Showing posts from 2009

Technology and the Savvy Shopper

I love a good bargain. I drag myself out of bed the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday to get the best deals. This year I branched out to Cyber Monday, the Monday following Black Friday. As I was shopping online, I had an epiphany regarding web 2.0 tools and teachers. Most of the websites I was shopping on Amazon and Sam’s Club to name a few had options for their deals of the day and sale information to come through Twitter. No going from website to website to find the deals. Twitter did the work for me aggregating all sales information in one convenient place.I think this offers a lot of potential for engaging teachers in the power of web 2.0. If teachers can see a personal use for these tools, they are more likely to use these for professional development and consider how they might be used with students.Too often in-service time is spent on pushing buttons for a pay off that is too abstract for someone that has not really tried a web 2.0 tool. Let’s focus on something useful …

Great Curriculum Resource

I stumbled upon a veritable paradise for curriculum folks at the K – 12 Curriculum Development blog. The site is led by Steven Weber, Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools in Hillsborough, NC. I think the title sums up the intent of the blog … to offer tools, research, and insights into all things related to curriculum. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Making Learning Irresistible

Dr. Tim Tyson, former principal of Mabry Middle School in Cobb County Georgia, led his staff on a quest to Make learning irresistible. A quick look at the former website convinces me they were on their way of achieving their their goal with a web presence that is virtually unmatched. It’s not that Mabry had a great website, but that they effectively used their website to further their mission and vision!We talk about sharing examples of high quality student work. Their website showcases exemplary student work. Check out their Film Festival to see examples of student work or go to Podcast Central and see/hear about the successes of their students.We talk about partnering with parents.Staff blogs share homework and classroom happenings. The parent section has its own blog filled with relevant information concerning everything from student council minutes to immunization shots and year book sales. A portal for grades, attendance and discipline was also available. The Parent Teacher Assoc…

The Future of Libraries

Scott McLeod at Dangerously Irrelevant posted 10 Questions About Books, Libraries, Librarians, and Schools. He asks some hard questions about how technology is changing the way information is shared and stored. I am avid bibliophile, yet most of my reading is an electronic format at this point, I am annoyed when I cannot purchase a book on my Kindle. I love libraries and book stores, but love information at my fingertips more. What does all this mean for the structure of current school libraries, information literacy and the jobs of librarians?It is easy to discount Mr. McLeod’s questions, to push them aside or maybe even be a little angry at some of his more provocative questions. However,its been my experience we shape the future or the future shapes us. Rather than be in denial or get angry, let’s take on his questions. We want 21st century learners, let’s not be afraid to talk about shaping 21st century schools. What a great strategic planning discussion!Check out his questions an…

Students as Partners in Reform

While I had the flu, I picked up Edie Holcomb’s book, Students Are Stakeholders, TooIt combines research on high school reform with practical strategies for engaging students. The book is presented as a case study, based on a composite of the many schools she has worked with as a consultant.  The author contends that “Students can be visionaries, advocates, and change agents--- when given the permission, expectation and some guidance” (Holcomb, 2007, p. 7).I doubt high school reform will ever be simple, but imagine if students as well as staff were helping to craft and carry out a school improvement plan!CONNECTIONS: As we looked at all the AYP Success stories from last school year (schools with high growth or high growth/high achievement) the single thing that stood out from all the school stories was a focus on RELATIONSHIPS!


I recently posted the 80/20 Rule Applied to School Improvement in the post I urge district and building leaders to put more effort into implementation than writing a school improvement plan. One of my very astute colleagues, Lori Stollar from IU 12, asked me how would we help districts focus on implementation?“Resting not on my own understanding,” I put it back to you my esteemed school improvement gurus.. What would a focus on implementation look like? What specific behaviors, tools, and actions should we bring to the attention of school improvement teams?

