Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jill Wynns, Thank You For Your Service

Susan Stauter, whom I had the honor and pleasure of working with during my tenure as CAO with the San Francisco Unified School District, presented the following at the December 13th, 2016, San Francisco Unified School District  board meeting in honor of Commissioner Jill Wynns.
My name is Susan Stauter, I am the former Artistic Director for the San Francisco Unified School District, serving for many years,(24), proudly, on the campus of the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. I left my position as Conservatory Director at the American Conservatory Theater and I am the founder of the Department of Theatre at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.
When, at the request of Ruth Asawa, I returned to public education to work connecting the students of the SFUSD to the arts community of San Francisco, I met a board member named Jill Wynns.
She was something.
She was smart, she did her homework, she listened carefully and she took no prisoners. She was not swayed by friends or foes, and she stood up for students, for parents, and she stood up for the teachers union and the dignity of public school teachers and public schools as the mainstay of our democratic system. She showed up and she fought and she would not be silenced by the many powerful ones, or by too many of those who, having won and enjoyed her support had short memories and did not stand with her when she was in need. I remember, I saw it happen. One day when I was new to the district, a high level administrator, a woman, told me not to be seen talking to Jill Wynns; the boss did not like her.
Palace intrigue the likes of which I had not even seen in the theatre!
 And here was this woman, this Jill Wynns, standing up and defending public education from privatization, defending budget choices and questioning others, actually reading the reams and reams of paperwork that crossed her desk and making time to listen to teachers and members of this community.  
Like so many others, I watched as other board members at times showed open contempt, shuffling papers, leaving the room and talking while she spoke, and this was in a more civil time when this behavior was an anomaly, not the new norm we now daily endure in public discourse.
 I once asked Jill how she could stand it, how she got through it. She told me she had a job to do, that she would not be silenced, and that the thing she hated most was fear, and she had decided long ago not to let fear stand in her way as a woman, as a leader. I remember what I was wearing, this memory is so strong; that conversation stood in my mind from that day to this. Here was a brave woman, a woman who felt the slings and the arrows, every single one of them, but would not be deterred from her sacred duty of public leadership.
Recognized nationally, her opinion sought out by leaders and thinkers, she set a tone of serious discourse, even when those around her did not. She would listen carefully, she took all manner of information onboard, and she respected and showed respect for those who too often did not return the favor.
She set a tone. She is the real deal, and she raised the bar for all the rest of us. 
She told it to us straight. Many conversations started with “You are not going to want to hear this, but..” Or, “I hear you, but I disagree, and I must do what I believe is right.” No kidding.
Anybody who ever thought Jill Wynns did anything because somebody else told her to do it was not paying attention.
A few years ago I took the rap for a decision she made that was not popular with a school community. They actually thought I had gotten Jill Wynns to do something, believing that I, or anybody had that sort of magic power.
  Jill Wynns stood in her own shoes and she spoke her own thoughts and nobody owned her. To know Jill is to accept the fact that she will do what she believes is right, and damn the torpedoes. It was not always easy; Jill’s world is one bounded by integrity and her own moral compass, and while there is loyal opposition, she does the work and she weighs the elements and I am proud to know her, I am proud to have served while she was on the board, and like so many others, I am waiting to see what’s next for this amazing woman, this leader.
In the theatre often the most important act is the last one, Act III.
The poet said hope is a thing with feathers, but in these low, dishonest times, when the toxic is ‘normalized’ and all manner of public and private evil is enacted daily all round the world, perhaps those feathers, like the ones in Anselm Keifer’s sculptures at SFMOMA, must be made of metal. 
We need leaders like Jill Wynns.  
We need to honor the wise women who, in other times, were respected, listened to, sitting in the center of campfires drawing circles round the stars from where they oversaw the marrying and the burying and the bringing of new life into the world.
Women of a certain age were not always marginalized, something we have seen ‘normalized’ this past year on every front page and on every television news show.
In these fractious times, the woman who speaks up, who dares raise her voice, is a hysteric, the woman who differs in a meeting is unprofessional, and beware the woman who dares lead….for her the abandonment of friends and colleagues, for her the lone stand of the righteous in a world where short memories too often trump loyalty, where real courage is discounted or mocked; the rolling eyes, the side glance conversations.
Let history judge these woman who continue to voice leadership, let history determine who was there when the going was tough and who came up with the answers.
I am talking about Jill Wynns.
 And let a new time come when women like Jill and so many others in this very room tonight, they are in this room right now, are honored, listened to and not asked to disappear for all the wrong reasons, not told they ‘talk too much’, when they are actually most knowledgeable, when they are the very resources that can and must save us from ourselves and lead us into a positive future.
 Read the New York Times, today’s edition, (December 14) page 12, about the new head of education whose transactional mentality matches that of all that is headed our way. These are new times, these are times when the wisdom of women like Jill Wynns must be viewed as a civic resource, when silencing the visionary is to lose sight of the road to our very survival.
Lets all take a page out of Jill’s book and speak the truth as we see it. Lets honor those amazing women of a ‘certain age’ who deserve our respect and our thanks, and lets look toward a time when the noxious fumes of cruelty and privatization and transactional thinking no longer dominate our public leadership and discourse in the public schools and in the marketplace.
And on this night lets all say thank you to one of the finest public servants to lead San Francisco in service to the children of the public schools, a hero, a leader, and let us pray in our hearts that she continues to grace us with her considerable gifts, knowledge and love.
 A lot of us are cheering you on as you enter Act III, and we need you more than ever.
Thank you, Jill.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My Guest on District Leader, Dr. Hector Montenegro

