Collaboration

AVID: A Transformative Pathway for School Improvement

Guest post by Nick Nelson

During the 2015–16 school year, The Dalles High School in Oregon was awarded a state grant for AVID training. We didn’t know much about AVID at the time, just that it was a philosophy centered on writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading, and that its goal was to close the achievement gap.

The grant allowed a team of five teaching staff, me, and one additional administrator to attend the initial summer AVID-training session. After that session, our team began to grasp more concretely the significance of what we were involved in and the potential impact AVID could have on our instructional practice with targeted students and schoolwide. What we didn’t know was how instrumental AVID would be in creating a powerful cultural transformation for our high school. (more…)

National Principals Conference 2018: A Forum for National Problem-Solving

Guest post by Amber Schroering

After the recent Parkland shooting in Florida, I found myself sitting in church and couldn’t bring myself to sing. I just stood there, almost feeling numb, wondering how I could make a difference. I began to feel the same feelings creep in as I read and saw the extent to which our country is still divided over race and gender inequality. My hopelessness continued when a seventh-grade student came into my office because her dad had been arrested the night before after his inebriated girlfriend called the police and claimed domestic violence. The student said her father was punched in the nose, handcuffed, and arrested. And my feelings of despair hit rock bottom when Deputy Jake Pickett was shot and killed in the line of duty. His wife teaches at one of our elementary schools and he was a 2002 graduate of Brownsburg High School.  (more…)

A Professional Learning Community That Achieves Results

Guest post by Jack Baldermann

At Westmont High School (WHS)—a Title 1 school just outside Chicago, IL—our team has sustained tremendous growth and significant gains in student achievement. WHS continues to rank in the top 1 percent in Illinois and in the nation for its graduation rate. Over the past five years, 98.5 percent of our students have graduated on time, up from a 10-year average of 90 percent. For five years straight, 100 percent of Latino and African-American students at WHS have completed all graduation requirements on time. In addition, WHS can also claim one of the most improved and top performing AP programs in Illinois and in the nation.

What has caused our substantial growth and gains in student achievement? (more…)

Giving Students a Voice in School Improvement

Guest post by Kasey Teske

In secondary schools, the greatest untapped resource is our students. Most of our students care deeply about school and have numerous ideas about how to improve their campus community. But how often do we, as principals, involve students in our school improvement efforts? Do the students in our school even know our improvement priorities? Are they allowed to give input and help create our school improvement plans? I submit that the more principals give students a voice in their school, the more improvement will move in the right direction. (more…)

iCARE, Part Three: Helping Troubled Students Care

Guest post by Thomas Kachadurian

Two weeks ago, I introduced you to iCARE, and last week, I shared how this initiative has helped to unite our school community. In this final post, I will explore how iCARE has changed the way we work with our most difficult students.

In 2014, I inherited a unique sophomore class. Within the class there was a particular group of sophomores who were regarded as a notable challenge and needed a lot of TLC. As I got to know them, I realized that only a few of them were truly challenging and the rest were just looking to carve new titles for themselves among their peers. I hadn’t realized it yet, but iCARE was to become a saving factor for many of them and their sophomore academic and social careers. (more…)

iCARE, Part Two: Uniting Our Community

Guest post by Thomas Kachadurian

In last week’s post, I discussed the beginnings of the iCARE program at Colonie Central High School and how it has given students an opportunity to make a difference in our school. This week, I will share how iCARE has grown and united our entire community around a variety of events that aim to serve others and build a positive culture. (more…)

iCARE, Part One: Students Making a Difference

Guest post by Thomas Kachadurian

In 2011, I attended a character education summit at Sage College with my fellow associate principal Chris Robilotti. After attending a seminar on cultivating stakeholder ownership, we walked away with a new mission to take our successful middle school bullying prevention program and build it in the high school setting.

Using the information we gathered at Sage, Chris and I plotted a course (more…)

Change Starts With Us

Guest post by Jamie Richardson

A few years ago, I found myself trying to convince my son that he needed to “play the game” of school and figure out how to rack up as many “points” as possible in order to succeed. As these “encouraging” words came from my mouth, I stopped and asked myself, how was it that any of my students—let alone my very own son—needed artificial motivation to feel inspired about school? At that moment, I came to an important realization: (more…)

Solutions for Singletons: Building a Professional Learning Network

Guest post by Abbey Duggins and Amber Schroering

If you’ve spent any amount of time building a high school master schedule, you are familiar with the dreaded “singleton.” A singleton happens when just enough students sign up to create one section of a course—usually an AP or obscure world language—and it throws a major wrench into scheduling every other aspect of the student’s day. A singleton is a scheduling nightmare, but it is also a necessary part of education.

Many positions in instructional leadership can feel like a singleton: there is one superintendent, one principal, one coach. These positions are often lonely, lacking the camaraderie that classroom teachers develop among their peers through the common bonds of students, lesson planning, grading, shared hallways moments, and outside-of-school fun.

So what is a singleton to do? (more…)

Raising Test Scores: One School’s Story

Guest post by Amy Mims

When I became an assistant principal of Independence High School in Charlotte, NC, our school’s test scores were low. As I started observing classrooms, I saw talented teachers hard at work designing and delivering interesting lessons that utilized a number of instructional best practices. I also saw motivated students who were engaged in lessons, completed assignments, and did well on assessments. I wondered: What was causing our school’s low test scores? (more…)