Thursday, January 31, 2008

Classroom "Walk Throughs"

Many of the schools I work with are training principals to use 10 minute "classroom walk throughs" as a method of teacher evaluation. I've never felt very comfortable about this process and now I know why. Read what Jane Davis has to say. To read the entire article go to the December 2007/January 2008 edition of Educational Leadership.

According to Davis, the idea behind classroom walk-throughs is to look "at how well teachers are implementing a particular program or set of practices." Classroom walk-throughs are a formative assessment tool that should focus on improving school-wide program implementation. They were never intended to be used as individual teacher evaluation tools and in fact, using them in that manner may very well backfire for a district.

Since so many of our South Dakota schools have decided to use this process, it is worth our time to become familiar with the research surrounding these latest educational process. According to Davis, the limited research varies in usefulness and effectiveness, but she does identify several studies that outline when classroom walk-throughs are useful and when they aren't. For example, Davis describes an in-depth study of three urban districts conducted by the RAnd Corporation. Their findings indicate that "administrators find walk-throughs more useful that do teachers" as teachers are rarely given individual feedback. However, used effectively, they become a vehicle for identifying school-wide professional development needs and that may be a good thing.

Davis warns against implementing a classroom walk-through program "when the purpose is murky or when trust among teachers, principals, and central-office staff is low." Under those circumstances, "walkthroughs are likely to be perceived as compliance checks, increasing distrust."

Web 2.0: Block It or Embrace It?

TechnicallySpeaking@TIE: Web 2.0: Block It or Embrace It?

Click the link directly above to view this TIE blog entry.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Research shows both sides of change

Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker contains a section on the complexity of change. DuFour and Eaker offer fourteen research findings regarding the failure of school reform:
The change moved too fast—people were overwhelmed.
The change moved too slowly—people lost their enthusiasm.
The change lacked strong leadership from the principal.
The change relied too heavily on the leadership of a strong principal.
The change was too big and attached too much at once—people change incrementally, not holistically.
The change was too small—organizations need a more aggressive, comprehensive shake-up.
The change was top-down without buy-in from the faculty.
The change was bottom-up without the support of the central office or administration.
Gains were celebrated too soon, and the sense of urgency was lost.
Gains were not recognized and celebrated, and the initiative lost momentum.
Schools were unwilling to change—they were steadfastly committed to the status quo.
Schools embraced every change that came along and careened from fad to fad.
Leaders failed to develop a critical level of support before initiating change.
Leaders mistakenly insisted on overwhelming support as a prerequisite for initiating change; this stipulation ensured implementation would never occur.

These paradoxes speak for themselves about how important balance is within the change initiative. The leader needs to know the participants within the change—which research finding fits the participants of a particular educational community?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Do Schools Do Enough with Inventiveness?

Interesting results from a survey of teens released from the Lemelson-MIT program that portrays both positive and negative news for schools (unfortunately eSchoolNews went for the sensational headline focused on the negative: Top News - Survey: Schools fail to teach innovation).

First, teens are optimistic that innovation can help solve many environmental issues today (72%) and that they could invent some of these solutions (64%), especially compared to only 38% of adults surveyed (interestingly, half the adults were 18-24 years old).

While a vast majority of teens (79 percent) believe there is value in
hands-on project-based science-technology-engineering-math
(STEM) education and learning in high school, they also believe schools can do more to prepare them for innovative work:
The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that more than half of American teens (59 percent) do not believe their high school is preparing them adequately for a career in technology and engineering. The disparity is more pronounced among some groups historically under-represented in these fields. Nearly two-thirds of African-American teens (64 percent) and teen girls (67 percent) believe they are not prepared in school for these careers. News: Press Releases

The director of the program believes this type of learning is doable for schools:
"Learning to invent is really no different than learning to throw a touchdown pass or play the trombone," said Schuler, noting that 40 percent of the teens who are most confident in their ability to invent are most likely to believe their high school is preparing them for a career in technology or engineering. "It takes practice. Students need the opportunity to get their hands dirty and invent," he said. "Generally speaking, there’s not enough ‘learning by doing’ taking place in today’s high schools, and our survey found that students recognize this."
. . .
"Support for new approaches in STEM education needs to start from the top," added Schuler, noting that the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that nearly one-third of American adults (30 percent) were unable to identify a presidential candidate who they feel has the most effective plan for improving this type of education in high schools. "Our nation’s proficiency in STEM education is an important issue to an overwhelming majority of people – 94 percent of adults and 80 percent of teens believe the U.S. needs to be more proficient. As we enter an election year, we hope to see increased attention and clarity from candidates around these issues."

