership, launch Tri-City ASCEND Academy

A collective commitment to principal leadership is underway in Central Nebraska, with a trio of school districts — Grand Island Public Schools (GIPS), Hastings Public Schools (HPS) and Kearney Public Schools (KPS) — announcing the launch of the Tri-City ASCEND Academy. This organic principal initiative was grown out of the districts’ need to focus on systematic improvements to the preparation, hiring, support and management of school leaders.

“We’ve long known that strong principal leadership is a key lever to improved student achievement,” said Nebraska Education Commissioner Dr. Matthew L. Blomstedt.  “The efforts of the Tri-City Alliance demonstrate partnerships to build a lasting legacy of strong leadership and are the type of models we need to build and sustain educational improvement across the state.”

Also referred to as ASCEND, the Tri-City Alliance is a principal pipeline that offers a range of talent management activities for which the districts themselves are responsible. These include: …Read More

Vernier Software & Technology Partners with Magnitude.io to Engage Students in a Virtual Field Trip to Space

Vernier Software & Technology recently partnered with Magnitude.io to engage students in a virtual field trip to the International Space Station (ISS). During this unique distance learning opportunity, students will participate in the ExoLab-8 plant science experiment in which they will grow and analyze their own legumes simultaneously with legumes grown in space. Vernier is offering a special discount to educators interested in participating in this experiment and purchasing the accompanying student and educator kits.

ExoLab-8 is designed to put students at the forefront of scientific research by having them discover insights alongside Magnitude.io’s team of principal investigators and scientists. This month, Magnitude.io will launch legumes, red clover, into orbit that will grow on the ISS for 30 days. Then students will have the opportunity to participate in post-flight genetic and data analysis. During this time students can grow their red clover simultaneously with the legumes grown in space and observe the differences between their growth and development. As a demonstration project, the goal is to achieve root nodulation on red clover for the first time in the microgravity environment of the ISS within the Space Tango CubeLab, relying on an autonomous system that initiates germination and fixes the plants while in orbit.

“ExoLab-8 provides a truly one-of-a-kind, hands-on learning opportunity that will teach students about important NGSS-aligned topics, as well as crosscutting concepts,” said John Wheeler, CEO of Vernier Software & Technology. “Through our partnership with Magnitude.io and the special offer we are providing, we are hoping more educators and students across multiple grade levels and disciplines will be able to participate in this immersive learning experience.”…Read More

Class Solver Reduces COVID-19 Outbreaks through Class List Management

Class Solver the most flexible program for creating and managing class lists, has developed an algorithm that’s been proven to reduce COVID-19 outbreaks in schools by 36 percent. The feature builds upon Class Solver’s ability to customize and create class lists based on factors including behavior, academic performance, special needs and parent requests.

“Managing class placement is challenging at the best of times, but with the COVID-19 pandemic we often need to adjust quickly,” said Denielle Toth, Principal at Fricano Primary School in New York. “Class Solver has been invaluable – we’ve been able to create new class lists in minutes while also meeting COVID-19 requirements for our district.”

Class Solver integrates seamlessly with many student management systems. The new “COVID-friendly” algorithm saves time and evaluates factors such as social groups, extracurricular activities, bus routes and household dynamics to determine the impact of interactions at school. The feature follows the recommendations of Ben Schmidt, Director of Digital Humanities and Clinical Associate Professor at New York University, who published data on the correlation between children’s social networks and COVID-19 outbreaks.…Read More

Digital signage offers teachers the tools they need to succeed

Many of us can recall scratchy, static-muddled murmurs of elementary and high school administrators making announcements over the public address system, accepting such antiquated technologies as the norm.

Fortunately, a better way has emerged. Today, educators can install screens in classrooms that easily and effectively serve many purposes over the breadth of a typical school day, including pushing out important messages and reminders.

A public address system gives a school principal or someone else in the building one shot each morning to reach yawning youngsters with key information. A screen in each classroom changes the dynamic from easily tuned-out audio to hard-to-miss visual messaging that can run for as long as necessary. That messaging can also be scheduled and targeted by location and serve many needs, limited only by imagination.…Read More