Improving Student Engagement for Students With Disabilities

Recently, I co-hosted a chat on Twitter on student engagement for, an organization that focuses on giving parents of children who struggle with learning and attention issues the tools and supports they need to be successful. As we get ready to embark on a new school year, I thought an opportunity to summarize the chat and the resources that were shared would be timely. You can review the entire chat, which was held on 7/11/2018 at 12:00 PM eastern time, at the hashtag #ldchat.
The staff at Understood opened the chat by asking the question, “What does a motivated child look like? What does a non-motivated child look like?” The staff of Understood noted that motivation can often lead kids to keep trying even when they face hurdles, and shared the article, The Importance of Staying Motivated for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues as a resource for educators and parents to consider. It was noted that children develop self-esteem by experiencing repeated successes, and d…

Schools Could Learn a Thing or Two from Driver Education

This blog was written originally for the NASSP Principal's Blog School of Thought.
I have spent more than a decade as the principal of a high school that has gained national recognition as an early adopter of a competency-based learning model. As one who has been a part of this transition and implementation since its beginning, I am always happy to offer practical advice to fellow principals on the topic. The most popular question I am asked is how to start a conversation to introduce the idea of competency-based learning to parents and other stakeholders who do not work in the education field. To date, I have found no better way to do this than to relate it to a very common assessment experience that most adults have in common: Obtaining a driver’s license.
Think about this: Driving a car is a life or death skill, and as a result, states have developed a very reliable system to ensure that people are not issued a driver’s license until they can prove that they are proficient in the…

Detracking Math Classrooms in San Francisco

In an article last month, Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk highlighted an initiative now four years old in the San Francisco schools where middle and high school students are heterogeneously grouped for math instruction. The city has leveled the playing field by enrolling all students in math courses of equal rigor in middle school all the way through Algebra 1 in high school. There are no “honors” classes. There are no accelerated programs where students can take Algebra 1 in 8th grade. Once students reach Geometry, the brakes are released and students have the opportunity to be tracked into programs that move at different paces.
This practice was not implemented without controversy. As Sawchuk explained, “San Francisco has done away with one of the key avenues that the well-connected use to give their children an academic advantage. Fallout was swift. Parents, concerned about rigor and whether their children would be able to take calculus by senior year, barraged everyone from the di…

The Importance of CTE in Today’s Schools

On the afternoon of their certificate ceremony from the Seacoast School of Technology in Exeter, NH, a couple hundred soon-to-be CTE graduates from my high school as well as some of the surrounding high schools filed into the school cafeteria for what they thought was a pizza party and a raffle drawing for a new pair of work boots from the local Timberland Boot corporate office, a follow up to the survey that Timberlane gave students a month earlier where they asked for their shoe sizes. What happened next shocked not only the students, but also the teachers and administrators of the CTE school.
As reported in this local news story, Timberland executives praised all of the students for their decision to pursue a high school certificate in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) field. The school has 12 programs in animal and plant science, automotive, biomedical science, building construction, careers in education, computer science, culinary arts, digital media arts, health sciences, m…

The Impact of Stable School Leadership

When the school year comes to a close this month, one Arkansas High School will have big shoes to fill at their helm as longtime Principal Wayne Haver has his final curtain call after 36 years in the role as Principal and 48 years of service to the district as a whole. In this local Arkansas newspaper article, reporter Alex Golden talked at length about Haver’s impact in all aspects of school programming, from its early days with mascot changes to his more recent efforts to introduce technology into the school and act as the school’s biggest cheerleader at concerts, events, and athletic contests. It is no small task to acknowledge just how much of an impact Haver had in his 36 years as Principal, yet it was a quote from one of the students at his school that may have found the best way to acknowledge it. Senior Casey Gooden was quoted as saying this about Haver: “Finding a high school principal who will be in it for the long haul, who will take ownership of a school, make sure that th…

Taking Drastic Steps for Teacher Recruitment

I recently attended the ASCD Empower18 national conference in Boston and was surprised to see in an overwhelming sea of booths in the vendor area that a brave rural New Hampshire school district from the western part of the state had set up shop in an effort to recruit educators to their schools. I stopped by to ask them how the process was working out for them and they were very optimistic. Already in the second day of the conference, they had collected a large number of applications, conducted mini interviews, and had already set up follow-up meetings with a number of prospective candidates. For this rural district, attracting educators from far away is their best strategy because their part of the state has seen a decline in population and an exodus of skilled workers leaving the region to seek employment in other parts of the state or country where wages are often higher and housing is more affordable and/or available.  This district, like many across the country, is struggling to…

Solving The Opioid Crisis By Empowering Students

As a principal in a small suburban New Hampshire community, I am starting to lose count of the number of funeral services that I have attended for students and former students from my high school community. The emotional toll weighs heavy on the hearts and minds of students, parents, teachers, and community leaders as we struggle to come to grips with what has become an opioid epidemic across our country. The statistics tell the grim story for our community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, opioids played a part in 42,249 deaths in our country, a statistic that is five times higher than what it was in 1999. In 2016, New Hampshire had one of the highest national opioid death due to overdose rates, a whopping 39 per 100,000 people. For a state with roughly 1.3 million residents and fewer than 100 high schools, this means that virtually every school community has, in some way, been impacted by this epidemic.
Last month, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen vis…