Monday, June 22, 2009

From Jefferson to Obama and Beyond: Essential School Leadership for the Next Generation of Engaged and Thoughtful Citizens (NLA, Tuesday Session)

Dr. Carl Glickman offers a surprising analysis of the real achievement, economic, and citizenship gap in America and how education cannot close any of these gaps until they understand the relationship between all of them. This interactive presentation will explain- through the use of vignettes and protocols and guided questions- how educators can center teaching, learning, and assessment practices so that students learn that education and improving democratic life are one and the same. The talk will draw from the newly released book Those who dared: Five visionaries who changed the face of American education.

Creating Rigorous Culturally Responsive Classrooms (National Leadership Academy, Tuesday session)

Dr. Donna Ford shares strategies and resources to address the strengths and needs of our increasingly diverse student population. It is important that educators create classrooms that are culturally responsive and rigorous in order to effectively address the achievement gap.

She is the author of numerous articles and books including Teaching Culturally Diverse Gifted Students.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Leading in a 21st Century Paradigm

Steve Edward's session will focus on the changing dynamics of leadership in a global knowledge economy. An era of continuous and rapid change requires a leadership skill set that is always evaluating and adapting to external forces.

Please share your thoughts and reflections about this National Leadership Academy session in the comments space.

The Digital Learning Farm

Alan November, author of Web Literacy for Educators, engages participants in a laptop journey modeling 21st century learning tools. Before tractors and combines, more than 60% of the population in North America was involved in farming. Today that number is less than 2%. Farm children made vital contributions to the family with real chores. While technology eventually eroded the meaningful work of children, we can now focus its use to restore the dignity of real work in school. All of our students can use collaborative online tools and research and global communications skills to add value to the learning community.These contributions include:

  • Tutorial Designers

  • Official Scribes

  • Researchers

  • Tool Developers

  • Collaboration Coordinators

  • Curriculum Reviewers

  • World Relations

Please share your thoughts on November's National Leadership Academy session in the comments section.

Academic Leadership: Creating a Climate of Success for All Students (National Leadership Academy, Monday)

Freeman Hrabowski, III shares how the rapid and dramatic demographic and technological changes present our nation’s schools with enormous challenges for educating students in the new century. Among the most critical questions we face are what will students need to know in order to succeed academically, and what skills and values must they possess? What strategies and best practices can educational leaders use, working together with parents and community leaders, to ensure rigor, elevate academic achievement, and support the success of all students. Answers to these questions will substantially influence how well students achieve academically and, ultimately, America’s global competitiveness and the civic engagement of its citizens in the first part of the 21st century.

He is the author of Overcoming the Odds.

Please share your thoughts about his messsage at the National Leadership Academy in the comments section.

United Focus: Getting Staff Buy-in (National Leadership Academy, Sunday Workshop)

Angela Seiders, a current middle school principal gets "it." Effective relationships with staff is a powerful and necessary component of positive change in schools. Angie asks, "as an administrator do you feel like a lone captain of your ship?" If so, "come learn how building relationships can get all hands on deck." The session focuses on cultivating strong working relationships between teachers and instructional leaders. In this interactive session, research-based ideas from the field will be modeled and shared so that instructional leaders can use or adapt the strategies to their setting.

The tone of this session was set from the engaging music to inviting leis which quickly transitioned to the sharing of "lifesavers" for building relationships. Numerous ideas and sample materials were modeled and shared.

Angie is the co-author of People First.

Please use the comments section to share your experiences in this workshop at the National Leadership Academy.

Implementing Response to Instruction/Intervention (RtI) in Our Schools (National Leadership Academy, Sunday Workshop)

Mary Little will share how the Response to Instruction/Intervention (RtI) model within classrooms and schools has been developed as a proactive process of instructional problem solving to improve student learning, as well as to identify students with disabilities. During this session, the participants will gain an awareness of the similarities of the school improvement processes and classroom instructional decision-making to Response to Instruction/Intervention. Case studies, resources, and processes will be shared for school leaders within classrooms, schools and districts to consider for continued implementation.

Participants will be able to:
  • Compare policy mandates of Response to Instruction/Intervention with current school and classroom implementation of school improvement processes, data-based decision-making, professional learning communities, and action research;
  • Describe the policies and processes of Response to Instruction/Intervention;
  • Describe and facilitate instructional problem solving process using data; and
  • Develop an action plan for implementation of the RtI process in schools and districts.

Please share your experience in the RtI workshop at the National Leadership Academy in the comments section.

Leading Teams to Improve Literacy K-12 (National Leadership Academy, Sunday Workshop)

Jan Rozzelle and Carol Scearce will model research-based strategies and techniques that increase student comprehension and retention of content material. The workshop will feature demonstrations, video clips of real classroom instruction, and samples of exemplary lesson plans. Participants will have an increased awareness of effective literacy practices to look for across the content areas.

Rozzelle and Scearce are the authors of

Power Tools for Adolescent Literacy. Use the comment option to share your experience in the 2009 National Leadership Academy workshop.

Data to Improve Teaching and Learning (National Leadership Academy, Sunday Workshop)

Dr. Michael DiPaola plans to provide strategies to assist principals and supervisors in recognizing and collecting data on teacher classroom performance. Participating principals and supervisors will return to their schools with tools to collect data, that when shared with individual teachers, will help them focus on student engagement, verbal interactions, questioning skills, and other research-based practices to improve their teaching and consequently, student learning.