My guest this week is Dr. Hector Montenegro. Hector is on a sabbatical, working across a broad spectrum of education related projects and activities.  Hector is President and CEO of Montenegro Consulting Group, and a Senior Associate for Margarita Calderon and Associates. He provides training on EL teaching strategies, and leadership development for administrators and instructional coaches. Hector specializes in the teacher coaching process through the use of technology, video recording and observation protocols. He is also a Senior District Advisor for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and works with districts on systemic implementation of SEL.
Hector's teaching career began in San Jose, California where he taught math at the junior and senior high school levels. He later taught and served as a site administrator in Washington, DC and in Virginia. He later served as Chief of Staff of the DC Public Schools before moving to Texas where he served as a principal and an Area Superintendent in Austin, Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Services in Dallas, and Superintendent of Schools for three school districts in Texas: San Marcos CISD, Ysleta ISD and Arlington ISD. Hector was later an Area Superintendent for the San Diego School District in California.  He received his masters degree from Stanford University and his doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. 
As the Senior District Advisor for the Collaborative for Academic Social Emotional Learning (CASEL), a nonprofit organization based in Chicago, Hector provides technical expertise to further advance the science and practice of school-based social emotional learning (SEL) in school districts across the country. His primary focus is providing SEL professional development, research, monitoring and evaluation, policy development and implementation, and the development of SEL district standards. The goal is systemic and universal implementation of SEL standards and the adoption of evidence-based SEL programs that are sustainable and have a positive impact on student academic achievement.  
Catch the conversation on  District Leader podcast.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My Guest on District Leader, Superintendent Dr. Cindy Zurchin.

My guest this week on District Leader is Dr. Cindy Zurchin, superintendent (retired), consultant, and life coach.  Cindy started her career in education as a high school teacher for at-risk youth. She gained experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in urban education. She served as an assistant superintendent and superintendent of suburban school districts. Her last assignment was as Superintendent of the Abridge Area School District in Abridge, Pennsylvania.
     Years after her discovery that school culture was the key, Cindy created the first “Whale Done!” school.  She communicated her vision to staff and parents of “catching students doing things right”.  She then led the development of the new Whale Done! culture, transforming an unruly school into a national model.  Cindy encouraged all stakeholders to employ three principle elements: Build Trust, Accentuate the Positive, and Redirect errors and negative behaviors when they occur.  
     Catch the rest of the story on our podcast, District Leader.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

District Leader: Thanksgiving Message

District Leader
Hi everyone.  I had a great conversation with Superintendent Zurchin to share with you this week on District Leader.   But instead,  we're taking a hiatus, with the hope that you have begun to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.  We will be returning next week with my guest, Dr. Zurchin.

There is much that we can be thankful for in life. Certainly there is much that I am thankful for. We are thankful for our loved ones, our health, and more importantly, the opportunity to make a difference in the world.  As educators, the work that we do is of a higher order - transforming lives - a gift bestowed upon a few.

