3 common misconceptions that thwart school improvement

Misconceptions are dangerous things. They shackle our visions of what’s possible and doom us to consequences we do not expect. For example, a student who believes her genes predetermine her academic abilities may avoid crucial learning experiences that are initially challenging. A student who believes his postgraduation success will flow from his intellectual prowess may gasp when he loses his first job due to interpersonal ineptitude.

School leaders, especially, need accurate notions of how the world works if they want their school improvement efforts to succeed. Yet many bold and promising ideas to transform schools falter when leaders rely on conventional wisdom about how to make their initiatives flourish.

Recently, my colleagues and I released a research paper that unveils common misconceptions about change management in schools. Given that many school initiatives falter for lack of teacher buy-in, we set out to uncover what actually causes teachers to change their practices. Using research methods based on the Jobs to Be Done Theory—an approach for identifying the causes driving demand for new products, services, and solutions—we asked teachers about the specific circumstances and events that led them to adopt new instructional practices.…Read More

Do you know about the 3 circles that can Change School?

Will Richardson is very well known in the education world, partly because he has been active for a very long time, partly because of his well-known Tedx Talks and presentations, and partly because he’s still knocking it out of the park with his Change School, a robust 8-week online experience for educational leaders who are serious about changing school.

Richardson is one of those education thought leaders that doesn’t pull any punches. When you talk to him, he exhibits the kind of frankness that gives people permission to be frank as well, to voice the truths that may only be whispered in back hallways.

For example, when I discussed parental engagement with Will, he had the courage to say that many school leaders don’t want a high level of parent engagement in school, that they are more concerned with teaching than learning, and, to some degree, more parent engagement would just get in the way.…Read More

How to create a dyslexia-friendly environment in your school

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 80 percent of students with learning disabilities have dyslexia. In order to create a learning environment that feels safe, comfortable and empowering for students, schools need to adhere to basic guiding principles. In “Creating a Dyslexia-Friendly School,” Terrie Noland, national director, Educator Engagement for Learning Ally, presented on early intervention for dyslexic students, using the right AT (assistive technology) tools and accommodations for each learner, and creating environments in which students can thrive.

Develop Guidelines

Early intervention is ideal for students with dyslexia. District administrators can help with intervention by creating clear guidelines on testing within their districts, rather than waiting for their state to act on legislation. Principals should ensure these guidelines are executed within their schools.…Read More

10 of the best and worst school systems

For the majority of US families, public education is the only option for their child’s education. But the quality of public school systems varies widely from state to state and is often a question of funding. Public elementary and secondary education dollars traditionally flow from three sources: the federal, state (state governments contributing nearly half of public-school funding) and local governments. According to EdCentral, states contribute nearly as much as local governments, while the federal government supplies the smallest share of the total. Some researchers have found that more resources — or taxes paid by residents — typically result in better school-system performance.

Because of the variances in funding for public school systems, the personal-finance website WalletHub recently conducted an analysis of 2017’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems.

Unlike other research that focuses primarily on academic outcomes or school finance, however, WalletHub says their analysis take a more comprehensive approach, accounting for performance, funding, safety, class size and instructor credentials.…Read More

Can a simple classroom redesign inspire student achievement?

Imagine a 5th grade classroom in the middle of a lesson. What do you see: charts, letters, and drawings on the wall? A teacher writing notes on a large chalk or white board at the front of the room? Rows of desks and chairs, which face a single direction? Maybe you imagined small bookshelves, an American flag, or other supplies. It’s likely we formed the same, all too familiar image in our mind.

This has been the traditional classroom for decades. Any generation could walk into a room and immediately identify it as a classroom.

At South Carolina’s Saluda Trail Middle School, my room has evolved from this stagnant design to one of innovation. It’s flexible. It’s colorful. It’s engaging.…Read More

Principal: Real school transformation starts with a magical triangle

Every child deserves the opportunity to lead, learn, grow, and succeed. It’s only through a 360-degree approach to learning that we can provide these necessary opportunities to all children. At E.A. Cox Middle School, we are committed to a “whatever it takes” approach to success for each student entrusted to our care. In order to truly dedicate ourselves to this method, my staff and I decided two years ago to develop a three-tiered approach for our curriculum and instruction.

The model we created focuses on achieving proficiency in reading and math for our entire student body, along with proficiency in identified social-emotional skills. This model was developed out of a needs assessment that we conducted in 2015–2016, the first year I was principal at Cox Middle School.

It became very clear, very soon that we had to find a solution to combat the inordinate rate of disciplinary referrals and infractions across the school. Concurrently, it was clear from the academic data that the school was academically low-performing and that reading and math proficiency rates were far below acceptable standards. As a result, we developed a 5-Year Strategic Improvement Plan aimed at improving each of these areas.…Read More

In a shaky political climate, here’s why students are more important than ever

Politics is a funny beast. Being a journalist, I watch the gyrations and positioning with interest. When I was coming up in the business, I used to cover town council and school board meetings. It’s amazing; even then you could go to any town council or school board meeting anywhere and find remarkable similarities. With all the changes in the world over the last 30 plus years, politics still look the same to me.

Because I’m staunchly southern, one of my restaurants of choice is my local Waffle House. I remember a recent conversation I had there over a cup of coffee and hash browns, smothered, covered and chunked. My companion and love of my life, Kristy Holloway, remarked that you could go to any Waffle House in the country and see the same customers, same waitresses and same kitchen staff. The same well-defined personalities playing the same roles. And the same holds true for politics—the big-time politics you see in the news and the politics you don’t see in every school district in America.

Education Bigger than Politics…Read More

Here’s how you tie spending to student outcomes—with big success

When I first came on board as the CFO in Pueblo, Colorado, I asked my finance manager to compile a complete financial report of all of our budgets. As a new CFO, I thought I was taking a smart, proactive approach and could hit the ground running. Instead, my jaw hit the ground when she brought me back a 500-page report in a PDF format! I couldn’t believe it. Wasn’t there a better way?

Excel is a great program, but for finance staff managing millions of dollars of district spending over the course of many years, it has its limitations. Since our district financial system was so tied up in spreadsheets buried in the back end, it could easily take a day (or up to a few weeks) to pull a request for financial data. Often, when the report was pulled, it was too old or the data set was incorrect. We juggled managing the district-wide long-term forecast and the day-to-day budget management because, without accurate and up-to-date information, the efforts become fruitless.

Understanding Finance Systems…Read More

5 things schools can learn from the food truck phenomenon

Unless you have been hiding out in the remote hills of the Appalachians, you have probably noticed the onslaught and popularity of food trucks over the last several years. Although street food is anything but new, almost every suburban and metropolitan area now has a plethora of food trucks serving everything from fusion to comfort food.

In my own town, we have several special events based on food trucks, as well as several new bars or pubs that allow food trucks to serve as their mobile kitchen. And even though they are using a familiar idea, why have food trucks become so popular? And better yet, what could schools and educators learn from the phenomenon?

…Read More

The traditional classroom works so why change it?

The traditional classroom works, so why change it? This is something anyone involved in leading educational change hears at some stage.

The traditional classroom, where direct instruction is the primary method of teaching, does work. It has worked for decades. It has educated people who have then changed civilization in all areas; the sciences, politics, health, industry…everywhere.

However, to imply that it should not change assumes that we have reached the peak of educational techniques; that no major improvements are possible. Just because the traditional classroom “works” doesn’t mean that it has reached a peak or an optimal level of effectiveness.…Read More