Category Archives: Education Reform

Data use is world wide

It’s great to see practices you believe in being used in far off areas. Case in point: Wales, England. Sandfield Comprehensive School in southern Wales serves students in a high poverty area and was under threat of being closed because of it’s performance. While many practices were implemented to address the needs of the students, one of the key strategies was the use of data. Large swaths of  data was generated and viewable by relevant staff in real time. Attendance, assessment, disciplinary action, all in real time and meaningful to front line and relevant support staff. Over time, as teachers and staff entered more data about each students, the data became richer and deeper providing a comprehensive view of each student. Accordingly over time, this provided for more informed decision making when it came time to address the needs of students from an individual or system wide basis. Because this database is locally constructed and maintained it can also be adjusted to meet the needs of the entire system. For more information about how this school made the turn around go to


Leadership matters in school improvement

The November/December 2011 Leadership magazine article “Focus on Success” emphasizes many of the finding from my own research upon high performing schools. For example, a collaborative culture (distributed leadership) is important for schools. Working together in a collaborative manner keeps groups from believing that school improvement is the work of “someone else” . School improvement is everyone’s work. The ability to work together for a common goal is vital to increasing student achievement.

A sense of urgency vs a sense of crisis?

Do you work in a culture with a sense of urgency or a sense of crisis? What is the difference? Jim Collins, author of

    Good to Great

, briefly describes the negative impact of working with a sense of crisis. In a sense of crisis, organizations run from one solution to the next wildly grasping at “silver bullets” to “save” the organization. A sense of crisis focuses upon avoiding impending doom. Over time this creates cynicism rather than purpose of action. A sense of urgency emphasizes the need to get things done to be the best.

The Answer to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in teaching: Virtual Coaching

ASCD had a thought provoking article on virtual coaching. The idea is basically that the coach would use technology do “drop in” to a classroom to conduct classroom observations. It suggest the following equipment for teachers a) wide angle webcam b)bluetooth adapter c) bluetooth headset and for the coach a)external HD b)headset with microphone c) webcam and microphone. The idea being that the teacher could recieve real time feedback as the coach watches the classroom in action. I like this idea because it addresses one of the basic problems with current classroom observations i.e., that the observer can often change the behavior of the classroom by the simple fact of being in the room. With a Virtual Coach the drops in via a webcam the visit becomes truly unobtrusive. I think this would also lead to increased productivity by the coach and teachers as the coach can easily visit multiple classrooms in the same time it would take the coach to visit one classroom and then walk to the next classroom.

However, I would not advocate dropping in without the teachers prior knowledge. If this were to be used to “spy” on teachers, I think that the program would be counter-productive as any advantage would be eliminated by creating an unhealthy school environment.

Study suggests grad rates will dip with A-G completion requirements

SI&A Cabinet Report that a study suggests grad rates will dip with A-G completion requirements. However, I do not believe that has to be the case. I believe in the A-G requirement for graduation because it sets a bar that says when you graduate, you will be ready for college. Many students and parents are surprised to learn that graduating from high school has/had no such assertion. Will it be more difficult? Absolutely. It will be more difficult because there will not be a track for students that aren’t “going to college”; this track has historically been populated by the poor and children of color. Many school systems have shown themselves poorly prepared to deal with students that are outside the “mainstream”. However, simply because it is difficult does not mean we should not do it; in this case it is the right thing to do. The work becomes how do we assure that students can meet this benchmark. It will take a shift in entire education communities which includes teachers, administrators, parents, students, and politicians. Teachers will need to develop and learn new instructional strategies, administrators will need to allocate resources for interventions, parents will need to actively support student participation in interventions, students will need to participate in additional interventions, and politicians will need to prioritize resource allocation for schools. It can be done but it will take a concerted effort and imagine the pay off: every student graduating college ready! Go make a difference.

Time for a statewide database to better serve foster youth | EdSource Today

Time for a statewide database to better serve foster youth | EdSource Today. Having worked with children in foster care I can attest data sharing is needed. While I understand that welfare workers want academic information about children, schools need to know which kids are in foster care to provide them adequate support. To date, the means by which the District learns which students are in foster care is practically non-existent. There is no way to get an a comprehensive accurate list of what student is in foster care. This data is updated annually at most. It is well know that the population of children in and out of foster can vary greatly in one year. I hope that this data sharing grows into something so that those professionals working with this group of children can get the accurate data to best meed the needs of these students.

Dual Enrollment Not Just for High Achievers Early College Improves Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students Too | California Progress Report

My research focused around high performing secondary schools. In my initial identification of schools I noted that many of the best schools in California were “Middle College” schools. Middle college schools are typically high schools that are housed on a college campus and allow students to take college classes as part of their regular course load. Now the College Progress report seems to provide some data to support my casual observation in Dual Enrollment Not Just for High Achievers Early College Improves Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students Too. Moreover, tying into my post yesterday, one suggestion is that having all students be part of the college expectations supports all students.

Going digital

Getting access to textbooks and instructional materials should become standard. Now with new legislation online access to textbooks may be in California. I would love to send kids home with an e-reader instead of 25 pounds of books.

Coordinated testing

One of the most common laments about testing is that there is no incentive for students. Dr. Randall Delling’s research focused around student interest, or the lack thereof, in participating in testing and the subsequent effect on scores for schools. While there are steps schools to ameliorate the situation the State has taken up the issue with legislation to tie testing to college acceptance. I was part of the group that discussed the issue when the legislation was under development. My largest concern is was about not shutting out students from going to college prematurely while dealing with the issue of student participation.

Partnerships That Improve Education

A school that practices distributed leadership is one of the key characteristics of high performing schools. I traveled through out southern California to visit top performing schools  and found that, among other things, they all shared distributed leadership. ASCD Express 7.19 – Partnerships That Improve Education discusses not only the importance of collaboration but also some of the norms involved then working toward a collaborative culture. It takes everyone from teachers, administrators, district offices, students to parents to create a high functioning schools. Not until people stop saying, “it their job” and start saying “it’s my job” will a school be able to sustain high levels of performance.