The 80/20 Rule

I recently posted the Five Reasons School Improvement Plans Fail, a cautionary tale featuring the dark side of school improvement. While I think the post offers a good analysis on the common pitfalls of school reform – thanks to DuFour and Eaker, I am not entirely comfortable with the post. It highlighted pitfalls without shaping strategies for avoiding them. The first strategy that came to mind is the 80/20 Rule also known as Pareto’s Principle. The 80/20 Rule - “20 percent of something is always responsible for 80 percent of the results.”Think about how school teams spend their time.How many hours do they spend writing the plan? How many school improvement team meetings do they have after the plan is completed? In my experience teams spend about 80% of their time writing school improvement plans and 20% of their time implementing them. Reframing School ImprovementPareto’s Principle would suggest the inverse.Teams should be focusing 20% of their effort on identifying the “right” acti…

Reasons School Improvement Plans Fail

Rick DuFour & Robert Eaker list five reasons why school reform has failed in their book Professional Learning Communities at Work.Complexity of the taskMisplaced focusLack of clarity of intended resultsLack of perseveranceFailure to appreciate and attend to the change process.Here’s how I see these five areas playing out: Schools are complex organizations. Educators are great at identifying problems. We catalog and sort every wart and blemish. In fact, we are so good at it that we are become consumed with finding problems. We do not take the time to find the most strategic item we could tackle to get results… otherwise termed root cause.Complexity of the plan then leads to ambiguous results or expectations. For example, what does co-teaching mean to the Administrators? Special education teachers? Content area teachers?  Does co-teaching mean implementation of one model of co-teaching…. generally one teach and one assist or does it mean an effective use of all six models? It really…

Purpose of Education

Below is an excerpt I wrote for a college class. As a follow up, I need feedback from all of YOU to demonstrate the power of blogging! Please react to my post and comment on the purpose of education from your point of view.Martin Luther King (1947) once said that education has two functions: utility and culture. He goes on to say that “It is intelligence plus character” that is the true purpose of education. I believe that dual purpose is still relevant today. We live in an increasingly complex, global society. Education must prepare students with the skills to live, work and thrive in this environment. This includes subject matter knowledge, but equally important will be skills such as communication, problem-solving, collaboration, information literacy, and character. Education must prepare students to be life-long learners in the truest sense of the term. Fewer and fewer unskilled labor jobs will exist. The future will depend on the ability of all individuals to learn and relearn as…

Growing Up Digital

I have been reading (on my Kindle) Don Tapscott’s (2009) Grown Up Digital: How the Next Generation Is Changing Your World. Tapscott urges educators to move from “broadcast learning to interactive learning.” Here’s a quote I liked summarizing his rationale:“Teachers are not a fountain of knowledge, the internet is.”What does curriculum and instruction look like in a classroom where most knowledge level questions can be answered with a simple Google search?

Best Buddies

Each year our IU gives out an award to deserving educators that support the integration of students with disabilities into a regular education. It never ceases to amaze me how creative and dedicated both students and staff can be to make innovative programs like these succeed. Below is a summary of the Best Buddies program at Stroudsburg Junior High School given by Marc Bernstein, CIU 20 Supervisor of Multi-disabilities Program.Every year on orientation day, our IU gives out prestigious awards for different accomplishments. This year, I have the honor to present the Maureen Crawford Award. This honor is awarded in memory of Maureen Crawford, a strong proponent of the inclusion of all students, to a deserving person or persons, who have worked collaboratively to include special needs students in the broader community.“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”- Albert EinsteinAfter being inspired by their involvemen…

Blogging for Better Schools

August 15th marked our blogaversary, which by the way is a real word, at least according to Urban Dictionary. Hard to believe an experiment turned out to be such an exciting project. I started playing around with the idea of blogging after hearing several national speakers at a conference. I kept blogging because I realized it is a great tool for communicating, sharing, and organizing ideas. The blog is work…. words do not always come quickly. However, I find the work is worth it. Blogging helps me to clearly articulate ideas. I have to really think about what point I am trying to convey while being clear and succinct.  I  use the blog to capture what occurs in meetings. Better than minutes, I can show quotes, graphics, pictures and/or videos. The posts are tagged so I can quickly reference them if needed. I find I can frequently send a link in response to questions or topics that come in meetings, which is a huge time-saver. I absolutely could not have been convinced until I tried it…

Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners

All the school districts in my region and many others across Pennsylvania have access to Discovery Education, probably best known for streaming video. When I searched for streaming videos 116,458 results came up which can be further refined by grade level, subject area, type of media etc... Folks most often think of video clips or even full length videos and they would be right…. but there is much, much more.Discovery also has: Songs (466) – Multiplication raps, ABCs, Homophone Blues, Tornados & Hurricanes to name a few… Audio files (48) – speeches, historical events, and more Images (20,828) – historical events, historical figures, places, animals etc.. Writing prompts (603) – still pictures combined with a writing prompts historical people/events, careers & a large number for literary analysis. Prompts can be copied and/or edited to customize for teacher needs. Clip art (1184) –Most of the collection is for the elementary grades Sound effects (3088) – animal sounds, applaus…