As you know, gratitude and generosity are values that I believe drive great leaders and great people.  Elkhart Tolle said that "It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.”   I truly believe that our calling demands nothing less.

John Wesley once wrote, “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”   How lucky are we that as educators we get to be in this space every day.

It is with a grateful heart that the District Leader team wishes you, our guests, and our listeners, a happy Thanksgiving.  May it be filled with great joy and peace. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Guest on District Leader, Superintendent Kristan Rodriguez, Ph.D.

This week on District Leader I chat with Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District in Groton, Massachusetts.  Kristan has served in a number of district leadership positions through out her career, in the area of curriculum and instruction, including Assistant Superintendent, Director of Curriculum, and Curriculum Coordinator.  Kristan began her career as a High School English Teacher, and later served as a successful Principal and Assistant Principal.   She is currently an adjunct professor in educational leadership for three local colleges.  Kristan earned her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Boston College, a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Gordon College, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from Boston University. 
     Kristan is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer for the Rodriguez Educational Consulting Agency. For the past fifteen years, she has been a consultant on leadership and learning, and has traveled nationally to share her expertise. Kristan has been the recipient of numerous honors including the Ansin Intercultural Research Award from Boston University.  She specializes her consulting in the application of Universal Design for Learning in educational leadership.  She co-authored a book, Universally Designed Leadership, which  is the premier title for implementing UDL in systems and schools, and was ranked in the top 100 books in Educational Administration on Amazon. 
     Catch my conversation with Kristan on iTunes, or on our website at District Leader.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Continuous Learner Blog

     As many of you know, scholarship, the belief that we are always learning, is a guiding principle in my life.   Whether I am seeking ways of building capacity, reflecting more deeply, or raising consciousness,  it is important for me to try develop greater awareness of the world around me.  One source I read is the blog.  It provides me with perspective.  Numerous friends and colleagues, as well as people I respect and follow, share their thoughts through the blogs they write
    One blog I recently discovered is written by a fellow educator, Al Solano.  His blog, Continuous Learner, captures slices of life with an educator's lens, which provides for an entertaining and informative reading experience.  Give it a read, I think you'll enjoy it. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Guest on District Leader, Dr. Ray Queener, Superintendent at Cambridge-Isanti Schools

"Our tagline is, 'every student, every day'".  And I take every one of those words very seriously.  When we say every student, we are not talking about some of them, a few of them, or these ones, we are talking about every student, every day."  - Ray Queener, Ed.D.

     Ray is in his fourth year as the Superintendent at Cambridge-Isanti Schools located in Cambridge, Minnesota.  He is a career educator who began teaching in 1990, with the Luck Public Schools, in Luck, WI, where he taught secondary math and was a K-12 Computer Coordinator/Coach. He has held positions throughout Minnesota as a Technology Coordinator and Director in South St. Paul School District, a Coordinator of Technology in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley School District, the Director of Support Services in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley along with Director of Finance in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley. He later became Director of Finance for Stillwater Area Public Schools, then onto Assistant Superintendent in Stillwater where he served until June, 2013. Ray was selected as the Superintendent for the Cambridge-Isaniti Public Schools beginning July 2013, which is the position he holds today.
     Ray has identified priorities and initiated steps which have helped in determining the success of programs in district-level departments. With continuing growth, Ray is committed to making the lives of all students the best they can be, and the greatest opportunity for ALL of them to gain constant growth in student achievement.  Ray is a huge advocate for professional development and continuing to learn the 21st Century way. He is part of MASA (Minnesota Association of School Administrators), AASA (American Association of School Administrators), ASCD (Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development), ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education), SEE (Schools for Equity in Education) which he is on the executive board, SEE (Legislative Committee for Schools for Equity in Education), and Cambridge-Isanti Rotary Club

Catch the interview on iTunes

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Guest On District Leader, Superintendent Eve Kaltz

