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ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Watch the “Getting Social with Your Lawmakers” webinar. Almost every member of Congress uses a toolbox of social networking channels, from Twitter to YouTube, to communicate about their work and connect with constituents. Listen to the recording to learn how to leverage these tools to sustain relationships with your lawmakers, share your expertise, exert your influence, and join grassroots movements for change.
What Does “ASCD” Stand For?
What do you say when people ask you what “ASCD” stands for? Since ASCD no longer uses Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, sometimes that question can be difficult to answer, and we’re here to help. This ASCD Inservice blog post takes on the challenge of explaining the history behind our name.
What ASCD Has Learned from Affiliates
As a director in Constituent Services at ASCD, Walter McKenzie works with the best and brightest educators leading our affiliates around the world. Read his Whole Child Blog posthighlighting some of what he has learned through collaboration with ASCD affiliates.
ASCD Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
Please Welcome the 2013 Class of ASCD Emerging Leaders
ASCD has selected 25 educators from across the globe to join the 2013 class of ASCD emerging leaders. Please join us in welcoming them to the ASCD community! For a full list of the 2013 class of emerging leaders, view the ASCD Emerging Leaders Directory. To connect with the 2013 class, follow them on Twitter.
See these news items featuring 2013 Emerging Leaders:
ASCD Leader Voices
Check out these great blog posts:
Whole Child Virtual Conference presentations by ASCD Leaders:
Your Summer PD: ASCD Whole Child Virtual Conference Archives
How can schools implement and sustain a whole child approach to education? The 2013 ASCD Whole Child Virtual Conference, entitled “Moving from Implementation to Sustainability to Culture,” was held in early May 2013 and, through archived presentations, offers educators around the globe strategies and learning to support your work. In these presentations, you will:
No matter where your school falls on the whole child continuum, be it the early implementation stage or beyond, the Whole Child Virtual Conference provides a forum and tools for school sites and districts that are working toward sustainability and changing school cultures to serve the whole child.
Reducing the Effects of Child Poverty
In today’s global economic state, many families and children face reduced circumstances. The 2008 economic crisis became a “household crisis “ when higher costs for basic goods, fewer jobs and reduced wages, diminished assets and reduced access to credit, and reduced access to public goods and services affected families who coped, in part, by eating fewer and less nutritious meals, spending less on education and health care, and pulling children out of school to work or help with younger siblings. These “new poor” join those who were vulnerable prior to the financial shocks and economic downturn. Read more at the Whole Child Blog.
In May we looked at the implications of the “new poverty” for schools, many of which have seen drastic changes in the populations they serve and their communities. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Deborah Wortham, superintendent of the School District of the City of York, Pa.; Felicia DeHaney, president and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute; William Parrett, director of the Center for School Improvement and Policy Studies and professor of education at Boise State University; and Kathleen Budge, coordinator of the Leadership Development Program and associate professor in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies Department at Boise State University.
Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read the latest newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Something to Talk About
How Can We Help You? By ASCD Service Center Director Marilyn Whipple
To Infini-Pie and Beyond! By Walter McKenzie
ASCD Offers Resources for Educators Planning the School Year Ahead—As educators gear up to return to school in the fall, ASCD has compiled a collection of hard-hitting resources to enable educators to implement innovative teaching and learning strategies for the 2013–14 school year. Read the full press release.
ASCD Announces 2013 Class of Emerging Leaders—ASCD has selected 25 educators from around the globe for the 2013 Emerging Leaders Class. The Emerging Leaders program recognizes and prepares young, promising educators to influence education programs, policy, and practice on both the local and national levels. To view the entire list of the 2013 emerging leaders, visit the Emerging Leaders Directory. View the full press release.
New Acquisitions Editors Support ASCD’s Growing Publishing Unit—ASCD welcomes two new staff members to the association. Julie Scheina and Allison Scott were recently appointed acquisitions editors for the association, which produces the award-winning monthly magazine Educational Leadership, more than 40 books a year, and a variety of valuable newsletters and other print and online publications. Read the full press release.
What I Learned Lately (WILL #9)
Sherlock Holmes once said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be truth.” This week we finished our last round of graduation ceremonies. Over 1000 over our students walked across our stages and received their diplomas. It was truly fascinating to see each of their faces. The richness of images displayed confidence and uncertainty, hope and fear and pride. We had students graduate with such amazing academic honors and scholarships and those with the tremendous honor of surviving. In each of our schools, students are preparing for their graduation day. We teach, foster, and promote the event through step up days, promotion, the moving of seating at assemblies and numerous other activities. At each of these moments, many of our families, staff and students feel a sense of pride and relief.
What many people in our communities don’t see is the endless struggle behind the scenes. They don’t see how staff members have relentlessly worked with students. Additionally, how they have cried, laughed, celebrated and even fought with students, colleagues and community in order for each child to experience a moment of significant accomplishment. Graduation is so much more than a single event; it is the recognition of an opportunity to live the American Dream. Each time a student is handed their diploma, they are handed the opportunity to determine their destination. At that point, they still have a choice and no one can take away that choice.
As the ceremonies end, I am still hopeful. I see hundreds of staff members that do not rest. They work to create innovative year round opportunities for students, especially those that are most vulnerable, those that have not met the standards by the graduation ceremony. Even when the state funded academic year ends, our staff doesn’t quit on our students. I am thankful for our staff, they are truly my heroes.
Enjoy your summer; I will see you in the fall.
“Behind me is infinite power. Before me is endless possibility. Around me is boundless opportunity. Why should I fear?” – Stella Stuart
"If the state of North Carolina decides to pull the plug on the Common Core State Standards, it will be a slap in the face to the teachers and administrators who have spent countless hours (most on their own time without reimbursement) preparing to implement the Common Core State Standards and to maximize learning for 1.5 million students."
On June 2, 2010, the North Carolina State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards which were implemented during the 2012-2013 school year. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) represent K-12 learning expectations in English-Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. The Standards reflect the knowledge and skills students need to be college and career ready by the end of high school. Elected officials across the United States are beginning to question the Common Core State Standards. On June 4, 2013, North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest posted a YouTube video outlining his concerns about the Common Core State Standards.
While standing in the car rider line at an elementary school, I was approached by a classroom teacher. She asked, "Are we going to align our curriculum, instruction, and assessments to the Common Core State Standards next year?" I replied, "yes." Then I said, "The Common Core is not going away." The teacher replied, "The Lieutenant Governor is discussing eliminating the Common Core." I replied, "Which Lieutenant Governor?" The teacher said, "The North Carolina Lieutenant Governor, Dan Forest."
Prior to becoming an elementary principal, I was the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools. Our school district held a Common Core Summer Institute for teachers and administrators during the summer of 2011 and summer of 2012. At the summer institutes, teacher teams planned a one year professional development plan for their schools. Hosting the summer institutes cost the school district thousands of dollars. The North Carolina General Assembly did not provide funding for implementing the Common Core State Standards. Throughout the past two school years, I have attended professional development led by teacher leaders. The average professional development requires teacher leaders (appointed or self-nominated) to spend approximately ten to twenty hours planning quality professional development and developing resources which support the implementation of the new standards.
In addition to working with classroom teachers to build awareness around the new standards, I have observed teacher leaders writing curriculum aligned to the new standards. Curriculum development has taken place through building level meetings, district meetings, and regional meetings. On several occasions five school districts in the Triangle met to support each other through the pre-implementation and implementation process. Triangle High Five is a regional partnership between Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Durham Public Schools, Johnston County Schools, Orange County Schools, and Wake County Public School System. Teachers and administrators from these school districts shared curriclum maps, worked with high school math teachers to align curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, offered professional development, and worked with the North Carolina School of Math and Science to offer free professional development for mathematics teachers. In 2011 and 2012, SAS hosted a summer mathematics summit to support math teachers in implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. SAS has invested in the five school districts for several years. Recently, SAS provided thousands of dollars in order to support the transition from the Nort Carolina Essential Standards to the Common Core State Standards. It is expensive to provide professional development to over 400 educators from five school districts.
