capacity to lead

Fostering an Environment for Teacher Growth

Guest post by Michele Paine

An area of passion for me as a school leader involves facilitating teacher growth. One way I work on this is by hosting several professional book studies during the school year.

Our district pays teachers for two days of flexible professional development time each contract year. Teachers can choose from a variety of options, including conferences, regional training, and state-led events. With all of these choices, however, I feel it is important to foster collegial discussion and professional reading. (more…)

Strengthening Our Capacity to Lead

Guest post by Michele Paine

On the Fourth of July, I had the opportunity to reconnect with a colleague who had just finished her first year as a K–6 principal in a small rural partner school in the Greater Flathead Valley area, where I serve as assistant principal in one of its high schools. Over margaritas, we laughed about our school year, each of us sharing “lessons learned” during the year. While she serves an elementary school and I serve a high school, we found that our lessons could apply universally. (more…)

Creating an Environment for Innovation Though Evaluation and Feedback: 8 Tips and Warnings

Guest post by Anthony Scannella and Sharon McCarthy:

Which do you think helps individuals and systems flourish during these transformational times: a bit of risk, a bit of failure and a good deal of feedback–or safely doing what has always been done? If you favor risk, failure and feedback, please read on. If you choose safety in complacency, save yourself some time and make a different decision.

We define effective feedback as a tool that supports professional growth in your school or system. But before we talk about what makes feedback effective, it is essential to consider the much celebrated belief that “there is no such thing as failure—only feedback.” In theory, this is supposed to help our egos cope with our mistakes. In reality, most of us secretly hope to be told how amazing our teaching or leading is, and hearing otherwise makes us both uncomfortable and defensive. Keep that very real human tendency in mind when sharing feedback.

Below are 8 suggestions for leaders whose focus is growth, in folks and in systems:

  1. Ask others how they prefer to receive the feedback. This is the baseline for respect.
  2. Know that while sharing feedback will help you and your colleagues improve, it will also cause most folks to squirm a bit—that is OK.
  3. Differentiate feedback based on the rating of the performance. (Please see: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-15/the-ideal-praise-to-criticism-ratio.html)
  4. Provide feedback in a way that caters to the receiver’s value system. People pay attention more to things they find important.
  5. Follow feedback basics: Feedback should be timely, specific, actionable, and connected to goals and practice.
  6. Create a structure for feedback—one that consistently communicates how things are going.
  7. Keep in mind that people generally change their behavior when provided with an environment that encourages change and specific cognitive maps that outline a “plan” in their heads. Therefore, the onus is on the leader/evaluator to ensure that the environment and maps, which Art Costa refers to as “mental rehearsals,” are clearly communicated in a culture of high expectations. (Costa, Arthur & Garmston, R. Cognitive Coaching. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, 1994.)
  8. Remain keenly aware of the fact that the meaning of your communication is the response that it elicits, regardless of your intentions. As many have experienced, the intended message is not always the received message.

How educational leaders model the practice of effective feedback for teachers not only helps teachers in improving their own performance but also provides mental models of effective practices for teachers to use with their own students. Feedback matters in every relationship in the schoolhouse! Synthesizing more than 900 educational meta-analyses, researcher John Hattie has found that effective feedback is among the most powerful influences on how people learn. (John Hattie, Know Thy Impact. Educational Leadership, Feedback for Learning, September 2012, Vol. 70, No. 1.)

Please join us at Ignite’14 to share thoughts and practices regarding this most fundamental of educational practices for positive transformation.

Anthony Scannella (@edufea, scannella.anthony@gmail.com) and Sharon McCarthy (@ienvision, ienvision@mac.com) will present Sustainable Results for Great Schools on Saturday, February 8 at Ignite ’14. For more information visit www.nasspconference.org.

Read their article “Teacher Evaluation: Adversity or Opportunity?” online in the January 2014 issue of Principal Leadership.

Creating the Conditions for School Success

Guest post by Frederick Brown:

“Education research shows that most school variables, considered separately, have at most small effects on learning. The real payoff comes when individual variables combine to reach critical mass. Creating the conditions under which that can occur is the job of the principal.”

This statement serves as a powerful opening to the recently updated and expanded Wallace Foundation Perspective, The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning. The field has come to depend on Wallace for sharing its learning as it continues a decade-long focus on leadership, and this most recent report doesn’t disappoint.