"If we don't have relationships with our students... they aren't going to realize the kind of success they could."
Eve Kaltz
Eve has served as the Superintendent of Center Line Public Schools since 2009, but has spent all of her nearly 30-year career in the district.  She began her education career as a teacher.  After teaching for 13 years, Eve was hired as the Elementary Learning Consultant for Center Line.
Eve believes that she is blessed to serve the students and community and has instituted many changes that have led to greater opportunities for all students.  One of her most ambitious projects has been the restructuring of Center Line High School to the academy model backed by Ford Next Generation Learning.  Four years ago, Eve and her team began the groundwork for this vision by launching a 9th Grade Academy; this fall marked the launch of the Academies of Center Line including two career academies: the Academy of Industry, Technology & Innovation and the Academy of Health and Human Services.  Eve was honored to present the etiology of Center Line’s transformative model and her ideas for the future of secondary education at the Fall MASA Conference as well as the MAS/FPS 2016 Fall Directors’ Institute.   
Catch the conversation on iTunes and on District Leader


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Guest On District Leader, Superintendent Diann Kitamura

"I really believe that a s a leader. . . to be able to inspire, we have to have the belief that we can achieve whatever it is we set our minds to. If we have that belief, then the people around us will have that belief . . . no matter how hard it is, no matter how tough it is, you continue to work toward what's in your heart - in this case, for kids."- Diann Kitamura

   My guest this week on District Leader is Diann Kitamura, Superintendent of the Santa Rosa City Schools.  Diann has worked in public education for the past 32 years.  Since February, 2016, she has served as superintendent of the Santa Rosa City School District, where she also served as the associate and assistant superintendent.  
     Diann is the daughter of immigrants.  In fact, her parents were in Japanese internment camps during WWII.  That experience really influenced her world view, and served as a driver in her life.  More importantly, it has inspired her work as an educator and as an artist.   As a result, Diann has a deep interest in addressing the achievement gap, as well as the disenfranchisement of students.   Diann is committed to serving students and their families by ensuring that quality educational opportunities are provided for all students.  She believes that "sense-making learning experiences" and "support systems that engage students" will inspire them to dream big, to persevere, and to thrive.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My Guest This Week on District Leader Is Superintendent Rich Merlo

"So we made a commitment several days ago, that our kids are going to have the same access and opportunity that other kids throughout the world are having, because they are going to be behind in knowing and realizing and accessing information that is incredible... "     - Rich Merlo

Rich Merlo is the Superintendent of the Corcoran Unified School District.  He began his career in education in 1977 as a biology and physical education instructor and coach.  He became an assistant principal in 1994, and subsequently served as principal for the next eight years.  Rich also taught at Kings River Community College and is currently an online instructor for the University of Phoenix.

In the podcast, Rich shares about his journey as superintendent, including the "hard knocks" he experienced in his professional career, but also the powerful lessons learned.  He reflects upon these lessons and the influence they had in focusing him on important aspects of his role as an educational leader, including life-long learning, leadership,  and others.  He has applied these lessons in his daily work.

Catch the conversation at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/district-leader/id1132944041?mt=2

Monday, October 3, 2016

CLEAR and ACSA Equity Institute

The Center for Leadership, Equity, and Research (CLEAR) strongly believes that leadership plays a critical role in addressing issues of social justice and educational equity. At a time when state demographics continue to change at a rapid pace, it is essential that leaders in the Central Valley meet together to discuss and plan for our area and its specific needs. These sessions will include an examination of Central Valley needs and strategies for "praxis, the to do...or the act of implementing." - Dr. Ken Magdaleno
CLEAR has teamed up with the ACSA Association of California School Administrators in the second series of Equity Institutes. Our Executive Director, Dr. Ken Magdaleno will be keynote for this series.  To register to participate in this series, register here.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Technology Integration In Education Requires Clarity of Purpose

The integration of technology in K - 12 education is not an easy proposition.  The complexities that
teachers and administrators navigate create challenges that make it difficult to identify, create and implement practices that sustain a comprehensive and integrated educational technology strategy.

According to a recent article in Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, any effort requires "deep and reflective thinking about the whys behind such integration as well as  the learning outcomes expected from such integration."  Greater clarity of purpose will lead to greater success in technology integration.

Additional Resources:

7 Benefits Οf Technology Integration Ιn Τhe Education Sphere

Integrating Technology in the Classroom: It Takes More Than Just Having Computers

Monday, September 26, 2016

Higher Education: Hiring Faculty of Color

“The reason we don’t have more faculty of color among college faculty is that we don’t want them. We simply don’t want them.” - Marybeth Gasman

When I was working in the Bay area, common refrains when it came to the hiring of people of color and women in the tech industry were, “we can’t find qualified candidates”, “they aren’t well prepared”, “they don’t make it through our rigorous hiring process”.