Making Blogging a Breeze

Windows Live Writer is an awesome  tool for blogging! I use Live Writer to create all my blog posts. It provides more features and flexibility to make my blog more attractive and efficient. I can work on drafts without an internet connection, preview the post to see how it will look on the live blog, and I can even set the date for the blog to automatically publish. It’s a free download that is compatible with the major blog services e.g. Blogger, TypePad, Wordpress and more….  My favorite feature is how easy it is to resize, align, and caption photos. Live Writer also allows you to add borders and effects to photos! Just insert a photo and a tool bar will appear as shown here. The default is inline, but a drop down box allows for you to set the picture to the Right or Left and wrap text.The next drop down box is Margins. The default is no margins, which often leads to your text running right up against the photo and ruining the appearance of the blog. Select Customize Margins and inc…

Write Now! Video Prompts

I was gathering resources for writing across the curriculum in preparation for a meeting with one of my districts and rediscovered an old favorite, PBS channel 39 Write Now! video prompts. The series was developed by WLTV with teachers from the Lehigh Valley. Each prompt begins with a short video and then segues to a writing prompt. Check out my favorite Nose Ring.

Livin on the Edge

We ended our 36th annual Summer Administrative Workshop with Harvey Alston.  He wowed our audience with his energetic presentation. His stories and observations were often hilarious, but underneath was a very serious message. He advocated for the audience to look beyond circumstances, petty thoughts, negativity, personal agendas etc….to put students first! Mr. Alston took on many topics during is address, but I was surprised by his take on technology. His motto is………….“If you are not livin on the edge, you’re taking up too much space!”Simply, our students live in a technologic world and we need to keep up if we are going to prepare them for that world. He believes that trying new things and engaging our staff to do the same is part of giving students our BEST! While I embrace Mr. Alston’s perspective I have to confess there are days when I think if I come any closer to the edge, I am going to fall off! It’s tough to try new things. It takes longer, feels awkward, and is just plain har…

Reflections on Improvement

Sometimes my job is really fun! As part of our school improvement grant this year, I interviewed a variety of principals and assistant principals regarding their AYP success.  What became apparent fairly quickly was that success was not built on a specific initiative. In fact schools that did not have large gains in student achievement looked similar on paper. So what is the discernable difference?Here are some common characteristics of the AYP Success Schools:Sustained building leadership Sustained building visionPatience - Buildings had long-term plans – 5 to 10 years in most cases Relationships and culture were primary considerations. Leaders consciously and strategically built relationships between: Building leadership and teachers Teachers to teachers and Teachers to students Focus on implementation.  Many teams got lost here… focusing on providing the two hours of professional development mentioned in the plan. Schools experiencing success focused on the changes in classrooms as…

Saucon Valley Elementary: An Evolution in Data-Driven Instruction

Saucon Valley Elementary has accomplished what most schools dream of…. they have high achievement and high growth with proficiency scores of 85.4%  in reading and 93% in mathematics on the PSSA. They also have sizeable and consistent gains for growth as measured by PVAAS. Meaning their students in grades 4 and 5 have exceeded a year’s worth of growth.According to principal, Ro Frey, “The big idea is teacher ownership of their students’ success.  Teachers own their student’s achievement data, and make decisions based on that knowledge.  They know specifically what they expect of their students in terms of developed grade level standards in reading and math, they share that with parents and students, and they monitor each student’s progress toward that goal. We support the teachers as they accomplish great things for their students.”Keys to Success:Consensus on grade level expectations, aligned assessments, and accountability for student success.Data in the hands of the teachers.Teacher…