First, the perspective reminds us what Wallace has identified as the five key practices of effective principals:

•    Shaping a vision of academic success for all students
•    Creating a climate hospitable to education
•    Cultivating leadership in others
•    Improving instruction
•    Managing people, data, and processes to foster school improvement.

The perspective also answers a question rarely addressed in the literature: Why should teachers care about leadership? Linda Darling-Hammond addresses this principal-teacher connection in an interview with Wallace Director of Communications Lucas Held. Her response to the question of how principals and teachers work together to create a collaborative focus on learning is in complete alignment with Learning Forward’s Learning Communities Standard. “The principal functions as a principal teacher who is really focusing on instruction along with [and] by the side of teachers – not top down mandates and edicts,” she says. “When principals are trying to help create such a culture, [they] begin to open the doors and say, ‘Let’s talk about our practice. Let’s show our student work. Let’s go look at each other’s classrooms and see what we’re doing.'” In essence, what she is describing is a leader exhibiting the five key practices (Wallace 5).

During my NASSP session, participants will be delving into the Wallace 5 using a set of tools being developed by Learning Forward that are aligned to The Principal Story film documentary. Video segments from the film will be integrated into these online modules, and all of these free materials will be available for use by principals and those who support their development.

There are also some excellent videos on the Learning Forward website that provide a visual for these principal-led learning teams. While all of these videos show various “learning teams” committing to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment, the videos from Stults Road Elementary in particular show the principal actively engaged as both leader and learner. Like the vast library of Wallace Foundation knowledge products, these Learning Forward videos are free to download and use.

I look forward to joining many of you in Learning Forward’s hometown for the Ignite ’14 conference! Safe travels!

Frederick Brown is director of strategy and development at Learning Forward. Frederick will be presenting The Principal Story on Saturday, February 8 at Ignite ’14. For more information and to register, visit www.nasspconference.org.

Building G.R.E.A.T. Schools: Data Informing our Vision of Success

Guest post by Ronald Davis:

The demands on successful principals can be exhilarating and staggering at the same time. Without refined and enhanced leadership skills, principals can struggle to move their schools’ performance to levels that will benefit all of the students they serve.

There is an expectation that principals will have mastery of instructional, organizational, and public leadership skills. Therefore, developing principals’ leadership capacity and organizational skills is critical in helping them meet the challenging demands being placed on school leaders.

“Building G.R.E.A.T. Schools: Data Informing our Vision of Success” is designed to provide school leaders with a G.R.E.A.T. framework – including Goals, Roles, Expectations, Attitude, and Tools. The G.R.E.A.T. framework, in conjunction with the principles of distributive leadership and systemic reform practices, helps bring about positive change in a school’s culture.

Additionally, this Ignite ’14 session will emphasize the importance of using data when making instructional decisions, at both the classroom and building levels, and provide a framework through which this analysis can occur. The framework includes data identification, analysis/discovery, and solution identification. Goal considerations include improvement vs. proficiency, short vs. medium vs. long-term, and need to be started vs. need to be continued vs. should be stopped. Attendees will be provided with a planning matrix with which they can develop 3-5 action items applicable to their individual schools and organizations. Closing comments in the session will center around the importance of managing the complex change process.

Ronald Davis will be presenting at Ignite ’14.  Join him for Building G.R.E.A.T. Schools: Data Informing our Vision of Success on Friday, February 7. For more information and to register visit www.nasspconference.org.

Upcoming Webinar: Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times

Join noted educator, author, and social media leader Eric Sheninger for a free webinar examining digital leadership and how it can bring sustainable change and real transformation to your school.

Digital leadership is a strategic mindset and set of behaviors that leverages resources to create a meaningful, transparent, and engaging school culture. It takes into account recent changes, such as ubiquitous connectivity, open-source technology, mobile devices, and personalization, to dramatically shift how schools have been run and structured for more than a century. In his presentation, Eric will discuss the “Pillars of Digital Leadership,” a new conceptual framework for leaders to begin thinking about changes to professional practice.

This one-hour webinar is intended to start a conversation on digital leadership that attendees can continue during Eric’s “Digital Leadership–Change for Now and the Future” session at the Ignite ’14 conference in Dallas, February 6-8, 2014. For more information on Ignite ’14, visit www.nasspconference.org.