And unfortunately, the institution of higher education shares the same belief when it comes to the hiring of faculty of color.  The difference is, they do it in back rooms, and speak it quietly.  Fortunately, Marybeth Gasman, professor at U of Penn, was candid about the racist attitudes expressed by colleges and universities across the country when selecting their faculty colleagues.

Marybeth Gasman, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, candidly sheds light on this important issue in her article,  An Ivy League Professor on Why Colleges Don’t Hire More Faculty of Color: ‘We Don’t Want Them’.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A recent study by Institute of for Education Policy at Johns Hopkins University finds that at each grade-level, there are students who are outperforming the average on grade-level standards. While these findings are not surprising, they do confirm what we have always known about standardized testing -  by design, there are clusters of students above and below the mean. 

Traditionally, our reaction to this information has been to provide intervention programs to students who are not meeting the grade-level expectations, while the students who are performing at higher levels participate in enrichment or advanced studies.  Unfortunately, the study also finds these efforts offer limited results for students who are already at the top of their game.  So what can be done?

Anya Kametez tracks this story for NPR, Getting Restless At The Head Of The Class, and delves more deeply into the study, describing efforts by school districts to find better options of support.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Mentor Teacher Tips

Each fall, thousands of students teachers make their way into America’s classrooms, eager and ready to learn their craft. But student teaching can be one of the most exciting, and most terrifying, experiences any future educator can experience.  After the safety of the college course, where professors and students debate the philosophies and theories of education, teachers-to-be are assigned to real classrooms, with real students, facing real challenges.   The realization of the complexities of the teachership becomes clear very quickly, and for many, knowing that they have a mentor teacher at arm’s reach is a real lifeline.

For mentor teachers, the experience can be just as exciting, and just as terrifying.  There is a responsibility not only to the students assigned to the mentor teacher, but the idea that an intelligent and eager, yet inexperienced person will be practicing on their students is a scary thought.  And, of course, there is also the anxiety of helping to prepare the next generation of teachers.  But, for both individuals, there is the opportunity to learn, and to grow from the experience.  

What is needed is a good strategy. In a recent article Howard Pitler, writes 10 Tips for Mentoring a Student Teacher, offering his advice on how be successful in their mentoring experience.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Two Percent Solution: Black Male Teachers?

In February, 2014, President Obama established My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) in an attempt to “address persistent opportunity gaps and to tear down barriers that all too often prevent boys and young men of color and other young people from realizing their potential.”  This has been an ambitious initiative, with mixed results. 

One of the challenges MBK faces is the need to recruit more African-American (A-A) males to serve as mentors, tutors, and teachers. In the US, only 2% of teachers are A-A males.  This is a problem to meeting the MBK goals.  And those teachers who are in classrooms find themselves in very difficult positions - that of not only teaching their class, but also serving as counselor, monitor, police, judge, and jury, for the other A-A students not in the class.   These A-A teachers are feeling overwhelmed, as well as believing that the system is abrogating its responsibility, and using these teachers as buffers.

In a recent article by Christopher Emdin, Why Black Men Quit Teaching,  Christopher provides great insight into the experience of the African-American male teacher. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Difficult Conversations and Student Engagement

The start of the school year is an exciting time for both students and teachers.  Personalities coming together to form new relationships, and thereby create interesting dynamics. Eventually, the energy in the classroom settles into a comfortable pace with a familiar feel.

But that familiarity within the classroom community sometimes leads to disruption by individual students who are reacting to, or dealing with, any number of things.  This can lead to difficult conversations between the teacher and the student.  If not done well, it can make a situation worse.  However, when handled with forethought, the results can be positive.

In today’s Wiredprofiles, we highlight an article by Frank (no last name), How to Talk to a “Problem Student” Without Them Tuning You Out, that offers recommendations for having those difficult conversations with students.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Deep Learning Support

Deep LearningScholarship, the concept that we as educators are forever learning, is one of the key pillars in the field of education.  It is a driver in the continued professional growth and development of certificated, administrative, and classified staffs.  Unfortunately, once the busyness of the school year takes over, deep learning become less common.  The concept of scholarship becomes difficult to maintain, and is replaced by quick snippets of activity with the hope of producing knowledge attainment, skills development, and academic language acquisition.  But given the capacity that is required, this approach fails to effectively support that learning.

Fortunately, the passion and commitment educators bring to their learning helps keep scholarship ever-present.  There are a number of online resources that can facilitate the learning, at a time and a place that is convenient to them.  And as technology continues to evolve and improve, it can better respond to the needs of educators in relevant and and meaningful ways.  In an article by Kristin Gray, Teaching Channel’s Deep Dives, she offers an example of efforts in supporting deep and continuous learning within the teaching profession.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Would You Pay For a Teacher's School Supplies?

TeacherSchool supply shopping has begun for more than 3 million teachers in our nation’s public schools. Stranger waiting in line behind Texas teacher pays for her school supplies.  As students return from their summer vacations, these teachers are digging deep into their shallow pockets for money to stock their classrooms with necessary tools and supplies for their students.  In a recent article,  Jennifer Earl wrote about a stranger who went out of his way to pay for a teacher's school supplies, 

So the next time you see a shopper walking around the department store with a cart full of student notebooks, pens, markers, paper, etc., it’s probably a teacher.  If you can, chip in.  If not, please thank him/her for choosing to impact the future.  You will be acknowledging the men and women who have dedicated their lives to a noble cause.

Friday, August 19, 2016

LAUSD's Girls Academic Leadership Academy

luis valentinoAs the new school year rolls out, over 650,000 make their way onto LAUSD school campuses.  But this year, a great opportunity has become available to middle school girls - a single-gender school. The Girls Academic Leadership Academy, or GALA, is a STEAM-themed school that will serve as a safe space for girls to immerse themselves in the sciences and the arts.

Research on the value of single-sex schools is mixed.  But for these students, single-sex schools are special places where they can be themselves, without the many distractions and pressures co-ed middle school environments create.

Reporter Kyle Stokes describes the district's celebration of the GALA opening in the newspaper article, LA Unified set to open California's 'first all-girls school in 20 years’.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Professionalization of Early Education

Historically, we as a country have invested little in early education, including pre-kindergarten.  And while not attending any pre-kindergarten programs might not have hindered students in the past, that is no longer the case.  The knowledge attained, the language acquired, and the skills developed in these early programs are critical to increasing student success in the K - 12 grades.

Several school districts have transformed their preschool programs by aligning them with their elementary schools through changes in curriculum, teaching methods, and student tasks.  Such changes require both a shift in mindset and a capacity to resource pre-k programs appropriately.  This shift includes creating conducive learning spaces, allocating sufficient resources, hiring and supporting highly qualified teachers, and compensating them accordingly.
A recent article by Lillian Mongeau, The Underestimation of America's Preschool Teachers: One City’s Attempt to Professionalize Early Education Could be a Model for the Nation, speaks to efforts at improving early education in the US.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Addressing America's Teacher Deficit

Teacher Preparation, Luis ValentinoIn 1904, John Dewey wrote about teacher preparation, and the role it should play in preparing teachers for the profession.  For Dewey, teacher preparation should focus primarily on preparing teachers to be learners, while they develop their capacity, and less emphasis on skills development that produces short-term gains (i.e., classroom management, lesson planning, etc.).

Teacher preparation programs that fulfill this vision is a tall order, considering the growing teacher shortage across the country.  The demand on school districts to find and hire new teachers places teacher preparation programs in the position of having to “boot-camp” candidates, then send them off to work in the most challenging school environment in the country.  These programs help teachers to survive their first several months of school, but will not necessarily help them to develop the necessary mindset for long-term success.

A more comprehensive model with long-term support can produce strong beginning teachers who can not only take on the challenges of teaching, but who can develop a growth mindset as a professional, a leader, and change agent.

But are such programs sustainable? Well, there are number of institutions giving it their best, looking at creating more comprehensive programs, with greater support, guidance, and accountability.  This approach will not only build stronger teachers, but will help to keep them in the profession.

