Monday, February 28, 2011

You need a soundbite!

As a school leader, or a leader in any organization, create something you can put on a bumper sticker.  If you don't create a tag line, you can be sucked back into being a manager.  Some ideas include:

  • Learning everyday
  • All students can lead
  • Striving toward the goal
  • Meeting objectives
  • Loving the process
  • Better today than yesterday

What is yours?

Friday, February 25, 2011

5 for Friday 2/25/11

5 For Friday resources

Kerpoof looks to be a cool tool to help students become AWESOME artists
You can also check out this HOW TO video to learn more about it:
(Thank you Ms. Freeman!)

I love this!  10 things I wish I never learned about teaching…so true!

10 ways to think differently about teaching and learning

I’ve been doing this for years, now it’s revolutionary…huh, maybe my style of teaching will only become cool after I'm dead like most artists…just say'n

Cool presentation as we reconsider what it means to have “gifted” education and differentiation.  Check out the schoolwide enrichment model.


New to google?  Check this out to learn about new google products and how people use them...

Video of the week
Magnolia High School – firework…  What would the school climate be like before and after making such a cool video?

Mad props to my colleague @gregkulowiec and his efforts on his Lip Dub.  Can't wait to see what he comes up with: His blog post: & local paper

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Top 10 School Law Mistakes for Special Education Students

 Presented to me from my school law class.  Fascinating information!

To the list!
10.  Failure to consult outside persons when necessary expertise is not available within the district.

9. Districts place children based on administrator and teacher convenience rather than the child's individualized needs.

8. COST! Can't be a factor.

7. District fails to address behavioral concerns for children who are diagnosed

6. Philosophical disagreement with legal requirements relating to discipline, school administrators impost the discipline they believe is appropriate rather than what is legally permissible and/or fail to consult with speciale education staff of impending discipline.

5. Failure to follow IDEA’s procedural requirements, including providing written notice each time the district proposes or refuses an action.

4. Failure to consult legal counsel when a problematic situation arises to determine if the district’s position is district's legally defensible or if an appropriate compromise exists.

3. Failure to provide training to all necessary staff with respect to the legal requirements and procedures of the IDEA and Section 504.

2. Special education personnel over-identify students with discipline and/or academic problems who do not meet criteria to be diagnosed as educationally disabled due to pressure from regular education staff and/or parents.

1. Staff surrenders to and/or acquiesces in parental demands simply to avoid disagreement, confrontation or litigation.

Teacher Evaluation: Part 4 (Final piece)

Final Piece:

Having been evaluated by adminsintrators for 10 years, and seeking to understand teacher evaluation better I'm still wrapping my brain around what are considered "best practices."  Somethings I believe, some things I know, and some things I think you find out on the job, doing the job.  Much like coming out of undergrad into a classroom there is no set design on how to evaluate teachers.  There are some amazing tools that districts have created but there are no universally agreed on structures.  So how is an educational leader to proceed?

Over the last few Blog posts I've been wrapping my brain around what it means to "evaluate a teacher."  I've have lots to learn and much more research to do, but some of the things i have learned will/might beneift others and open conversations.

My final installment on Teacher Evaluation:

Knowledge base is key 

This gives you common language and a common place to being conversations and bring about change.

Create Capacity

Creating capacity means enhacing the ability to move a school, teacher and community forward.  Creating the right environment for growth to occur, similar to tending for a plant (water, sunlight, oxygen, etc.).  Sir Ken Robinson had a great TED talk on this and is still something that I consider to be the foundation of revolution within our education system.

Have a Plan  

Without a plan you may have growth, but it will be by accident.  Doug Reeves created the Leadership for Learning framework (below) and I cannot think of a better explanation of how professional development and teacher evaluation commingle to assess student achievement.

Teacher evaluation is a great opportunity to assess fidelity of implementation of your school or district's mission and vision.  It provides you with an opportunity to assess if your professional development is working on a whole, or if you are 'just lucky.'

Profesional development plan

  • Jointly determine goals with agreed upon steps to strengthen skills
  • Provide mentoring when needed or asked.
  • Provide a timeline for reevaluation.

Ensuring Teacher Quality

  • Creditability in the system used to evaluate teachers (How's your PBTE?)
  • Be able to answer the statement: Here’s how I know we have good teachers…
  • Consistent definition of good teaching
  • Shared understanding of good teaching
  • Have skilled evaluators
  • Promote professional development
  • Develop a program for evaluators that Familiarizes self with the structure and framework for teaching, Planning and preparation, Classroom environment, and Instruction.

Professional responsibilities

  • Ability to recognize sources of evidence for each coponent and element
  • Able to interprete the evidence against the rubrics fr each component level of performance
  • Calibrate judgements agains those of the collagues ( adminsotrs collaborate on what good teaching means to them.)


  • Tomorrows leaders of our community meeting – Teacher evaluation: Chris Lindquist
  • ASCD article – Evaluations that help teachers learn
  • ASCD Education Update Vol 52 no.12 – Teaming up to lead instruction

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teacher Evaluation: Part 3

Continuing some thoughts I've been having about teacher evaluation brought me to think about the process.  All the steps along the way of being "observed and evaluated", those we as teachers or administrators often overlook.  The word evaluate seems to set up an us vs. them mentality, there must be a better way to describe the process of working alongside teachers to improve student achievement.  Here are some thoughts on the process...

  • Discuss the lesson goals and objectives.
  • Discuss the instructional strategies and activities.
  • Discuss the plan for assessing student achievement.
  • Make sure there are a prescribed set of questions aimed at forming administrator understanding of the complete lesson.
  • MOST IMPORTANT: review the process, communicate the process, communicate expectations of the process

Planned observation
  • Plan the time over the duration of the lesson (might be a couple of days) to see introduction to closure.
  • Script the lesson. (This is a HOT topic right now it seems everyone has their own way of doing it, I don't know if I've found "my way" yet, but I'm not sure writing feverishly everything that is said in the classroom will cause me to miss something that may be more valuable)
  • Document times for each transition.
  • Use a format that is easy for you to write comments.
  • Write down every question the teacher asks (cross reference later for DOK).
  • Number times a student is called on.
  • Document wait time.
  • Document gender/ethnic background of students called on.
  • Document strategies used to reach students who are unresponsive.
  • Use of probing  to elicit higher level responses.
  • Classroom environment
  • Number of students engaged
  • Seating arrangements
  • Collaborative groups and how they are determined
  • Stimulus in the room
  • Closure or recap of learning goals

Don't leave the observation room until key facts have been documented and feedback has been e-mailed to the observe.

Post observation
  • Allow teacher time to reflect on the lesson to facilitate meaningful conversation.
  • Copy script and give one to the teacher (script conversation again).
  • Complete instrument based on planned observation.
  • Create leading questions to open conversation.

  • Tomorrows leaders of our community meeting – Teacher evaluation: Chris Lindquist
  • ASCD article – Evaluations that help teachers learn
  • ASCD Education Update Vol 52 no.12 – Teaming up to lead instruction

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teacher Evaluation: Part 2

Creating the right climate

  • Clear goals and expectations for student achievement and classroom instruction.
  • Formats and structures for regular teacher interaction. (keep in mind that structures must be in place, training must have been completed so that this interaction is proactive and productive and not detrimental to the school community).
  • Formalized process for sustained professional development to ensure all staff have the skills necessary to attain goals.
  • Systems for formally monitoring and evaluating progress.
  • Allocation of resources to accomplish goals.
  • Collective, shared leadership to ensure goals and expectations are met.
  • Clearly articulated data-driven goals for student achievement and classroom instruction requiring the use of research-based strategies.
Image Credit:


  • Tomorrows leaders of our community meeting – Teacher evaluation: Chris Lindquist
  • ASCD article – Evaluations that help teachers learn
  • ASCD Education Update Vol 52 no.12 – Teaming up to lead instruction

Monday, February 21, 2011

Teacher Evaluation: Part 1

I have been exposed to a number of meetings, readings and conversations recently around teacher evaluation and the teacher evaluation process.  I thought about covering that over the next few blog posts.  Here's blog post number 1:

Ideas surrounding Teacher Evaluation:

Effective leadership requires
  • For administrators - Communication, Visibility and Accessibility
  • For teachers - Commitment to collaboration

Administrators in their role as educational leaders:

