March 2009 Archives

A great passage from The Prince by Machiavelli reminded me how difficult our work is with the current economy and demands for improved performance of public school systems. "It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of ...


Last week, I attended a regional special education law conference. One of the keynote speakers was attorney Jose L. Martin from the Richards Lindsay and Martin law firm of Austin, TX. He also conducted one of the breakout sessions which was titled, "Understanding the Modern Requirements for Considertation of Research Based Interventions." He talked about what both IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) and NCLB (No Child Left Behind) say about either scientifically based research or peer-reviewed research. NCLB calls for the use of "scientifcally based research" as the foundation for many education programs and for classroom instruction. IDEA states that ...


In today’s instructional technology, many people are still arguing about what operating system is right for contemporary classrooms: Apple, Linux, or Windows? This, however, is the wrong conversation. First and foremost educators should always be talking about curriculum and how technology can enhance the delivery of instruction. However, that is a whole separate discussion. When it comes to a delivery component, the real debate should not be about the operating system, but about the browser. In the last few years, we have seen an explosion of educational content that is online. The academic world is beginning to catch up ...


The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has been working hard to get feedback from teachers and administrators on the new draft National Educational Standards for Administrators (NETS*A). The Draft Nets are available at Draft NETS*A The full kit of evaluation materials is available at NETS*A Toolkit You are invited to do the process potlined in the toolkit and submit your comments at NETS*A Survey I have been fortunate to lead two such sessions so far, one in Nanjing, China this last Summer with Administrators from all over the world, and one this last week ...


"Simon says, 'Touch the sky'" Meg Dimmett (age 3) Read a little about the current state of education and you will likely encounter explicit statements decrying the state of our schools and our emphasis on standardized measures of student achievement. I, too, struggle frequently with traditional education's focus on these one-size fits all summative assessments. My recent work with district administrators has sought to shift the focus beyond the usual metrics to also include measures of engagement, leadership, and collaboration. What does it look like to measure student achievement in more expansive terms? How do we retool evaluation so that ...


I have been reading (with great interest) several posts by a variety of noteworthy edubloggers about the use of various handheld technologies in our classrooms - most notably cell phones and iPod Touch kinds of devices. Coincidentally, I also happened to have a wonderful conversation with our district's network consultant about the availability of wireless access in schools, policies regarding students bringing their own equipment for use on district networks, and the like. He shared many people in districts he worked with had serious concerns about students using cell phones and other personal handheld devices to cheat. We have been ...


There is much to be learned from the life and work of our 16th president. Not without reason is he revered for his leadership during the bloodiest crisis in our nation's history. Dorothy Kearns Goodwin has written an insightful book (Team of Rivals) on Lincoln's political genius, in particular, as he worked with his cabinet during his presidency. Here are some lessons for leaders of any organization to take from this remarkable man. Learn from loss, failure, and mistakes while keeping an optimistic outlook. Lincoln had many personal losses including the death of his mom when he was 9, the ...


Cross posted on Creative Tension. A new blog for school leaders. The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension. Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline I have had this quote hanging on my office wall for years but during the past year it has become much more meaningful to me. More meaningful because the gap between the vision that I have for schools and the current reality seems enormous. This large gap ...


In my post last month I posted my "Fav Five" of readings for principal candidates. The list included: #1 Educational History: Tyack, D., & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. #2 Distributed Leadership IN Practice: Halverson, R. (2003). Systems of practice: How leaders use artifacts to create professional community in schools. Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 11(37), 1-35. #3 Leadership Skills (I cheated and have two listed): Elmore, R. (2000). Building a new structure for school leadership. Washington, D.C.: Albert Shanker Institute. Wheatley, M. J. (2006). Leadership and the ...


What is your headline? While the nation waits nervously for the Obama Administration to breathe life back into our moribund economy, the President has set his sites on other issues that are equally as important. Like our schools. Last week, in an address to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C., he shared his vision for public education. The next morning the newspaper said: "Obama looks for schools to improve." There is an interesting exercise often used with organizations that are trying to arrive at a sense of common purpose or mission. They are invited to look into ...


