Success in Rural, High-Poverty Public High Schools: Path to Equity?

By Lydia Dobyns

There is no getting around the hard work it takes to change schools, and the even harder amount of work required to sustain that change. It is as if there is some magnetic pull “back” to the way it has always been: a one-size-fits-all classroom approach to teaching and learning. And yet, despite decades of failing to provide effective and compelling education to some of South Carolina’s most under-served high poverty rural communities, a partnership that started six years ago serves as a beacon of hope. Perhaps even a turning point.

Scott’s Branch High School in tiny Summerton, S.C., a historic school that was the focus of a 1950’s court case that led directly to the Brown v. Board of Education decision, has partnered with New Tech Network and has lifted itself out of state sanctions. By implementing the New Tech school model, classroom learning is now relevant to students’ lives and preparing its graduates for college and career opportunities. The school is now earning good ratings on state report cards for the first time.

Starting transformation efforts at the same time was Colleton County High School, in the larger town of Walterboro. It launched Cougar New Tech, a career academy. In 2017, in its first graduating class, 100% of the seniors graduated. Based on this success, the Health Careers Academy began implementing the New Tech model this year. The school district also expanded New Tech into Bells Elementary School in the tiny Ruffin community.

The successful partnerships forged within districts and schools serve as a replicable path for school transformation across the country. These two South Carolina high schools are the subject of a new mini-documentary and website called A Turning Point in South Carolina: https://www.turningpointsouthcarolina.com.

The success at both schools can be attributed to three things: 1) implementation of the New Tech school model; 2) the benefits of joining a school network and 3) the multi-year commitment of district leaders, principals and classroom educators to make deep and lasting changes in every aspect of their schools. The New Tech model was developed to prepare students for the demands of college and the workplace and to anchor students’ learning to their community through Project Based Learning (PBL). New Tech Network provides a robust set of supports that include teacher professional development, leadership development, coaching and online resources.

All of us want students to prepare for the real world, so why not ask them to learn in it? At Scott’s Branch, students developed a digital history of the Briggs v. Elliott case that led to Brown and their community’s importance in the civil rights movement.

The way students learn at school should match the world they’re living in and preparing for. We want students to graduate from high school knowing what their next step into college, technical training, and the workplace will be—and how to accomplish it. In these schools, students can tell you why they’re learning what they’re learning, and why it matters to them.

The teachers and principals in these rural communities also can tap into the knowledge of a small army of colleagues from outside their school and district: They regularly join colleagues from across the internet and in person for meaningful workshops and discussion groups. This has helped them to overcome the isolation so common in many rural schools and to find new skills and knowledge.

New Tech Network provides a research-based and guided model for school growth that is being constantly refined. These rural educators benefit from our 15+ years of supporting hundreds of schools. Our model works in part because each school can use it in their own way, adapting it to their own students’ and community’s circumstances. All is for naught without local community support. New Tech’s school model requires in-depth local conversations to decide we’re a good fit for the school. Pushing new school models onto a community doesn’t work.

We’ve also learned that a real change in the culture of a school takes time. New Tech’s model requires a school to investigate itself deeply. It takes patience and commitment. Anything less is superficial and may not survive changes in school or district leadership, a common refrain for schools in rural or low-resource communities.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley, a South Carolina native and former two-term governor, first had the idea to bring New Tech Network to rural parts of the state.

After visiting New Tech High School in Napa County, Calif., he engaged the Riley Institute at his alma mater Furman University, and consulted with business and philanthropic leaders in the state. Their discussions led to a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant brought New Tech Network into several schools, including Scott’s Branch and Colleton County High.

These two rural schools in Secretary Riley’s beloved home state offer hope to similar schools and evidence that such schools can make tremendous progress. More importantly, students in these schools know their education is preparing them for a better future. How many students in traditionally low achieving schools can make that claim?

For more, see:

Lydia Dobyns is President and CEO of New Tech Network. Follow her on Twitter: .


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Practical Ways to bring SEL into the Classroom

Toward the end of the past school year, I noticed some changes in student behavior. There was a decrease in student engagement, especially while I responded to the question of a student seated close to me, students around the room became distracted or stopped listening. Trying to get the group to refocus sometimes presented a challenge and resulted in a loss of valuable instruction time. A second concern was how students had been treating one another. I overheard conversations in the hallways, witnessed unkind interactions in the classroom, or heard directly from students who sought help in dealing with different situations. There were two issues to resolve: eliminate the valuable instruction time that was being lost and help students to develop more positive, collaborative peer relationships. How could I connect students more to the content and to one another, so they could work together to foster a more positive classroom. After some brainstorming, I decided to first focus on ways to promote collaboration and to step out of my role of “leader” in the classroom by stepping aside.

The changes:

My first realization was that I needed to shift roles in my classroom. I needed to get out of the way, and students needed to do more than simply sit for the entire class. To get started, look at your own classroom. Where are you and the students spending the class period? Are you the only one speaking and moving? If so, think about how you can open up space and provide a more collaborative setting for students. Think about how you can involve the students in more “active learning” that will lead to better student engagement.

One morning, I looked at the physical space of my classroom and decided to break apart the rows of desks. By doing this, it created more flexible spaces for students to interact, to create and lead, and do more than just sit and listen. Students need opportunities to work with their peers through lessons and engage in activities where they can master the content together, and that will provide opportunities to develop their interpersonal skills, self-awareness and social awareness of others.

 

Making these changes can feel uncomfortable because it means going against what likely has been the traditional classroom structure. However, many teachers have moved toward flexible learning spaces, creating a more student-centered and student-driven classroom. A classroom which moves away from simply lecturing, reviewing homework, passing out materials, assigning new homework, and repeating this same routine the very next day. While this process may promote the acquisition and application of knowledge, it does not effectively promote collaboration, invite student input, nor foster development of vital SEL (social-emotional learning) skills.

CASEL (The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), formed in 1994, is an organization which actively works toward promoting the importance of developing SEL skills in education. SEL is focused on five competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness,  relationship skills and responsible decision making. The development of these skills can benefit the level of student engagement as well, leading to higher academic achievement and reduce discipline issues in the classroom. To promote the development of SEL, here are some ideas and additional resources to get started.

