Mindset

Are Your Students Life Ready?

Guest post by Akil E. Ross

As principal of Chapin High School (CHS) in South Carolina, I’m always trying to promote ways to make our students college and career ready. After all, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) calls for our students to meet higher academic standards and for us to help them find success beyond high school. But I often find myself wondering: Does college and career ready mean life ready? Regardless of which path our students take, just possessing the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and a career is only one part of the equation to becoming a productive and happy human being. In addition to making our students college and career ready, my goal is to make 100 percent of our students ready for life.

What does it mean to be life ready, and how can schools prepare students? (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…)

Allow Yourself to Be a Beginner Again

Guest post by Brandon Mowinkel

From: Brandon Mowinkel
Date: Friday, March 25, 2016 at 12:03 AM
To: Brandon Mowinkel
Subject:
Allow yourself to be a beginner again…

I was recently cleaning out my inbox and came across this email sent from me to me at three minutes past midnight. This isn’t necessarily odd as I send myself emails all the time of things I need to do or want to remember. However, I have no context for this email—the body of the email was blank. What was I watching or reading that I felt compelled enough to send these seven words? What was it that resonated with me at the time? As I ponder and reflect upon these words, I wonder when was the last time I was truly a beginner again. (more…)

Poverty: A Reason NOT An Excuse

Top teachers say that poverty is the most important barrier facing them in their classrooms. Reformers insist that those teachers are merely making excuses for poor achievement of low-income students.

Having worked in and with many high-poverty schools I am, on the one hand, discouraged by the current fad du jour of ignoring poverty as a detractor, and on the other hand, inspired by the fact that I know that, if schools do the right things, the right way, long enough, their students can achieve at high levels. Every day, we learn that more and more schools are beating the odds.

While the mantra of education reformers continues to be ‘No excuses, because poverty is not destiny,’ researchers and practitioners know that “socio-economic circumstance matters to education outcomes.”

Blaming Only Hurts Those Most In Need (more…)

Teacher Attendance and School Culture – Revisited

Note: This is an update of an article originally posted on June 3, 2014

“Culture eats strategies for breakfast.”–Peter Drucker

Great schools can be average in some areas, but great schools cannot have a glaring weakness and be considered great. Great schools find a way to solve the problems that stifle or debilitate good schools.

Increased accountability coupled with new, more rigorous standards and more challenging assessments place increased pressure on principals to improve classroom instruction. Maximizing instructional time is a key way to raise student achievement. Teacher absenteeism and the use of substitute teachers, which reduce instructional time, have long been problems faced by every school. Faced with budget shortfalls, many districts have resorted to removing teachers from classrooms during the school day in order to attend professional development sessions. Labor agreements have been structured in a way that encourages teacher absence. States have reduced the number of school days in a school year.

While principals often face district and state policies that actually encourage teacher absenteeism, principals can impact teacher attendance. Like every school problem, the long-term solution lies in the culture—attitudes, beliefs, mindsets, expectations, and relationships—of the school.

In Teacher Absence, Leading Indicators, and Trust, Raegen Miller made some important points regarding teacher attendance pointing to the need to look more closely at school culture:

  • If teachers’ presence in the classroom matters so much, shouldn’t we pay more attention to teachers’ absences?
  • Professional culture in a school can exert a strong influence over the leave-taking behavior of its teachers
  • Forty-five percent of the variation in teacher absence is between schools working under the same district and state parameters.
  • Paying attention to teacher absence gets at the professional culture in schools through the notion of trust, a universal human tension if ever there was one. In particular, theory and evidence point to trust between teachers and management as a moderator of teacher absences.

Teacher Attendance and Student Achievement

Here is the reality. When teachers are absent, students lose valuable instructional time. No matter how qualified they are, substitute teachers do not improve student achievement. “When I was absent I knew that my classes would regress no matter who was the substitute or how well I planned.” – Stuart A. Singer, Author of The Algebra Miracle

A recent study indicates that teacher attendance is an overlooked factor in improving student achievement. “Given the time and attention spent on school programs, new curriculum and strategies to strengthen teacher quality,” the report’s authors wrote, “we may be overlooking one of the most basic, solvable and cost effective reasons why schools may fail to make education progress.”

The study goes on to point out the following:

  • One in six teachers in some of the country’s largest public school districts are out of the classroom at least 18 days, or more than 10 percent of the time, for illness, personal reasons and professional development.
  • Overall teacher attendance rate is 94 percent.
  • Districts spend an average of $1,800 per teacher to cover absences each year.
  • No measurable relationship between teacher absence and the poverty levels of a school’s students
  • No difference in absentee rates among districts with policies meant to encourage attendance, such as paying teachers for unused sick time, and districts without those incentives.