In 2010, the North Carolina State Board of Education did not ask North Carolina educators if we should adopt the Common Core State Standards. Once the State Board of Education adopted the standards, Superintendents and district leaders were told to implement the standards. Was the implementation process rushed? Yes. In 2010-2011, educators were anxious about the changes. To date, it is still difficult to find resources aligned to the Common Core State Standards. I know 20-year veterans who stay up until midnight or later on school nights, searching for resources. Part of the reason resources are scarce is because the SBAC and PARCC assessments have not been finalized. Most vendors are still offering a blended version of old state standards and the new Common Core State Standards. This is especially true in mathematics.
When educators are told that a school board policy, state board policy, or general statute requires them to change, they begin collaborating and discussing how to make the change(s) student-friendly. In Orange County Schools, we were able to pay teacher leaders a small stipend for leading curriculum development efforts. The district used Race to the Top funds to pay teacher leaders who led curriculum development, facilitated professional development, posted curriculum maps online, and attended state conferences.
This week marked the last day of school for teachers and students across North Carolina. The Lieutenant Governor was recently elected, but North Carolina teachers have been preparing for the implementation of the new standards since 2010. Standards-based teaching has been common practice since the 1990's. Some states provided voluntary standards for educators prior to 1990. Today's students are competing with students around the globe for college admission and career opportunities. It no longer makes sense to have a Minnesota 3rd grade math standard and a Mississippi 3rd grade math standard. Students deserve to have the same standard across the United States. A common standard does not mean a 'watered-down' standard. Standards are not a curriculum.
This past year, I observed teachers differentiating instruction. Some students were two grades below grade level. They did not have the same assignment as the students who were at grade level or above. When teachers have a standard, they know the goal. Teachers provide students with multiple lessons, tasks, and opportunities to demonstrate what every student should know and be able to do. Implementing the Common Core State Standards does not mean that every student will receive a perfect score at the end of the day. Teachers across North Carolina have embraced the standards and are operating with their grade level team, school team, district team, and regional teams to align curriculum with the Common Core State Standards. Standards are "the what" and Curriculum is "the how." The 'how' may look different in each classroom, but the standards are the same.
Seven Reasons Why States Should Embrace The Common Core State Standards
1. College and Career Readiness
Over the past year, I have seen teachers in North Carolina make the shift from College or Career Readiness to College AND Career Ready. The U.S. public school system was designed to sort and select students. Some students were considered 'college material' and the majority of students were workforce material. I believe that teachers in North Carolina raised the bar and raised their expectations for all students. ACT defines college and career readiness as "the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll and succeed in creditbearing, first-year courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a two or four-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation." Based on my years of experience in the field of education, this is a major shift from the old mindset. This major change in philosophy and teaching is another indicator or the importance of the Common Core State Standards. The standards have forced a new conversation about the goals of education.
2. Common Standards Enable Teachers To Collaborate Across the United States.
Standards-based education requires teachers to align their curriculum, instruction, and assessments with the standards. For over a decade, teachers have disagreed with the standards. In North Carolina, teachers are required by general statute to teach the standards. A professional educator can respectfully disagree, but the law requires educators to teach the standards. Since the Common Core State Standards had some different approaches and aligned and moved standards to new grade levels it forced teachers to collaborate and design new units of study.
In Orange County Schools, I have observed professional conversations around the standards. I have seen teachers sharing resources across schools. I have seen teachers reaching out to educators in other states to discuss the standards. Regional and state meetings have been more exciting than ever, because everyone is learning the new standards. If one school district has a strong unit or curriculum resource then they will share it with our school district. I have participated in dozens of Twitter Chats with educators who are implementing the Common Core State Standards. ASCD has hosted a regular webinar series which offers educators the opportunity to learn and reflect on the Common Core State Standards. Before the Common Core State Standards, educators discussed their project or their program. The new standards have raised the bar in professional conversations. Educators have shifted from discussing the activity to sharing how the activity aligned to the standard.
3. Teacher Leaders Have Developed Curriculum Aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
In North Carolina, teachers were required to implement the Common Core State Standards in 2012-2013. Teachers met on a regular basis to write, align, and implement units aligned to the new standards. Once curriculum was developed, they also created common formative assessments aligned to the standards. Alan Glatthorn wrote, “One ofthe tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment,so that the learned curriculum is maximized. This statement summarizes the work that takes place in classrooms, on early release days, on the weekend, and during the summer months. Teachers know how to align the curriculum, instruction, and assessments to standards. It takes time. If the state of North Carolina decides to pull the plug on the Common Core State Standards, it will be a slap in the face to the teachers and administrators who have spent countless hours (most on their own time without reimbursement) preparing to implement the Common Core State Standards and to maximize learning for 1.5 million students.
4. Professional Development Has Been Aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Some school districts have spent thousands of dollars hiring consultants to provide professional development. Regional education organizations have paid $50,000 to $100,000 in order to host professional development with national consultants. Educators have participated in book studies, discussion forums, district professional development, NCDPI webinars and state conferences, and more. In 2012-2013, Orange County Schools and several other North Carolina school districts devoted the time to curriculum development or ongoing professional development aligned to the new standards. The price tag would be in the hundreds of millions if you totaled the number of hours the staff members were paid for professional development. It should be noted that they did not receive a bonus check. The money was part of their contract. Tax payers have invested in professional development aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Did North Carolina provide much assistance to educators prior to the 2012-2013 school year? No. School districts were required to use their own funds, contract with their own teachers, and develop their own resources. This was expensive. You could say that implementing the Common Core State Standards was done on the backs of the professional educators in North Carolina. I have not met many educators who disagree with the Common Core State Standards. This is another reason why I feel that politicians should let educators implement the standards. If elected officials want to provide the appropriate funding for implementing the Common Core State Standards, then that would be a step in the right direction.
5. Curriculum Alignment Is Easier With the New Standards.
It is difficult to describe curriculum alignment to non-educators. "When school staff have a more informed conception of curriculum, a teacher's daily decisions about how to deliver instruction not only affect student achievement in that classroom but also future student achievement, for it is assumed that students will be entering the next classroom prepared to handle a more sophisticated or more expansive level of work" (Zmuda, Kuklis & Kline, 2004, p. 122). Aligning the curriculum is an ongoing process which requires time, reflection, honesty, conflict, and a professional commitment to share what works in each classroom with specific students. The new standards provide a clear road map for educators. They do not outline every detail of what a teacher needs to do each day. Standards are a guide, not a script. If educators are beginning to align their curriculum, then policy makers should find ways to support their efforts. Curriculum alignment drives the work of a school district. When I see teachers analyzing student work and comparing it to a standard, I see excellent teaching. I entered the teaching profession in the early days of the Standards Movement. I have never seen teachers sharin their craft knowledge and having ongoing conversations about the standards like I saw in 2012-2013. Standards provide a common point of conversation, not a floor or a ceiling. The way the Common Core State Standards are written, a teacher can accelerate gifted students. This is missing from the national debate. Before we vote to eliminate the standards, let's visit schools and ask teachers to come to the State Board of Education. Let's find out what is working and how the standards are supporting teaching and learning. Let's avoid the political rhetoric and ask the teacher leaders who bore the burden of implementing the standards because the State Board of Education voted to adopt the standards.
6. The Change Process Requires Time.
Schools will continue to implement the Common Core State Standards in the summer and fall of 2013. Leading implementation requires a principal-leader who is willing to create short-term wins for the staff, provide time for the staff to reflect on the standards and to encourage risk-taking. Implementation of the new standards requires principal-leaders to honor the change process and to respect the emotions that staff will have during this change in teaching and learning. If states eliminate the Common Core State Standards, then which standards will replace them? If we fall back to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, then we are adopting an inferior set of standards. They were the best that the state could develop. That was then and this is now. The Common Core State Standards were not embraced immediately. However, after one year of developing lesson plans, units of study, and assessments, educator have given their seal of approaval. The change process was emotional and it caused all teachers to reflect on teaching and learning. If state officials continue to change the standards, it will be impossible for educators to develop a guaranteed and viable curriculum (Marzano). Eliminating the Common Core State Standards from public schools may win a political battle at the state or federal level. However, it is not in the best interests of teachers and students. Ask teachers in North Carolina if they think the standards should change. The standards should not be a stepping stone for someone's political career.
