Thursday, July 24, 2014

What We Can Learn From the Countries With Schools That Outperform Ours

Do we have the best public education system in the world?

Short answer, “No.” 

Long answer, “Its Complicated.” 

In the U.S. we are pursuing the seemingly competing goals of: 

1. Teach for equity; and 
2. Teach for excellence. 

We do neither the best, but in combination...

I have to admit the above statement stings, a lot.  I think we should and can be the best at both.  But we won’t get there following the path we are currently on.  We will have to chart a new path. A path defined by embracing more of the things that work and letting go of the practices driven by opinion and a skewed world-view.  Now charting a new path sounds like macro-level change, beyond the scope and resources of the rank and file teacher, principal and even superintendent.  But I don’t believe that is the case.  I truly believe that a handful of focused and motivated individuals can team together and change a system.  This can be the case in our profession.  You and your team can be the trailblazers.

In preparation of this trailblazing endeavor, let’s review what we have learned from the schools in countries that regularly outperform us.      

1. Have students spend more time engaged in academic activities.
            Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator, District Administrator  

2. A coaching relationship with students is more productive than a cheerleading relationship.
Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator

3. Improve the quality of teaching candidates.
            Influencing Agents: Campus Administrator, District Administrator  

4. Train teachers like their job is important.
Influencing Agents: Campus Administrator, District Administrator
 
5. Track students less and when you do track students, do so much later in their academic careers.
            Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator, District Administrator  

6. Fund schools based on the needs of the students.
            Influencing Agents: District Administrator, Voter  

7. Have common standards but don’t have too many of them.
Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator, District Administrator, Voter

Compare your campus improvement plan to the seven practices listed above.  If you plan doesn’t address at least three of the practices on the list, I would suggest that you re-work your plan.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Master Schedule Priorities

At LYS we get a lot of questions concerning the building of Master Schedules.  Which is to expected when you are the home of secondary scheduling gurus E. Don Brown and Sherilynn Cotten and elementary scheduling gurus Lesa Cain and Barbara Fine.  Regardless the operational parameters, they can build you the best possible schedule for meeting student needs.

If only it was that easy.  You see at most schools the master schedule is not about students.  In order of priority, here is what drives the building of a master schedule at the typical school:

“A” priority - Ease of creating schedule
“A” priority - Make the adults happy
“A” priority - Protect a pet project
“A” priority - Solve paper problems (trailer course opportunity)
“A” priority - Don’t rock the boat
“A” priority - Do what we have always done
“D” priority - Meet student needs

Compare that to the campus that consistently outperforms its peers (the working definition of a great school).  The Great School master scheduling priorities:

“A” priority - Meet student needs
“B” priority - Adequate time to teach
“B” priority - Adequate time to plan (with team)
“C” priority - Reduce transition events
“C” priority - Build expertise
“D” priority - Minimize transition time
“Z” priority - Ease of creating schedule
“Z” priority - Make adults happy

What priorities drive your master schedule?

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Reader Writes... The Astronomical Cost of Comp Time - Part 1

In response to the 6/19/2014 post, “The Astronomical Cost of Comp Time,” a LYS C/I Director writes:

SC,

I have to reply to your comp day example.  We use comp days to compensate staff for attending professional development in our district. This was the practice in the previous district I worked in as well. However, the comp days are designated on our calendar already.  So, instead of professional development during the year when teachers are busy and not focused, we have personalized professional development occur in the summer prior to the next year of instruction.

So, the cost is nothing for us except for the summer professional development costs.  The days they are off students are not in attendance and therefore instructional time isn't lost.

Just another scenario for your comp day time since you note it as the worst option.  I think in the scenario you provide it is possible, but in our comp time scenario, I disagree with it being the worst option.

SC Response
First, you and the district are to be commended for working to find a way to compensate staff for their off contract time spent on furthering the district’s mission.

And I appreciate that the days that teachers can use the comp time is predetermined by district calendar.  I too, did the same thing when I was in your position.  Teachers who attended extra summer training were able to take the entire Thanksgiving Week off, instead of just the last three days.

Seemingly a Win/Win.  But I wouldn’t do it now.  Now I would pay my teacher’s a stipend for off contract Summer Training and use the two days before Thanksgiving for on-going training, student staffings, team instructional planning and the like.  Are teachers distracted at that time of the year? Yes.  But as professionals, I would expect that given a meaningful task or activity the days could still be productive.

I just know that we talk team, we talk collaboration, and we talk on-going training.  But when we have opportunities to put that talk into practice, we have a lot of justifications for it just being talk.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Monday, July 21, 2014

Top LYS Tweets From the Week of July 13, 2014

A number of you in the LYS Nation are now Twitter users.  If you haven’t done so yet, we want you to join us.  To let you see what you are missing, here are the Top 10 LYS Tweets from the week of July 13, 2014.

1. Congratulations to LYSer, Mike Metz! He is the new Principal at Magnolia Junior High School!! Who will be next? (By @LYSNation)

2. Congratulations to LYSer, Dr. Chris Everett! He is the new Director of Administrative Services at ESC 11!! Who will be next? (By @LYSNation)

3. Congratulations to LYSer, Pamela Chatham! She is the new Principal at Tomball Elementary!! Who will be next? (By @LYSNation)

4. Congratulations to LYSer, Rita Pintavalle! She is the new District Principal for Discipline & Discretionary Grants in Kennedale! Who's next? (By @LYSNation)

5. The fact that talented people are willing to teach not because of the pay but in spite of it is no excuse to let the problem go unaddressed. (By @tgrierhisd)

6. Princeton University study finds students more likely to learn by taking handwritten notes. (By @willrich45)

7. No study shows that teachers work better in isolation. Good enough isn't good enough anymore!! (By @8Amber8)

8. Today's Quote:  "In the current economy, the Big Three for Success are (1) education, (2) information, and (3) motivation." (By @DrRichAllen)

9. Our values are described better by our calendars than by our mouths. (By @josephgrenny)

10. More 15-year-olds have their own Smartphone than live with their own father! (By @tgrierhisd)

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lesa Cain Writes... Summer Thinking for School Leaders

The following is a letter that LYS Coach, Lesa Cain, recently shared with the Principals she works with.

As you go about your summer activities, hopefully resting, traveling and generally rejuvenating yourself after the year, I challenge you to think about the year ahead and to be prepared to communicate the following with anyone who will listen, especially your staff.

1. Simon Sinek says that the cost of leadership is self-interest.  He explains that as a leader there are certain perks that everyone accepts: salary, parking place, how people treat you in the position.  Those and many other “perks” come at a price – that you will absolutely without hesitation put yourself in the face of any issue FIRST – that you will never throw your people under the bus and that your needs come LAST after everyone else’s.

With this in mind – how are you demonstrating and modeling this on a daily basis?  At a staff luncheon, will you serve everyone the food and you eat last?  Are you making eye contact with every staff member every day?

2. We all know that having a system in place is critical to the success of an organization.  It is easy to communicate what we will do and how we will do it – that is very appealing to the conscious part of the brain.  The harder and even more critical piece is the WHY – why are we doing what we do?  That appeals to our limbic system – the emotional, gut level part of our brain and there will be NO positive change until emotions are activated. People buy the why, not the what.

Can you verbalize why you make the decisions you make?  Work on that this summer and TELL your staff the why at the very first staff meeting in August and then repeat it over and over and over and over and over...

3. Patience as a leader is under-valued.  I’m not talking about moving slowly – rather your “patience” when the following happens (borrowed from Amber Teamann’s blog - Technically Yours, Teamann):

...When you think everyone understood what you said, but find out some didn’t.
...When you figure out people can’t read your intentions, just your actions
...When THAT student is sent to you again.
...When you wish “So & So” would have handled that differently.
...When you wish YOU had handled that differently.
...When you see things moving slower than you think they should be going.
...When you realize that you can’t MAKE people change, but only inspire them to want too.

Patience can be the difference between being respected and being ignored. Impatient leaders lose the ability to bring people on board. Patience makes you pause, makes you reflect, makes you not so quick to jump. Change requires patience. Communication requires patience. Collaboration requires patience. Patience allows others to share, others to be heard, and you to think. 

4. Each of you ran a marathon last year and all of you finished!  As you prepare to run again, what is on your NOT To-do list?  What did you spend time and precious energy doing last year that DID NOT result in what you intended.  Identify at least 3 of those things and STOP doing them!  There is no reason to continue to add and add without subtracting. Especially when you know the results will not be you want. 

5. Stress occurs when human beings are isolated and lonely.  Schools can be very isolating – people surround us, but we come to work and close the door, and now we e-mail more than we talk.  The more isolated a person becomes, the more stress they feel.  What can you do to create a community on your campus?  I’m not talking about a friendly lounge, but a real community where all members know WHY they do what they do and a common belief in the WHY.  I’ll give you a hint on where to start. Who are you as a leader and what can your staff expect from you?  Identify 3 things and TELL them.  The caveat here is that you must be honest – if you say one thing and do another, you might lead, but no one will follow.

Have a great summer and work to prepare for an even greater year!  I would love to hear what you want to work on and am here to help in any way!

L.C.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: Kentucky Association of School Administrators Leadership Institute; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Is a Coding Class Important

I recently read a rhetorical tweet that asked, “Is a coding class important?”

For a throw away question, I got me thinking. And I believe the answer is,  "A Nuanced Yes."

If you ask me if coding is more important than taking a Spanish or Chinese language course, I will answer, “For most students, No.”

If you ask me if coding is more important than taking a Physics or Calculus course, I will answer, “For most students, No.”

And I don’t believe that the coding language in use now, will be the one used 20 years from now.  Who out there is still coding in BASIC?  That was an “advanced” class that I took.  I should call my old high school and ask for those 300+ hours back. 

But there is huge value in courses that seemingly have little value.  Instead of taking typing in high school, I took Calculus (the valuable course).  Big mistake.  Surprisingly, I don’t have to calculate the area under a curve that often in my professional and personal life. Yet I do type (poorly) everyday. 

I participated in UIL Academic Contests as a member of the Calculator and Number Sense teams.  We even had a class period devoted to practice.  Again skills I don’t use a lot right now, specifically.  But in terms of training my mind to move quickly, intuitively, with confidence, I do that, daily.

Which brings me back to the question, “Is a coding class important?” 

My final answer is, “Yes, for some students, but not for the reasons we believe.”

So by all means, if you can offer a coding course, do so.  But I’m still not buying into the hype that coding is the 5th Core.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: Kentucky Association of School Administrators Leadership Institute; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The PowerWalkers

If you are an educator who no longer has instructional responsibilities (that means everyone who is no longer a classroom teacher) the most important thing you can do to support teachers is to observe instruction, every day.  You see in most schools and most school systems, actual instruction is truly a mystery.  Teachers don’t observe instruction, because they are too busy delivering instruction.  And non-teachers don’t observe instruction, because they are too busy doing stuff and things.  Which means that a true practitioner’s understanding of what works, what doesn’t and the why’s in both instances is missing.  And this missing understanding has a negative impact on every facet of teaching, learning and school operations. 

But YOU can be the vehicle and vessel of deeper instructional understanding and support on your campus.  All you have to do is start visiting classrooms with purpose and reflection, at high volume.  And by high volume I mean at least 500 observations next year.  This is not an impossible task. It is not a difficult talk.  It is, however, a disciplined task.  It requires you to visit 3 to 5 classrooms a day, every day.  And to encourage you in this endeavor and to celebrate the commitment of those already engaged in this process I proudly present the 2013/2014 PowerWalkers.  These are the LYSers that completed at least 500 PowerWalks.  

The PowerWalkers – Class of 2013/2014 (Thirty-four Members)

The 900 Club (One Member)
Helen Smith – Bell’s Hill ES – 958

The 800 Club (Three Members)
Bevil Cohn – Bell’s Hill ES – 852
Beau Sanchez – Chavez MS – 807
Paula Gifford – Carver MS – 802

The 700 Club (Four Members)
Marti Turner – Marlin ES – 738
Stephanie Japort – Bell’s Hill ES – 730
Jackie Casey – Hutto HS – 710
Amanda Martinez – Bell’s Hill ES – 706

The 600 Club (Eight Members)
Jeff Kreiger – Kennedale HS – 694
Glenna Jenkins – Bell’s Hill ES – 691
Keith Hannah – Tennyson MS – 688
Sean Cain – LYS – 679
Patti Goforth – Chavez MS – 676
Craig Cox – Chavez MS – 637
Gay Lynn Holt – Dublin ES – 618
Susan Willert – Marlin MS – 605

The 500 Club (Eighteen Members)
Rhonda Parker – Dean Highland ES – 598
Bill Shepard – University HS – 598
Jim Davis – LYS - 594
Troy Tinney – University HS – 586
Debi Christensen – San Marcos Treatment Center – 581
John Barbagallo – Fairdale HS – 568
Lindsey Helton – Crestview ES – 550
Tamika Washington – Marlin ES – 546
Yvonne Cox – Ray ES – 539
Cheryl Burris – JH Hines ES – 537
Van LeJeune – Louise Schools – 533
Phillip Perry – Carver MS – 526
Jacob Donnell – Tennyson MS – 522
Shala Williams – Crestview ES – 519
Dara Delony – Brook Ave ES – 515
Daren Childs – Kennedale HS – 513
Brandi Thompson – Kennedale HS – 511
Sara Williams – Dean Highland ES – 507

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: Kentucky Association of School Administrators Leadership Institute; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook