school improvement

Lunch as Learning: A Commitment to Excellence

Guest post by Lesley Corner

Before the 2016–2017 school year, Camden High School provided after-school tutorials and after-school homework centers for English and math. These methods of academic assistance increased student achievement, but we couldn’t reach some of the students who needed the most help due to their after-school obligations or transportation issues. After extensive research and school visits, we remodeled our schedule to include academic assistance during the school day for all students. Our model includes two types of assistance: Individual Learning Time (ILT) and Structured Learning Time (SLT). (more…)

Payson High School, Part 2: Building a School Culture of Responsibility through Embedded Intervention

Guest post by Jeff Simon

Last week, I discussed the importance of building a positive school culture by utilizing a one-hour lunch period for clubs and activities that foster school pride and for innovative labs that encourage enthusiasm for learning. This week, I will share how we’ve built a culture of personal responsibility at Payson High School by providing a positive support system for student learning through embedded intervention.

(more…)

Payson High School, Part 1: Building a Positive Culture of School Pride and Enthusiasm for Learning

Guest post by Jeff Simon

Indiana Jones was my hero growing up—I wanted to be just like him. And now, as high school administrator, I get to do that every day, because not only did Indiana Jones study culture, he taught it to inquisitive minds and instilled passion in curious students to become lifelong learners.

Principals know that as the culture goes, so does the school. From Day 1, our administrative goal at Payson High School has been to build a culture that focuses on pride in our school and enthusiasm for learning. (more…)

How School “Brand” Determines Student Outcomes

Guest post by Baruti K. Kafele, an award-winning educator, internationally renowned speaker, and best-selling author, who will lead two sessions at Ignite ’15, February 19–21.

The brand of any school tells a story. It reveals to everyone—students, staff, parents, and the community—who you are as a school. Your school’s brand can be defined intentionally, or it can evolve organically; but a brand that evolves organically may not be the one you most desire. Your school’s brand matters—it determines student outcomes.

Here’s a brief illustration that I share in discussions with educators about school brand: There’s a popular Southern-based restaurant chain, and whenever I enter these restaurants, a very unique experience consistently occurs. Someone behind the counter yells out, “Welcome to [our restaurant]!” The consistency of their greeting speaks volumes about their brand. (more…)

It’s Not Too Late—Get Ready to Meet these Members Making a Difference

Are you looking to connect with fellow NASSP members who found significant value from their membership? Ignite ’15 offers a perfect venue. Ahead of the conference—which starts Thursday, February 19—get acquainted with some of these participating members and make plans to meet.

You say you’re not registered for Ignite ’15, but have a last-minute craving for a no-regrets opportunity to network and grow professionally? No worries. You can register on-site! Alternatively, consider purchasing access to the live streaming portal if you or your team are unable to be there in person.

When you become familiar with these members’ stories you’ll discover more about the NASSP advantages that are making a difference in schools and with students nationwide: (more…)

Transforming At-Risk Schools: It’s All About Attitude

Baruti Kafele’s students will never forget him. He was the guy standing at the front door every morning to greet students as they entered. Why? He was the principal. And as far as he’s concerned, that was one of the most important things he could do in his role.

A principal for 14 years, Kafele led four New Jersey schools with at-risk student populations to success. Now an internationally renowned speaker, author, and consultant, he has quite a bit of insight on the topic of improving schools with at-risk students—which he will share at Ignite ’15 this February during his session, “School Leadership Practices for Transforming the Attitudes of At-Risk Student Populations.” (more…)

AP Viewpoint: IT CAN BE DONE!

Guest post by Matthew Willis:

William C. Hinkley High School in Aurora, CO is using many of the “Breaking Ranks” frameworks to crush the high-school-to-prison pipeline and diminish systemic poverty in our community.

Creating hope, opportunity, and addressing a traditional disciplinary process simultaneously is a best practice for meeting these goals and transforming underperforming schools. The assistant principal plays a vital role in transforming school culture and its system of discipline.

Crushing the high-school-to-prison pipeline takes a commitment to creating a culture of care through restorative justice, circles, conferences, and other relational practices. We must commit to working collaboratively and intentionally to repair every breech in relationships. Unbelievably, Hinkley high school had over 260 physical aggression referrals (category C) and over 400 minor infractions like disobedience, defiance, and profanity referrals (category B) in 2008. As a result of our work with many community stakeholders, including the Aurora Police Department and Dr. Tom Cavanagh from Colorado State University, we are transforming Hinkley high school and working to create equitable practices in every classroom. As is evident from the graph below, our work to create a positive school culture that is safe and welcoming for all is coming to life. PBS NewsHour will be joining Dr. Tom Cavanaugh and the staff and students of Hinkley High School for a day in January to discover and share many of our best practices.

Just 10 days before the 2012-13 school year began, a theater shooting killed and wounded many people in the Aurora community. Having restorative justice, relationships with our students and community, and a culture of care provided a mechanism for us to deal with this devastation.