"These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step. It is time for states to work together to build on lessons learned from two decades of standards based reforms. It is time to recognize that standards are not just promises to our children, but promises we intend to keep" (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5).
7. Student Achievement Matters.
The reason that educators get out of bed and go to work each day is because student achievement matters. The new standards support the goal of College and Career Readiness. Teachers recognize that the new standards require more rigor than previous state standards. One of the most compelling arguments for the Common Core State Standards was "standardization." When a 12 year old girl moves from Hope, Arkansas, to Lexington, North Carolina, she should be on the same page with her classmates. Students are moving across the United States on a regular basis. Prior to the Common Core State Standards, families had to fear that they were moving to a state with higher or lower standards. Standardization does not mean that every student learns the same thing in the same way. Technology integration, project-based learning, and other best practices allow teachers to meet the needs of each student, while aligning assignments to the standards. When students master a standard, the Common Core State Standards allow teachers to move to the next grade level. When students transfer to a new school, they need to know that the things they learned will provide them a foundation for learning at the new school. Changing standards after year one of implementation does not respect the main goal of education - Student Achievement.
Common Core State Standards: The Right Direction for U.S. Public Schools
It amazes me that one or more politicians can advocate for changing standards. I do not try to change medical practice, standards for the Interstate highway system, building codes, or taxes. The reason that I do not attempt to get involved with these things is because I am a professional educator. I would appreciate it if politicians would consult with professional educators and ask them if the Common Core State Standards support teaching and learning. A simple Google search can provide a glimpse at the groups who are rallying to eliminate the Common Core State Standards. The standards have transformed teaching and learning. Teachers and administrators have embraced the standards and will spend the summer months aligning their curriculum and units to the standards. Hundreds of teachers in any given state will meet on Saturday morning for an online Twitter chat, meet at a restaurant to share learning goals, or attend a summer institute. Teachers may not like change, but they support change when it is in the best intersts of students. The Common Core State Standards seem to be one thing that is right in education.
What can teachers do to support student achievement? How can teachers and administrators monitor the written and taught curriculum to ensure alignment? When I read about school districts and educators who are unhappy with the Common Core State Standards, I scratch my head. Standards are not a curriculum (Janet Hale, Curriculum Mapping 101). There are several things that teachers control. Curriculum and instruction involve decisions made by teacher teams. When the teacher closes the classroom door there are hundreds of curriculum decisions made, according to the readiness level of each student. The following curriculum types are important for teachers to understand as they reflect on curriculum, instruction and assessment.
The intended curriculum consists of the written curriculum or plans that have been predetermined prior to the class.
The enriched curriculum is when teachers enhance the curriculum or develop opportunities for acceleration for students who have mastered the written curriculum. Enriched curriculum involves providing multiple opportunities for students to engage in key concepts and skills at their readiness level.
Some teachers offer the enriched curriculum to the students who are prepared for acceleration and the watered-down curriculum to the students who have demonstrated low growth or who do not understand the key concepts and skills identified in the unit.
Many teachers and administrators fail to monitor the received curriculum. The received curriculum is what an individual student receives. If one student receives the enriched curriculum and another student receives the watered-down curriculum, then each student's chance for success will be drastically different. This is known as Opportunity to Learn.
All students should receive a guaranteed and viable curriculum (Marzano). If the received curriculum varies from one class to the next, then it will be difficult for teachers at the next grade level to build on prior knowledge and understandings. One of the goals of teaching is to ensure close alignment between the intended, taught, assessed, and received curricula. Opponents say the standards take away local control of education. I would argue that curriculum development is a local issue. When districts provide teachers with time to align the currriculum with the standards, student achievement will follow. Share your thoughts on ASCD EDge by replying to this article.
Questions to Consider:
1. Does your school have a guaranteed and viable curriculum?
2. How is the intended curriculum different from the received curriculum?
3. Do teachers implement the written curriculum/intended curriculum or do teachers create curriculum in isolation?
4. Ask yourself - Would I want my son or daughter to experience the watered-down curriculum and miss out on parts of the district's intended curriculum?
What the best and wisest parent wants for his or her own child, that must the community want, for all of its children.
As cited by Gene Carter, Executive Director ASCD
ASCD Education Update - December 2006, p. 2
5. What mechanism does your school have in place to monitor the received curriculum?
One of the tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment, so that the learned curriculum is maximized.
Allan Glatthorn, Curriculum Renewal (1987), p. 4
What I Learned Lately (WILL #8)
It is this time of year that I pause to remember my non-negotiable(s). I scramble through my notes and journals to find those pieces of scribbling that remind me of the solid and holy ground that I fight for throughout the year. Some days it takes everything I can to not panic. Physically, my heart beats faster, the right side of my body tightens and I feel a tremendous pull of gravity. Mentally, I feel the drain of outside pressures and the unknowns of my life. Spiritually, I question my strength and feel an urgent need to withdraw from my inner conversation.
Just as I feel like I want to stop and I can’t do any more. I see it, in big bold RED Letters, “Is It Best for Kids”, my non-negotiable for making decisions. During this time of year, we are required to make decisions regarding budgets and cut backs, hiring and non-renewals, promotions and graduations and so many other difficult and emotional decisions. As leaders, we are often lobbied by adults for a variety interests. I can easily become lost in the barrage of conversations and activities. I desperately seek for stability, consistency and some sort of pattern that will ground me. This simple question, “Is It Best for Kids”, helps me find peace and ultimately gives me strength to serve another day.
Non-negotiable pillars keep us grounded during the most critical times. When we are tired from the hard fought battles of saving our students, they serve as inspiration and open our eyes to the enlightenment that we find in our daily work. In these last few weeks take pause to remember your non-negotiable pillars, yet in pausing don’t rest for there is more work to be done. If you haven’t found your own “non-negotiable pillar”, consider starting with - “Is It Best for Kids”.
Finally by David Whyte - The Opening of Eyes
The day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before,
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eye long closed.
It is the vision of far-off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.
School staff focus on curriculum alignment, differentiated instruction, professional development, college and career readiness, standards, and academic interventions. Is it possible that schools can lose their focus on customer service? Customers include families, community members, and all guests who visit the school website or schoolhouse.
Customer service involves the front office staff, classroom teachers, teacher assistants, custodians, counselors, and all staff members. How are customers treated when they enter your school? Ask your school staff, “What does it mean to go the extra mile for the customer?” Do families feel like the front office staff answers the phone in a professional manner? Do teachers fire off emails when they are upset with students or parents? How do schools analyze the way they are treating customers?
Six Ways To Pour Some Sugar On The Customer:
The school website is the new front door. Families and community members make a judgment about your school before they arrive in the front office. Is your school website customer friendly? If you have a focus on technology integration, does your school website look like it was created in 1990? Does your website offer a welcome message or invite families to visit the school? If Open House was the biggest event between 1980-2000, then the school website opens your school to more than the all of the guests who attended Open House during that 20 year span. Your school is connected with the world. What kind of message are you sending? Would a family in Florida view your site and want to buy a house in your community, based on the information and message on your website?
Customer service involves phone skills, email etiquette, communication skills, and the way the customer is treated when they spend time at your school. Which restaurants come to mind when you think of outstanding customer service? Have you ever had poor customer service at a hotel? Have you ever visited a church and felt like none of the members knew you were in attendance? Customer service is easy to identify, especially when we are the recipient of poor customer service. When families have a bad experience at your school, they will spread the word throughout the community and through social media. As communities build more charter schools, private schools, and home school organizations, customers will walk rather than talk.