A study by the Columbia University School of Business offers some interesting findings:

  • Substitutes are worse than the regular teacher. “In teaching, the person with whom an absent teacher is replaced is clearly worse in a substantial way. Substitute teachers are less likely to be highly skilled, since otherwise the chances are she would already have found a full-time teaching job. Even if a substitute is highly skilled, there is a start-up cost: just because someone has a degree in math doesn’t mean she can hop in and be a great sixth-grade math teacher.”
  • Students do worse in years when their teacher takes more time off.
  • “When a teacher takes an extended medical leave, it causes a drop in math and English test scores on par with putting a rookie teacher in the place of a teacher with four years of experience for an entire year.”
  • Shorter absences are more detrimental than longer ones. Ten one-day absences over the course of a year were found to lower student scores more than when a teacher missed two consecutive weeks.
  • Incentives for teachers to not be absent don’t work.

A Short Success Story

I received a call from the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources. He was calling to arrange a time for his staff to visit our high school. Unbeknownst to me, our school had the highest rate of substitute coverage for absent teachers in a district of approximately 270 schools.

In our school, when a teacher was absent, we had substitute coverage approximately 96% of the time. I was shocked to learn that other high schools averaged 65% coverage. In addition, our school had the highest teacher attendance among the almost 30 high schools in the district.

This came as a shock to the district staff because (more…)

Teacher Attendance and School Culture

“Culture eats strategies for breakfast.”–Peter Drucker

Great schools can be average in some areas, but great schools cannot have a glaring weakness and be considered great. Great schools find a way to solve the problems that stifle or debilitate good schools. Teacher absenteeism and substitute teachers are problems faced by every school. Like every school, the solution is in the culture—attitudes, beliefs, mindsets, expectations, and relationships—of the entire school.

Here is the reality. When teachers are absent, students lose valuable instructional time. No matter how qualified they are, substitute teachers do not improve student achievement. “When I was absent I knew that my classes would regress no matter who was the substitute or how well I planned.” – Stuart A. Singer

A new study indicates that teacher attendance is an overlooked factor in improving student achievement. “Given the time and attention spent on school programs, new curriculum and strategies to strengthen teacher quality,” the report’s authors wrote, “we may be overlooking one of the most basic, solvable and cost effective reasons why schools may fail to make education progress.”

The study goes on to point out the following:

  • One in six teachers in some of the country’s largest public school districts are out of the classroom at least 18 days, or more than 10 percent of the time, for illness, personal reasons and professional development.
  • Overall teacher attendance rate is 94 percent.
  • Districts spend an average of $1,800 per teacher to cover absences each year.
  • No measurable relationship between teacher absence and the poverty levels of a school’s students
  • No difference in absentee rates among districts with policies meant to encourage attendance, such as paying teachers for unused sick time, and districts without those incentives.

A study by the Columbia University School of Business offers some interesting findings:

  • Substitutes are worse than the regular teacher. “In teaching, the person with whom (more…)

School Can Use Some “Pixar Magic”

“Hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions.” – Pixar co-founder, Ed Cattail

Pixar magic,” is a phrase film critics frequently employ to describe the studio’s impressive track record of box office success–all 14 of its movies have debuted in the top spot at the box office.

In a recent interview, Pixar co-founder, Ed Catmull, discusses his new book, Creativity Inc. , and says ‘reframing the concept of failure is the only sure way to find success.’

The keys to Pixar’s Succcess:

  • Pixar’s success is the product of a deliberate attitude toward creativity and failure.
  • How do you make it safe for people to say what they think or that it’s safe for them to make mistakes/fail?
  • The answer: “Reframe the concept of failure. 
When you start something new, you will make mistakes, and if you don’t make mistakes you’re either copying yourself or copying someone else.”
  • Each failed concept brings the ultimate creation closer!
  • Each idea led them a bit closer to finding the better option.
  • This is key: when experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, not as a frustrating waste of time, people will enjoy their work, even when it is confounding them.”

Key Lessons from Pixar for School Leaders

  • Whether implementing new college- and career-ready standards, introducing new technology, integrating literacy into content areas, implementing new teacher evaluation systems, or employing new performance assessments, all require significant learning and experimentation.
  • Problem: The fear of taking risks and failing and the ensuing reprisals which may follow keeps many of our staff members from trying new things and taking risks.
  • School leaders must create a school culture in which it is okay to make a mistake. I was quoted in one publication “Treat your school as a laboratory. Don’t be afraid of doing something different. If it doesn’t work, go to something else.”
    The following is an excerpt from my colleague, Stuart Singer’s book The Algebra Miracle, on the kind of school culture we created:

“I have two daughters who go to this school and I am thrilled that they do. This faculty approaches education like a laboratory experiment. They try out a hypothesis and then collect the data. If it works, they study it more and try to find ways to make it work better. If it doesn‘t, they try to find out why it failed and either remove it or repair it. It is a never-ending process of evaluation and reevaluation, just as you would if you were trying to perfect any product in a lab.”