Principle 1: Master the Courage to Interrogate Reality

This is the follow up to the Fierce Conversations post.I left the book club thinking how we could leverage Principle 1: Master the Courage to Interrogate Reality for school improvement. When we work with school improvement teams we see a nearly universal response. High school says if only the middle school had done its job, and the middle school says kids are not coming prepared. Other favorites include lack of motivation, students moving into the district, or it’s the parents.Let’s Interrogate Reality:When data is the foundation, we often see a different trend. High elementary scores, down slightly at middle school, then a sharp decrease at high school. NAEP data suggest the lower grades are beginning to close the achievement gap, while the gap is widening at the high school level. So in the words of Fierce Conversations author, Susan Scott, “What are we pretending not to know?” “What is our (administrators and teachers) contribution to the problem?”When will we be ready to hear the …

Fierce Conversations

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott was the featured at our administrative book club this year. True to its title the book boldly described the need and the process for having critical conversations both at home and the work place. The book resonates with sound, practical advice. For a taste of the author’s edgy wisdom read on: “I don’t know about you, but I have not yet witnessed a spontaneous recovery from incompetence” (p. 60).“As a leader, you get what you tolerate” (p. 60).“What are you pretending not to know” (p. 70).“Sometimes we put so many pillows around a message that the message gets lost altogether” (p. 144).“Identify your contribution to the problem” (p. 151).Stay tuned as we apply Principle 1: Master the Courage to Interrogate Reality to school improvement.Scott, S. (2003). Fierce conversations: Achieving success at work and in life one conversation at a time. New York: Berkley Book.

Libraries as the Hub of School Improvement

I love school improvement! It sounds geeky and surreal, but it’s true. I practically get goose bumps talking about continuous improvement and high leverage instructional strategies. We have worked hard at our IU to offer comprehensive services to support our school districts and truly thought we had most of the territory covered. However, turns out we never considered the role of school libraries as a source of school improvement. Summary of Research Concludes(Findings from 19 State and 1 Province including Pennsylvania):“A substantial body of research since 1990 shows a positive relationship between school libraries and student achievement. The research studies show that school libraries can have a positive impact on student achievement—whether such achievement is measured in terms of reading scores, literacy, or learning more generally. A school library program that is adequately staffed, resourced, and funded can lead to higher student achievement regardless of the socio-economic o…

Hiring Practices to Promote Culture

I recently stumbled upon the The Science Leadership Academy website. I noticed they had some employment opportunities…. I was intrigued by their top requirement for applicants, “to teach kids before they teach subjects.” Simple, but profound!It is fairly accepted that elementary teachers get into education because they love kids, while secondary teachers enter the profession because they love their content. While deep content knowledge is important, it should not overshadow the need for a student-centered classroom. We typically assess applicants for their content knowledge, but no where have I seen so clear a statement about the type of culture a school is trying to cultivate than I did when I saw The Science Leadership Academy’s requirement. It inspired me to think more critically about the hiring procedures we use in our office including job postings. According to their home page:The Science Leadership Academy is a partnership high school between the School District of Philadelphia…

Stopping to Celebrate Public Education

Our annual Excellence in Education dinner recognized educators, schools, and community entities for outstanding work in the field of public education through the implementation of a program or service. These recognized programs received the Crystal Award for Excellence in Education.Each award winner had an opportunity to describe their program and talk about the impact it had on students. Winners ranged from a Health Related Technology program at a Career Center that serves the community through an adult daycare program to a character education program for elementary students and everything in between. The common thread of relationships seemed to connect all the programs. Retired individuals connecting to middle school students, teachers connecting to digital age of their students, students connecting to their parents, students connecting to the community etc...I left the event wondering whether we really understand school improvement. Is it about more math and reading options, tutori…

Effective Professional Development

The February issue of Educational Leadership provides a summary of research on professional learning entitled, Teacher Learning: What Matters? by Linda Darling-Hammond & Nikole Richardson. The article is filled with great suggestions for effective professional development. The one that struck me the most was the following:"Professional development lasting 14 or fewer hours showed no effects on learning. The largest effects were for programs offering 30-100 hours spread out over 6-12 months."In other words the basis of effective staff development is ideally 30 or more hours of training on a single topic spread out over 6 to 12 month period.Reflection: How does your school or district compare to this research-based best practice?Darling-Hammond, L. & N. Richardson. (February 2009). Teacher learning: What matters? Educational Leadership, Vol. 66(5), p. 46-53.Photo courtesy of CIU 20 Summer Administrative Workshop August 2006.

My Personal Organizer

A colleague recently expressed interest in Twitter and other web 2.0 tools, but dismissed them because she didn't have time. I agreed. She did not have time to go to multiple websites and get the latest updates. I can't think of an administrator that does have time. iGoogle is a personalized web page and  is a one stop organizer for me.  It allows me to add news, photos, weather, and much more from across the web. At a glance I can check my personal email, which I use to access a lot of the web 2.0 tools, Twitter, and the various blogs I read through Google Reader.In other words, iGoogle does the work for me... pulling and organizing all the latest updates into one convenient location. For me the key is using Gmail for my personal email. When I check my email, I manage to check everything else too.How do you keep organized? Any recommendations for working/accessing information at a glance?

Leading for Learning

This past Monday I visited East Stroudsburg North High School. Steve Zall, principal, hosted a group of administrators from a neighboring school district and myself to showcase his building's instructional walk-through process. As I listened to Steve share his experience and hospitality with us, I was struck by two things. First, instructional walk-throughs are not about teachers or teaching. They are about leading and leadership. Secondly, the term instructional leader is really not an accurate term, rather what we need in schools are learning leaders.To pay attention to instruction is not sufficient. We need leaders who are not content to simply schedule professional development and assume its implementation. We need leaders like Steve, who walk with a high degree of frequency from classroom to classroom looking for evidence of implementation. We need leaders that will learn along side their teachers, participate in staff development and be able to recognize implementation when …

New Resources

A couple of key organizations have recently started some wonderful blogs. Expand your personal learning network with these great started a blog in January. They hit on a range of topics including an interview with Thomas Friedman, Charter Schools, Writing, Class Size, Teacher Unions.... No educational topic appears off limits. Click here to check it out!  HOPE Foundation, an organization dedicated to "supporting educational leaders over time in creating school cultures where failure is not an option for any student," debuted their What's Working in Schools Blog in February. Topics include professional development, teacher issues, policy, assessment and much more. Click here to view the What's Working in schools Blog.   National Staff Development Council (NSDC), who's purpose is to ensure "every educator engages in effective professional learning every day so every student achieves." NSDC began a blog in January entitled Reflections.…

Eating Crow

My husband gave me the Amazon Kindle 2 as an early birthday gift. All I can say is "WOW." The gift of all gifts for a bibliophile like me. I can't believe I once professed an aversion to electronic books.... I simply could not imagine giving up the look and feel of a paper book. Well  here I am, eating crow.14 Reasons to love the Kindle:The screen has a paper-like quality.The screen has no back light - no glare.Holds up to 1500 books - Imagine carrying a whole library with you anytime you wantWeighs just a few ouncesPlays audio books and has text to speech features - if allowed by the publisher.Wireless downloads of new books in 60 seconds. I actually purchased a book while waiting at a stop light.Built in wireless connection is built in - similar to a cell phone - you do not need to provide it.Ability to add PDF documents.Bookmark your favorite pages.Allows for note-taking in the text.Collates notes from a book or all books.All books are kept in an online Amazon account…

More on the Four Day School Week

Back in December I shared that Southern Columbia School District in Catawissa, PA intended to have a Four-Day School Week through January and February to save on heating and transportation costs. According to School Leader News the idea of a four-day school week is gaining momentum around the county. National TrendsSelect districts in about 17 states already have a four-day week with similar proposals being considered by the legislature in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Missouri and Washington. The four-day school week was introduced in the 70's in response to the oil crisis and is now gaining fresh momentum in these troubling economic times. In order to meet state laws regarding instructional hours, most districts found they had to add just over one hour of instruction per day.According to Associated Press (the source for this article) research indicates that districts save on transportation costs and can lead to increased attendance and teacher retention. In addition, studie…

Technology as a Pre-requisite Skill?

We recently hired a new secretary. We required the all applicants to take the advanced assessment for Microsoft Office Excel, Word and Outlook. We do this because from experience we have learned that our office is too busy for people to learn on the job. They need to enter the job with a high degree of competency. We offer a personal interview only to the candidates that demonstrate they are tech savvy.This led me to pondering whether or not the same is true for new teachers. Is the classroom just too busy of a place to learn on the job? Should teachers enter the classroom with a high degree of technology competency. Should we assess technology skills in a systematic way in the same vein we look at pedagogy and communication skills?If the answer is no, how much further into the 21st century before we might consider technology assessment as a necessity?If the answer is yes, what technology skills would we assess and how would we assess them?

Teacher/Student Mentoring

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Wilson High School, Wilson Area School District, is the only high school in the IU 20 region that made high growth for both math and reading. Here is Part II of their story:In 2007-08 the district created a Teacher/Student Mentoring Program. Each staff member including the principal, assistant principal, central office personnel including the superintendent mentored a group of 10 to 15 students throughout the school year. The assistant principal scheduled 6-8 meetings throughout the school year. The assistant principal also planned the sessions, almost scripted them to support teachers in this new role. Activities included meeting with each student individually to review their 4Sight scores and discussing the impact on students. For example a 10th grade student might have already completed Algebra, but 4Sight indicates some weaknesses. The mentor points out resources the student has available including PSSA Study Island, Math Labs, and Tutoring Labs.…

Long-term Planning Leads to Results

Wilson High School, Wilson Area School District, is the only high school in the IU 20 region that made high growth for both math and reading. I had the opportunity to meet with John Martuscelli, Wilson High School Principal, and David Wright, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, to learn their strategies for success.The work began in 2005 and was formalized into a math plan in 2006 which revolved around curriculum alignment, increasing opportunities for learning mathematics, and placing ownership for student achievement onto the students.Curriculum AlignmentThe curriculum committee did not want to depend on electives to deliver the standards. Therefore, the curriculum needed to be written to ensure that ALL studentshad access to a rigorous sequence of math courses that delivered all core standards.All General math courses were eliminated. All students, including IEP students, must take Algebra 1, Algebra II and Geometry. Multiple formats for learning Algebra were offered: Honors…

The Key to Social Networking

Well, I took the advice of Will Richardson in the November issue of Ed Leadership regarding social networking and I joined Facebook and then later, Twitter. It took a while and at first, I have to confess that I really didn't get it. However, I have finally stumbled upon the key to the value of these tools, but I do so humbly, a bit embarrassed actually that I didn't figure it out earlier.... so no one make fun of me, please.Here it goes.... The secret to social networking tools is...... being social. I know a bit anticlimactic. I only share because I have noticed friends that have explored with me didn't get it right away either. It could just be us, but our collective experience was to join the site and then stare at an empty screen.... not really getting what the fuss was all about. However, a few friends find you on Facebook and your busy reminiscing and catching up. More friends and family find you and the fun intensifies. I had the same experience with Twitter. I joi…

Reading Apprenticeship

I attended the Reading Apprenticeship Winter Conference and was asked to be a part of the panel discussion at the conclusion of the conference. Here's a preview of the key points of my presentation:Reading Apprenticeship (RA) is much more than content area literacy.If you are "doing" RA you are addressing Inclusion, 21st Century Skills, Principles of Effective Instruction, Higher Order Thinking Skills, Secondary Response-to-Intervention, Questioning, High School Reform, Differentiated Instruction, Adolescent Literacy and more.To ensure RA gets the time and resources it needs, it is wise to have RA permeate as many school planning documents as possible e.g strategic plan, school improvement, Special Education Plan, LRE Plan, Professional Education Plan, Induction Plan, etc.....

Relationships Lead to Results

Northeast Middle School, Bethlehem Area School District, serves 835 students in grades 6 through 8. The student population is very diverse including over 50% who are Black or Hispanic. The school has many challenges including 61% poverty rate and 18.4% special education rate. In 2004, the school did not make AYP in several categories including the IEP subgroup and received a Warning Status. the following year brought School Improvement I. The work of the administrators, teachers and students has paid off. This year the school is completely off school improvement...having Made Progress for two consecutive years. In addition, Northeast MS made the IU 20 list of schools that have demonstrated the highest level of academic growth during the 2007-08 school year based on their PVAAS data three times..... 8th grade reading and math and 6th grade math.I sat down with Assistant Principal, Leigh Rusnak, to learn the secret to their success and the answer might surprise you....RELATIONSHIPS! The…

