AP Expert of the Week

The Intentional Principal

The best advice I ever received about working as a school administrator came from a great friend and colleague in Idaho’s Treasure Valley. My friend had attended a retirement reception for a gentleman that had been in education for over 40 years, 30 of which as a building administrator. My friend asked him, “How were you able to keep this fire and passion day in and day out in a job that can be so negative and draining?” The answer changed how I thought about my role and what faces me every day at school. The outgoing administrator said, “Discover what gives you energy in your work and do it every day. Be intentional about what you do.” (more…)

Making SMARTer Professional Development Plans

As building administrators, we observe staff and work with them to define clear goals for professional development, but how much time do we take to complete our own professional development plans? As building leaders, it can be easy to think of professional development plans as just another piece of check-the-box compliance. But I urge you to take the steps to create a proactive and engaging professional development plan that will be rewarding for you and your staff and students in turn. (more…)

Closing the Opportunity Gap in Rural Alaska

Chief Ivan Blunka School is a preK­–12 school located in the Alaska bush community of New Stuyahok. In New Stuyahok, hunting, fishing, and subsisting off the land aren’t hobbies but a necessity for survival due to the lack of traditional economic opportunities. Our community is only accessible by air or boat, and even then only when the weather cooperates. Everything we need to run our school, from toilet paper to textbooks, is flown in via single-engine aircraft. (more…)

Principal, Parent, and Partner: The Balancing Act of a School Leader

When I was child, I always wanted to juggle like the showstoppers in the circus and on television. I mastered juggling two balls (not that impressive, I know) but when the third ball entered the mix, I couldn’t control it, and I looked like a clown in the worst sense of the word. As school leaders, we have to juggle all the time. We have our professional and personal roles, and sometimes we sacrifice one for the other, and that’s when everything starts crashing down. (more…)

Assistant Principals: Strengthening The ‘Bench’ in School Leadership Pipelines

A National Board Certified Teacher, LaTanya Sothern, taught in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland for 15 years. “I really felt I had more to offer as a leader,” she said during a Wallace Foundation podcast on school leadership. Serving as an instructional lead teacher gave Sothern “a little bit more training and a broader perspective” before she ultimately secured a position as an assistant principal. (more…)

A Roadmap for Implementing Standards-Based Grading

Fair, standards-referenced grading systems that communicate what a student knows and can do are often difficult to design. Developing grading systems that are fair and consistent across an entire school district can seem like an impossible task. However, it is a task that is necessary and worthwhile. (more…)

Three Principles for Improving Practice

My school, long rated as top-performing, was this year given a rating of “targeted” for underperformance among student subgroups—including African-American, free and reduced-price lunch, and special education students. Though this is understandably not an ideal rating, I look at it as a blessing in disguise. We now have a very clear mandate to look at the performance of these subgroups and make immediate improvements. To me, this gives us an opportunity that will ultimately benefit all students, depending on the measures we put in place and the kinds of practices we implement. As an instructional leader, I am reminded that this work starts with me. (more…)

Student Discipline: It Takes More Than a Consequence

I vividly remember my middle level principal and the fear that hit my gut every time he would look at me or even walk by. He was six and a half feet tall, weighed close to 400 pounds, and his last name was Kevorkian. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that principal, especially if he never smiled and looked like he could be in the WWF as Andre the Giant’s tag-team partner? (more…)

How My Cellphone Reduces Stress

Has this happened to you? It’s Friday afternoon and, remarkably, the day has been unusually quiet. There are no extracurricular activities to support that afternoon or evening, and you can leave school by 4:00 p.m. guilt-free. Shortly after getting home, it happens—your phone chimes and an email comes through, which you casually look at and notice is from a parent. Do you read it right away? Do you wait until Sunday night? Monday morning? (more…)

Teacher Evaluation to Create a Culture of Learning

The teacher evaluation process has been at the forefront of many policy conversations over the past decade, and the underlying assumption resonates just as much today as it did ten years ago: the quality of the classroom teacher is the most important school-level factor that impacts student achievement. As school leaders, we must bring this assumption to life by creating a culture of teacher learning in our schools. Below are two important ways school leaders can help the teacher evaluation process become a robust and meaningful conversation that promotes professional growth and continuous improvement of professional practices. (more…)