Teaching and Learning

Prove It: Ensuring Efficacy in Digital Learning, Part Two

Guest post by Eric Sheninger

In my last post, we explored the importance of demonstrating efficacy to build support for, and ensure the success of, your school’s digital transformation. The Rigor/Relevance Framework offers a strong overall framework to reinforce pedagogical foundations while also moving practice from isolated pockets of excellence to systemic elements that are scaled throughout the learning culture. With that context in place, the next challenge is putting in place the right structures and supports to ensure success.

Below are five key areas (essential questions, research, practicality, evidence/accountability, reflection) that can put your classroom, school, district, or organization on a path to digital efficacy.  (more…)

What Can Summer Vacation Teach Us About School?

Guest post by Paul Hermes

Now that the end of the year is upon us and many of us are taking a well-deserved break from our demanding jobs as school administrators, I find myself thinking about summer vacation and the many lessons all of us have learned from the various excursions we have taken throughout our lives. Traveling helps us gain new perspectives and understandings of people, places, and cultures. My travel has included experiences led by tour guides and those arranged by travel agents that were self-guided. Both ways have offered me exciting experiences that expanded my knowledge and broadened my worldview.

As I think ahead to the coming school year, I imagine what it would be like if teachers led students through a year of travel. But which type of travel leader is best: a tour guide or a travel agent? (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…)

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…)

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…)

Navigating School Transitions

Guest post by Gordon Klasna

Summer is near and, as principal, I find myself already thinking about student transitions from one year to the next. For kids today, traditional school transitions seem to be growing even more difficult as children are living in an era of constant interruptions and limited attention span.

Since Eileen Johnson Middle School (EJMS) is an independent elementary district, we do not have a high school in our district, so instead we partner with our neighboring high schools to help ensure that our students are prepared academically when they cross their thresholds. While we all follow the same state academic standards, we don’t measure the soft skills that students need which are essential to making smooth transitions from one school to the next.

What are the skills that students need to navigate these transitions? (more…)

So Many Questions, So Little Time: Exploring Online PD

Guest post by Tracy Ragland

One of my goals as principal of Newcastle High School (NHS) in Wyoming is to provide my staff with ongoing, quality professional development. Currently, we follow a traditional, face-to-face PD model, where our administrative team shares best practices with our entire teaching staff during in-service time. Though this approach provides some benefits, our team has struggled to develop programming that addresses all of the different needs of our staff, especially since NHS offers a wide variety of electives ranging from multimedia to welding, in addition to our core classes. How can we as school leaders provide more effective professional development that meets all of the different needs of our staff? (more…)

Getting the Most Out of Block Scheduling

Guest post by Sedric G. Clark

As a young English I and Algebra I teacher, I always searched for best practices that would help my students succeed. One of the practices I encountered and embraced early in my career was 4×4 block scheduling. In fact, I completed my master’s degree paper on the topic and later chaired a committee for my district that recommended the implementation of 4×4 scheduling in all high schools.

That was more than 20 years ago. Since then, I have served as assistant principal and principal in five different schools in four different school districts—in two different states. I am now in my first year as superintendent, and hopefully, my last year as a doctoral student. When my doctoral adviser asked me to choose a topic for my dissertation, I once again turned to block scheduling. I wanted to see if block scheduling still offered the benefits that I thought it did at the beginning of my career. (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…)

Finding Your Path Toward Competency-Based Learning

Guest post by Brian M. Stack

Imagine trying to go somewhere for the first time without having access to a map. Worse yet, imagine being the great explorers Lewis and Clark who crossed the western part of our country for the first time in 1804 with no map, no roads, and little knowledge of what it was going to take to get to their destination. In education, early adopters often feel like trailblazers too, using research, trends, and sometimes their guts to forge new ways of thinking and doing. If you are a school leader looking to move your school to competency-based learning today, you may feel a daunting sense of helplessness as you embark on your journey. The good news is (more…)