Practical ways to promote SEL:

  • Icebreakers: I started the school year with fun icebreakers, to get to know one another and to find out what students had in common. Why? It all starts with relationships, building a connection with peers and the teacher, and using this to connect with the content area. Returning after an extended holiday break, doing even one icebreaker can be a good way to welcome students back to the classroom, to ease into the daily routine and to start the year fresh by working on relationships. Perhaps have students share what they did over break, show a picture, talk about favorite foods for holidays even, and let students make connections on their own.
  • Games and activities: Providing opportunities for students to interact through the use of games and activities in the classroom promotes the development of social-emotional learning skills. There are many online tools available to help you get started. For elementary and middle school, Centervention provides free online games, activities and printables for teaching students about SEL. Gaming helps students to learn to problem solve, collaborate, think critically, and develop empathy through scenarios within the game itself, or as a result of being part of a team. It creates a sense of community and belonging, which foster the social-emotional skills students need. Even by using Minecraft, educators have seen a connection between the benefits of gaming for learning and the development of SEL skills.
  • Learning Stations: Something that has really made a difference in my classroom has been using learning stations. I started the year with rows and decided one morning, that the rows had to go. I quickly set up clusters of desks or “stations” to accommodate three students each, with four extra desks grouped together in the center. At each station, students spend 10-14 minutes doing a hands-on activity like a worksheet, creating flashcards, watching a video, playing a game or simply coming up with their own ways to practice. Deciding upon the activities takes some planning, especially when trying this for the first time, but it is well worth it. Start by explaining the “stations”, involving students in the discussion and asking for feedback. When we explain our goals and share any fears we may have, we are modeling “self-awareness” and “self-management”. By using stations, we also have more time to interact with each student and group, work on relationships and foster a deeper understanding of the content as well as connecting with one another and creating a more positive classroom culture.

Challenges and solutions:

  • Groups: The first few class periods there were complaints. Students wanted to work with their friends and others wanted to work alone. It can be awkward if you are the only one who doesn’t find somebody to work with, but it can also be a challenge to work with a group when you may end up being the only one doing the work. Assigning random groups can help alleviate some of these uncomfortable feelings, even though in life and for the future, students may face the same challenges and uncomfortable moments, not having a choice in collaborative work. However, for the time being, the importance is to help students to develop interpersonal skills that will enable them to be successful in the future, to develop the social and emotional learning skills, especially in terms of relationships, decision-making and developing a self- awareness.
  • Timing: It can be a challenge at first to know how much time to provide for each station. I started by spending ten minutes reviewing material, asking questions, or doing an activity with the whole class, before starting stations. I tried giving 15 minutes for each, so students would work through two each day. Some students finished early and wanted to move on. To work through this, I would use the time to speak with each group or individual students, and then make adjustments during the next station rotation. There is always room to improve, but the important thing is remembering to be flexible and open to changes that will positively impact student learning and relationships.

Benefits:

  • Student engagement: Students have been more engaged in learning, and have come in to tell me how much they look forward to coming to class. Because of the different activities within the stations, students participate more because they are active and moving, and know that each station offers a new way to learn.
  • Student leaders: Students are offering to help one another, to explain concepts, and to cheer each other on. They keep each other on task and by working in these small groups, there are less distractions than working as a whole group. Each small group can ask questions, receive individualized feedback because I can freely move around the classroom and clear up any misunderstandings.
  • Teacher-student relationships: Students are getting timely, authentic and personal feedback. By using learning stations, more time is student-focused and those individual conversations can happen as needed, to help students to be successful and be more confident.
  • Student learning: In terms of academic achievement, the participation and results of recent assessments are the highest they have been. Students enjoy coming to class because they know they’re going to be leading and making decisions about their learning, in a way that is comfortable, flexible and fun.The learning experience is more authentic and meaningful for students. Research has shown the positive benefits of incorporating SEL into the curriculum.
  • Student behaviors: As for the class distractions and the negative interactions that existed before, both have decreased tremendously. It is not something that is going to change overnight but what matters is that we make constant progress. We are learning and becoming better together.

For more, see:


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NY EdTech Week Highlights Big Apple Startups and Bold Ideas

More than 1000 people gathered last week at NYU’s Washington Square campus to discuss EdTech–entrepreneurs making their pitch, students pondering what to start, and funders looking for the new new thing.

NY EdTech Week felt like ASU-GSV Summit six years ago when we crammed into the SkySong lobby in Phoenix but with a New York sensibility–blue suits and a global context.

NY EdTech Week was hosted by New York University Steinhardt School of Education.

School data pioneer Jonathan Harber directs StartEd, which powers EdTech Accelerator. He launched SchoolNet two decades ago and sold it to Pearson seven years ago and stuck around for a few years serving as CEO of K12 technology. Harber is also teaching a graduate-level seminar at NYU on EdTech.

All star speakers addressed personalized learning, gamification, and the future of HigherEd. Two hour masterclasses taught by NYU faculty covered app design, learner experience design, online learning and global education.

Think tanks topics ranged from early childhood to corporate and adult learning. A Gallery of Innovation (see featured image) showcased 40 seed to growth stage EdTech companies and their CEOs.

Some of the featured startups included:

  • ClanEd is a learning platform that combes artificial intelligence, collaborative learning and Finish pedagogy.
  • Yellowdig is a social learning platform aimed at improving HigherEd student retention. Early users have seen better engagement and fewer dropouts.
  • Kinvolved is catalyzing community to get more kids to school. Used in Meriden, Connecticut and NYC, Kinvolved is led by CEO Miriam Altman, a former NYC history teacher committed to family involvements.
  • Rozzy Learning provides career adventures for elementary students. Used by 1000 teachers in 35 states, the female co-founders support Head Start, Boys and Girls Club, and KIPP LA.
  • Paragon One coaches students to land competitive jobs and internships. The online membership model combines an automated and live counselors to achieve near 100% job placement.

Highlighting the event were a dozen EdTech startups chosen from about 500 that applied to the NYU Steinhardt Edtech Accelerator powered by StartEd (@startedaccel). The three month program included $20,000 in equity investment and workshops on business and customer development, along with pitching and fundraising tips. Entrepreneurs connect with NYU (@nyusteinhardt) profs and employ students. The dozen companies selected were:

  • Cognitive ToyBox: a suite of educational games and apps focused on kindergarten readiness;
  • Compliance World: an online community where experts support complying with industry laws and regulations;
  • Core Labs: helps organizations build and cultivate professional working networks;
  • Invibed: provides financial education that offers lessons, plans and coaching;
  • KiraKira3D: online community engaging kids in design, STEM activities and 3D modeling;
  • Localized: helps universities provide career and alumni services to students and companies;
  • MedAux: messaging system for physicians, nurses and their patients;
  • MoxieReader: independent reading tracker for home and schools;
  • Quartolio: uses AI to connect and curate insights in published research and journals;
  • SecondAccent: assessment and coaching platform for English learners;
  • Student Opportunity Center: a platform that helps connect students to real-world learning opportunities and experiences such as conferences, publications and internships; and
  • Wonda VR: create interactive content for Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard.