Author's note: I wrote this post about a year ago and updated a little here for Leadertalk. I stumbled upon it the other day while cleaning out my hard drive. It hit home with me as we all are facing some tough community issues right now and I decided we really need to get our PR machine running at 110% capacity. Thanks for reading. This post is also is cross posted on Sentimentsoncommonsense. Thanks for reading this post! Andy ---------------------------------------- We need to do a much better job of self promotion or we will be run over by our own ...


When I received an HP iPAQ several years ago, I immediately began wondering how I might be able to use it to improve classroom observations. I was in a school improvement leadership position at the time that required me to collect data from classroom observations, and this was a difficult process with the traditional pen-and-paper methods we were using at the time. The administrators on campus were used to using printed observation forms that did not allow for easily accessible data. Documentation was also not uniform, which made proper data collection nearly impossible at the time. I played around with ...


Ten hours of pre-service field experience is both a requirement and right of passage for students in education programs throughout the country. How those ten hours are spent varies a great deal, and in most cases depends on the structure of the college or university. As a principal, I have a responsibility to help shape the next generation of teachers by providing classroom experience for pre-service teachers. However, I have to admit, in the past, it took very little effort on my part; an email addressed to the staff asking for volunteers to host a pre-service teacher for ten hours. ...


In most states, a good deal of their state budget is used for education. As a society, we are comfortable with spending a great deal of our tax funds on educating our youth knowing that this is an investment that must be made to insure economic security for our country. It is amazing to me that although we require teachers to have very specific endorsements within a subject matter, we have few states who require any sort of endorsement for school business managers. I would guess that most states mimic Iowa, the state in which I live, and require a ...


I was thrilled and excited to see this months issue of Educational Leadership devoted to conversations about literacy and what being literate means in a global, digital space. As I devoured the issue, I reflected on my own literacy evolution. I learned early on what it took become a member of what Frank Smith called the "Literacy Club" . Acceptance and membership was defined then by the thickness of the book, the speed of the tongue,and amount one's brain could hold (at least until test time rolled around.) Comprehension was something that happened when the work with words was done. ...


Last week I attended the Computer Using Educators ( CUE) Conference in Palm Springs California and so I thought I would post a few of the ideas that caught my attention. It is always good to meet with other educators and discuss the needs of today’s students, best practices and unfolding developments, especially in the area of technology integration. One of the things I noticed at this year’s conference was a subtle shift in the conversation. Most of the sessions I attended which spoke about technology tools did so from the perspective of the pedagogy and learning application instead ...


Cross Posted with NECC2009 Several years ago, a team from our high school attended High Schools New Face Conference in Western New York. Will Richardson lit a spark in several of us teaching us a plethora of tools- blogs, wikis, podcasting, RSS feeds, etc… The notion of ‘connecting with students’ was at the forefront. Students today are ‘connected’ electronically more often than not, have access to information quicker than many of us could ever have imagined and share an enormous amount of information via social networks. We knew we wanted to harness the power of the internet and do so ...


Cross-posted at www.kwhobbes.wordpress.com Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing some reading, when I have a few moments, both online and the hardcopy book/magazine version. There have been a few different things that have me pondering and wondering about what we are doing in school and how things will change and when we’ll get around to looking at how change will affect what we do at school. Being rather overwhelmed with a number of different managerial tasks these past few weeks and having to increase my teaching time, I really haven’t had ...


I believe all schools should allow students access to all forms of technology and their educationally beneficial applications. To allow anything less is an inexcusable ignoring of the most valuable educational tools available to us, a lazy way of avoiding the inevitable, and an irresponsible dodging of a very real public safety issue. I realize that any discussion regarding students being given access to the full range of technologies and their applications quickly becomes a mixture of issues which are as difficult to resolve as they are easy to cause offense to many. Few can agree on common definitions of "age-appropriate";...


It's a busy world we educators live in now. We are bracing for some kind of money situation-- it could be good, it might be bad. The world is in a flux. I feel a little bit like chicken little, but there's always respite in a great book that makes all the intricacies of our professional pursuits seem almost manageable. Enter Assembly Required by Lezotte and McKee (2002). I am not sure how this little jewel passed me by; I could have been "teaching like my hair was on fire" or wasn't paying attention when anyone else mentioned it. I ...


In his latest book, The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner issues a "call to action" for all those who are concerned with how we educate our students for the future. Wagner paints a compelling picture of how we should be preparing students and for the need to stop tinkering with our school systems and make meaningful and significant alterations. In the conclusion of the book, Wagner identifies three changes in our world that demand different methods for teaching and learning: All kids need new skills to thrive in a global knowledge economy. In the age of the Internet, using new ...


This won't be easy, but it's important, and I know you can do it. Just for a moment, imagine the intersection of the classroom with the world. We educate students to be guardians of the world they will inherit from us. We educate students for the world: scientists, politicians, entrepreneurs, economists, sculptors, train engineers, farmers, truck drivers; spouses, friends, colleagues, competitors. Students become citizens in this democracy and, at the same time, this "flat" world; each one a voter regularly faced with the awesome task of making decisions on complex issues that will have significant consequences for our future. Are ...


Tuesday was the first day of the ISATs for all 3rd through 8th grade students in the State of Illinois. This is a big deal for Illinois schools because the results of these mandated, high stakes tests will determine if our students attend “Meets” or “Does Not Meets” schools. Each school's percentage of students passing the tests will be published in all of the newspapers. Schools will be ranked and judged based solely on these tests. The pressure is on all of us: students, teachers, administrators, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, postal employees, UPS guys, and the milk delivery man. (OK, ...


For the past few years, researchers at the University of Minnesota have been working on a project titled: Beyond Immediate Impact: Study Abroad for Global Engagement (SAGE). Recently, some preliminary findings have been released. The study surveyed nearly 6,400 graduates across 22 colleges. In short, results of the study indicate that students who engage in short-term study abroad opportunities (less than four weeks) are just as likely to be globally engaged as those students who study abroad for several months or longer. These findings are huge! Let me repeat, this large-scale study indicates that short-term international experiences are just ...


I am of the belief that the best institute days are not so much about learning, as much as a commitment to it. They are not about moments of community but a continued commitment to it. They aren’t so much about the day but what the days ahead will bring. Those are the things I value when deciding upon and designing our institute days as was the case with our 2nd Annual Teachers Teaching Teachers Mini-Conference on March 2nd where we again tapped the shoulders of professionals in the classroom to give them a greater responsibility and a stronger ...


Every time we turn around, a new definition of educational leadership emerges with standards, benchmarks and, of course, expert research to back it up. It’s getting to be like adding new flavors to Baskin & Robbins 31 ice cream choices and you decide the flavor of the week. You can be an Instructional Leader, an Operational Leader, and/or a Policy Leader. Your leadership behavior can be distributed, shared, transformational, charismatic, situational or balanced. You can be a visionary leader, a democratic leader, a coaching leader or just a plain old mean leader! I don’t mean to make light...


Recently the HOPE Foundation helped to bring together top educational leaders to present the best thinking available on how to help improve education in America. (Click here for article.) Here is the core of what Obama and his team have been presented. 1. Assure Readiness: Success in the classroom requires that children arrive ready to learn – cognitively, physically and psychologically. 2. Provide Rich Learning Environments for All Students: All young people in America deserve rich learning environments that challenges their thinking, promotes learning by doing and focuses on higher-order thinking skills that encourage life-long learning and prepare young people to ...


[For my turn this month, I thought I’d share Post 1 for my guest blogging stint at The Des Moines Register. Click on each image to get a larger, complete version!] Archimedes said “Give me a lever long enough and I can move the world.” This week I will be blogging about 5 key levers that I think are necessary to move Iowa schools forward and help our graduates survive and thrive in this new digital, global age in which we now live. Today I am going to emphasize the work that is being done by the Iowa Department...


It seems to me that if we're going to make systemic changes in how we deliver learning opportunities for our children, we're going to need to do a better job of creating the public's sense of urgency and the public will to provide support and political cover for our leaders who toil every day in their buildings and districts. Disruptive innovations of the sort made possible by technology are exciting and are providing evidence that there are ways to provide quality education that we heretofore have not even thought of, but how will they gain currency? The PDK poll results (my...


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