The Bar is Rising for All Students: Overcoming Terminal Uniqueness

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Recently, my colleague Dr. Melissa Matarazzo sat down in front of the cameras with Progress and Promise‘s editor-in-chief, Shannon Nickinson, and Quint Studer, founder of Studer Group to talk about education. During their conversation, Quint used the descriptor “terminal uniqueness” to describe thinking which is sometimes a barrier to moving toward a solution in education:

Sometimes we find, whether it be healthcare or education, I call it terminal uniqueness. People come up with a reason why it won’t work… They always have a reason. When I first came to Pensacola we had high employee turnover; they said, “it’s a Navy town, people move in and out.” Yet, we solved that issue… You talk about [school district] size… People say, “well, the district’s too large” …

As leaders and educators and as individuals who work with and coach them, we are challenged to look for similarities and evidence-based leading practices to move us beyond thinking that our school or our district is terminally unique so that we can work towards providing every child with an opportunity to earn a great education. Dr. Matarazzo shares the why and the how of it:

Indeed, [the bar] is rising for all students… and we expect, and indeed, kids deserve to achieve at the highest levels. From my time as a teacher I remember how different every student was in my classroom… The key, I think, across our field is to get consistency around the individualization of education and the differentiation. So, we have a bar and it’s for everyone and it should be ambitious, but we have to understand that every student and every school and every district may have some different means to get there…

Many districts across the country struggle with achievement gaps whether they be racial or economic… different groups of students achieving at different rates. The key there is student engagement… It makes me think of the School District of Menomonee Falls [WI]… The work they’re doing could be replicated in any place.

In that district, every teacher is setting short-cycle goals with their students based off what they need to know by the end of the year. They take that end of the year target and they break the year down; and every couple of weeks, teachers and students after studying, they assess the students progress, they say whose met it and who hasn’t, and then they have to get creative because if you haven’t met it in the traditional curriculum approach it’s really on the teacher and on the teacher’s team to figure out what else will work… It’s about using that data to try to pinpoint what a student needs for the next period of time.

Over the weekend I was talking with a 9-year veteran high school teacher about Marzano’s research which details the importance of having an effective teacher in every classroom. Marzano’s meta-analysis confirms decreased student learning after 2 years among children who have the least ineffective teacher, even if the school is effective (2003). Does this drive a sense of urgency for moving beyond thinking that our classroom, our school, or our school system is terminally unique? It charges us to look for similarities; to look for what’s right and what works, and replicate it. Improving opportunities for all children to learn is not a choice for education leaders, it’s a responsibility.

StuderEducation

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See the entire conversation via YouTube at: http://youtu.be/hhD9JyzVfq4.

From the Progress + Promise website, its mission is to build a sustainable platform for ongoing community education, investigation, discussion and improvement. There are many people, organizations and groups who get it right; who believe in transparency and accountability; who put community service above self. Progress + Promise wants to build a place where to celebrate successes as a community.

Marzano, Robert J. 2003. What Works in Schools: Translating Research Into Action. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Try This Tip: “Just Start” by Dr. Melissa Matarazzo

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I am indebted to Dr. Pat Greco, Superintendent of the School District of Menomonee Falls (WI), for this week’s leadership tip. Earlier this month, Dr. Greco shared the “Just start” mantra with the participants at our What’s Right in Education event in Chicago, IL. This message resonated with the leaders in the room, with lots of Tweets about the topic.

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Why does “Just start” appeal to leaders? What does it mean? To me, it calms our fears that an action plan must be perfect before we begin implementation. It gives us permission to act now, even if we haven’t figured out every step along the path to something better for our organization. It means that a small-scale pilot can be a productive beginning and a way to learn more about how new practices will scale.

I don’t think that the phrase diminishes the value of strategically planning and carefully approaching big changes. Instead, it tempers our tendency to plan and plan until we are paralyzed by the vision of a “perfect plan” that’s always somewhere beyond our reach. It reminds me of the fierce urgency of students’ needs for continuous improvement in our schools and classrooms, which is why planning paralysis can be so harmful.

To better serve our students, parents, employees and communities, sometimes we can and must “Just start.”
StuderEducation

 

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MatarazzoMelissa is an Evidence-Based Leadership coach for Studer Education, located in Pensacola, FL. Previously, she served as the Executive Director for Achievement and Accountability in the Charleston County (SC) School District. She earned her Ed.D. through the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s (HGSE) Urban Superintendents Program, and received both a Masters in School Leadership and a Masters in Education Policy and Management from HGSE. Melissa has also served as a middle school principal in the Peabody (MA) Public Schools, and as an 8th grade teacher and assistant principal in the Derry (NH) Cooperative School District. Melissa has coached aspiring and novice leaders at KIPP Jacksonville, FL; supervised teacher interns at the College of Charleston, SC and instructed graduate students in administration at American International College in Springfield, MA. Follow Dr. Matarazzo on Twitter at @LrngLdr and follow Dr. M’s weekly post “Try This Tip” here.

Thanks to Dr. Greco for her leadership, @dkunsman of Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District for the linked Tweet, and to http://beautyuprising.com for the image in this post. Learn more about the What’s Right in Education conference by visiting the link above to view our presentations and resources.

Interested in learning strategies for setting and sharing clear expectations? Contact us for more information about our coaching for continuous leadership development and systems improvement.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Recognize Great School Leaders!

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Great teachers make great schools. They are the ones who work tirelessly to help students learn, grow, and achieve, the ones who make sure parents are satisfied with their children’s learning experience, the ones who never give up. But what role do great leaders play? Quite simply, they create the conditions that foster and nourish a school full of great teachers. Join us in recognizing a few great leaders from our local school districts.

ECSDLeadersOfYearThorpeMiltonPrincipal

What great school leaders, like Principals Woodward and Thorpe and Assistant Principal Penrose, do to support teachers influences the way teachers connect with their students. Working together, great leaders and great teachers help students learn that they have purpose, can do worthwhile work, and make a difference in the lives of others and the world we live in.

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Learn more about Molino Park Elementary School led by Principal Alice Woodward. Picture Cite: School Website.

Learn more about Bellview Middle School led by Principal Melia Adams and Assistant Principal Janet Penrose. Picture Cite: School Website.

Learn more about Milton High School led by Principal Michael Thorpe. Picture Cite: Advertisement in Pensacola News Journal (p. 12A; August 17, 2014).

Our mission at Studer Education is to help education systems achieve measurable results that produce positive outcomes in student achievement, employee engagement, support services, and financial efficiencies and productivity. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

It’s Back to School time… Every Child, Every Day!

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As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends it’s likely that we have all celebrated the “First Day of School” with the youngsters in our lives. In fact, my colleagues and I enjoyed sharing pictures of some of our kiddos today; check out the smiles all around (Carson and Caitlyn; Lacie; Ms. Wynn’s students; Logan; Oliver and Louise; and Eliza Jane) as they off to day 1:

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FirstDay1Logan  LouiseOliverEliza Jane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the book How Will You Measure Your Life, Christensen and his colleagues think about various aspects of their lives by asking what job they expect something to do for them. The authors translate this idea to children by posing the question – for any something children participate in what do the children want that something to do for them. Their answer:

Children want to feel successful and do so with friends, every day.

Check out the faces of all kids on the first day of school… smiles all around! They are ready to “hire” school to create a learning environment where they feel successful and do so with friends, every day. This is our purpose as teachers and school leaders – to create meaningful classroom and school learning environments that engage students – every child, every day.

StuderEducation

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Photos contributed by colleagues at Studer Education and Studer Group.

Christensen, C. 2012. How Will You Measure Your Life? New York, NY: Harper Collins-Business.

Our mission at Studer Education is to help education systems achieve measurable results that produce positive outcomes in student achievement, employee engagement, support services, and financial efficiencies and productivity. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

“While I know that this first year will be a learning experience for me, I also enter it confident …” TeacherReady® Teacher Kelly Vollmer

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In the most recent edition of Teaching Today, TeacherReady® teacher Kelly Vollmer (October 2012) reflects on her TeacherReady experience leading to professional teaching certification. Below, Ms. Vollmer shares about how one of TeacherReady’s evidence-based teaching strategy, scaffolding instruction, helped to improve student learning and student ownership.

I enrolled in TeacherReady to earn my English 6-12 certification while I was working as an adjunct instructor at a community college, and the lessons I learned through the program immediately improved the quality of my instruction. The most significant change I saw came with the implementation of scaffolding and formative assessment into my lesson planning… I found myself struggling to address the broad range of abilities, interests, and responsibilities (or lack thereof) I was encountering from my students.

How did scaffolding instruction improve student learning?

Teaching them skills in smaller pieces allowed them to focus their attention on developing each smaller step and to build upon them confidently.

By the time my students had to write an essay in my class, they no longer looked at the assignment as an overwhelming task for which they may or may not have the prerequisite skills. Instead, they saw the essay as a series of smaller assignments they could piece together with confidence.

The result?

Implementing scaffolding and formative assessment made a world of a difference, and many of my best students were those who had entered my class with the least developed skill sets.

Ms. Vollmer went on to share that although TeacherReady “definitely helped [her] improve as a college instructor… [she] enrolled in the program… to teach at the secondary level.” Here’s more in her words:

I am thrilled that this fall I will begin my first year as a high school English teacher. As I prepare for the upcoming school year, I am making sure to review important lessons on the first day of school and classroom managements, as I know these will be essential to a successful year. I am also working to develop lesson plans well in advance, and I am excited that, since I will be teaching AP Literature and my mentor teacher taught AP Literature, I will be able to use many of the lesson plans I wrote for TeacherReady assignments for my class. While I know that this first year will be a learning experience for me, I also enter it confident that TeacherReady equipped me the skills I need to make it a success.

TeacherReady® is a state approved online alternative certification program and is the Educator Preparation Institute of the NCATE accredited Professional Education Unit at the University of West Florida. Upon completion of TeacherReady, individuals earn a professional teaching certificate from the State of Florida. Those who can, do teach and TeacherReady® is one option that affords aspiring teachers a path to professional certification.

The teaching profession benefits from experienced professionals choosing to teach. More importantly, students in K-12 benefit. We hope that you connect with Ms. Vollmer’s experience and that teaching becomes an “option” for you and other individuals who may have never considered it before.

TeachReady

 

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Many, many thanks to Ms. Kelly Vollmer for sharing her experience with readers of Teaching Today and What’s Right. We thank her for choosing to teach and broadening the academic experiences of her students.

TeacherReady® is state approved online alternative certification program and is the Educator Preparation Institute of the NCATE accredited Professional Education Unit at the University of West Florida. Upon completion of TeacherReady, individuals earn a professional teaching certificate from the State of Florida. Visit the TeacherReady website or connect with them on Facebook for more information. Ms. Michelle Keller is the program associate at TeacherReady® and assists individuals with questions about the program and application process. Please contact her by email (michelle.keller@studereducation.com) or phone (850.432.7051) for more information about enrolling in TeacherReady®.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

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