Later stage companies presenting included Credly and Chegg, Voxy, and BenchPrep.

Entrepreneurs learned from venture investors including Rethink Education, GSV, Village Capital, New Market Venture Partners, University Venture, and Owl Ventures. A number of private equity and corporate growth investors presented. Sponsoring advisors included East Wind, Evercore, and Cooley.

Blockchain Transcripts

One of the breakout sessions hosted by Impact Chain Lab (@impactchainlab) featured blockchain applications. Blockchain, quoting Don Tapscott, is an “Incorruptible digital ledger of the economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Instead of a third party record keeper, blockchain distributes a record of every transaction creating a trust network by consensus and enabling peer to peer value transactions (like sale of cryptocurrency Bitcoin).

Despite current fluctuations (Bitcoin is down 18% this week), cryptocurrency could replace much of the $130 billion in remittance payments made from people working in the US. Western Union charges near 20% to pay in some African countries while crypto entrepreneurs will do it for pennies.

Blockchain can also enable smart contracts– automatic value transfers when agreed upon triggers are met. For example, if your business loses power, the outage could trigger an automatic business interruption payment from your insurance company. Supply chains could become largely automated with machine to machine transactions using blockchain. Musicians and bloggers could get micropayments per download (see Steamit).

The decentralized nature of blockchain will also improve safety and privacy–no more hackable credit reporting agencies holding millions of consumer records.

Democracy Earth Foundation advocates for tamper-proof blockchain voting and smart social contracts.

In education blockchain will facilitate easy transcript sharing–no more calling the college registrar for a PDF of your diploma.

MIT Media Lab issues blockchain transcripts called Blockcerts, a digital certification project with Learning Machine which encourages the use of this tamper proof, recipient owned, and independently verifiable format.

In Greece, University of Nicosia announced that it will move all degrees and credentials to blockchain.

Rather than tuition, coding bootcamp Holberton School charges a percentage of your salary once you find a job. They deliver certificates in blockchain to “simplify the verification process by employers, and help fight against fake certificates and false resumes.” Graduates get a paper certificate and a Digital Certificate Number that can be included on resumes, so that any employer can easily verify the certificate.

BitDegree plans to offer online courses with blockchain-based reward system and achievement tracking (see their white paper).

Blockchain has improved the transcript conversation, but there are many things can be done with today’s tech if we had better interoperability. Related efforts to develop standards for credentials include:

  • Credly is a digital credential solution that works with 12,000 organizations.
  • OpenBadges, created by Mozilla and managed by IMS Global, allows issuers to provide digital certifications to individuals.
  • Credential Engine is piloting a Credential Registry that enables job seekers, students, workers, and employers to search for and compare credentials.
  • Mastery Transcript Consortium is a group of independent schools developing a common transcript format (see feature).

We could see more value transfer startups like Teachers Pay Teachers (and students pay teachers) that use blockchain. Edu Dao (@TheEduDAO) is a nonprofit crowdfunding site. Founder Eugene Leventhal (@bbeats1) wants his platform to be public utility that any school can use.

It’s still pregame warmups for blockchain applications in learning but it looks like it will be an integral part of the shift to personalized and competency-based learning.

For more see


Model Schools, Districts, Networks and States for Competency-Based Education

By Mary Ryerse, Janice Walton and Tom Vander Ark

Editor’s Note: This post is an appendix to a recently released report on competency-based education entitled Show What You Know: The Landscape of Competency-Based Education.

The shift to demonstrated competency-based education (CBE) is inevitable and well underway, but it is complex enough that it is likely to be a generation-long process in K-12 education. It is a multidimensional shift—it requires new experiences; new staffing, supports, and structures; new teaching roles and capabilities; new assessments and reports; and new funding models and policies.

The leading advocate for CBE, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), defines it as advancement based on demonstrated mastery with well-defined competencies that empower students. They stress that students should receive meaningful feedback and timely and differentiated support so that they develop and apply a broad set of skills and dispositions.

We’ve been looking into what schools, districts and networks are doing to achieve effective CBE, and we have assembled an initial list of positive examples. It is is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a sampling of places identified as exemplars by interviewees and/or in other research.

School Districts

  • Chugach School District (AK), serving 5 schools
  • Dallas Independent School District, serving 230 schools
  • East Carver County Schools (MN), serving 18 schools
  • Henry County Schools (GA), serving 50 schools
  • Kettle Moraine School District (WI), serving 10 schools
  • Lindsay Unified School District (CA), serving 9 schools
  • Mesa Public Schools (AZ), serving 87 schools
  • Mesa Valley School District 51 “D51” (AZ), serving 46 schools
  • Montpelier Public Schools (VT), serving 3 schools
  • Noble Public Schools (OK),  serving 5 schools
  • Pinellas County Schools  (FL), serving 140 schools
  • RSU2 (ME), serving 9 schools
  • Sanborn Regional School District (NH), serving 4 schools
  • Westminster Public Schools (CO), serving 20 schools

Schools (District-Based)

  • Bronx Arena High School (NY), enrolls ~230 students
  • Casco Bay High School (ME), enrolls  ~365 students
  • Cumberland High School (RI), enrolls ~1280 students
  • Deer Isle-Stonington High School (ME), enrolls  ~110 students
  • Del Lago Academy (CA), enrolls ~510 students
  • Impact Academy (MN), enrolls ~450 students
  • Montpelier High School (VT), enrolls ~275 students
  • New Haven Academy (CT), enrolls ~250 students
  • Noble High School (ME), enrolls ~1075 students
  • Nokomis Regional High School (ME), enrolls ~680 schools
  • NYC Alternative Schools (NY), enrolls ~10,000 students
  • Purdue Polytechnic High School (IN), XQ school, enrolls ~ 160 students