In a recent article, Harvard's New Approach to America's Teacher Deficit:  The school hopes reshaping how young people enter classrooms will keep them there longer,  reporter Alex Zimmerman describes Harvard's efforts at developing teacher preparation programs that more effectively support teachers over time.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Technology in Education, a Cautionary Note

A great deal of energy, time, and resources have been dedicated to putting technology in the hands of the more than 50 million preK - 12 public school students, and to making it a legitimate teaching and learning tool.  And while we have all been exposed to the possibilities that technology can offer, there is research to suggest that those possibilities are not really translating into improved student engagement, or achievement. Recently, Anya Kamenetz reported on NPR, Caution Flags For Tech in Classrooms.

Given the investments that have already been made, and the increasing support from the education and business community, as well as the public, technology will continue to influence the institution of public education.  Therefore, we must ensure that we continue to keep the teacher, the student, and the content, the drivers of everything we do in education. Technology in schools and classrooms is relevant and valuable when it is in the service of the teaching and learning experience, but is not the driver of that experience.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Teacher Salaries Trail Salaries Of Other Professionals

Luis Valentino
Teacher pay in America continues to slide further and further behind other professionals requiring the same level of education, and the same amount of experience.  The salary disparity is felt more among teachers who have been teachers for several years.  And while job security and benefits are seen as compromises to higher salaries, it doesn’t make up for the disparity in salaries.

This should be a concern for for all districts, where teacher shortages are becoming extremely serious  across the country.  The high turnover among teaching faculties has made it difficult to fill vacancies to the capacity necessary.  Exacerbating the problem is the implementation of state and district priorities and mandates that require class-size reduction.  This will require additional cohorts of teachers to cover the demand.  A report by Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel, of the Economic Policy Institute, The teacher pay gap is wider than ever: Teachers’ pay continues to fall further behind pay of comparable workers, sheds light on this serious issue.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Starting Your School Year Off Right

For both teacher and students alike, the first few days of the school year bring excitement and nervousness. It is a time for setting the tone for the year by building relationships, establishing routines and procedures, etc.  It is also a time for setting expectations and introduce the concepts, skills, and language that will be developed during the school year.  In a recent article by reporter Katrina Schwartz, Alan November, a former teacher-turned-author and lecturer, describes Four Skills to Teach Students In the First Five Days of School.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Addressing Equity and Access in Charter Schools

During my tenure as principal, one of the experiences I faced annually was losing students, including my top performing students, to charter schools.  One year I ended the school year with a 10% identified gifted student population on my rosters, but began the following year with only 2% identified gifted students on my rosters.  Eight percent of my gifted student population had gone to the new charter school down the road.  Within 2 months, my population began to grow from students returning from the charter school.  Interestingly, they were not the gifted students, but students who had been asked to leave the charter school, or who were struggling academically.

States and districts apply laws and policies to ensure equitable access to both traditional and charter schools. Unfortunately, they are not always applied evenly.  A study referred to in an article by Joy Resmovits, Some California Charter Schools Discriminate in Admissions, ACLU Report Says, speaks to the issue of equitable access to charter schools.  In order to remedy the inequities that exist, accountabilities must address the beliefs, practices, and cultures of schools that discriminate based on self-identified criteria, and work toward measurable change.  What needs to happen is that 1) the law needs to be written and applied with an equity lens at its core, 2) monitoring has to be more consistent and comprehensive, and 3), consequences for failing to follow the law must be more aggressively applied, to deter future violations.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Making Meaning Inside Our Private Universe

When I was a faculty member with the School Management Program at UCLA,  I facilitated a number of conversations and inservices on the topic of incorrect answers and misunderstandings.  It was based on the idea that regardless of how smart we are, our meaning making is often misdirected, causing us to draw the wrong conclusions.  This is influenced by our pre-existing mental model of the world around us. Our interpretation of certain concepts leads us to the incorrect or incomplete answers. 

A video we used that sits inside the work of Annenberg Learner, proved a valuable resource. It provided examples and discussion points that made the concept clear.  The video described high performing students answering a basic science question - you’ll be surprised by their responses.  In a recent article,  The Importance Of Getting Things Wrong, Anya Kamenetz wrote on this interesting topic. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Growth Mindset is a Learning Mindset

I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Dwek when I was serving as Chief Academic Officer for the San Francisco Unified School District.  Her work on growth mindset was critical in the development of our new math course sequence.  The notion that students, through their productive struggle can improve their brain capacity, as well as their results, was valuable in informing my efforts at developing the kind of sequence that encouraged productive struggle.  

