Archive for Uncategorized

New Resource: Better Together: A Coordinated Response for Principals and District Leaders

Here’s the fourth document in a collection of resources that the National Comprehensive Center’s Systemic Technical Assistance Team (STAT) developed to support education agencies (SEAs, LEAs, etc) successfully meet the needs of students and educators during significant disruptions (such as COVID-19). This brief, Better Together: A Coordinated Response for Principals and District Leaders, highlights the important role that principals play in operating school buildings every day (with even more responsibilities during a disruption), and how districts can support them do that job.

Districts often discuss the social emotional learning (SEL) needs of their students, but it’s also important to assess the social emotional needs of staff – including building principals. These leaders are managing a school, supporting their staff and students, calming parent/family fears, while also coping with COVID’s impact on their personal lives. Regular one-on-one check-ins and peer networks, and the effective use of a district crisis response team (to lessen the overall burden on individual principals), can be effective tools in supporting principals. In addition, student SEL needs must be addressed to enable students to begin tackling academics again, especially in hard hit communities where students have experienced family loss due to illness or increased trauma during the disruption. The bottom line is that coordinated support for the leaders as everyone figures out how to operate in this new and constantly evolving environment.

There are a few pieces to this collection coming. I’ll post when they are released!

Leave a Comment

New Resource: After Action Review Guide

Here’s the third document in a collection of resources that the National Comprehensive Center’s Systemic Technical Assistance Team (STAT) developed to support education agencies (SEAs, LEAs, etc) successfully meet the needs of students and educators during significant disruptions (such as COVID-19). The After Action Review Guide describes the important, but often neglected, process of monitoring, reflecting, and making mid-course corrections. An After Action Review (AAR) is easy in concept – a conversation about what went well, what didn’t go well, and what can be done to get better – but this “simple” conversation is often filled with organizational silos, blaming, scapegoating, personality conflicts, and emotions. A strongly facilitated AAR focuses on the process and the systems, not the people. An AAR helps an organization and a team get stronger.

Right now, school systems (from school buildings up to the state) are barely treading water with figuring out how to keep schools running. But, in a few short weeks, it would be the perfect time to sit back and bring a team together to reflect on the “Return to School” process – what went well, what didn’t go well, and what can be done to improve. Holding an AAR in mid to late October allows a team to make mid-course corrections and start off the next semester with improved systems and structures to operate even more effectively.

Leave a Comment

New Resource: Strategic Budgeting: Using Evidence to Mitigate the “COVID Slide” and Move Towards Improvement

Here’s the second document in a collection of resources that the National Comprehensive Center’s Systemic Technical Assistance Team (STAT) developed to support education agencies (SEAs, LEAs, etc) successfully meet the needs of students and educators during significant disruptions (such as COVID-19). In Strategic Budgeting: Using Evidence to Mitigate the “COVID Slide” and Move Towards Improvement, my colleague Bi Vuong examines the impact of school disruptions on student learning, increased learning loss for our most vulnerable students, and the realities of impending budget shortfalls in districts and states across the country. The strategic budgeting process is presented and details ways that budgets may be shifted to better meet the needs of students and their needs (i.e. fixed or mandatory vs variable or discretionary expenses), while acknowledging that student needs must be assessed to figure out which expenses are needed. In addition, strategies to strategically allocate resources by determining impact, and then ways to make trade-off decisions are provided. Finally, the tool encourages aligning resources – from normal operating budgets and any additional disruption-related funding to make the most effective use out of all available dollars. As districts and cities begin their annual budget cycles this Fall, this work is particularly important to ensure that maximum impact is achieved while adverse consequences are limited.

Leave a Comment

New resource: Return to School – A Toolkit for Principals

Here’s the first document in a collection of resources that the National Comprehensive Center’s Systemic Technical Assistance Team (STAT) developed to support education agencies (SEAs, LEAs, etc) successfully meet the needs of students and educators during significant disruptions (such as COVID-19). While many school districts are back in action and offering in person, virtual, or a hybrid learning, other districts will fluctuate between the models depending upon local infection rates and cases. Returning to School: A Toolkit for Principals, In the Classroom, at Home or Both is organized around four primary sections: change, communication, collaboration, and care. The sections delve into school and classroom level practices, structures, and systems that support both staff and students (and their families). As learning modes will likely shift throughout the 2020-21 school year, it is important to continually reflect on current practices and how to best serve students and staff as we all function within the constraints of the pandemic.

Leave a Comment

New publication – Developing More Rigorous Options to Transform Outcomes for Kids

This recently released publication, Developing More Rigorous Options to Transform Outcomes for Kids, that Corbett Education Consulting created for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) examines a variety of options for state education agencies to consider as they develop and implement the More Rigorous Options (MROs) provision of ESSA. State examples and practical suggestions are provided for MROs including: additional state supports, innovation schools and managed partnerships, charter conversions, extraordinary authority districts, receiverships, and closure. Survey results, interviews with SEA staff and national education experts, and a literature review form the research base.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Education has not waived or adjusted the timeline or expectations of this aspect of federal ESSA law. Despite COVID-19’s chaos, the clock is still ticking for what states will do differently to support and ensure changes occur for the country’s lowest performing schools. So, SEAs need to continue developing their plans for MROs.

Kudos to my colleague Janice Garland who was steadfast in her commitment to seeing this document through.

Leave a Comment

Generosity doesn’t equal justice

I heard a thought provoking piece on NPR this afternoon. At times I agreed with the discussion, and at times I disagreed. Either way, it got me thinking. The author, Anand Giridharadas, the author of a new book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, was interviewed and highlighted several arguments from the book that explores how the global elite’s propensity towards charity sometimes create (or perpetuate) the very social problems they are trying to “help.” In an interview with Time he states, “A lot of philanthropists cause problems with their left hand and then try to fix those problems with their right hand.” He continues, “They underpay workers and then try to rebuild, through their foundation, the American opportunity structure.” For this reason, Giridharadas doesn’t think that real solutions to our national problems, from wage stagnation to education inequality, will come from the country’s wealthy and powerful but rather a return to America’s foundational public institutions. “It is we the people who actually need to take change back from these pretenders of change,” he said.

Full disclosure – I haven’t read the book and I’m not going to elaborate on the tax code and the ability to deduct charitable donations, or the fact that non-profit organizations do have positive impacts and can spur innovation in many places around the world. This would be a very lengthy blog post to truly respond and reflect on the entire interview.

So, the piece that resonated with me was when he said, “Generosity does not equal justice,” or something to that effect (the audio of the show isn’t yet available for me to double check the quote). As I started thinking about it, I thought about the often used meme “equality, equity, justice” (figure 1 below) that encourages us uncover the root causes of issues and then address the systemic barriers that exist. The generosity of millionaires and billionaires does not simply result in equity for those who need additional supports to do whatever short-term circumstances and sources of systemic oppression impact them.

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 3.29.08 PM

Figure 1: Equality, Equity, Justice Meme

The problem right now is that based on the decades of inefficiencies, oppression (racial, gender, sexual orientation, language, etc) that the very systems that are supposed to turn around outcomes (i.e. health, education, social) continue to perpetuate them. Even when we receive a significant influx of philanthropic dollars to implement a program to target a need (i.e. an afterschool program for low-income students), we continue to tinker around the edges of the system, as opposed to truly changing the entire system (i.e. a longer school day with extracurriculars and academics combined and accessible for all students, combining the work of community partners and the school district into one cohesive effort). We are in an endless cycle of needing philanthropic dollars to improve outcomes, yet the very presences of those dollars sometimes pushes us to not rethink the broader infrastructure and systems. We become reliant on those dollars as it often seems too difficult or cumbersome to truly change the system.

This all said, there are numerous organizations and funders that are still doing great work and we should not stop those programs, strategies, and efforts. And, we should do so, while keeping an eye out for true innovation. We must pushing ourselves and our elected, appointed, and hired government leaders to truly address the root causes of social issues and work together to remove those historic and systemic barriers.

Leave a Comment

New Publication — A Practical View of MTSS

The third and final publication of a series for the Illinois Center for School Improvement (at AIR) is Practical View of MTSS.  This document includes an overview of what MTSS (multi-tiered system of supports) is, how MTSS aligns to other educational acronyms (RTI, PBIS), what MTSS looks like in practice, and key elements and some suggested tips for successful implementation of MTSS.

Leave a Comment

What blending learning looks like in practice

A new publication on how innovative staffing approaches support the use of blending models was recently released by Public Impact and the Christensen Institute.

A few excerpts that particularly resonated with me:

“… high-quality personalized learning requires much more than equipping students with tablets and software.” … “The greatest impact of blended learning will likely come not from technology alone, but from a redesign of staffing arrangements and instructional models that integrate online learning with excellent teaching. Most schools, including many of those that are seeking to adopt blended and personalized learning, remain stuck in a one-teacher, one-classroom model. In that model, teachers work largely alone, with only sporadic feedback and support. New tasks associated with personalizing learning— such as analyzing student data, differentiating learning activities for student needs, planning real-world learning experiences, giving individualized feedback, and helping students set customized goals—are often added to already overwhelming workloads. In these schools, teachers of all levels of effectiveness essentially play the same role, and they reach about the same number of students.”

The publication then explores how a handful of schools are utilizing new staffing models to adopt blended learning to enable personalization. The varying practices in the schools are the heart of the document and the most useful way to see how the work could be applied in other schools and districts.  The document concludes that to move forward and bring such practices to scale, three conditions must be met. They include: including operations in the annual operating budgets, as opposed to relying on grant funding; availability of excellent teachers; and, availability of great leaders to champion excellence and be willing to think outside of the traditional educational program and staffing boxes.

Leave a Comment

New release: Recommendations for differentiating supports for schools identified for TSI

This brief includes recommendations for state level supports and services for schools identified for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI). The brief is co-sponsored by the Council on Chief State School Officers and the Center on School Turnaround (at WestEd) and was originally drafted and released as a draft for an ESSA Implementation conference in September. Additional examples were added after the conference.

Leave a Comment

Usefullness of Classroom Walkthroughs

Classroom walkthroughs are a crucial tool for school leaders to get a gage learning in their school and for teachers to get some immediate feedback on areas that they might not normally be able to see alone. But, classroom walkthroughs can be done well or poorly. Some useful tips that I’ve picked up from school and district leaders over the years:

  • DO provide same day feedback for every walkthrough – either via email if using an ipad to monitor, or via a small slip of paper in the teacher’s mailbox)
  • Do Focus on a few key areas – a walkthrough is very different than a full classroom observation. It’s impossible to see everything in 3-6 minutes, so identify a few areas to focus on and DON’T provide negative feedback to a teacher if you didn’t see something (i.e. group work) if you only saw part of a class. You may have missed the group work section.
  • DO look for real learning – what level questions is the teacher asking? What type of thinking do the assignments require?
  • DO look for classroom management techniques and positive teacher-student relationships – these should be apparent in a classroom in 1 minute or 1 hour. They can make or break learning from occurring, so always keep an eye on it.
  • DO walkthroughs regularly – their benefit is their frequency
  • DO encourage others to do walkthroughs in the school (i.e. other district administrators or fellow teachers). But, if this is done, ensure that all observers understand appropriate protocol (i.e. being a fly on the wall, not distracting students, also providing feedback, etc)
  • DO use the results of many walkthroughs to inform school-wide professional development needs.

Some additional thoughts about walkthroughs are found in this EdWeek story.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »