Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Reader Writes... Advice for a First Year Principal - Part 4


SC,

I am probably wasting my time, but I am going to respond to this anyway.

Teachers have been given an impossible task and then they are blamed when they get frustrated or angry because of it.

Let’s start with a couple of places where both the administrator and the policy (in this case the mission statement) are being dishonest. You start by saying teachers do not believe in the mission and your first statement of the mission is that "all students can learn." Not only is this statement true, every educator believes it or they would not be educators in the first place. No, the mission statement itself is false because the standard for measurement is NOT whether all children can learn, but whether all children can learn up to a standard, and that standard seems to be set at the college entrance level.

You said it yourself, not every child can go to college.

Then you come up with a ridiculous example that has no relationship to the morale problem. A better example would be a doctor with limited time and resources, asking them to focus on a patient who is dying (soon, not eventually) while ignoring a large group of patients who can be helped.

This exposes the fundamental lie of a mission statement like "all children can learn." What it really means is that teachers are required (evaluated) to focus on those students who are at risk of failure while ignoring those who have passed but can achieve a much higher (even excellent) level.

This is like telling the basketball coach you are not going to be evaluated based on how well the team does (wins and losses) but on how many kids make the team. The goal is every kid can be a basketball player and if a kid does not make the team it is the coach’s fault.

This is where you are asking teachers to do the impossible. No wonder you have a morale problem.

SC Response
First, I don’t think that you wasted your time with your response and I appreciate the dialogue.

Second, I do agree that teachers undertake a Herculean task everyday. They are expected to:

1. Educate every student to a previously unheard of level

2. Manage every ill that our communities refuse to provide services for
  
3. Keep everyone safe

4. Do the above with resources that are cut annually

5. Smile when unappreciative politicians and fringe elements kick them in the teeth.

I know that the author of the original post also understands this, because we have discussed it at length.

What I took from the post was the danger to both students and teachers when we allow our beliefs to erode.  And we are at risk for this occurring when the external factors impacting education are the most daunting.  Take the teacher working in the most impoverished neighborhood.  This teacher knows that her students face unimaginable (for her) hardship everyday.  Without aggressive, measurable performance targets, it is easy for this teacher to equate making her students comfortable and happy to classroom success.  But a comfortable, happy, inadequately educated childhood leads to a stressful, comfortless adulthood.  That is why the teacher at the Title One campus has to be a tad more clinical and a tad more focused than the non-Title One campus teacher.  Bottom line, the stakes are higher.  And the Title One campus teacher who cannot deal with this (for any number of legitimate reasons) cannot be considered an asset to the campus.

I would argue that the accountability systems in place across the country put an undue burden on the teachers of academically fragile students while (comparatively speaking) placing a much lighter performance burden on the teachers of non-fragile learners. This very fact runs counter to the argument that accountability is forcing teachers to ignore the needs of higher performing students.  Actually, what accountability has shown us is that the typical campus underserves all of its students.  You don’t have to believe me; just look at any instructional practice observation data.  For 20 years our profession has known the difference between higher-yield and lower-yield instructional practices, we just don’t implement the higher-yield practices, at scale, at adequate frequency.  Which brings me to this.  Yes, the external factors that impact our schools, classrooms and students can seem insurmountable.  But when we (educators) have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to implementation of best practice, we still have hope. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.     

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: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; 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, April 15, 2014

Your After STAAR Plan

I have talked extensively about how the schools that consistently outperform their peers make better use of time.  The tempo of these peer-beating schools is always a notch or two above the norm, and nowhere is this more evident than at the end of the year.  When everyone else is winding down, these campuses are still pushing forward.  If your campus is going to join these ranks, you need to have a “May Plan,” or in Texas, an “After STAAR Plan.”  Here is what my “After STAAR Plan” would look like:

The day after the STAAR test for a given course, I would begin teaching the first unit of the next course.  For example, the day after my 7th graders take the 7th grade math STAAR, we begin day one of 8th grade math and teach at full speed until the last day of school. At the beginning of the next year, I start teaching day one of 8th grade math on day one of school.  No need for review or easing into the subject because my students are already familiar with the material.  Due to that familiarity, all of my students will have better grades on their initial assignments sowing the seeds of confidence and optimism.

Now imagine the long-term effect of implementing this plan on your campus as opposed to 4 week slow down process that is all too typical in May.  So what is 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: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; 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, April 14, 2014

Top LYS Tweets From the Week of April 6, 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 April 6, 2014.

1. Congratulations to LYS Coach and Icon, Barbara Fine! She was just named as one of the 75 most influential people for Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District during its 75-year history! (By @LYSNation)

2. That which doesn't kill you, doesn't kill you. Get back up and try again. (By @JohnMorris419)

3. Strong leadership requires transparent communication.  Failure to have it leaves your followers to create information in the vacuum. (By @blitzkrieg607)

4. Impossible isn't a fact, it's an opinion. (By @CoachKWisdom)

5. The most unfair school accountability system is the one that treats the at-risk and the advantaged the same. (By @LYSNation)

6. The number one purpose of open house night is to build relationships. It is not about rules, homework, or permission slips. (By @ToddWhitaker)

7. "Winging it" should not be your plan, your backup plan, or your emergency plan. (By @TinneyTroy)

8. Take away from Final Four so far: Don't let your rank determine your destiny. Work hard and you may end up #1. (By @christystarrett)

9. The world of a teacher in a tested subject vs. a non-tested subject is slightly different this time of year. (By @BluntEducator)

10. Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement. (By @CoachKWisdom)

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: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Failure of Merit Pay Plans and a Simple Fix

I enjoy reviewing all the misguided merit pay plans that are presented as THE answer to either improved campus performance and/or teacher motivation.  The research is fairly clear; on the whole, merit pay plans are ineffective for a number of reasons.  Mostly due to the fact that far too many school performance issues are the result of leadership (and leadership failure), and a merit pay system is not leadership. Meaning that the merit pay plan is attempting to address a symptom of the problem, not the problem.  That being said, for those who want to use performance-based salary augmentation to address school performance issues may find the following useful.

First, recognize that working at a significantly more at-risk campus within a district should mean more money for the instructional personnel of the campus in question, either in base salary or as a stipend. For everyone who says that this is not “fair,” try this experiment.  Give every staff member at the non at-risk campuses the opportunity to transfer to the targeted at-risk campuses, no questions asked.  When next to no one takes you up on the offer you will have proof positive that regardless what their lips are saying, by their actions your staff admit that the jobs at non at-risk and at-risk campuses are not equal.  And providing the same pay for unequal work is patently unfair.

Second, reward team performance over individual performance.  This is where leadership has to look at the big picture and admit to what they really want to pay for and let the whiners just whine.  Here’s what I mean.  99% of the merit pay programs pay for individual performance out of one pool of money.  The more people who meet the given performance standard, the less money per person.  The fewer people who meet the standard, the more money per person. And this is how your ambitious and/or smart people can easily game the system (and they will).  

Under the system I just described, if I figure out a way to ensure that my students perform at a higher level, the most illogical thing I could do is share that knowledge with any of my co-workers.  To do so would take real dollars out of my pocket. Hundreds to thousands of dollars.  The merit pay “reform” has now created a very real structural roadblock to increasing staff capacity and decreasing staff isolation.  When you pit self-interest over community interest, self-interest always wins (even with educators).  If you choose not to believe this fundamental truth of human nature, re-read Hamilton, Madison and Jay. Over and over I observe lots of bright people make this very predictable mistake.

So what’s the answer? Team based incentives.  If the team is successful, the team shares in the reward.  If the team isn’t successful, no one gets the reward.  In this system, the district is actually aligning self-interest and community interest and here is how this is done. If I figure out a way to ensure that my students perform at a higher level, the most illogical thing I could do is to not share that knowledge with all of my co-workers.  To not do so would take real dollars out of my pocket, because if the team doesn’t perform, I get nothing extra.  We want to reward innovation that is scalable.  Proof of scalability is if my co-workers can replicate my success.

Now I understand that some employees on a campus have a more direct role in the overall success of the campus than others.  But remember, a staff is a team and every person on a team has some impact on the overall success or failure of the team.  An equitable way to solve this problem is to assign shares to team members based on the expected contribution of their overall role.  Here is an example:

Total Campus Performance Bonus Pool: $25,000

Staff Role
Share
Number of Staff in Role
Total Shares
Individual Performance Bonus Payout
Teacher – State Tested Course; Tested Grade
1 share
20
20
$574.71
Teacher – State Tested Course; Non-tested Grade
.75 share
15
11.25
$431.03
Teacher – Non-tested course
.5 share
12
6
$287.36
Instructional Aide
.25 share
4
1
$143.68





Principal
.75 share
1
.75
431.03
Assistant Principal / Dean / Instructional Coach
.5 share
3
1.5
$287.26
All other professional support staff
.4 share
3
1.2
$229.88
Non-professional office, custodial and cafeteria staff
.15 share
12
1.8
$86.21
Totals

70
43.5
$25,000.00

The math is simple, if the campus meets its overall performance goal, everyone receives his or her share of the performance bonus. If the campus misses its overall performance goal, no one receives a performance bonus.  Think of it this way, the worst player on the winning team still won.  And the best player on the losing team still lost.  Running a good school is a team sport.

The last thing for leadership to consider is the setting of campus performance goals.  Just note that in most cases THE GOALS FOR CAMPUSES WILL NOT BE THE SAME.  Campuses serve different client bases, hence the need for different performance goals.  Whereas the campus that serves a large population of poor, recent immigrant students may have the goal of meeting state standards, the goal of the semi-selective STEM magnet campus may very well focus on increasing the number of Commended performing students.  Always keep in mind the one fact that eludes most pro-accountability advocates; the most unfair system is the system that treats the at-risk and the advantaged the same.

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: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; 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, April 10, 2014

A Reader Shares... What I Know, What We Do

A LYS Principal shares the following:

LYS Nation,

In 2009, I was working in a district that brought in Sean Cain to help us get out of the ditch.  He and the LYS Coaches trained the administrators to focus on the implementation of The Foundation Trinity and teachers on the implementation of The Fundamental 5.  And it worked.  I have since left that district and I am now a principal in a different state. I have spread these instructional strategies to my campus and staff. 

In my new state, teacher evaluation is not a priority, which gives me a lot of latitude in what I choose to do.  What I have done is taken elements of the PDAS and emphasized Fundamental 5 practices.  Then I use PowerWalks to cue and coach those practices. When it time for summative conferences we discuss the following:

1. Provide evidence that your lessons are "framed"?

2. Provide examples of how you recognized and reinforced desired academic and / or classroom behavior?

3. How do you implement frequent small group purposeful talk about the learning?

4. What percentage of time do you work in Power Zone? What does this look like?

5. How do you incorporate writing critically into your lessons? 

6. How do you manage instructional rigor?

7. How did you formatively assess student understanding and how does impact your instructional decisions?

We are working to avoid complications and keep it simple.

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: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; 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, April 9, 2014

Blog and E-mail: A Review of Functions

Blog Post: Blog and E-mail: A review of functions
Some of you have seen a version of this post before, but since I wrote it, we have added approximately 120 new members to the LYS Nation blog roll.  Therefore, I thought a refresher might be in order.  The following is my attempt to explain the features that are embedded in the blog site and the e-mail updates.

Note: This section relates to the blog site (not the e-mail updates).

On the left side of the page, E-Mail Updates: If you enter your e-mail address in the subscribe box, you will get a daily e-mail update of all the postings within the last 24 hours, after you respond to the confirmation e-mail (a spam preventative).

On the left side of the page, under the E-Mail Updates area:  UpTweet – If you like a post, click UpTweet and it takes you to your twitter account so you can post a link on your timeline.