  • Build a common vision, language and knowledge base.
  • Focus on learning not teaching.
  • Establish a climate of trust.
  • Get into the classroom for formal and informal observations.
  • Always leave a note for the teacher after being in their room.
  • Provide a weekly e-mail to the whole staff communicating generalities about what was observed.
  • Ensure professional development that is job embedded, highly effective and spreads best practices.
  • Create a curriculum leadership team that includes teachers, community members, instructional coaches, and administrators.
  • Share observation and evaluation responsibility to a team of educational leaders.
  • Create effective instructional leadership through conditions that allow teachers to be successful, finding ways to monitor progress, providing feedback, and celebrating successes.
  • Are committed learners and are humble enough to support teachers and not speak from a pedestal.
  • Are lead learners and model learning for others.
  • Show support for teachers by carving out time during the day for teachers to collaborate.
  • Analyze data from a variety of sources to identify overarching achievement goals and drive important efforts within and across content areas.
  • Have strong knowledge of research-based, student-centered instructional methods and model the use of these strategies every opportunity you can.
Cartoon credit:
Idea Credit:
  • Tomorrows leaders of our community meeting – Teacher evaluation: Chris Lindquist
  • ASCD article – Evaluations that help teachers learn
  • ASCD Education Update Vol 52 no.12 – Teaming up to lead instruction

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Re-imagining Student Data

I watched the TEDMED talk from Thomas Goetz on Re-imagining medical data (located at the end of this post) and could not shake the thought that we have educational data all wrong.

This got me to thinking...

What do kids want to know?

So, I asked students three questions:

1.  What information do you want to know know your report card?
2.  What information do you want to know about yourself?
3.  If you could choose a career, what would you choose?

Then I asked them to design their own report card, I'm going to scan those in and will be located here.

Why did I ask the questions I asked?

Mr. Goetz speaks of how we have the capacity to change behavior with DATA.  That data needs to be:
1.  Personalized to fit the needs of each student
2.  Relevant to the students needs (connected to their lives)
3.  That a path of HOW they can make an impact on that data (connected to choices or directions)
4.  Action steps they can take to improve (developed with the student)


The Answers to the questions I asked are located here.
  • Students wanted PERSONALIZED information
  • Students want their information in color
  • Students want to know where they rank, how they are doing, and what steps that can take to improve themselves.
  • Students want informal data on what the teacher thinks about how they are doing.
  • Students want anecdotal comment based data.
  • Students overall have a desired career at 11 and could understand that the steps they are taking right now can impact that.

So what!?

Drastic changes in education won't happen from the top down, it’s going to be a bottom up movement.  Here’s how we start.  We start by informing our community and students and reevaluating the readability f the information we are communicating about student performance.  Putting information in readable, accessible, and meaniful ways that will ultimately cause a change in behavior.


  • Create a school where one teacher has the same students over a number of years and personalizes student data to fit the needs and desires of each family.
  • Each student will create their own path/goal/desired career to allow teachers to create meaningful action steps to improve student achievement.
  • Teachers (mentors in this design) meet with students and parents three times a year at their readiness.
  • Teach students to ask:
    • Can I have my results?
    • What do my results mean?
    • What are my options for improvement?
    • What's next?  WHat are my action steps?
  • Design student data to be engaging and communicate the information the parents and students WANT to know.
  • Keep track of effectiveness of response to intervention data to create effectiveness of intervention and success rate of intervention to inform action steps.


Question to leave you with:

What would be on your ONE PAGE summary of a student (or yourself)? (What is the most important data?)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

5 for Friday 2/18/11

Being sick this week has really thrown off my whole routine.  I am going to rely on a few key things this week that  most likely caught my eye in the past but haven't been pressing enough to forward on to you.  My reader is up over 1000 and I need this four day weekend to catch up.  I'll promise next week's top 5 will be more timely, darn strep throat.

The 5 for this week:

Billed as "Freestyle blogging," MAGNOTO is more of a glogster meets blogging, meets tumblr, meets…I don't know what.  It looks cool, kids would like it, it's free, but seems a little clunky for me…

Convert just about anything with the free online converter.  I keep putting in monopoly money buy it can't convert it to real money….

I've been seeking new ways to "give homework" when needed and this is a pretty cool look at homework through technology.

Might be the most effective waste of time I’ve ever seen….although a little creepy.
Just start talking to the bot and it will intelligently reply…most of the time..

There's nothing new in this world.  First Kanye West, now this…Having writers block?  Don’t know what to put on a blog or a student is having trouble writing about a concept.  Remind them that EVERYTHING’S a REMIX.

My presentation on "Best Practices in Social Networking" ~ how students, teachers and administrators use such things as Twitter, Facebook & YouTube. Creating a social network to increase student engagement, share resources, and grow professionally FROM the recent METC conference

Video of the week:
Jay McTight on the challenge of learning something new - Awesome video.

Friday, February 11, 2011

5 for Friday 2/11/11

Editorial section:
Two schools:  Which on builds a better bully?

Bullying seems to be a right of passage for middle schools.  After reading this post I wonder if it's not the system that is set up to create the culture for bullying.  Is there a way to change the culture of middle schools?

