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Fostering Small Learning Communities in Your School

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In a recent National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) blog, 2018 New York State Assistant Principal of the Year Terry Adamec writes about how she developed small learning communities (academies) at her Lancaster school as a way to help all of her students find a place. These communities “encourage students to get involved in not only their daily education plan but extracurricular activities linked to the academy as well.” Adamec’s school chose to organize their communities around career pathway themes such as engineering, finance, health care, hospitality/tourism, leadership, trades, and visual/performing arts.
According to Adamec, the small learning community model at her school has resulted in the following benefits:
Career Path Identification: Students have the opportunity to explore various career interests in-depth early in high school, which can save them time and money down later in their post-secondary lives. ●College and Career Readiness: Through job-shadows …

Call To Action: Is Your School Best Preparing Kids For the Future?

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As we embark on a new calendar year, I ask my fellow school principals whether or not your school is best preparing kids for the future. This will be my single focus as we start 2019. Earlier this year at our graduation ceremony, I reminded graduates that they entered the PK-12 education system at just about the same time that the first iPhone was introduced to the market. I noted how much our world and our society has changed as a result of personal smartphone devices, and drew a parallel to how much our school’s definition of “college and career readiness” has had to evolve over that same timeframe. This example reminds all of us as educators that our world is changing rapidly, and it is getting more and more difficult to predict what our future will look like. Given this, how are our teachers preparing students for this brave new world? Have their instructional approached changed? Have our school priorities changed? Do they need to change?

Our American PK-12 education system is at …

How to Fire Kids Up to be Excited for Their Core Subjects

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I spent years as a high school math teacher unsuccessfully trying to find an answer to this question: Why didn’t my students have as much passion and enthusiasm for math as they did for their extra curricular activities, and what could I do as a teacher to change that? The closest I had ever come to reaching an answer actually came two years after I left the classroom to become a school administrator. That year (over a decade ago), my school tried an experiment. We paired a math teacher with a woodshop teacher to offer a class entitled “Geometry in the Woodshop.” The class was offered as an interdisciplinary project-based experience where students would work through a series of woodshop projects that would apply various geometry topics. The two-credit class was co-taught by both teachers each day. As a whole, the experiment was a success as kids generally found success and increased their engagement and excitement for math. Of course, it helped that we started with a group of students…

Understanding the Impact of Chronic Absenteeism For Students

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Chronic absenteeism data for schools is about to become much more public. By the end of this month, the Every Student Succeeds Act has required that schools list chronic absenteeism rates on their state report cards. Many schools across the country have already started to do this, and the work started with states defining at what point absences would be considered a chronic issue. Some states have identified a fixed cap for the number of days of school that a student can miss. Other states have adopted a percentage-based definition, such as a rule that student cannot miss more than 10% of school days each year. By whichever standard you use, there is no debate that chronic absenteeism among students is a growing problem that plagues all schools.
According to this recent Education Week report, 1 in 7 students were identified as chronically absent in the 2015-2016 school year, meaning that they missed fifteen or more days of school, according to a report released by the Attendance Works…

How Can Micro Credentials be Used to Support Teacher Training?

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Earlier this year, the organization iNACOL released its latest map, charting the rise of policies that support K-12 competency-based education systems in states from coast to coast. By last count, 17 states have earned the status of “advanced,” another 13 have reached the “developing” status. Another 18 have entered the “emerging” status. This leaves just 2 states (Wyoming and California) that have not yet begun their journeys. Competency education operates under the notion that curriculum, instruction, assessment, grading, and reporting are focused on the transfer of skills in and across content areas. Competencies are identified by content area, grade level, and course, and students have many pathways to demonstrate mastery. Grades are no longer a hodge-podge of academics and academic behaviors that are averaged together as a percentage-based score. In competency-based systems, grades are about what students learn, not what they earn.
As competency-based education sweeps the nation, …

Does Your School Facility Need a Makeover?

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Does your school facility need a makeover? According to this 2012 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, 53% of American schools are due for such an upgrade. Upgrades can be done in ways to fit almost any school budget. The key for school principals is to stretch the financial resources they have to provide the biggest rate of return possible to enhance student learning and overall school culture.
At a recent visit to my child’s middle school, the principal took me on a tour of recent upgrades made to their front entrance lobby. The building, built quickly and cheaply in the 1970’s has long since reached the status of obsolete in our community, yet we as a voting community just aren’t ready to support a project to build a new middle school. Like so many other principals from coast to coast in this situation, the principal had to look for small ways to make facility upgrades that would have a big impact. The lobby project was this kind of a project. Much to everyone’s s…

Helping Your School to Go Green

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Last month for this Education Week blog, Fulbright Distinguished Award in teaching program participant Michael Cruse, a special educator from Arlington, VA, talked about his travels to Israel to study different models for green schools. The highlights of his visit included these four stops: The Bat Yam Farm for Agriculture and Environmental Education in urban Tel Aviv, a working farm run by students, teachers, volunteers, and young adults. The Afek School—a school that teaches elementary students to become citizen scientists by recording and tracking climate data for professional scientists. The Ecological Greenhouse in Kibbutz Ein-Shemer, a research center with a focus on addressing Israel’s needs as a result of population growth. The Environmental High School, a residential school located on the Negev desert plateau with a mission of providing students direct contact with nature, and the resources to learn to care for it. Cruse’s biggest takeaway from his middle east experience that…