Charter Schools & Networks

  • Aveson Global Leadership Academy (CA), enrolls ~415 students
  • Big Picture Learning Schools, network of schools in 25 states
  • Blackstone Academy (RI), enrolls ~300 students
  • Boston Day & Evening Academy (MA), enrolls ~400 students
  • Brooklyn LAB Charter School (NY),  XQ school, enrolls ~325 schools
  • Crosstown High (TN), XQ school, opens August 2018
  • Furr Institute for Innovative Thinking (TX), XQ school, enrolls ~1010 students
  • Level Up Academy (MN), enrolls ~150 students
  • MC2 Charter School (NH), network of 2 schools
  • Powderhouse Studios (MA), XQ school, opens August 2018
  • Summit Public Schools  (CA/WA),  network of 11 schools
  • Urban Assembly Maker Academy (NY), enrolls  ~100 students
  • Washington Leadership Academy (DC), XQ school, enrolls ~110 students

Deeper Learning Networks

  • Asia Society International Studies School Network (nationwide), 35 district schools
  • ConnectED California, more than 30 school districts in CA, IL, OH,  MI, NY, TX, WI
  • EL Education Schools  (nationwide), network of over 100 schools
  • Envision Education (CA), network of 3 schools
  • High Tech High (CA), network of 13 schools
  • New Visions for Public Schools (NY), network of 75 schools

States Leading the Way

This list isn’t comprehensive, and we’re not done with our research yet. We would gladly welcome any suggestions for people doing good work who we may have missed–if you can think of any, please leave a comment in the comments section below!

For more, see:


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How Schools Around the World are Tackling Social Justice – Part 2

We are currently exploring how schools and classrooms around the world are incorporating the myriad of social justice issues going on each and every day. In our first post in this series, we heard from school leaders at Gimnasio Los Caobos in Colombia, Shanghai American School in China, and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, DC, and they shared how they are addressing issues of social justice and providing the space for their teachers to discuss with students. In this post, we will hear from teachers at these schools to learn more how they are integrating social justice in their classrooms.

As we did last time, let’s first understand the makeup of these classrooms.

Colombia:

Jorge Jimenez Buritica teaches Social Studies, at Gimnasio Los Caobos, to 14, 15, and 16-year-old students which is the equivalent of grades 9, 10, and 11, in the United States. Jorge uses Project-Based Learning (PBL) in his teaching given the school’s recent move to becoming focused on PBL.

 

China:

Kirk Irwin teaches 7th-grade students Social Studies at Shanghai American School. Their ages range from 11 – 13. Kirk uses “the PBL model most of the time with a focus on how the students can relate what is happening in the world today with history. We also focus a few of our projects on how our students are directly affected by what is happening in the world and also how they affect the world they live and how they can be apart of change if they believe/want it to happen.”

 

The United States:

Alyssa-Paige Miller is a 10th grade English teacher at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. She shared, “my students are 95 percent African-American, and all qualify as economically disadvantaged.”

There are two main questions we posed to these teachers:

  1. How do you discuss social justice issues in your classroom; and
  2. Do you connect with other classrooms/teachers for ideas on how to teach about this subject?

As we saw in our first post of this series, with the leaders of these schools, social justice issues exist in each of these communities, and as expected, discussion is happening in the classroom. We start with Alyssa to begin to understand the learning strategies each teacher is using to talk about these issues.

Alyssa Paige-Miller, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, on discussing social justice issues in the classroom:

It’s hard for me to imagine teaching and not addressing social justice issues as this is something that I intentionally incorporate into my classroom. I love taking organic opportunities to discuss social justice by making space for discussion, being vulnerable with students, and responding as needed. Students love expressing their thoughts and feelings, and they will respect you for letting them share (whether you agree with their ideas or not). Often, in the organic moments, I don’t need to respond, but sometimes, it’s necessary for them to know where I stand on certain issues–especially with the population of students I teach.

I also intentionally build some elements into our lessons, such as pairing a meaningful song as a “Do Now” that will set a foundation for issues affecting characters in that day’s reading. When I prepare for these conversations, I always make sure that all student voices are heard and that students are allowed to disagree with me and/or classmates.

I’m constantly thinking about how to bring real-world issues into my classroom for my students, so if I see a video or an ad or read an essay, I consider how my students could engage with it and their curriculum content to have a better experience. As an English teacher, I tend to use resources that are text-based, such as current articles, lyrics to a justice- or injustice-oriented song, relevant poems, and excerpts of essays. For example, we’ve used “Reagan” by Killer Mike to discuss mass incarceration, and we used  “Casket Pretty” by Noname to engage a conversation about community violence, police brutality, and death. Anything can be a resource, as long as it’s a meaningful opportunity for genuine discussion and high-level learning.

How Alyssa connects with other teachers and classrooms:

I had the privilege of attending a National Endowment for the Humanities workshop this summer, and in my collaboration with teachers across content areas around the nation, I  gleaned an immense number of ideas. Many of my ideas and approaches are influenced by Teacher Twitter; I follow many amazing educators and activists who share great methods. I’m also very lucky to be at a school that values collaboration among teachers, which lends itself to general discussions and advice, combined projects, or cohesive activities among classes.

 

Kirk Irwin, Shanghai American School, on discussing social justice issues in the classroom:

We have a project we are working on currently that has been focusing on Historical Social Activism and how our students can be socially active today, what that could look like and why it is important to be a global citizen. In this project, students are primarily focusing on Social Media campaigns and we are trying to steer them away from the ‘donate money’ idea as they are not really becoming activists in this way. We are finding that many of the students are so far removed from some of the topics that they have a hard time understanding how they are impacted by some of the issues, besides the environmental ones. Some of the students are discussing supporting refugees/migrants with language classes to help them get employment, while others are talking about educating both groups of people concerning the issue of police brutality against African Americans. We will continue to talk to them about these issues and push them to become more informed and current when it comes to global issues and social activism.

We ask the students to come up with an issue they are most passionate about at this time and then come up with a plan on how they can be socially active right now, in their school or community (this is tough b/c we live in China, but we try).

The primary resources we are using are library databases for information: Britannica and World Book Online Encyclopedias, US/World History in Context, Scholastic Magazines and
News Websites.

How Kirk connects with other teachers and classrooms:

Currently, Kirk mentioned his class is not really connecting with other classrooms but he said he definitely does reach out to others as he is planning units. He shared, “ee sometimes bring in experts or professionals in certain fields to come and talk to the students about the importance of the issue or why being a globally minded citizen and helping others is important for them.”