The media may promote your school once or twice a year. Administrators and teachers can promote the school on a weekly basis by posting on a school or teacher blog. Pictures from field trips, class projects, community service, guest speakers, and student awards can assist in communicating with families. Most blogs allow for families to forward the message to their family and friends via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Blogs also allow for two-way communication. The traditional method of communicating with families was a flyer in a second grade student’s backpack. With a blog, the school can communicate with families and families can post comments or ask questions about the event before their child arrives home.
Several schools host a Principal’s Coffee Hour once monthly. There is usually a topic that the principal or a guest speaker shares with families. The highlight of any Principal’s Coffee Hour is the time that families are able to share their opinions, ask questions, and brainstorm ways to support all students. Coffee Hour provides a monthly time for two-way communication. Parents will provide you with their opinions and they will feel respected because the school provided a forum for adult conversation about their most prized possession, their child. How is your school promoting two-way communication with families and stakeholders?
Twitter allows home-to-school and school-to-home communication. Families can receive updates from the school. While Twitter may not work for all families, it is a great tool. Most schools see social media as one form of communication. The sign in front of the school reaches some families, the school website reaches others, and a flyer may still work for families without a computer or a Smartphone. The reason I feel like schools should consider Twitter is because it allows families to forward or reply to each tweet. If you have ever been in a relationship with someone you realize the importance of two-way communication. A strong relationship between families and school staff will improve your customer service and customer satisfaction.
As the number of people with Smartphones increases, your school should consider a school app. “Smartphone vendors shipped 216.2 million units in the first quarter of 2013, which accounted for 51.6 percent of the worldwide mobile phone market” (Bean, April 16, 2013). If the school website is the new front door in 2013, then the school app may be the new front door of the future. An app can combine all of the items highlighted in this article. A school app may not be nice to have, but the next step in your communication and customer-service plan.
Most schools have a professional development plan, school improvement plan, and a curriculum map. I have rarely seen a school’s customer service plan. When it comes to service, if you fail to plan you may be planning to fail. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” There are only two kinds of schools; those with outstanding customer service and those without outstanding customer service. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rank the customer service at your school?
Questions for School Staff to Consider
1. Does our school provide outstanding customer service?
2. What are our weaknesses? What action steps do we need to take to improve?
3. What are the characteristics of outstanding customer service?
(Share your own experiences in school and non-school settings)
4. What can we measure every 18 weeks (semester) to analyze our efforts to provide customer service?
5. Do we have a school plan outlining what customer service looks like?
(Think Chick-fil-A; It doesn’t matter if the manager or a teenager provides you with service. There is consistency within and across stores).
The continuously shrinking world and the bout towards a knowledge-based economy impacted every aspect of human life in diverse ways. Even education could not escape this. Educators have sought various ways to make learning more relevant, real-life, and responsive to the changing needs of time.
Inspired by all of this, LIFECOLLEGE, the school where I am working, came up with a unique program that is an eclectic mix of educational and international exposure and travel for 4th year high school students between 15-16 years old. The travel program commenced in 2006 where students first traveled to Australia. The following year, the school traveled to Singapore and Malaysia. Indonesia was included in the succeeding year. And by 2012, students have been traveling to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
As the school envisioned to become a cutting-edge learning hub for global champions, it seeks learning opportunities anchored on 21st century skills that to prepare its students to gain a global perspective without losing their heart for local community development.
This travel program called Global Competence Class include fun and exciting activities such as visit to museums, landmarks, cultural centers, historic places, science centers, theme parks and the most important of all, one-day immersion in various partner schools.
Each activity is linked to a learning competency in various learning areas including developing skills in communication, collaboration, and respect for cultural diversity.
Through this program, the students also learn how to budget their time and money, how to commute in buses, trains, and ferries, how to read maps and follow directions, how to observe keenly and write about what they have observed, and how to understand our identity as Filipinos vis a vis our Asian neighbors.
All learnings are documented on a travel journal produced by the schools. This is a collection of mindmaps, observation notes, reflections, photos, collectible items, and daily devotions to make the educational travel a memory escapade to remember for life. To prepare for this kind of trip isn't very difficult.
The following steps would be of help.
1. Secure passports and DSWD travel clearance. By The beginning of the school year, parents must be aware of the trip's requirements, expenses and itinerary. Legal documents such as passports must be secured from DFA while Travel Clearance is secured from DSWD. These are the necessary papers needed for minors to travel.
2. Finalize itinerary. The next step is to scout for educational places to visit according to the learning goals? send proposals. Once the itinerary is finalized, search for affordable airline ticket prices and book immediately. Then look for hotels. The group would normally stay in the hotel during daytime.
3. Prepare travel logs. Since the itinerary is already set, a journal will help to document what the students learned. This is the most important part of the travel and a source of grade for those who participated. Included in this log are the worksheets for each place to visit, the checklists for the itinerary, contact persons in case of emergency, things to bring, and the evaluation sheet.
4. Predeparture and Travel briefing. Orient the students with the guidelines on proper behavior in various places such as airports, trains, ferries, and places to visit. It would be best if they know what to do, where to go, and how to behave in places where cultural diversity is the norm.
Educators who wanted to make a difference in the lives of their students must learn how to venture out and take bolder steps to innovate. Travel, at the least, is just one of the many options. In this country, where travel is now made available for every one, edu-tours is an exciting way to expose, prepare, and push our students to the real world.
A common saying about schools is that schools are a reflection of the communities they serve, but communities are complex. Schools by nature are a complex interplay of social, cultural, economic, political, and symbolic capital unable to be bound or directed by simple directives such as legislative mandates. Schools should try to use the complexity of the community to envision an even better community than the one that exists. The edge of the community, the unsure boundary, the frothy-foamy conversation between organic fractals of human existence gives complex systems the capacity for innovation and organizational learning (Fels, 2006; Stacey, 1996).
Equilibrium-oriented systems want to control disorder to move toward stability which limits energy crossing into the system so they act as ‘closed systems’ to keep energy from escaping. These systems apply negative feedback and other controls for order resulting in “strict policies, rigid hierarchies, resistance to change, and maintenance of the status quo” (Gilstrap, 2005, p. 58). In contrast, self-organized behavior reaches a steady state on its own while still remaining ‘critical’ in that it is barely stable (Waldrop, 1992). This is a fine point created by tension along the continuum.
Stuart Kauffman believes human organizations that are too structured or specialized do not allow agents to learn beyond the traditional processes for performing a job. On the one hand, if no one has clearly defined roles, the organization is chaotic without progress. The organization wants a balance of agents having a common purpose with the ability to adapt to the behavior of other agents in the organization. Complex problems can be solved at the edge of chaos because of the redundancy, loose couplings, blurry but present hierarchical roles, etc. Organizations that can evolve processes to bring in an increasing flow of energy move to the edge of chaos where they can solve complex problems and gain a competitive advantage to anticipate the future in order to survive (Waldrop, 1992).
Chaos by itself doesn’t explain the structure, the coherence, the self-organizing cohesiveness of complex systems…complex systems have somehow acquired the ability to bring order and chaos into a special kind of balance…called the edge of chaos where life has enough stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of life…The edge of chaos is the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive, and alive….learning and evolution move agents along the edge of chaos in the direction of greater and greater complexity (Waldrop, 1992, p. 12, 296).
These zones along the edge are similar to boundary conversations discussed by Bruffee (1999) where constant struggle determines what will shift to center and what will be marginalized. This gives new meaning to the phrase “on the cutting edge” of education. With no room to move in either direction, or you will no longer be on the edge, all you can do is move along the edge to stay on. “Systems function best when they are at the ‘edge of chaos’, poised between too much rigidity in the face of change and too much change in the face of achieved progress” (Levin, 2002, p. 12). Education needs emergent boundaries to allow work to be done and to keep systems from freezing up or flying into chaos (Church, 2005).
I have seen a blaze of anti-Common Core sentiment sweep through certain states. These groups that are protesting the Common Core are counting on you not doing your own research and thinking about the Common Core in-depth. There are several FALSE claims you will hear in relation to Common Core that you need to think about. You can verify this at www.corestandards.org.
First, the Common Core is not a national curriculum. The full name of Common Core is “Common Core State Standards” (aka CCSS) meaning they are benchmarks we want our children to achieve, but how to achieve them is left up to individual states and local communities. Many, many companies are competing for schools’ dollars by offering diverse and varied curricula if schools don’t want to write their own. The feds are not driving Common Core for implementation or for assessment.
Second, the Common Core does not dumb down the curriculum (the same people claiming we are dumbing down the curriculum also gripe that we are introducing difficult concepts too early—which is it?). On average, we see rigorous standards applied 1 year earlier than we were applying them under the Missouri Grade Level Expectations. Missouri has consistently had the 2nd and 3rd most rigorous state achievement test (MAP) in the nation and now we see an even more rigorous test coming next year. In fact, we just piloted the Common Core assessment in the district and students and teacher alike commented on how much harder the test was than the MAP. One question I saw was substantially different than the MAP test. On MAP, a kid would be asked a math problem and then given a set of choices: A, B, C, or D. On the Common Core test, I saw a 5th grader answering questions that went something like this, “Suzy was given the following math problem.” A word problem followed. “Suzy read the problem, formed a plan to answer the problem with six steps.” A numbered list of 6 steps followed. “Suzy got the following answer which was wrong. Find which step in Suzy’s method was wrong, explain why, and correct her answer.” Folks, a kid has to think a lot deeper to answer that type of questions than a multiple-guess test.
Third, there is a lot of other mumbo-jumbo being tossed around, but opponents keep piling up argument after argument against it until you aren’t even sure what they are referring to anymore. The argument expands to gripe about socialism, anti-Christian movements, abortion, tracking, cost, and I don’t know what else. But those things are other policy and legislative concerns that activists are lumping in with Common Core because they don’t understand it.
In a nutshell, here is a Common Core kindergarten standard:
RF.K.2(a): Recognize and produce rhyming words. The standard then recommends “Halfway Down” by A. A. Milne and “Singing Time” by Rose Fyleman although districts can use “Mary had a Little Lamb”, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, or any other district approved literature. The concept can be further developed through artwork, song, science, math, and vocabulary. The curriculum is developed at the local level while the assessment will be used to determine if a student can indeed recognize and produce a rhyming word.
Let’s try another one in 3rd grade:
RI.3.9: Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic. The standard recommends “Sarah, Plain and Tall” and “The Storm” although districts can choose any literature they want to have students compare and contrast. By the way, this is something we were trained heavily in during my doctoral program in order to conduct academic research…and here it is in 3rd grade Common Core!
L.5.5. Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. Exemplar texts include “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “The Little Prince.” Informational texts include, “Who is Neil Armstrong?” and “Women Explorers of North and South America.” If we don’t like any of those, we can choose any literature we want.
Can you feel Obama’s fingertips reaching for your children’s minds yet? If you are confused where the socialist agenda is, I’m with you. But then again, no one has shown you what the real standards look like. Any standard can be written to reflect local control, with local lessons, local activities, and local formative assessments. The board will approve any curriculum that is generated by our own local teachers and reviewed by our own local administrators, myself included.
Finally, there are some real nice components of Common Core that I want to point out:
Reading is broken down into Literature, Informational Texts, and Foundational Skills. Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Language are strands of the standards. Reading and writing aren’t just isolated to classic works, but standards are given for reading to be taught in Social Studies classes, science, and other technical subjects.
Here is an example of the “Integration of Knowledge and Ideas” in grades 9 and 10. Standard RI.9-10.9: Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts. These are four powerful, patriotic, truly American pieces of history that our kids should be grappling with. The teacher moves from the “sage on the stage” lecturing about what these pieces mean to the “guide on the side” helping students hold democratic readings and discussions about what these authors may have intended and what they were dealing with from a historical context. Students must “delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.”
The Common Core State Standards are designed to provide a framework of standards that are Internationally Benchmarked, rigorous, and broad enough to allow states and local boards of education create a locally controlled curriculum designed to meet the needs of local children. Go to www.corestandards.org and read through the standards to see for yourself. Nothing is perfect. Education is a practice. Common Core is another step forward in that practice. It isn’t evil, destructive, or anti-American. It is an opportunity for people with an axe to grind to use it as political smoke and mirrors to advance their own agenda. Don’t let the smoke get in your eyes.
I would like to share my words of wisdom to the 8th grade. Every year, I speak to them briefly, but my own daughter, Savannah, was being promoted. She is a strong personality who marches to a different drum. I never know if I am going to see her come down the stairs to go to school in a pink tutu, leather leggings, and a zebra striped shirt; or athletic shorts, dressy blouse, and flip-flops carrying her flute and her archery bow. She inspired this short speech.
“Welcome to 8th Grade Promotion. I would like to read you a poem by Robert Frost called The Road Not Taken.”
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
“Today, you face a choice. You can take the road taken by most. Well-worn, easy, and clear. Life may be safe, but not very exciting.
“Or, you can take the one less traveled by—sometimes rough, sometimes muddy with uneven footing and roots to trip over. But it can be exciting, challenging, and rewarding.
“I hope for the next four years, you will help me take Sarcoxie down the road less traveled by. And when we come to your Graduation Day, you will say, ‘That has made all the difference.’”
Five aspects of complex systems help define internal structure. Internal diversity keeps the system flexible. Redundancy keeps small fluctuations from rippling into chaotic, destructive change. Decentralized control allows innovation and creativity to emerge from the complex interactions between diverse agents. Organized randomness keeps the system moving along cohesively without limiting where it will go. Neighbor interactions keep the system in check in relation to the environment and local fitness peaks (Davis et al., 2006).
Structure is important to complexity because “a hierarchical, building-block structure utterly transforms a system’s ability to learn, evolve, and adapt” (Waldrop, 1992, p. 169) by giving systems an opportunity to move subsystems around to increase complexity and creativity without having to try out every possible combination of agents and schema. Order is a byproduct of structure through routines and clear structures, rules, and procedures (Marzano et al., 2005). The structure itself is “influenced by social, economic, and political factors; created and socially constructed; learned; and dialectical” (Church, 2005, p. 48). Practices are determined by structures as well as construct structures (Swartz, 1997). Reflective practice gives individuals and groups the iterative vehicles to change complex organizational structures.
Despite the structures present in complex systems, “it is not possible to separate complex adaptive systems into neat categories based on whether and where selection is operating. In most systems, selection is manifest on multiple interacting scales” (Levin, 2002, p. 4). Structure cannot be permanent because agents reorganize themselves in response to internal and external stimuli so that renewal is continual (Fels, 2006). Complex systems can move along a continuum ranging from order to chaos with complexity sitting at the edge of both simultaneously (Waldrop, 1992).
“Since the boundaries of complex systems are difficult to determine, it is impossible to draw tidy lines between these organizational layers” (Davis & Simmt, 2006, p. 296). Fuzzy boundaries in the school as a complex system are especially evident when talking about differences in social class, the curriculum of a school, and the schemas used in the school community (Barr & Parrett, 2007; Lareau, 2000; Weiner, 2006). The unique sociocultural capital of diverse social classes determines alignment of groups of agents with the capital present in a school. “School practices and assumptions emerging from the deficit paradigm often hide student and teacher abilities” (Weiner, 2006, p. 1). Deficit thinking comes from either the recessive schema of the marginalized system or the dominant schema of the legitimate system depending on the context the school currently finds itself. The curriculum itself emerges from and as part of the emerging, iterative structures of the school community with “formal, informal, and even ‘hidden’” aspects (Barr & Parrett, 2007, p. 141).
The subsystems of complex adaptive systems are the legitimate and recessive systems with agents interacting according to schema with dominant and marginalized parts respectively. Paradox exists multi-dimensionally as well at the system, agent, and schema levels. Ordinary management techniques drive legitimate processes while the recessive system requires extraordinary management. Stacey (1996) claims that the boundaries of the legitimate system are “clear-cut” while the recessive system’s boundaries are “fuzzy”; however, the fact that the legitimate system is aware of and ignores much of the activity of the recessive system makes the legitimate system’s boundaries fuzzy even if they are less permeable than the recessive system.
The legitimate network in an organization plans enculturation and avoids surprises by using the dominant schema to control interactions keeping them linear (uniform, conformed, repetitive) resulting in proportional response to stimuli, balanced input/output, and in the end, the system equals the sum of its parts. The recessive system, a subsystem of the legitimate system, can also stop renewal and maintaining stability by resisting change; however, changes to the legitimate system are actualized through processes in the recessive system. Efficient legitimate systems are stable with the equilibrium to actualize the mission of the organization. The recessive subsystem’s schemas lead to diversity in the system which is an integral part of complexity and “comprises all social and political interactions that are outside the rules strictly prescribed by the legitimate system” (Stacey, 1996, p. 290). Conversely, power is relative and can exist in either the dominant or marginal ideology. Social change can be brought about by activating power and negotiating interests in the margins (Watkins & Tisdell, 2006).
In complex systems, team-based units allow for structure without being overly so through redundancy in the form of organic fractals. Teams exhibit characteristics of open systems with permeability and high information flow; nonlinear responsibilities and interests; self-referencing knowledge and redundancy; organic in the self-selection of members; and share vision, culture, and meaning as possible strange attractors (Gilstrap, 2005). Creativity also resides in the redundancy that teams allow “for the repetition of different ideas and experiments in slightly different ways, and…means that the organization will be more resilient in the face of inevitable failures” (Stacey, 1996, p. 280).
The principal acts as the recognized leader of the legitimate system; however, leaders operate as participants in the recessive system helping contain anxiety in the face of change through urgency and assurance at the boundary while observing processes in the organization. Leadership shifts from ordinary management in structured times to extraordinary management in phase transitions as the school moves along the continuum between order and chaos (Stacey, 1996).
Long-term predictability. In non-linear systems, a lack of understanding, the smallest miscalculation, or the smallest bit of information missing magnifies throughout the system until predictions are useless (Waldrop, 1992). Unpredictability is key to creativity which emerges from complex interactions and “cannot be intended in any comprehensive way….we are agents in systems that are coevolving into an open-ended evolutionary space” (Stacey, 1996, p. 71, 217). We are not in control of what happens in long-term outcomes.
The system moves toward a strange attractor like the mission and vision of a school, but never reaches the mission and vision. The system continues to move toward the mission and vision from the given point of the school generated by the sociocultural and environmental contexts driven by the specific interactions of the multitude of agents residing in the school community or any networked systems resulting in the school “orbiting” shakily around this strange attractor as those negotiations are made (Gilstrap, 2005). Long-term outcomes based on these uncertain, complex movements are unpredictable at best (U.S. Department of Education, 1998).
Short-term predictability. In complex systems, themes and archetypes are recognizable (Stacey, 1996; Waldrop, 1992). In fact, understanding the history of a complex system to look for patterns allows educators to plan within a short-term time frame, sometimes simply the next move to be made. This almost total lack of control causes the behavior of the system to emerge. Short term, general predictions are possible since tiny fluctuations take time to build and the momentum of the system is rooted in the past (Kieren, 2005; Stacey, 1996). “Patterns emerge at higher levels as a result of adaptive dynamics at lower levels of integration…prediction is limited, and…we must develop statistical mechanical methods to extract the knowable from the unknown” (Levin, 2002, p. 15).
When analyzing their school’s organizational context, principals cannot underestimate the unpredictability of the long-term future of the system. Marginalized populations within the school act as a recessive system undermining the efforts of the dominant, legitimate system. The future of the school emerges from interactions within and between the recessive and the dominant systems. A new paradigm that recognizes and makes meaning of the dynamic, nonlinear versus linear nature of the processes and interactions of these two subsystems would help protect principals from unreasonable long-term planning, unproductive and unmanaged conflict, innovative but misguided agents, and wasted time due to superficial work and restructuring efforts not based on emergence (Bower, 2006; Stacey, 1996).
The dominant paradigm rosily sees success in stability, predictability, and carefully strategic plans (Stacey, 1996). “Predictions are nice, if you can make them. But the essence of science lies in explanation, laying bare the fundamental mechanisms of nature” (Waldrop, 1992, p. 39). Educational complexity is not different. Researchers have to look at explaining how education works with the knowledge that it may not result in predictability since education is emergent based on too many factors to mathematically analyze.
History and past pedagogy is important to creating effective high-performing, high-poverty schools (HP2S), but vast changes in the sociocultural capital available to students in this decade make research of previous decades null or irrelevant. Even within the same time period, findings in one context will not be generalizable to another setting. Failing schools that are trying to transform cannot hope to perfectly implement what other successful schools have accomplished because of the unpredictability of complex systems (Barr & Parrett, 2007; Berliner, 2002; Brady, retrieved October 22, 2007; Church, 2005).
Strategic planning in complex environments results in rigid processes such as goal setting and action plans that restrict emergence. Educational institutions should allow for a more flexible process that takes into account causal relationships (Gilstrap, 2005). Small fluctuations would have a harder time permeating multiple boundaries within similar structures across a flattened hierarchy. This redundancy provides stability, robustness, and resilience against small environmental fluctuations (Stacey, 1996).
What I Learned Lately (WILL #7)
As a father, son, husband, and brother, I share a name with all other men, (Mr.). When I pause to think about this connection, I remind myself to maintain what I call a “Brothered Mind". For me this concept is grounded by the need to treat others as family, love my brothers for the common good, and to check my own ego and desires in order to create a better world. Additionally, it reminds me that I have responsibility to be a "good man" and ultimately my actions label other men around the world. This is a responsibility that I take extremely seriously.
The irony for me is that I have learned how to create and maintain a "Brothered Mind" from powerful women. Women all across the world teach their children and students the value of respecting self, family and community. In my life, women have taught many lessons. My mother grew up in abusive family. My parents ran from the abuse in order to save our family. For years, I have watched my mom battle through losing homes, jobs, her health and the struggle to separate herself from her past. My mom has taught me the concept of "relentless". My wife has and continues to be my mirror. Teaching me how to raise a daughter, model for my sons and to truly be "present" in the world I live and work in. From my boss, I learned the concept of unconditional love. She has taught me that you can't run from your family, past or present; rather you must continuously and unconditionally work to support those that you need you the most. In our work, we are continuously surrounded by women who teach us how to love each student and to treat all of them as they were their own sons and daughters. Growing up, learning how to run and now being taught to be present has been rigorous for me.
As I reflect on my learning and get ready to celebrate Mother's Day. I would like to celebrate all the women that are in all our lives.
Finally by William Butler Yeats - The Song of the Old Mother
I rise in the dawn, and I kneel and blow Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow;
And then I must scrub and bake and sweep Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;
And the young lie long and dream in their bed Of the matching of ribbons for bosom and head,
And their day goes over in idleness, And they sigh if the wind but lift a tress:
While I must work because I am old,
And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Newest Policy Points Revisits A Nation at Risk
ASCD’s newest Policy Points (PDF) takes a closer look at A Nation at Risk, the 1983 report on the state of U.S. education that launched a spirited and ongoing debate about the quality of our public schools. This issue of Policy Points examines the specific recommendations of the report, the accuracy of its dire prediction about “a rising tide of mediocrity” undermining the nation’s well-being, and the evolving school reform debate the report kick-started three decades ago.
Throughout May on www.wholechildeducation.org: The New Poverty
In today’s global economic state, many families and children face reduced circumstances. These “poor kids” don’t fit the traditional stereotypes—two-thirds live in families in which at least one adult works and the percentage of poor students in many rural districts equals that in inner-city districts. In the United States, the economic downturn has dramatically changed the landscape, and districts that were previously vibrant are now dealing with unemployment, underemployment, and more transient families.
Join us as we share what new—and old—solutions we are using to support learning and ensure that each child, whatever her circumstances, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on the current economic downturn; its result that many families and children face reduced circumstances; and implications for schools, many of which have seen drastic changes in the populations they serve and their communities. Guests include Deborah Wortham, superintendent of the School District of the City of York, Pa., and former assistant superintendent for high schools and director of professional development for Baltimore City (Md.) Public Schools; Felicia DeHaney, president and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute; William Parrett, director of the Center for School Improvement and Policy Studies and professor of education at Boise State University; and Kathleen Budge, coordinator of the Leadership Development Program and associate professor in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies Department at Boise State University. Parrett and Budge are also coauthors of the 2012 ASCD book Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools.
ASCD Leader Voices
Arkansas Governor Signs Whole Child Legislation
Arkansas Governor Michael Beebe signed a new bill into law that promotes a whole child approach to educating the state’s children. The legislation (PDF) establishes a Whole Child Whole Community recognition program and aims to measure the comprehensive well-being of children and how well stakeholders are meeting their needs according to the five whole child tenets and their indicators as identified by ASCD.
The recognition program will acknowledge and highlight the work of Arkansas educators, parents, community members, and policymakers who support the whole child. The legislation also indicates that one purpose of the recognition program is to help spur systemic collaboration and coordination within and beyond schoolhouse doors and to promote a shift from narrowly defined student achievement and traditional education reform to broader, more comprehensive efforts that recognize the crucial out-of-school factors that influence teaching and learning. A diverse state working group will work over the course of a year to recommend a framework and process for recognizing exemplary whole child and whole community successes.
Congratulations to Arkansas ASCD, which played a crucial role in supporting the bill’s development and introduction!
Rhode Island Passes Whole Child Resolution
The Rhode Island General Assembly passed a joint resolution (PDF) supporting a whole child approach to education that ensures each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
The resolution affirms that to educate Rhode Island’s children effectively, the state must pay attention to factors within and beyond its school buildings as well as integrate efforts among schools, families, and communities. In addition, the resolution expresses the assembly’s intent to model whole child concepts in its own work and to join with other stakeholders who support the whole child.
Congratulations to Rhode Island ASCD(RIASCD), which worked hard to have this joint resolution introduced into the Rhode Island legislature!
To help the state fulfill its commitment to whole child education, ASCD and RIASCD offered some initial steps (PDF)—organized by the five whole child tenets—for educators, parents and community members, and policymakers to take. RIASCD also highlighted some of ASCD’s free resources to help the state put its whole child vision into action.
South Carolina ASCD Featured in ASCD Inservice Blog Series
Weasked some of our affiliate leaders to tell us how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been going in their home states.In the seventh post of the series, South Carolina ASCD leader Josh Patterson writes about the challenges and successes that South Carolina has had with CCSS implementation.
The Effective Principal
What we see through our research, reading, and conversations with principals and school staff is that to see what an effective principal is, don’t look at the person; look at the effects of her leadership on student achievement, school culture and climate, teacher effectiveness and satisfaction, and community relationships. As the wearers of many hats, principals are crucial to implementing meaningful and lasting school change. Read more on the Whole Child Blog.
In April, we looked at what qualities principals in today’s (and tomorrow’s) schools need to fulfill their roles as visionary, instructional, influential, and learning leaders. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Donna Snyder, manager of Whole Child Programs at ASCD; Kevin Enerson, principal of Le Sueur-Henderson High School in Minnesota (an ASCD Whole Child Network school); and Jessica Bohn, an ASCD Emerging Leader and principal of Gibsonville Elementary School in North Carolina.
Also this month on the Whole Child Podcast, we talked with educators from Oregon’s Milwaukie High School (winner of the 2013 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award) about how they meet student and staff needs, taking challenges and turning them into opportunities for all. Guests include principal Mark Pinder, assistant principal for curriculum Michael Ralls, assistant principal for student management Tim Taylor, dean of students Donnie Siel, and teacher leader David Adams.
Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read the latest newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Something to Talk About
Killeen Independent School District Deepens Professional Development Partnership with ASCD—Killeen Independent School District (ISD)—whose more than 6,100 staff members serve approximately 42,000 students—is deepening its relationship with ASCD to meet its professional development goals. Read the full press release.
ASCD Publishes Leadership Guide on Transforming Any Teacher into a Master—ASCD is pleased to announce the release of Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom by best-selling education author, renowned educator, and professional development expert Robyn R. Jackson.
Never Underestimate Your Teachers offers school leaders a new model for understanding great teaching as a combination of skill and will, and it's the first book of its kind to support leaders as they facilitate teacher growth in both areas through differentiated leadership. Jackson shows readers how to design and deliver targeted professional development to help each teacher realize his or her potential and achieve great results for the benefit of every student. Read the full press release.
New ASCD Common Core Academy Supports School Leadership Teams Across the United States—ASCD is bringing its inaugural ASCD Common Core Leadership Team Academy to Chicago August 5–8, 2013. This intensive four-day professional leadership experience offers groups of administrators, teacher leaders, and nonprofit and higher education partners an accelerated plan for putting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into routine practice. Read the full press release.
ASCD Summer Reading List Identifies 10 Books That Can Transform Teaching and Learning—In the spirit of promoting year-round professional development, ASCD has assembled a diverse list of books essential to educators who seek to improve their practice over the summer months. These books—organized by how they help educators transform teaching and learning—offer readers the opportunity to dive deep into the hottest topics in education, including using data to focus improvement, project-based learning, child development, and neurodiversity. All books are currently available in paperback and e-book formats. Read the full press release.
Arkansas Governor Beebe Signs Education Reform Law Supporting the Whole Child—Arkansas Governor Michael Beebe has signed a new bill into law that promotes a well-rounded whole child approach to educating the state’s children.“An Act to Establish the Whole Child– Whole Community Recognition Program; and for Other Purposes” (Senate Bill 1051[PDF]) outlines a plan for the Arkansas education system that ensures Arkansas students receive a whole child education. Read the full press release.
New ASCD Staff Expand Association’s Ability to Design, Deliver, and Evaluate Professional Development Resources—ASCD welcomes three new staff members to the association’s Program Development Work Group. Dr. Andrea Muse has accepted the position of director of research and program evaluation, Jen Thompson will serve as director of program management and process improvement, and Elizabeth Thurman has joined ASCD as director of customer engagement and product support. The additions of Muse, Thompson, and Thurman expand ASCD’s capability to design, deliver, and evaluate the crucial professional development resources today’s educators need to learn, teach, and lead. Read the full press release.
What I Learned Lately (WILL #6)
In education, this time of year is often filled with a sea of unknowns. Educators are continuously battling the complexity of mixed interpretations of budgets, staffing needs, legislative mandates, and emotional conversations regarding graduation, remediation and promotion. Intertwined throughout this turbulence, are individual and collective celebrations of the social emotional and academic growth of our students and staff. Days filled with safe and healthy environments where students, staff and community support, engage and challenge themselves minute by minute.
During this time of year, I personally struggle to find inspiration. I am often engaged in activities that leave me perplexed. Personally, I struggle to see how these discussions, debates and our activities that help our students. Rather, these conversations appear to be dominated by personal interests by "Hope Thieves". These “thieves” are robbing the resources (time, money, and add barriers) that are designed to support our students hopes and dreams.
From these experience I have learned that I should not be "surprised by being surprised". I am often struck by the intense high that I get from new discoveries in the human spirit. I know I should not be surprised by the magic of those that I humbly serve with. However, when I am awaken to those "Hope Heroes" around me, I am elevated to new heights. Like many heroes, we may never know their motivation and or identity. Let me tell about a few "Hope Heroes" that recently, I heard about.
One of our student, Zachary, was facing the brick wall of our states standardized testing requirements. Zachary had already been accepted to College and is eligible of a scholarship. One hero spent hours upon hours combing through files to identify multiple measures to ensure that Zachary, a student of poverty, graduates from high school and is able to access their dreams by going to College.
One of our moms was battling domestic violence and was facing the reality that she needed to run with her family support in order to provide stability and safety for herself and our students. One of our heroes, worked behind the scenes to counsel, support and develop an action plan for this family. The result was nothing more than amazing. Our family was able to stay in the area, in safe place and our students were able to remain in their schools and not lose any learning time.
This week I was lost, I stood still. What I saw was the examples of heroes flying around me. In between the two breathes that I took, I realized life takes place.
Finally from Hemingway - From Whom the Bell Tolls:
Help me, O Lord, tomorrow to comport myself as a man should in his last hours. Help me, O Lord to understand clearly the needs of the day. Help me, O Lord, to dominate the movement of my legs that I should not run when the bad moment comes. Help me, O Lord, to comport myself as a man tomorrow in the day of battle. Since I have asked this aid of thee, please grant it, knowing I would not ask it if it were not serious, and I will ask nothing of thee again.
If you’re an educational leader, you know how important it is to have teachers feel supported or be on board with new ventures. The last thing we want to hear, or want teachers to feel, is “not one more thing” or “how can we fit it all in?” But it’s not about everything but the kitchen sink; it shouldn’t all fit. Something’s got to give. If we don’t acknowledge that and help teachers modify, we’ll get overworked teachers throwing it all in, or students who need what was left out. We need to continually reevaluate and “remodel” to make room for what’s important.
Picture this: a new teacher pulls out a curriculum guide, talks to her colleagues and creates a year-long plan to include concepts and objectives. Being new at this, it looks like a lot to fit in. She decides to start small; one unit at a time. The manuals and guides are helpful. Her team shares activities for her to use in her classroom. This is all a great start...
A different picture: an experienced teacher of more than 10 years, well respected by students, parents and peers, has just been told of a new program in her curriculum. There’s now a wrench in her well-oiled teaching. There’s no room for anything else...
When we’re busy “trying to fit it all in,” it’s easy to forget the big picture. We get caught up in planning activities, teaching concepts and moving on. If we’re honest, I think this can happen to all of us sometimes. Here are some good reminders and questions for new teachers and those of us who’ve been at this for a while. It’s important to stop, reflect and remind ourselves of ultimate learning goals.
If teachers are to feel supported, curriculum leaders need to regularly reflect as well. When presenting new or revised curriculum, leaders need to be explicit in communicating transfer as the ultimate goal. Essential questions and big ideas should drive student learning. When we open the conversation to why and how we can use curriculum, it's more likely we'll all be on the same page.
The traditional structure of and approach to education in the U. S. treats education as complicated versus complex. Educational scholars seem confused about the differences between complicated, complex, and chaotic. Complicated systems consist of many static, connected, dependent parts more mechanical in nature to perform a specific function such as “teaching”. Many parts of the school day are mechanical and require ordinary management skills to maintain. Complex systems include layers of shifting, changing, overlapping agents and systems more organic in nature dedicated to learning and surviving in a specific environment. Instruction, curriculum, public relations, etc. interact in a complex, holistic manner and require emergent leadership to sustain (Barr & Parrett, 2007).
Metaparadigms, macropatterns, and archetypes allow school leaders to focus on the emergence of success from HP2S instead of reductionist practices by homogonous affluent schools in a sort of “backwards design of leadership” reminiscent of the classic by Wiggins and McTighe (Church, 2005). Complexity does not have a list or recipe, but acts as a framework or archetype of what happens during an educational cycle around a strange attractor (Stacey, 1996). “Any given moment the novelty of experience and the multiplicity of alternatives will be organising(sic) themselves thereby making learning not a rationally deduced abstraction but a meaningful encounter expressed in terms of students’ literally making sense out of their own experiences” (Semetsky, 2006, p. 33).
Systems theory posits that a change in one component of a system affects some or all of the other components. Currently, such theories reflect the stable equilibrium paradigm and reduce network subsystems to their most basic components with the intent of finding a way to control the system (Bonner, 2006; Stacey, 1996). A systemic thinker trying to act as a non-biased observer looking for better ways to accomplish system tasks cannot predict how the environment will change over time due to human inability to detect and measure all of the tiny changes occurring in a system. As more systems try to use systemic thinking, the rapidity of the shifting of the environment increases; however, “systemic thinking and leadership are human strategies that make it more possible for us to survive at the edge of chaos than other species” (Stacey, 1996, p. 114).
Schools act as open systems in which adaptation to public, organizational, and legislative demands are essential to health and survival. Open systems theory examines the ability of the school to maintain a steady state while learning to learn, taking in more energy than it expends, collecting resources, and transforming resources into products while recognizing that there are multiple means to fulfill school goals (Donaldson, 1998; Morgan, 1997). By replicating the overall design of the district into subsystems such as buildings, teams, committees, and departments, the school has the capability to learn through its nested layers and redundant parts mirroring both the internal school environment and external community environment (Morgan, 1997).
Principals need to develop and implement a method of evaluating the effectiveness of school teams and their ability to identify, analyze, and solve problems against operating norms. By viewing from multiple theories-in-use and questioning operating norms through double-loop learning, the team gets a diverse or complicated view of the problem to arrive at a fuller, richer, and deeper understanding. Adaptation to the environment is dependent upon being attuned to the environment, engaging in productive conflict, making sense, socially justifying knowledge, and coordinating use of data in working toward school goals (Bolman & Deal, 1997; Bruffee, 1999; Donaldson, 1998; Morgan, 1997).
What I Learned Lately (WILL #5)
Maya Angelou once said, “Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud”. When I first heard this phrase I was taken back about the idea that we may never know when we are making a difference in someone’s life. At any point, anyone of us may be seen as “Rainbow” in a dark and cloudy life. This past week I observed first hand a few rainbows in the making.
First, I visited one of our schools and got a chance to meet “Jason” and “Marcus”. Jason is a first grader who struggles and relies on the staff to help him be successful. He can’t make it through a day or a lesson without being able to sit with his friend Marcus. I was touched by how our staff has embraced Jason’s learning needs. They encourage Jason to own his learning and be responsible for keeping Marcus up to speed on his lessons. Staff arranges chairs and support when they are together or when Jason wants to be alone. When I met Jason, he was smiling and on the “go” and I am sure Marcus was right with him. Jason is the only one that can see Marcus. Instead of fighting Jason and making him feel unsafe; our staff has been a rainbow. Unfortunately, it is likely that society will require Marcus to hide and likely Jason will feel alone. However this year, Jason’s clouds have a break and he is able to grow and learn in a safe environment.
On Monday morning, I watched a team of rainbows go to work. Tragically, four of LHS students will never be the same, one died, one is in prison and two more will forever be scared. Behind the scenes, many adults were trying to make meaning, provide support and frantically communicate in order to put action steps in place. As I sat in the back of the theater with the staff, you could feel heaviness of the room. I watched our colleagues, deliver the horrific news with grace and humility. This was followed with our Crisis Response team guiding us on the unknown of emotions and reactions that were sure to follow. This group may be the unsung heroes of our organization. Knowing that any minute they may be called upon, they gently navigate the mixed emotions of anger, sadness, and fear. On Friday, many of these same rainbows were at the funeral to support the family and bury one of our own. That afternoon, I visited the young man in jail. Rarely, if ever have I felt so helpless. I want to forget this week and I want to move on. Unfortunately, I know that is selfish of me and that we need forgive but not forget. When, I drove home there was no rainbow, there was no happy ending, just the sobering effect that I was awake. If we truly believe in ALL, then we have a responsibility to be awakened by the truths that surround us daily.
"Denial of the truths in our society doesn't console the awaken soul, it doesn't fill up any students' bucket of hope, all it does is leave our future empty".