Guest Blogs

The Poor Man’s Guide to Family Engagement in Our Schools

Guest post by Patrick Arguelles

Doing more with less

Virtually every school district in the nation is dealing with budget reductions. For most school leaders, there is little unjustified spending to cut, no easy targets, no low-hanging fruit. At the Early College Academy and Career Enrichment Center in Albuquerque, NM, we have examined our vision and mission and aligned budget expenditures to them. Challenged with sustaining the core function of our school—college and career readiness—yet also making budget reductions that could affect the educational experience necessary for student success, we stepped outside the box to scrutinize our options. Initial conversations were filled with lots of “less”—less materials and supplies, less technology, less PD, less electives, even less pay. What could we have more of that would not cost us any money? (more…)

Everyone Has a Story

Guest post by Brandon Mowinkel

The role of a principal is complex, tiring, and stressful, to say the least. Balancing the needs of your staff, students, school, and community can wear on you, especially as the school year winds down. Tensions seem to run high as patience wanes.

It is vital for principals to keep the focus where it needs to be—on the students. The demands of the job can pull us in various directions and our need to keep students at the forefront of what we do becomes muddled in the minutia of school life. Every principal must find a way to remember his “why” and continuously keep the focus on students and their learning. In my practice, I use three constant reminders to keep me focused on what matters most. (more…)

Playing to Our Strengths: Helping Teachers Hone Their Practice

Guest post by Jethro Jones

I had someone ask me the other day, “What does effective teaching look like to you? What do you look for when you walk into a classroom?” I thought this was a really interesting question that I have not had to answer in awhile, but I think it is important to share how my thoughts about this have changed over time. (more…)

Canines in the Classroom: How Gem Transformed Our School

Guest post by Laurie Wade

When I first proposed introducing a therapy dog to my district in 2011, I was met with a lot of raised eyebrows and skepticism. There was the expected chorus of objections: What about kids who are afraid of dogs or don’t like them? What about allergies? What if the dog hurts someone? Like most problems, all of these had solutions, and once that reassurance took hold the possibilities came forward. Research has shown that therapy dogs in schools bring a host of physical and mental benefits for the community. (more…)

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…)

Igniting Every Student’s Spark of Genius

Guest post by Stephen Spahn

As chancellor of Dwight School for the last 50 years, I have had the distinct privilege of witnessing some of the more dramatic changes in education. As the world continues to be transformed at an unprecedented pace, we are living in a new age of educational enlightenment, challenging educators to assess, rethink, and innovate curricula as never before. (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…)

Get Real With Visible Learning

Guest post by Jamie Richardson 

Creating authentic learning for students is challenging. No longer do students simply complete a project, get a grade, and move on to the next assignment. Their learning is long-term and connected to the next experience. Our work at LaCreole Middle School in Dallas, OR, revolves around project-based, problem-based learning. We strive to put our kids into real-world situations, similar to the conditions that many working adults encounter every day. When done right, these types of learning opportunities help students develop collaborative abilities and critical thinking skills along with a host of other skills and knowledge. (more…)