Consolidation: Will Charter Schools Be Included

Governor Ed Rendell has proposed forming a commission to consolidate Pennsylvania's 500 school districts down to no more than 100. The purpose of the consolidation is to reduce property tax burden. The commission would have one year to develop two plans to reorganize Pennsylvania's schools to be voted on by the legislature. If the General Assembly votes down both plans, authority would be given to the state board to reduce the number of school districts. Click here to see the fact sheet distributed by the state.My question is will the 127 charter schools be included in this consolidation effort to reduce administrative costs? Most charter schools serve a smaller student body and still have the same administrative positions as public schools. According to our local paper one charter school serving 440 students had a CEO making $5,000 dollars less than the public school superintendent serving 6,700 students. Click here to see the article. I am confused by these competing initiat…

Podcasting and the Five Big Ideas of Reading

My son is nine years old and has really benefited from using podcasting to improve his reading comprehension and motivation to read. The problem is that he only has access to podcasting at home. It's not that his school lacks resources, rather it has been that his teachers have trouble understanding how podcasting can be incorporated into reading instruction. In fairness to his teachers, my experience has been that the bells and whistles of podcasting are emphasized rather than podcasting as a specific curriculum integration tool. I started wondering how we might leverage podcasting to develop reading skills within all the five big ideas of reading.The National Reading Panel concluded that quality literacy instruction encompasses Five Big Ideas. Five Big Ideas of ReadingPhonemic Awareness: The ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words. Alphabetic Principle: The ability to associate sounds with letters and use these sounds to form words.  Fluency with Text: The effortless, aut…

Football and School Improvement

CIU 20 hosted a Super "School Improvement" Bowl on January 21, 2009. We wanted a new way to engage our instructional leaders in the work of continuous improvement. Believe it or not, football became our inspiration..."Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."Vince Lombardi If a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team.”Bud Wilkinson"Coaches have to watch for what they don't want to see and listen to what they don't want to hear."JohnMaddenIn between bites of a Super Bowl lunch of six-foot subs, wings, and meatball sandwiches, School Improvement teams looked for ways for to connect lessons from football to school improvement. Here are a few:Every team needs a play book (school improvement plan) Teams win by moving in strategic ways and moving in the same direction Players improve their …

Planning for Success

Our intermediate unit hosted a joint meeting between our Special Education and Curriculum Advisory Councils on January 9, 2009.  We gave groups of administrators planning documents required by the PA Department of Education such as Strategic Plan, Professional Education Plan, Induction Plan, Technology Plan, Special Education Plan, School Improvement Plan...etc... These plans were from real schools in PA. We asked the teams to count up the number of initiatives listed across the plans and to evaluate the alignment between the plans.Their analysis was telling. While some plans had alignment, others did not. One group counted 87 initiatives within the document. This did not include any grants the district had. With scare resources such as time, money and personnel... can schools realistically achieve 87 goals? What about 50? What about 20? Myself, I think the answer lies closer to three or four. There are plenty of reasons why their is so much misalignment in plans.... multiple authors,…

On Their Way to 100% AYP

For Shohola Elementary School, Delaware Valley School District, a 100% AYP is not an elusive dream, rather it is close to reality with a combined score of 90% proficiency for reading and 93% for math for grades 3 to 6. In addition, Shohola received top scores on PVAAS for both Growth and Achievement for 4th grade reading and math and 6th grade reading and math. Meaning their students are not entering school with exceptional abilities, rather specific curricular and instructional practices are contributing to student success. I sat down with James Purcell, Director of Elementary Education, to learn the secrets of their success.Their story begins with dissatisfaction with their Title I reading program. Their data indicated they were not moving their students. As Mr. Purcell said, "if you can't move the bottom group of students, you can't move your scores."They met with their numerous stakeholders, but it was the Title I reading specialists themselves that suggested th…

Schools Close, But Learning Continues

According to Susan Patrick, President and CEO of International Association for K12 Online Learning, all secondary schools (grades 7-12) in Singapore close for one week each year, but students continue their education through online learning. "Singapore trains all of their teachers to teach online, using a learning management system and digital content.  All secondary school teachers and students use online learning and they have 100% e-learning in their schools every day.  In fact, to ensure all teachers and students are comfortable learning any time, any place, Singapore holds e-learning week once a year.   They physically shut schools down and the continuity of learning continues through the well-developed and continuous use of the e-learning delivery model that is used in the face-to-face classrooms, too" (email communication, January 8, 2008).e-Learning Week provides several opportunities. It forces all teachers to utilize technology tools and to teach online for a week.…