I'm not sure there are many answers here but maybe a few insights on things we can all do differently to help promote, ensure, and support a safe environment.

My takeaways from the article:
1.  Bullying comes from an unbalance of power.
2.  Limiting bullying behavior is the task of the adults and it is what the adults do more than what they say that matters.

Top 5 resources this week:

I read once that good teaching is 1/4 preparation and 3/4 theater.  That makes me think of this resource:  100 free tools to make your teaching more entertaining

A tad bit overwhelming but a great list: 157 of the most useful sites on the internet

(do nothing for two minutes) Bet you can’t…I reached for my phone…so I failed…

Been seeing some challenging grading practices over the last year.  Wondering if a grading discussion is something people would be willing to take part in…here are some of the best resources on grading out there:

Free Google Webinars:  Learn about all the neat and cool features specifically for education.  Gmail Ninja, and Advanced form are a few of my favorites!

Blog subscription alert - I just added this blog this week and am a little overwhelmed about how awesome it is.  If you have a readers I suggest you add it.

Video of the week:
This EYE OPENING video takes a dramatic look at the inequalities and fascinating statistics as to what’s wrong with boys in school, or better yet, what’s wrong with school FOR boys.

Bully image:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

PROOF! Time travel does exist!

This post is about grading...

What happened?
About 4-5 years ago we began a journey to reform our grading practices and implement district wide K - 8 a standards-based environment.  Through much change, courageous conversations and lots of bravery teachers began to see the "new" (as they called it) way of grading provided them with new insights into their teaching and grading practices.

We were on the road to greatness.  I "drank the Kool-Aid!"

Not to take too far of a detour but my teaching, assessments, and classroom interactions are much more focused, more meaningful and bottom-line kids are learning more and having fun, and better yet so am I!

Self promotion section:
My website to find more resources on how I use Standards-based grading (SBG):
My resume with presentation I've presented on SBG and more:
My dissertation resource centered around SBG:

1.21 Gigawatts Marty!!!!
So here's where the time machine comes in...  Overheard at a meeting the other day:
"How are we going to teach these kids responsibility if we don't put it into their grade?"
"How are these kids going to be successful in high school if they don't do their homework?"
"Kids will not learn (insert subject here) unless they practice 15-20 problems every night, and I cut that back."

That was it.  It's official, we've gone back in time.

Advice for Leaders
A piece of advice.  When implementing a new program, when instituting a large organizational second order change process (Read Fullan's Leading in a Culture of Change.)  Understand this process will take YEARS to complete and provide your teachers opportunities to continue to develop understanding.

Change, big change, happens over time and there will be opportunities to 'slip back' (typically called the implementation dip) into the way they know, they way that 'worked.'  Whatever your position is, care for them, understand they are uncomfortable and let them know you understand they are taking a risk.  Only through risk will true growth occur.

Setting a course
Here's to hoping we can right the ship, begin the conversations again and continue the journey.

Image credit:

Friday, February 4, 2011

5 for Friday 2/4/11

2 snow days, unprecedented!

Here's what I found inspiring my brain to use more technology this week:

The 5

Google sketch-up - I was recommended this resource for building 3D models of structures.  As we are embarking on the wiring project this resource couldn't be more timely.  I'm excited to try it out with a group of kids which will be sure to inspire a blog post.
How I'm using it:
For what project: 

In my search to continue to ask “Ungoogleable” questions in the classroom I am struck by the blog post.  I know I’m often influencing the questions and answers students given, but how do I stop?

Ever have a bunch of websites you want kids to go to, ever wanted to make that process easier? Ever wanted to lost 10 pounds?  Well, this resource won’t help with the pounds but the websites it can help with!

Weekly Core subject resources:  This is awesome!  You can check out web-based resources for your specific content or be nosy and check out other core content resources.  Very cool!

Poster Projects
All too often in our educational career we make a presentation using posterboard, markers, and glitter glue.  There’s a cooler way to do that now.  There are two great resources to check out
1.posterous - Simple, clean, easy, kinda boring but it works
2.Glogster - Rich, exotic, able to embed pictures, videos, exciting, but more difficult to use.

Video of the week

Life after: Death By Powerpoint
  A great video to remind us about how to present to 21st century students (and teachers).  If you've seen this before watch it again.  It will remind you of that last presentation you were in and hopefully motivate you to say, "That's won't be me doing that."  I sat in class last night and chucked to myself as my professor read every word on every slide.  Ah, education makes me smile.