  • But how do we do that? Follow Pixar’s lead and “reframe” the concept of failure.
  • Reframing” (a “shift in a person’s mental perspective”) is an important skill for school leaders engaging their staffs in both short- and long-term change initiatives. For example, if teachers believe that literacy is not their responsibility, that they do not have time to teach literacy skills, and that literacy is the job of reading teachers, simply teaching teachers how to use a “close reading” strategy, is doomed to failure unless we can reframe or change our teachers’ mental perspective (mindset) about the need to integrate literacy into their content area. As Simon Sinek advises Start With Why.
  • Compliance Does Not Equal Cooperation – Experience has taught me that without that “shift in perspective” or change in mindset teachers will temporarily comply, but, in the long-run, they will abandon the practice. In other words, a big part of implementing any initiative is aligning existing mindsets to fit the new initiative.
  • Failure is a concept that must be “reframed” if we want to change mindsets and expectations of teachers in relation to assessment and grading as well as the larger issue of student success and failure. Here are some examples of “reframing” failure:

o   There is no failure, only feedback!

o   If you are not failing (making mistakes) you are not learning.

o   As long as you are learning, you are succeeding!

o   The only way to fail in this school is to stop trying, to quit.

o   Failure is permanent. Mistakes are temporary.

o   We learn from mistakes.

o   Each failure only brings us closer to a solution.

o   “If you don’t make mistakes you’re either copying yourself or copying someone else.”

o   People who learn from mistakes learn faster.

o   Feedback is the breakfast of champions!

o   Our school is like a laboratory!

 

Create a Culture That Protects the New

At Pixar, Catmull emphasizes “we are willing to adjust our goals as we learn, striving to get it right, not necessarily to get it right the first time. Because that, to my mind, is the only way to establish something else that is essential to creativity: a culture that protects the new.”

In our school, students would say, “in this school it is hard to fail, because the teachers never give up on you. They won’t let you fail!” I would not hesitate to choose a school whose staff had a growth mindset over a school with a highly-qualified teaching staff.

 

Carol Dweck on Performance Assessment

When students have a growth mindset they are motivated to learn. Watch as psychologist Carol Dweck describes the growth mindset and ways to nurture it. Ms. Dweck references the Envision Education videos on Deeper Learning.

Key Points from the Video:
  1. Contribute to the motivation to learn
  2. Encourage students to embrace challenges not avoid them
  3. Develop self-discipline and perseverance
  4. We believe in you! Set high standards and assure students that we will support them in achieving those standards. We set very high standards but we are committed to helping you reach and exceed them (support)
  5. Send the message that “you can join the ranks of the ‘best and brightest’ through work and effort on challenging tasks
  6. Encourage students to take ‘ownership’, which is a critical factor
  7. When students make choices and have a big ‘why’ their motivation increases
  8. Ikea Effect – the longer students work on a challenge, the more committed they are to the project
  9. Help students understand that intelligence is not something you were born with, but something you create
  10. Continual growth and improvement over time is the central focus of learning
  11. Help students understand that they can contribute
  12. Cause students to believe that they belong here

See on www.teachingchannel.org

Carol Dweck on Struggle and Deeper Learning

Students who embrace struggle while learning and solving problems develop skills that others may not. Learn how Expeditionary Learning has incorporated struggle and the growth mindset into their school.

Key Points from the Video:

Growth Mindsets:

  1. relate directly to ‘Deeper Learning’ and Expeditionary Learning
  2. orient the student to a focus on learning not knowing
  3. teach students that taking on challenging tasks helps the brain make new connection and, thus, they get smarter
  4. students embrace challenges because “work hard and get smart”
  5. learn that “easy is a waste of time”
  6. students are proud of tackling and resolving challenging problems
  7. instead of avoiding and covering up mistakes, students embrace them
  8. mistakes motivate and increase student interest
  9. students gain self-confidence by taking on challenges
  10. students develop a sense of purpose and a belief that they can make a difference

See on www.teachingchannel.org

Attendance and Absenteeism: What School Leaders Need to Know

By Mel Riddile

Author’s Note: In keeping with our observation of September as Attendance Awareness Month, this is Part 3 in a series of articles on Attendance and Absenteeism.

Attendance is to school what rebounding is to basketball—it is hard work, requires effort and persistence, and it often goesunrewarded and unrecognized, but schools cannot be successful without it.

As I recently pointed out, having the right attendance laws and procedures in place is important in the short-run. However, in the long-run, our school had to build a safe, orderly, and student-centered school culture that attracted students. We had to become a place where students felt wanted and where they wanted to be. We had to be the kind of school in which each and every student was both known and valued. We had to be the kind of school that students wanted to attend and hated to leave. We had to be a school that had to work to get students to leave the building at the end of the day, not one that had to work to get students to attend.

To be that school, we had to provide a safe, clean, orderly, warm and inviting school environment built on quality relationships. In addition, we had to create a culture of success in which students came to school expecting to succeed while knowing that their teachers would not stand bye and allow them fail.

We learned from experience that when kids miss school they miss out, and when kids miss out, we all suffer. In our school, attendance, along with school wide literacy, was a priority. We served large numbers of under-resourced students who needed extra support and encouragement in order to attend school on a regular basis.

USA Today reports that research suggests that as many as 7.5 million students miss a month of school each year, raising the likelihood that they’ll fail academically and eventually drop out of high school.

The findings, from education researcher Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University and supported by Attendance Works estimate that 10% to 15% of students nationwide are “chronically absent” from school, (more…)