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More 21st C Skills

Here is some interesting information about the impact of technology on schools, published last October. It provides a glimpse of how Web 2.0 tools are and will continue to play a role in teaching and learning, emphasizing the importance for school leaders to understand this medium.

School districts across the country are revising their academic curriculum to give students more 21st century learning opportunities, according to a survey issued today by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) at the organization’s annual T+L Conference here.

Among those districts that are revising their curricula, 85 percent reported that technology is playing a part in supporting the changes, especially in the area of using technology tools for project-based learning (83 percent), distance or online learning (nearly 57 percent) and upgrading math and science equipment and facilities (nearly 52 percent). A majority of districts (nearly 53 percent) said that they are using new interactive web tools, such as wikis and blogs, in the classroom.

Read more at the NSBA website.

More 21st C Skills

School districts across the country are revising their academic curriculum to give students more 21st century learning opportunities, according to a survey issued today by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) at the organization’s annual T+L Conference here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Real, Ideal, and Breckenridge

I am not endorsing this conference, but it is a new one and brings together business, community, and education. Here is part of what the website says:

"Focus on Education, Innovation 2008 conference
The theme is the real and the ideal.
Innovation 2008 will focus on what’s next in the social, cultural, and methodological dimensions of education, as well as in technology for education.

We believe that bringing together leaders in education, business, academia, and government in a conference environment organized around these themes will produce significant new ideas, perspectives, and initiatives.

While the goals of the conference are ambitious, there will also be ample time for networking, skiing, and enjoying the beauty of the Colorado Rockies.

Please join us at Innovation 2008, April 13 and 14, 2008 in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado "

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Good facilitation depends very much on good communication skills.
Good online facilitation depends very much on good online communication skills.
How true.

Near the beginning of January, Jacki posted a link on the Connect-Ed blog about, the December wiki space of the month. It is an enormous wealth of resources.
One resource of particular interest to leaders would be the Facilitating Online link. The resource explains several skills needed for good communication and good online communication.

Keep In Touch With Educational Policy

One of the roles of educational leaders is to keep their finger on the pulse of policy issues affecting education. If you are interested in the agendas of the South Dakota Education Committees check out these websites:
H-Ed and S-Ed

If you'd like to listen to meetings live visit:
House Ed Audio Senate Ed Audio
(because these are live sessions, you will only hear audio when someone is really there)

General information can be found at:
Statehouse and Legislature

Friday, January 11, 2008

Leadership Winds of Change

This article provides a great overview of to what educational leaders need to pay attention, especially in the area of instructional technology. The sailing metaphors are just a bonus. Check out this amazing sailing photo on flickr.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Success Stories

Bruce Oliver, the editor of Just for the ASKing, has compiled a list of qualities that successful leaders exhibit. He includes twelve characteristics:
Oliver tells a brief story about someone who possesses the quality.

The full article can be accessed at H:\subject matter\leadership\October 2007 Just for the ASKing! -Talking Out of School Conversations with Successful Leaders.mht

Oliver, Bruce. "Talking Out of School: Conversations with Successful Leaders” Just for the ASKing! October 2007, Reproduced with permission of Just ASK Publications & Professional Development (Just ASK), Inc. Copyright 2007 by Just ASK, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Leadership Linked to Student Achievement

Leadership has significant effects on student learning, second only to the effects of the quality of curriculum and the teachers’ instruction, according to the 2003 task force on Educational Leadership.
Maximizing collaboration skills empowers institutions and the leaders within those institutions to reach their goals. School Leadership that Works: From Research to Results by Robert Marzano focuses on administrator and teacher leader qualities and responsibilities that affect student achievement. Marzano describes twenty-one responsibilities for leaders: situational awareness, flexibility, discipline, monitoring, and outreach are the five that correlate most highly with student achievement.
For more information on this topic see , or or register for a one credit asynchronous book study at before Jan. 16 2008.