Jorge Jimenez Buritica, Gimnasio Los Caobos, on discussing social justice issues in the classroom:

It can at times be a challenge to talk about social justice issues happening in Colombia, with my students. The students are, by and large, first-class students and their reality is not the war or the social issues that are currently going on. Sometimes I like to show testimonies of people living through the war in capital cities of Colombia but we get pushback from the parents about these experiences being shared. Within this context, it becomes a struggle on how you relate to current events, the peace process, and the politics of what is going on in the country. So, you begin to incorporate these issues in different ways. Rather than teaching directly about these events, I teach through a comparative analysis of what can be learned from wars throughout history such as World War I and II. I’ll ask the students to think about, “what Colombia can learn and avoid from these examples?”

Of course, the goal is to also teach the students to be aware of the other Colombia that exists. The students are aware of the “other” Colombia in terms of its history, but they are not emotionally connected to the fact. The students are not aware of how others are living because they never really explore Colombia outside of their own city. For vacation, they go outside of the country. The parents reinforce this as well. Most parents are interested in wanting their children to in know about the culture of other countries but not the culture of what is happening in Colombia. It is easier for the students to learn about the social justice situations that other countries may be going through, and some may be similar to what Colombia is facing, rather than relate to the plights within their own country. History and current events are still being taught and will continue to be taught because it is important for the students to understand their history and how it impacts the future, which includes the student’s place in that process. As Jennifer D. Klein mentioned in our previous post, the school is committed to ensuring the students have the knowledge and understanding to make a difference in their community and the world. A great example of this is that the school has a heavy focus on entrepreneurialism and it is Jennifer D. Klein’s goal to infuse more social importance into the projects students are creating. She wants to encourage students to think about social responsibility and not just about the thing they are creating.

How Jorge connects with other teachers and classrooms:

The 11th-grade class will soon start a partnership with an AP Spanish class in Colorado. Through this partnership, the class will learn more about Colombia and the peace process.

GET INVOLVED

If you are a teacher we’d love for you to join us in this conversation. How are you integrating social justice issues in the classroom? Comment below or respond on Twitter using #SmartPlanet.

Be sure to visit our first post in the series where we talked to school leaders. For our third and final post we want to hear from you. What barriers, if any, do you think exist to teaching about social justice? We recognize responses may be sensitive so you can share with us anonymously here.

For more, see:


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5 Beliefs that Prevent Teachers from Increasing Math Rigor

By Jessica Carlson. This post was originally published by Mind Research Institute.

What’s holding students back from experiencing intellectual rigor in their math classes?

Rigor is what moves students into creative and effortful problem solving. It’s the type of learning that challenges, and occasionally frustrates as well. Effective instructional rigor has the power to expand students’ capacity for deeper understanding and intrinsic motivation. However, some common beliefs may be preventing teachers from developing consistently rigorous learning environments.

In order to make way for the positive effects of rigor, educators should steer clear of the following assumptions.

1. Direct instruction is enough

Students need more than the traditional “I do, we do, you do” model of instruction. Hands-on, visual experiences can provide all students, regardless of math or language proficiency, access to more rigorous mathematical problem solving.

Consider incorporating manipulatives (both physical and digital) into lesson plans to remove barriers and provide all students with an access point to the concept being taught.

Explore manipulatives resources:

2. Mistakes indicate lack of understanding

It may be common to interpret a student’s incorrect answer as he or she not grasping the concept being taught. But what if educators turned those mistakes into opportunities for the whole class to learn from? Research shows that making mistakes may lead students to better understand math concepts.

Try encouraging a mindset in the classroom that celebrates mistakes as the perfect opportunity for learning. Allow students to collaborate and give feedback to each other in order to unpack incorrect answers. As much as possible, refrain from telling students what to do too quickly, so they learn to persevere in problem solving.

“Every time a student makes a mistake in math, they grow a synapse.”

– Jo Boaler, from Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching

3. There’s only one way to find the answer

In math, there are often multiple ways to solve a problem. In fact, researchers are finding it beneficial for educators to explore problems with multiple solutions and facilitate students in comparing problem-solving strategies. When students discuss different ways of solving problems, they learn that with a little creativity, no problem is out of reach.

Inspire students to think outside the box with problems that allow many different pathways to the solution. Once a problem is solved, challenge students to come up with another way to solve it. Work backwards, if need be, by providing the solution and having students find different ways to get there.

4. Memorization is better than reasoning

It’s often the quick calculators and good memorizers who are praised the most in math class. However, Stanford professor, Jo Boaler, warns that instruction based solely on memorization and arithmetic can lead students to misunderstand and dislike math. Test results show that the highest achievers are those who can see the bigger picture and make connections between different mathematical concepts.

Memorization will only take us so far in math, explains Boaler. “We don’t need students to calculate quickly in math. We need students who can ask good questions, map out pathways, reason about complex solutions, set up models and communicate in different forms.” (Boaler 2015)

As much as possible, incorporate opportunities for students to learn why the formulas and procedures work. For example, if we know the area of a square is base x height, how can we find the area of a triangle with the same base and height? You might find that this approach actually requires less memorization in the end.

5. Perfect scores equate to concept mastery

The perfect time to compound a student’s knowledge is when they start showing signs of understanding. Moving on as soon as students can answer a few problems correctly on a test may forfeit a crucial opportunity to facilitate transference and real world application. As soon as students start to show signs of mastery, change the context of the problem, reverse the question, and extend their thinking!

Truly rigorous instruction empowers students to anticipate and overcome challenges. Download the posters below to help keep guiding principles of rigorous instruction top of mind.

poster-image-guiding-principles-increase-rigor.png          poster-image-cycle-rigorous-learning.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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See the Path to Change: How Vision-Setting and Change Management Practices Support Effective School Transformation

By Stephen Pham. This post was originally published by The Learning Accelerator. 

With the perpetually lagging outcomes from our U.S. K-12 schools, we can all agree that our education system needs significant improvement. In order to produce equitable outcomes for all children, we need to creatively innovate on all levels – within classrooms, schools, and the systems overseeing our schools. And while different systems of schools will, rightly so, approach innovating their programs in different ways, successfully scaling change requires strong alignment and vision between all stakeholders to ensure strong outcomes for all students.

Over the past few months, we, at The Learning Accelerator, have had the privilege of partnering with two school systems – Valor Collegiate Academies (Nashville, TN) and Henry County Schools (Henry County, GA) – who have transformed their schools (and continue to do so) through thoughtful vision-setting and change management practices. As part of our strategy to capture and share strategies around Blended and Personalized Learning at Work, we dove deeply into their practices and stories of transformation. After working tirelessly to identify, codify, and represent their work, we discovered a few consistent strategies that have enabled their ongoing success.

Work from a strong, yet adaptable vision and foundation

While Valor started as a new charter network and Henry County Schools shifted an existing system, both spent considerable time creating an in-depth vision around their model. Valor designed their entire model around a social-emotional, human development model, infusing research into their comprehensive vision. As Henry County Schools made the shift to personalized learning, they established core pillars to define the key components of their model. In both cases, the systems have well-defined principles with the right amount of flexibility – whether it’s in piloting new programs or personalizing the approach within each school – to ensure success in meeting the needs of the community.

Invest in people

Regardless of how great the concept might be, effective change will not happen if stakeholders are not invested and given the right supports. Valor leads its social-emotional curriculum with its faculty, creating a culture of social-emotional growth and ensuring faculty are then able to best support students. Henry County created leadership academies, ensuring strong pipelines and capacity around personalized learning. Without ensuring all people are bought in and supported, cogs in the wheel break down and slow – and even risk halting – all progress.

Ground the change in student outcomes

At the end of the day, our education system should be entirely designed around one group – our kids. Grounding changes in student outcomes will keep all stakeholders invested and excited about the work. Valor focuses on holistically developing each scholar as a human being, building safe and healthy relationships and becoming positive members of their communities. Henry County Schools grounds the shift to student-centered learning around developing each individual learner’s 21st-century skills for college and career readiness, getting students excited for their own learning and career pathways.

We’re thrilled to share both the innovative practices and the stories of change from these two transformational school networks. Take a look, share them with your colleagues, and reach out with any feedback you might have!

For more, see:


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Full STEAM Ahead: PBL & the Arts in 2018

By Noah Rue

Have you ever felt frustrated or concerned that you weren’t equipping your students with the technological skills they will need when they finally enter the post-college job market 10 years from now? Try to imagine the world of 2030 — or even 2040. Once students are at the high school level, they should be looking for and finding ways to connect all their subjects of study together.

Here are a few ideas for doing just that.

How to Incorporate the Arts into STEM

STEAM is just a new way of incorporating a broad liberal arts-based approach to education. The false separation of the arts, languages, and humanities from mathematics and sciences is a modern-day separation that artificially divides these subjects from each other. In reality, it is helpful for everyone to have an at least cursory knowledge of subjects that don’t come as easily to them. Not only does a wide breadth of knowledge expand our understanding of the world, but it also helps open more subjects up to more students.

Too often, however, we relegate the fine, creative, and performing arts to drama, creative writing, and art class electives, rather than incorporating them into our instruction of STEM subjects like math, computer science, or physics. A project involving the construction of a replica to scale or an original piece of sculpture may inspire some students to pursue engineering, art, architecture, or welding, in the future. As local and national artists have demonstrated, welding can be utilized for everything from making jewelry to welding car parts to constructing an art car for a local parade or festival.

The colloquial designation of “soft” and “hard” subjects is patronizing to those well-versed in humanities and the arts, and is also quite reflective of the state of our gender equality — or lack of, thereof — in Silicon Valley and beyond. If the tech world is a microcosm of larger structural barriers preventing women from breaking the proverbial glass ceiling, we should stop referring to “soft” and “hard” subjects.

STEMIE has added invention and entrepreneurship to the mix, which is a great and inspiring thing. However, how can we appeal to the more artistic students in our midst to formulate and create apps, gadgets, and other tech-related ideas for the world to see and appreciate? The tech world needs more diversity — not less — because it stands to become more competitive with the addition of added market personas to their future client audiences.

How can more poets get involved with virtual reality? How can more artists and dramatists build resources like New York City’s Freelancers Union (check out their blog). They even have an app designed to help other creative artists and freelancers in need of legal advice. Artist unions help creative individuals establish themselves as independent professionals who deserve to make a living wage, just like those with a more traditional 9-to-5 job — which is, in and of itself, becoming less ubiquitous due to the prevalence of the new gig economy.

Best Practices for PBL

There are no “soft” and “hard” subjects. There are simply different subjects, and all subject matter is, by necessity, connected in the real world. Hence the value of problem-based learning: in “the real world,” we don’t encounter a math problem in a textbook or a perspective assignment in art class.

Instead, as Monica Fuglei argues, we should find authentic problems that exist in the real world. She cites Education World’s recommendation to “[Ask] local business leaders, other groups doing PBL, or key members of the school or local community to suggest tangible real-world problems” such as “investigating and addressing causes of student absences” or “helping a community develop a historic walking tour.” By having students reach out to community members and civic leaders, their learning process ideally becomes more applicable to their everyday lives.

Fuglei also recommends that teachers confront their own lack of knowledge, catch up with current best practices and online forums on PBL, and embrace effective failure, if applicable — which demonstrates to students that, in the real world, actions have consequences and success is never guaranteed.

Since most junior and senior level Language Arts classes devote some time to grant and scholarship applications, it’s important to remind students that there’s a scholarship out there for almost everyone — even young adults interested in pursuing welding at a professional level.

In fact, the search for financial aid to help pay for college could, in and of itself, be an excellent problem-based lesson plan, with time dedicated to finding scholarships for various types of vocations, socio-economic family incomes, cultural backgrounds, and aptitudes. There are numerous scholarships designed for first-generation and low income college applicants, for example.

Real-World Examples of STEAM-Based PBL in Action

For language-based examples of podcasts that students can listen to for inspiration, check out these podcasts that include music education advocacy, conversations with teachers, and TED Radio Hour. Podcasts incorporate audio engineering technology, creative writing, critical thinking skills, and collaboration with peers for the greater purpose of creating an educational audio file for others to listen to and learn from — and if presented as a research project with a written component, a podcast assignment could be an excellent STEAM-based project for secondary students to tackle.

Ann Durfee offers another example of having students work within tight time constraints  — typically two hours — to build a vehicle and race them later in the week using various types of races: for example, sometimes it is a speed race, and other times it is a distance race. Durfee explains how the stress of time constraints and limited materials more accurately mimics scenarios students are likely to encounter outside the classroom in their everyday lives — as well as, perhaps, more challenging situations such as being part of a team on the International Space Station or solving a project-based conundrum in the office.

Recently, on National STEAM Day, Madison Edmiston wrote about a few specific activities that could easily be replicated in the classroom. However, too often when curriculum specialists discuss STEAM, they leave out the A for art. What about activities that center around creative writing, fine arts, and humanities? What about projects that encourage students to collaborate with their words, ideas, and entrepreneurial innovations?

The more we are able to encourage tech-free collaboration in the classroom that incorporates technology and AI as one part of the equation, the more we will show students that most of the resources for innovation lie within them. Rather than becoming overly dependent on robotics and computer labs, students can learn from everyone in the room and begin to understand that everyone has the potential to bring something of value to the table.

Future Trends for 2018 & Beyond

The troubling trend currently at play is the slashing of arts electives and components like art, choir, drama, and creative writing. In the Meridian school district, for example, students must pay to attend choir practice, take an art class, or register for a sports team. Why can’t our legislators grant our children the right to a well-rounded education that is equitable for all—rather than merely the privileged few?

The recent threat to NEA funding clearly demonstrates the ongoing hostility toward the arts in this country. However, let us consider Mark Bauerlein’s argument that schools should think like businesses and solicit arts funding and engagement from private donors, creative professionals and entrepreneurs in the community.

If it is truly the case that public education funding seems hell-bent on teaching to the test, as was the woeful tradition instigated by No Child Left Behind more than fifteen years ago, now, perhaps it will be necessary to search outside this model for the extra funding we need. NCLB added more test prep and fewer arts electives and extracurricular classes to schools. Although it may seem anathema to many advocates of public education to seek out private funding, we need to think outside the proverbial box if we’re going to get anywhere in our current polarized system of political gridlock and corporate rule.

Since we’re working within a system grounded in the real world, bureaucratic delays, and agonizingly slow calls to action, we need to think on our feet and show our students that we are willing to fight for their ability to develop all aspects of their imagination and intelligence — regardless of whether the adults around them come to any kind of significant funding solution anytime soon.

For more on arts integration, see:

Noah Rue teaches ESL internationally, and is a freelance writer focused on his travels and education.


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Integrated Learning Propels Pittsburgh Students

Jeremy Resnick started teaching in 1987. Even though his mother is famous educator and Pitt prof Lauren Resnick, Jeremy said his first year of teaching was like living in foreign country.

He began to wonder if schools could move the needle on life outcomes for kids in poverty. Jeremy began exploring new options for youth. He founded a career center, a charter school and the Charter Schools Project at Duquesne University.

In 2003, Jeremy co-founded Propel, a school in the basement of an old hospital with the goal of providing great schools to families who would otherwise not have access.

When asked to describe the Propel learning model, Jeremy first describes a culture of possibility. The early work led to a shared value,  “Propel does not accept the premise that poverty or family structure determines education performance or life outcome.”

Shared values and lots of lessons learned led to six promising principles: agile instruction, embedded support, culture of dignity, fully valued arts program, vibrant teaching communities, and a quest for excellence.

There are now a set of powerful practices to go with each of the principles:

 

Propel Schools serves 4000 students at 13 Pittsburgh campuses. Over 80% of the students live in or near poverty. About the same percentage are kids of color. Almost a fifth have special needs. A third of students have involvement with county human services.

The nonprofit network exists to close education and experience gaps and transform the lives of children in underserved Pittsburgh communities through innovative, student centered learning.

Given the level of challenge children bring to school, Propel provides a wide range of support services. “Embedded Support is one of our principles,” said Jeremy. “We support kids individually–also parents and teachers, whatever the challenge is.”

Fund My Future is an example of family supports. The program helps Propel families start savings accounts for kids. The program has generated more than $130,000 in parent deposits benefiting over 2,000 students.

Secondary students participate in a daily small group advisory to support sustained relationships, monitor progress and develop agency

A longer day and year (providing 25% more time than traditional schools) supports full integration of the arts. Jeremy sees the arts as an important way for youth to connect to their own culture as well as explore others.

Jeremy said that because teacher preparation enrollments are down, it’s getting harder to hire great teachers. To boost the pipeline, Propel established the PIttsburgh Urban Teaching Corps with  Chatham University for teacher preparation. If you don’t know Chatham, check out the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment on the 388-acre Eden Hall Campus.

The Propel team recruits candidates from the program and its teachers and administrators serve as adjunct faculty. One quarter of the 80 teachers hired for this school year came through the network specific training program. The teacher prep program costs about $60,000 per teacher (half stipend, half tuition). The goal is to develop another 130 teachers in the next five years. Jeremy is trying to raise another $4 million to support the program.

Speaking of building a talent pipeline, Dr Tina Chekan, CEO Propel Schools was a founding kindergarten teacher in 2003. She worked her way up to Literacy Coach, Principal, and Assistant Superintendent.

Innovation & STEAM Integration

Kristen Golomb (@MrsGolomb) joined Propel as science teacher in 2006. Today she is the Director of Innovation leading the implementation of a bundle of student-centered learning practices including big integrated projects, coding, and maker. The project-based learning (PBL) framework was built with Pittsburgh design shop LUMA Institute.

K-4 students engage in Integrated Learning Experiences including computer science and the arts to develop transferable skills through a 30 hour integration class taught by integration educators and two integrated projects co-taught by teachers and integration educators.

Emily Cain is a K-4 integration educator that supports the development of project-based units. She sees every K-4 student each week. Jeffrey Patrick, also an integration educator, teaches elementary coding while co-teaching and co-planning PBL units that incorporate these skills into the regular ed classrooms.

Middle level students take between 10 and 30 hours of integrated electives that incorporate Computer Science and the arts into project-based units.

Studio 4-C is a middle school project-based class that combines art, social studies, and technology with a focus on critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.

Studio 4-C teacher Patrick Hammonds focuses on identity in 6th, change in 7th, and freedom

In 8th grade. He said, “Partnerships with Educurious, Verizon Innovative Learning, Remake Learning, and others ensure I’m as dedicated to self improvement as I want my students to be.”

Project-based units require students to engage in multidisciplinary projects including authentic uses for 3D printing. “We have been given the opportunity to transform student centered learning in our region, due to the hard work and dedication of The Remake Learning Network,” said Kristen.

Heather Harvey (@mrsharveypcs), a technology integration specialist supports the use of the Google suite, Minecraft, AR/VR, and tech-enabled project based learning. Propel supports smart uses of tech with Digital Citizenship Family Nights.

In partnership with GTECH Strategies and Starbucks, 6th grade Propel students studied environmental issues that plagued the Pittsburgh region and decided to make change. They designed a school rain garden that the high school students and 3rd grade students built and grew. Below, high school-environmental students and 3rd grade science students learning plant growth and development.

Propel high schools offer the same relevance and rigor as K-8 schools. A Freshman Seminar boosts self management and learning skills. The 1:1 environments feature Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and dual enrollment courses. Every student benefits from service learning and internships.

Propel is a model of how a group of schools with shared ideals, practices, and tools can change life trajectories of youth from low income neighborhoods and, in doing so, revitalize communities.

This post is part of a blog series in the upcoming “Getting Smart on Reinventing Education” Smart Bundle produced in partnership with The Grable Foundation. Join the conversation on Twitter using #RemakeLearning. For more, check out the other blogs in the series: 


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Navigating School Leadership: 5 Lessons

Managers execute in the place that they are.

Leaders transport groups to places they’ve never been.

As educational leaders, principals and superintendents must sequence complex tasks–often formulating a mixture of improving the old system and building the new system– in a way that is manageable for the staff (and community) to incorporate. Agreement crafting and the articulation of where you are taking people is an art and a science and goes a long way in navigating your course.

In her writings after World War II, the Polish poet Szymborska said “I apologize to big questions for small answers.” Pondering the reality of this quote establishes a desire to create the future of learning and if intentionally embraced, leaders won’t have to offer that apology if they ask and help their community answer the big questions. In this blog, we look at five lessons learned, specific to the navigation of school leadership. Meet the new year, your staff and your community where they are at with the intention of traveling with them, in where you would like to take them.

Lesson 1: Great Leaders Must Also Be Great Managers.

“A manager says ‘GO,’ a leader says ‘Let’s Go.’ – John Maxwell

With the challenge of keeping pace with elevated expectations and the emerging reality of the importance of the evolution of learning, good leaders need to be both. Through stripping down definitions, to lead is to “go before or show the way,” a partnered navigator of where a group will go and manage is to “control,” “to take charge” with the task of “manipulating resources and direction.” With aspirations of truly leading, our learnings have brought us to the reality that both roles are needed in charting the course.

As a leader, it is critical to roll up your sleeves and engage in the work. It motivates your team and sets a stage for “we are in this together.” While motivating, school leaders also need to manage resources and negotiate resources for the community to find success in reaching their established destination. This “dance” between the two is best accomplished through clear communications of your why and transparency of actions.

Tip: Capture your personal mantra that bridges the two worlds, a non-negotiable if you will, and make it public. Stay true to assessing decisions through this lens and lead with your community, while not fearing decisions that need to be made. As you share and live it, you will be amazed at how quickly individuals within your community begin to trust your intentions.

Lesson 2: In the broadest sense, leadership is politics. It is the formulation of temporary coalitions in support of public agreements.

Great leaders innovate and execute, they coach like Akil E. Ross and disrupt like Kaleb Rashad. They help teams operate at very high levels under existing conditions and, with intentional actions, break and reshape conditions for the benefit of students. Distributed leadership and some degree of specialization help spread the load but every school needs an agenda that finds a balance between improvement and innovation. The momentum gained through expanding the capacity of staff through highlighted strengths generates shared ownership towards the growth of the community.

Tip: Place an ideation board in a common space within your school building or district office that allows for voice in generating solutions to existing components or new innovations within your organization.

Lesson 3: You are not alone, schools are part of a greater learning community. Do not fear it, embrace it.

Isolation can feel dooming and in those moments, school leaders must have presence of mind to recognize that they are not alone. Even more so, lean in as you pursue relationships with partners in places that you previously did not consider. With increased intentionality behind teaching and growing whole learners, community has never been more important. Whether it is initiative funding support or an expansion of caring adults prepared to provide new learning to students, we must increase our pursuit of a “village” mentality in better serving students. From community centered Disruption Days at the One Stone School of Boise, that partners with community to “forge an army of good for good” or whole system accountability through strategic shifts outlined in the Tacoma Whole Child Initiative (TWCI), it comes down to being intentional with maximizing partnerships within the larger learning community.

Tip: Go for a walk. Make your presence known in the community that you serve by introducing yourself to local businesses, churches and organizations. Expand the “walls” of your school to include the internal and community at-large.

Lesson 4: Leaders articulate a compelling vision of how the system should work.

A change effort starts with looking at the system with new eyes and surfacing existing agreements and assumptions. Least well understood, and central to the role of the leader, is the question: how should the system work?  With growing diversity, emerging opportunities and challenges of information technology, evolving knowledge about high-performance organizations, and a new proposition that all students can and should achieve at high levels, it’s still not clear what success at scale will look like. The new proposition of the standards movement—that all students should leave high school prepared for college, work and citizenship—is widely accepted but far from reality.  It’s tough, but leaders need to paint a vision of a desired future state.

Tip: Regardless of the accountability system within your district or network, be intentional and collaborative in the design of a strategic plan. Be honest in assessing current realities(ongoing) as you lead the curation of where the learning community will collectively go. In following suit, be public about the outcomes for the “world” to see, comment and even condemn as a reflective activity that will accelerate progress.

Lesson 5: Leaders need to lead the charge in regards to new learning.

Leaders need to be the lead learners within their community welcoming opportunities to study a variety of approaches and insights that could improve their abilities. With growing access to innovations throughout the world and an open intentionality in sharing the findings, the time is now. Pursue conversations that lead to new learning, the ability to develop a shared vision and agreements that keep a community moving. This is complicated work and needs to be broken down.

Tip: What are you reading? What TED talk did you watch that created as many questions as answers? Engage in a book study or learning opportunity with your community that has relevance in supporting or even better, accelerating growth. Place value in the need with expectations for those that engage and start lots of conversations.

While this in no way is an inclusive list, it is a start. Read it with a someone that pushes your thinking (if you do not have one of those, that would be a must find) and brainstorm all of the lessons that did not make this list. Start a new list for the new year, with relentless resolve in improving the learning community you serve. As a final note, go visit schools. Take a variety of individuals from your learning community with you and share discoveries with the larger community upon your return. The opportunity to lead is a gift, enjoy!

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