Upcoming Webinar – Cultivating the Principals Urban Schools Need

Join Glenn Pethel, executive director of leadership development for Gwinnett County (GA) Public Schools, for a webinar sponsored by The Wallace Foundation that will examine how six urban school districts are working to cultivate first-rate principals for their schools.

Until recently, many educators and policy makers overlooked the unique role districts can play to help principals shoulder their central responsibility: improving teaching and learning. However, with new evidence emerging about the importance of school leadership and how it can best be developed, a number of school districts are rethinking their approach to the principal pipeline.

Pethel will be joined by colleagues Michelle Farmer, director of leadership development, and Erin Hahn, coordinator of leadership development, to discuss how school districts funded through The Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline Initiative are working to build a large corps of well-qualified candidates and provide support to school leaders on the job.

This webinar also will review the recent Wallace Foundation report, Districts Matter, Cultivating the Principals Urban Schools Need, which demonstrates how urban school districts can play a major role in ensuring they have principals who can boost teaching and learning in troubled schools.

Webinar compliments of The Wallace Foundation and NASSP.

Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Time: 3:30–4:40 p.m. ET

Reserve your virtual seat now!

Upcoming Webinar – The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning

Join noted author and Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond for a webinar sponsored by The Wallace Foundation. Darling-Hammond will examine how principals and other school leaders can work directly with teachers and staff to improve instruction and student achievement.

During this webinar, participants will learn strategies to shape a vision for academic success, create a hospitable climate, cultivate leadership, and manage staff data and processes.

Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University and co-director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. She is the author of more than 400 publications, including The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future (2010) and Powerful Teacher Education (2006).

Webinar compliments of The Wallace Foundation and NASSP.

Date: Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Time: 3:30–4:30 p.m. ET

Reserve your virtual seat now!

The Power of a Chosen PLN

Guest post by Laurie Barron:

Why do I need Twitter? I certainly don’t care about when Lindsay Lohan is back in court, Justin Bieber is in trouble with the paparazzi, or Miley Cyrus is twerking (whatever that may mean). And what is a hashtag? It just didn’t sound like something that was appropriate to be talking about in conjunction with my professional learning.

Imagine my delight upon realizing that I could use Twitter to choose to learn from those I do care about hearing from and use hashtags to follow topics I find professionally rewarding!

I admit it: Twitter was slow to grow on me. I also admit that I now can’t believe how much I have grown as a professional as a result of learning from a customized professional learning network that occurs when and where I want it. (And, if I get bored, I can leave without worrying about that awkward moment that seems so disrespectful when people walk out of a presentation.)

Through my professional learning network on Twitter, I have learned from some of the most effective educational leaders from across the country: leaders who have defied the odds; leaders who have done what many say is not possible; leaders who believe in students whom, unfortunately, many have given up on; leaders who realize that, while students may come from a home that struggles economically, this economic disadvantage does not define a student; leaders who understand that our job as educators is not to judge students for their status in life but instead to ensure that status isn’t an impediment to their education. I have been amazed by people who have challenged me to grow, learn, and stretch myself, all as a result of sharing knowledge with educators from across the nation, most of whom I’ve never even met.

And so, no matter which day of the week you may be reading this, I offer a longer-than-normal #FF for some of those who probably have no idea the impact they have had on my career, Twitter friends and colleagues such as @TrevorLTGreene, @casas_jimmy, @NASSP, @MarkWilsonGA, @SlatonJessica, @NMHS_Principal, @patrickmlarkin, @RickWormeli, @ToddWhitaker, @dpk933, @bcurrie5, @Joe_Mazza, @mwdegner, @BUCSlead, @Jennifer_Hogan, @jackson_carrie, @charlesdumais, @DaisyDyerDuerr, @DruTomlin_AMLE, @blocht574, @d_mulder, and @aschmuhl.

Through the incredible world of Twitter, I have found myself surrounded by people who inspire me, people who help me build relationships, people who have similar goals and aspirations. I am certainly looking forward to NASSP Ignite ’14 to learn with my Twitter PLN in person!

New to Twitter? Jump start your engagement and build your professional learning network by attending the Tweetorial Friday morning, February 7 to start your Ignite ’14 experience. You can also check out this simple guide for educators on Tweeting.

Laurie Barron (@LaurieBarron) is the 2013 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year. She will present at the Ignite 2014. For more information and to register visit www.nasspconference.org.