school improvement

New School Year, New Energy: Setting Realistic Goals

New Beginnings

Once upon a time, I had the greatest summer job ever: working at Seven Ranges Scout Reservation in east central Ohio. We were a bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings who got to exercise almost total creative control for the camp and its programming. Before the campers or full staff arrived on the reservation, leadership would sit down in front of a whiteboard and simply list all the needs, wants, and dreams for the year—and then go make it happen. (more…)

Transforming School Culture: Know It, Feel It, Live It

When I first arrived, Lake Shore Middle School (LSMS) was on the verge of a state takeover. With an F grade for two straight years on the state report card, LSMS was plagued with a host of problems including discipline issues, an unclear academic focus, a discouraged staff, and students who had embraced a failing attitude. Where was I to begin, and how was I going to turn this school around? (more…)

When Going to the Principal’s Office is a Good Thing

As a child of the 1980s, I cheered on Ferris Bueller as he played hooky to hang out with his pals on his day off and rooted for John Bender as he snuck out of detention with the Breakfast Club. In both of these films, the school administrator served as the villain. Both Dean Edward Rooney and Assistant Principal Richard Vernon had the same goal: Take down the problem student and make his life miserable.

While I have to admit that these preposterous characterizations are often hilarious, they perpetuate a damaging stereotype that school administrators are ruthless disciplinarians who are out of touch with students. (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…)

3 Myths About Innovative School Leadership

Guest post by Bill Ziegler

School administration is often missing innovative leaders who are willing to make the courageous decisions, think creatively, and use the vision casting necessary to move schools and student learning forward. Perhaps we don’t fully understand what it takes to be an innovative leader and we buy into the societal idea that innovators are risk-takers searching for their next new thing to create or design.  (more…)

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…)

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…)

Student Voice: The Most Important Sound in the School

Guest post by Bobby Bennett

In 2012, I became principal of my alma mater—only the second alumnus since the 1890s to have such an opportunity. No pressure! Eager to begin the work of serving my community and school improvement, I held a series of meetings with staff and the school community over the course of the first three months. These meetings would shape our work for the next five years. In fact, what we learned and put into practice not only yielded academic success, it transformed the culture of our school. (more…)

The Brownsburg Way, Part Two: Supporting Teachers to Succeed

Guest post by Amber Schroering and Jim Snapp

In our post last week, we introduced you to The Brownsburg Way, the approach our district—the Brownsburg Community School Corporation (BCSC) in Central Indiana—uses to deliver consistent and high academic results year after year. We discussed how our narrow teaching and learning focus contributes to our achievement. Of course, curriculum and instructional programing aren’t the only factors. Without our stellar educators, none of our success would be possible. So how do we support our teachers so that they do their very best? (more…)