Monday, January 30, 2012

Leading change begins with understanding your school's culture and climate.

I have learned this the hard way over the years.  It can be real easy to jump to the next big thing in this profession.  As educators we are often in the search of the silver bullet to cure our ills.  Be wary of implementing change without first understanding your schools culture and climate.  Research shows that a healthy school climate leads to increased student achievement and fewer drop outs.

Scott Norton (2008) says, "In a healthy organization, challenges are addressed, solutions to problems are found, and new methods and innovations are initiated."  (p. 244) Healthy school climates allow for collaboration and the sharing of ideas.  In these schools, leaders do not discourage disagreement they encourage it.  Dealing with conflict and encouraging it leads to innovation.

"Conflict and controversy can be helpful in leading to preferred solutions." - Scott Norton (2008)

According to Norton (2008) three major factors influence climate in schools.

  1. Leadership 
  2. Collegiality of the faculty 
  3. Student discipline 
So before you begin implementing change, take the first steps and get to know your schools culture and climate.

Friday, January 20, 2012

"Power over" leaders vs. "Power with" leaders

I have been catching up on some readings for my graduate work, and came across this interesting comparison.  

Are you a "power over" leader or a "power with" leader? 

'Power over' leaders, enjoy being in charge and having power over the people within their organization.  They cannot relinquish control, and care very little about what their subordinates have to say.  These authoritarian organizations can be productive, but their work climate is very toxic.  Very little innovation takes place, and more than likely there is a large amount of turnover.  

'Power with' leaders, view people as an asset and use them to further their vision.  This type of leader is collaborative by nature, seeks out his followers for help in decision making.  'Power with' leaders see the importance of empowering others and view relationships as key to the success of the organization.  

Bill Burkhead had a great tweet the other day that relates well to this post.  He tweeted, "The best principals are not heroes; they are hero makers." Roland Barth 

As leaders we should be in the shadows, allowing others to take credit for the success of the organization.  

What type of a leader are you?  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teacher led PD

Our staff at VHS spent the day learning from each other on Monday for a full day in-service.  How often do we listen to our teachers and ask them what they want to do for professional development?  I am definitely guilty of this in the past.  It is so easy to send the staff to a massive PD opportunity than to put something together that is actually worthwhile for EVERYONE.  We all have experts on staff, empower them and have them present on something that they would like to try or other staff would like to know about.

In the past we have spent the day at a full day in-service where we cram 300-400 teachers into a gym and learn about the same concept.  Most of the time the concept doesn't apply to half of them.  Don't get me wrong I believe these full day in-services can be good, but often they are not.

So spend some time talking to your teachers the next time you and your administrative staff plan a PD day.  Let loose of the control.  It might be the best professional development they have ever received!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kiva Loans and incorporating them into your lessons.

@Stephaniesevign my FACS Teacher had a great idea today to incorporate Kiva Loans into a lesson. Her next unit is on Latin America.  She plans to have a bake sale and will create Latin American baked goods and use the profit for KIVA loans. Students would decide who to give the loans to in Latin America.

Some background on KIVA loans:

KIVA disperses loans throughout the world, typically in third world countries.  People that are seeking money for loans may only ask to borrow a few hundred dollars.  Most of them are business people that are trying to make it in these underdeveloped countries.  Not only do students learn about loans, but they also learn about giving back to less fortunate in other countries.  KIVA allows you to track payments and hear the personal story of these people.  This loan agency is non-profit and their clients repay 98% of the money borrowed.  You can start by giving $25 at a time.

I am excited to see how this will turn out.  I think it will create more of a global awareness for these students.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Evaluation and test scores

Over the next few months a committee in North Dakota will decide whether or not they will apply for the NCLB waiver.  This will prevent further punishment from the federal government and allow states to adjust the bar of accountability.

Part of the requirement of the waiver is to use testing results in teacher, and principal evaluations.  When will we realize that punishment does not motivate people?  I worry about our state hastily throwing something together and not spending the time to look it over thoroughly to get it done by the deadline.  All in order to comply with a broken law.  We are no different than other states, around 50% of our schools did not make AYP this past year.  

This type of accountability will only continue to hinder our schools, and our students.  Here is what is happening in Tennessee where they are using state test scores in teacher evaluations.  Many teachers and administrators in Tennessee are calling the evaluation system a "disaster."  

Will this type of accountability change our schools for the better?  Or better yet, prepare our students for their future?

Join us tonight 1/11/2012 @ 8:00PM CST to discuss what other highly successful educational systems are doing in other countries.  I can guarantee you they are not creating a system of punishment for educators.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ten things we can learn from high performing education systems in other countries.

We need to accept the fact and admit to ourselves that our educational system is failing.  I know it is tough as an American to do this, but it is essential to fixing it for the better.  It is no secret we are falling behind other countries in education.  We need to look at their successes and learn from them.

According to PISA (2009), we are average in Math, Science, and Reading.  Reforming education needs to be on the forefront if we are to remain competitive globally.  According Mark Tucker, editor of Surpassing Shanghai, "We are in a period of slow decline."  After reading most of the book, I have put together a top ten list of items I found to to be the most important.

Ten things we can learn from high performing educational systems:
  1. High performing systems pay their first year teacher the equivalent of a beginning engineering salary. 
  2. High performing systems have rigorous teacher preparatory programs (Ex. Finland requires master degrees for all teachers, they include 2-3 years of practical training in schools)
  3. High performing systems view teachers with great respect, and the top quarter of students become teachers. (Ex. Finland's most popular profession is teaching)
  4. High performing systems view classrooms as learner-centered (Ex. When students enter grades 10-12 they are expected to take charge of their own learning)
  5. High performing systems focus on educating the whole student. 
  6. High performing systems have moved away from rote learning (Ex. Shanghai focuses on 21st century skills like, communication, teamwork, problem solving and includes many real life experiences)
  7. High performing countries have a national curriculum, but are given autonomy over how they teach the material.  (Ex. Finland's curriculum is seen more as a framework) 
  8. High performing systems seldom use standardized testing.  (Ex. Finland test only in grades 6 and 9, all other assessments are established by the master teacher.)
  9. In high performing systems, education is the corner stone of their culture.  
  10. High performing systems work closely with teachers in developing policy, the education system is run by the educators themselves or sought for advice.
We are going the wrong direction in terms of accountability.  We need to make the profession respectable again.  Merit pay and punishment will not change and motivate people.  (If you believe "if then" rewards will motivate then you need to read Drive

We need the best of the best to go into teaching to turn this around.  For that to happen teacher pay and the rigor of teacher prep programs needs to increase substantially.   Arizona State University seems to be going the right direction in beginning their innovative teacher prep program.  

If you haven't had a chance to watch this video, please take some time to do so.  The authors of Surpassing Shanghai discuss their book.  

We can learn from these countries, but we have to be open to new ideas that challenge the status quo.