Please use the comments option to blog about your experience in his workshop at the 2009 National Leadership Academy on June 21st.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Reading in the Content Area

Even though the 2008-09 school year has just ended, I am always on the look out for articles, books, and in general reading resources that can be used to compliment the adopted textbook.

My most recent “find” was yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article, “The Terror of the 10-Foot Putt More Golf Events -- Especially U.S. Opens -- Come Down to the Lightest Stroke; Less Than a Joule.” The article struck me as clip-worthy for possible use in an unit on energy. A post-it note serves as a reminder as why the article was clipped as sometimes looking back at a newspaper clipping months later makes me wonder why I liked the piece.

In this case, the article is about golf and how the exertion of a relatively small amount of energy has an impact on the outcome of the game. Given the popularity of golf stars such as Tiger Woods and that students are taking up in increasing numbers so for some students, the article would catch their attention.

I could see the article being used as part of an introduction on energy and work. The use of the word “joule” in the subtitle could be a hook for students to start them reading to learn more. A borrowed putting green and a putter could be in the classroom for demonstration and experience. As a student modeled a putt, we could talk about the use of energy and how it is measured. The article basically builds a case that golf the putt which requires the least amount of energy of the strokes has a tremendous impact. A couple of scientists are quoted with their input on science and the sport (one a bit glib and the other a balance of humor and science).

Reading more about the article, students can be reminded of the role of friction and resistance as they read about the affect rain has on the greens as the grass has grown very thick this year resulting in dense roughs. If joules aren’t in your curriculum, the article provides fodder for designing an investigation as it specifies some variables that influence the accuracy of the shot. This could be an avenue for a guest speaker or the inspiration for a science project.

So let the clipping begin (or electronic saving of articles) for summer school or next year!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Widget Effect: Teacher Evaluation

Across the United States, the school year has ended or will end soon. Field days, graduation ceremonies, cumulative folders, final report cards, and summative teacher evaluation conferences mark the end of the school year along with a host of other activities. Unfortunately, teacher evaluation in many systems is a “check the box” event as opposed to a process.

On Monday (6/1/09), The New Teacher Project released The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness in which the teacher evaluation practices in 12 school districts in four states (AR, CO, IL, OH) were examined. Over 15,000 teachers and 1200 administrators were surveyed. Documents were analyzed and 130 interviews were conducted. The school districts ranged in size from serving 4,450 students to 413,700 students. The Widget Effect “describes the tendency of school districts to assume classroom effectiveness is the same from teacher to teacher. This decades-old fallacy fosters an environment in which teachers cease to be understood as individual professionals, but rather as interchangeable parts” (p. 4).

Teachers are you treated as Widgets? Administrators, does the evaluation system you use suffer from the Widget Effect? Common characteristics of the Widget Effect are:

  • All teachers are rated good or great. In evaluation systems with satisfactory, unsatisfactory, and not applicable choices for each item, most teachers are going to be rated satisfactory as bar for unsatisfactory is too low and/or required documented effort of work to address teacher weaknesses during the year raised performance just above unsatisfactory, but there is no middle ground. In systems with multiple ratings, the report found that 91% of teachers received the top two ratings and less than 1% were rated unsatisfactory. An behaviorally-anchored performance rating scale for each performance standard that defines what performance for each level looks like and consists of is one way to increase the use of ratings that do discriminate between great, good, needs improvement/developing, and unsatisfactory performance.
  • Excellence goes unrecognized. In many school systems, an effective teacher who gets gains with students, but only has four years of teaching experience makes less money than the 15-year mediocre teacher in the next classroom. While many school systems have a teacher of the year program, this only recognizes one “great” teacher while many more dedicated an effective teachers go unrecognized for their work. Often evaluation systems perpetuate this problem by failing to acknowledge excellence when it exists in areas such as instructional delivery, planning, assessment, classroom management, and content knowledge, professionalism, and student interactions.
  • Inadequate professional development. Often teacher evaluation is disconnected from professional development. Seventy-three percent of teachers surveyed in this report said that their most recent evaluation did not identify areas for professional growth.
  • No special attention to novices. Teacher evaluation systems that treat everyone the same are failing to acknowledge that new to the profession teachers benefit from additional support during their first few years in the classroom.
  • Poor performance goes unaddressed. The majority of administrators (81%) and teachers (58%) surveyed indicated that there was a poor performing teacher in their school. Further 43% of the teachers indicated that the teacher’s performance warranted dismissal.

The report offers four recommendations for addressing and reversing the Widget Effect. Better teacher evaluation is a component. A more difficult challenge is changing the mindset of people who say that teacher quality matter, but do little to recognize, promote, and improve effectiveness. The recommendations are:

  1. Have a comprehensive teacher evaluation system that provides a means to rate teacher performance according to factors associated with effective teaching. The evaluation should be linked to professional development. Teachers should receive frequent feedback.
  2. Evaluators need to know how to use and use the evaluation system effectively. Training needs to be provided so that the system is implemented in a fair, legal, useful, and consistent manner.
  3. Teacher evaluation needs to be linked to critical policy and action items within the school system (e.g., teacher hiring, compensation, reduction-in-force, dismissal).
  4. Have dismissal policies that “provide lower-stakes options for ineffective teachers to exit the district and a system of due process that is fair but efficient” (p.8). This report recommendation may have state law implications as some states have codified the process for dismissal.

    NOTE: the green text is directly taken from page 6 of the report.

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