On the left side of the page, under the UpTweet area:  Lead Your School Resources and Tools - Links to the Lead Your School Principal Search page; Lead Your School campus support site; PowerWalks site; Amazon.com page for “The Fundamental Five: The Formula for Quality Instruction”; Amazon.com page for “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale”; and the Amazon.com page for “Jump Start Your School”.

On the left side of the page, under the Lead Your School Resources and Tools area: Current School News - Click on any of the four key words and the most current news stories that relate to that key word will be displayed.

On the left side of the page, under the Current School News area: Popular Posts – Shows the three most viewed blog posts from the last thirty days.

On the left side of the page, under the Popular Posts area: RSS Subscriptions

On the left side of the page, under RSS Feeds:  RSS Followers

At the bottom of the blog page, under the last post of the week: Blog Archives - Click on a week, and all the posts from that week will be displayed.

Note: This section relates to the actual posts (on the blog site).
If you click on a post title, it will pull up a comment box at the end of the post. Just type in your comment and click the "post comment" button.

At the bottom of each post, click "comment" and you can leave a comment or read comments others have left. However, the majority of the comments, I post under the heading, "A Reader Writes."

At the bottom of each post, click the envelope if you want to e-mail that post to another person.

At the bottom of each post, if you click a "Label" word, it will pull up all the other posts that have the same label words.

At the bottom of the post, there are reaction boxes. You get to rate the post.

Note: This section relates to the E-mail updates.

If you click on "Lead Your School" it will take you to the blog site.

If you click on a post title, it will take you to the post and there will be a comment box at the bottom of the screen. Just type in your comment and click the "post comment" button.

Note: This section relates to Reader Comments.

This is how all comments are handled:

Your comments, opinions and question are welcomed and encouraged.  Keep them coming.

All comments opinions and questions are reviewed by me.

Comments, opinions and questions, where it is asked that the information not be shared, receive a private response from me.

One liners and comments that do not require a response are just posted as a comment.

Comments, opinions and questions of merit are posted as, “A Reader Writes…”  They are posted in a first come, first serve fashion.  So sometimes it takes a while to get to yours.

I don’t know if it is proper blog etiquette or not, but I spell and grammar check comments before I post them.

Comments are handled with a modified FERPA procedure.  I will and do mask the identities of some writers, their schools and their districts.  I do this to protect the writer and who or what they are writing about.

Post format.

Text in italics is the comment of the reader.

Your turn… This is your invitation to weigh in and join the conversation.

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: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; 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, April 8, 2014

Top LYS Tweets From the Week of March 30, 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 March 30, 2014.

1. Education's False Mission: Sort students into groups of college material, not college material, and ditch diggers at the earliest age possible. (By @LYSNation)

2. The Mission of the Educator: Prepare our students for the greatest range of positive outcomes. (By @LYSNation)

3. Being principal of a school is more than being principal at school. It is also being the principal while at the grocery, restaurant, church... (By @BestJobinPlatte)

4. What gets measured is what gets done on a campus. This is the power in PowerWalks. Success does not happen by accident. (By @blitzkrieg607)

5. Our Schools Suffer While Texans Brag About Low Taxes (By @texasisd)

6. "Favorites" in competition quit more often than underdogs. Rather than losing, they prefer to take themselves out. (By @anniemurphypaul)

7. Write down short, "30 second reviews" after learning new stuff to really cement it in your memory. (By @lifehacker)

8. Avoiding best instructional practice increases your stress level and decreases the opportunities of your students. (By @LYSNation)

9. Schools should have charging stations like airports and other large waiting areas. It's time. (By @Dwight_Carter)

10. The Fundamental 5 (Cain & Laird) just shot past 54,000 copies sold! Thank you, LYS Nation!! (By @LYSNation)

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: TASSP Summer Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas ASCD Summer Conference; ESC 14 Sumer Conference (Keynote Presentation); ESC 11 Summer Conference (Keynote Presentation); NEASP National Conference; The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook