Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reduce class size or develop teachers?

After much discussion and deliberation we will be hiring another teacher to split a large Kindergarten class.  I am a believer in small class sizes, especially in the lower elementary grades.  Many administrators wrestle with the decision of splitting a larger class into multiple sections.

Where does the research stack up to smaller class size?

There is a lot of conflicting research for class size reduction and against it.  There is a study that focused specifically on large reductions from 22 students to 15 students.  In this case, the conclusion was that over the course of four years students in smaller sections achieved higher.  Students were 3 months further ahead than their peers in larger classes.

There is also research that supports smaller class size has an even greater impact on students coming from poverty.  The National School Lunch Program has a recommended class size chart in relation to poverty level.

NSLP Recommended Class Size Targets
0-25% 26-40% 41-50% >50%
K-2 23 22 20 18
3-5 25 24 22 20

North Dakota Century Code recommends students in K-2 not exceed 25 students in a class.

The other side of the argument for class size reduction is that it is not about the size of the classroom, it is about the teacher.  There is research out there that class size does not matter when they are taught by an excellent teacher.  Check this article out: Better teachers, not tinier classrooms, should be the goal.  He does have a point.

"A great teacher can teach 60.  A poor teacher will struggle with 5." - Jay Matthews 

What are your thoughts?  Should administrators focus on putting money on hiring more teachers to reduce class size or focus on providing funding for developing amazing teachers?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vision development


It's that time of the year when many school leaders are busy developing their visions for their school districts. The Leadership Challenge gives some good examples to think about when clarifying your vision.

  1. Leaders appeal to common ideals. 
  2. They connect others to what is most meaningful in the shared vision. 
  3. They lift people to higher levels of motivation and morality, and continuously reinforce they can make a difference in the world.  
  4. Exemplary leaders make others feel proud to be a part of something extraordinary. 
  5. Best leaders understand that it's not their personal view of the future that's important, it's the aspirations of all their constituents that matter most. 
  6. Visions must be compelling and memorable.
  7. Leaders must breath life into visions, they must animate them so that others can experience what it would be like to live and work in that ideal and unique future. 
  8. Leaders generate enthusiasm and excitement for the common vision. 
  9. Above all, leaders must be convinced of the value of the shared vision and share that genuine belief with others.  
  10. They must BELIEVE in what they are saying. 
  11. Constituents will only follow willingly if they sense that the vision is genuine.  
How do you build your vision?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Shared values

I have found that there are too many good books out there to read and not enough time in the day to get them all read.  I have been picking away at The Leadership Challenge for quite a while.  It was recommended by @leadershipfreak as one of the best books to read on leadership.  One of the biggest impacts on me in the book was the segment on shared values.  I am reminded of this in my new position as superintendent.  
"Leaders can't impose their values on organizational members.  Instead they must be proactive in involving people in the process of creating shared values."
It is very easy as a leader to have tunnel vision and not see other perspectives when implementing change.  We often see the end result in our minds and assume other people see it too.  I think about all the initiatives that we force feed teachers and the so called "silver bullet" programs.  In the end we need to involve them more into our decision making to develop trust. (thanks @samfrancera)

"Shared values are the result of listening, appreciating, building concensus, and practicing conflict resolution." 

"Unity is forged, not forced."