I look forward to the Ignite ’14 conference in Dallas and the opportunity to share data, best practices, and stories from William C. Hinkley High School.

Matthew Willis is the 2013 NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year. Matthew will present the Assistant Principals Viewpoint on Saturday, February 8 at Ignite ’14. For more information and to register, visit www.nasspconference.org.

Ignite ‘14 to Feature Turnaround Principals

Is your school currently in ‘turnaround mode’? For all but a very few high-performing schools the answer is a resounding yes.

Schools are in the center of a vortex consisting of three major, long-term change initiatives; 1) new, higher standards with accompanying assessments and accountability measures, 2) new teacher evaluation systems, which include data from student test scores, 3) new state data systems for holding schools more accountable, which include attendance, school discipline, and graduation rates.

To further complicate matters, many schools have faced multiple years of tight budgets and are being asked to do much more with larger class sizes and less experienced teachers. At the same time school leaders are being asked to address a twenty-five year low in teacher satisfaction brought on, in large part by the ‘fire our way to Finland’ reformer mindset, an all-time high student poverty rate, and an increasingly diverse student population.

This so-called ‘perfect storm’ of school reform places dramatically increases pressures on school leaders to enter into ‘turnaround mode’ to improve student achievement by increasing rigor, changing staff expectations, and enhancing teaching practice. It is not surprising that 75% of principals say their job has become too complex.

Turning around a school—simultaneously raising student achievement in the face of more rigorous standards, changing attitudes and expectations, and improving teaching requires a “different kind of leadership.” In keeping with NASSP’s commitment to supporting school leaders, the Ignite ‘14 National Conference will include practitioners who have successfully turned around low-performing schools.  In fact, all three are currently in their second turnaround school.

Not only have these schools dramatically improved test scores, but they have reduced course failures, improved attendance, reduced student referrals and discipline incidents by more than 70%, and significantly improved reading and writing scores.

What do these leaders and their schools have in common?

  1. Clear Vision
  2. A laser-like Focus
  3. High expectations resulting from a growth Mindset
  4. Collaboration and Shared Leadership
  5. Strong Staff and Student Relationships
  6. High levels of Student Engagement
  7. Dramatically improved student Behavior
  8. Sizeable increases in student Attendance
  9. A schoolwide Commitment to Learning for all students
  10. Consistent Instruction resulting from a Defined Set of Instructional Practices
  11. A long-term emphasis on Schoolwide Literacy
  12. A strong Culture of Accountability

In addition to my own presentation titled Instructional Leadership: From Inspectors to Builders, school leaders from the three schools with whom I have worked over the past several years will be presenting in separate concurrent sessions:

  • Eric Jones and Teresa McDaniel, J.O. Johnson High School, Huntsville, Alabama
  • Brad Perkins, Muskegon High School, Muskegon, Michigan
  • Kasey Teske and Amy McBride, Twin Falls, Idaho

In addition, Dan Duke, author of Differentiating School Leadership, will discuss what his research has uncovered about the keys to long-term school improvement and turnaround. Dan and I will also be presenting together in a second session, Differentiated Leadership (Part II), on the practical applications of his findings.

Improving schools requires readily available, low-cost, research-based resources for teachers. Former National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling, and I will discuss the resources available from The Teaching Channel and how I have used those resources to enhance classroom practice. As I have done for the past two years, I will continue to emphasize how I used the Doing What Works resources to help schools successfully implement school wide literacy initiatives as well as to reduce dropouts and improve graduation rates.

Keys to Differentiating Instruction Using Technology-Based Formative Assessments

Guest post by G.A. Buie:

Student homework has been a cornerstone for learning and evaluation for years. Even in our technology-driven classrooms, for students who are diligent and engaged in the learning process homework can be an effective method of evaluating their progress as well as a teacher’s instructional effectiveness. Unfortunately, not all students are diligent and engaged, and though the problems related to assigning homework have changed, the process of assigning homework hasn’t. Teachers are encountering a shrinking number of students completing their assigned homework—and, even if it’s completed, teachers must question whether the work is original or copied. As a result, homework becomes a very ineffective tool to evaluate a student’s progress.

With student and teacher accountability at a premium in today’s educational environment, it is imperative that teachers have a method of measuring a student’s progress and his or her understanding of content. Waiting for the summative assessment is too late; teachers need a tool that doesn’t take away from instructional time, yet doesn’t add to an already heavy teaching load.

Teachers need quick results that measure curricular objectives, and at times they need to be able to develop those activities on the spot. At Ignite ’14, we will explore a wide variety of technology-based formative assessment ideas which can be used in almost any classroom. These tools will be designed to gather valuable data for the teacher almost instantaneously, thus allowing the teacher the opportunity to differentiate their classroom using multiple forms of data. Best of all, these ideas can be implemented on any budget with tools already available to most schools or students.

G.A. Buie (@gabuie31) is the president-elect of NASSP. He will present at the Ignite 2014. For more information and to register 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!