The concept of growth mindset applies not only to students and their academic endeavors, but is an important concept for everyone.  In this new global environment, where multiple cultures share common spaces and experiences, and technology facilitates communication, a mindset that is open to new ideas and new learning will be critical.  We must embrace the kind of mindset that will continue growing and developing, so that we can take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, and take on the challenges that may confront us.  Carol wrote a great article on this topic, The Antidote to Our Anxious Times Is a Learning Mindset.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nursery Rhymes, Poetry, and English Language Learners

Growing up an English language learner, my early years in school were challenging.  I didn’t have the benefit of Spanish language instruction, or ELD support.  There were times when I didn’t understand what was happening in the classroom, and found myself shadowing my classmates.  However, I also recall having rich activities with song, dance, and language. 

The nursery rhymes in the early grades, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, along with hand gestures and body movement, lowered my affective filter and helped me to remember words and phrases more effectively.  In the later grades, it was poetry. In the sixth grade, I learned and presented Paul Revere’s Ride.  Learning through nursery rhymes and poetry provided me with a great opportunity to practice the cadence of the English language, to develop strong vocabulary, and to articulate more clearly.  The opportunity to present Paul Revere’s Ride helped to give me confidence in acquiring English.  Teaching through poetry can be a great experience for both teachers and EL students.  

In a recent article,  Language Unleashed: The Powerful Poetry of Multilingual Students, MindShift talks about the power of poetry in supporting English language learners in their English language development.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

District Leader Podcast in LIVE!

Luis Valentino, District LeaderThe District Leader: Transforming Education podcast is LIVE on iTunes, and ready for listeningDistrict Leader is a podcast dedicated to highlighting leaders in public education from across the country.  Each week, I interview superintendents who share their inspiring stories. District Leader is a podcast about moving and inspiring educators and non-educators alike to believe in the power of education, its leaders, and its transformation.

Informing the District Leader interviews are 3 important pillars:  Scholarship, the concept that we are forever learning, Leadership, the concept that we are able to move and inspire people into thought, feeling, and action, and Agency, that we empower those we serve.

The podcast will serve as an opportunity to introduce guests to a broader audience, who will ultimately become allies, agents and patrons of public education.  Below is a link to the iTunes Store to subscribe to the podcasts. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/district-leader/id1132944041?mt=2

Additional information can be found at distritleader.net

ADHD and New Federal Guidelines

The primary mission of public school districts in America is to ensure that all students have access to a comprehensive, equitable, and inclusive educational experience.  However, many schools and districts are challenged when it comes to students with special needs.  

And as schools and districts prepare for the new school year, they will find that students with identified ADHD now fall within clearly established federal guidelines.  This will require that districts effectively communicate these guidelines, work with schools to identify students properly, allocate resources for the expected increase in IEPs, develop appropriate plans and strategies, and monitor and evaluate the transition.

More importantly, teachers, site administrators, and support staff, will need to be provided with comprehensive and sustained professional development and support. In a recent LA Times article, ADHD Is Now Classified as a Specific Disability Under Federal Civil Rights Law, Joy Resmovits describes the expectations of this new law.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Schooling and Values-Based Learning Experiences

One of the most interesting, and challenging, courses I ever took in college was called Ethics and Society.  The class required that I engage in discourse around deep moral issues facing society, while evaluating my beliefs, my truth about right and wrong, what is absolute versus what is relative, etc.  To be honest, I wasn’t ready for such depth and rigor.  My K - 12 experience had not prepared me to deal with such complex issues.  The curriculum and assessments I took were focused on preparing me to succeed on the 3 Rs, along with the grade level standards of the time.. 

Unfortunately, many educators and non-educators alike believe that schools and classrooms are failing to properly equip students with the skills to handle complex moral issues. Paul Bardwell suggests that “…while school mission statements often reveal a goal of preparing students for a mix of lifelong success, citizenship, college, and careers, the reality is that addressing content standards and test preparation continues to dominate countless schools’ operations and focus.”

Given the nature of schooling, the challenge continues to be the lack of opportunities for teachers and students to engage in values-based experiences.  Any change will require that we reimagine schooling and the vision we hold for students’ learning.  The good news is that efforts are being made to create opportunities for students to engage in learning experiences that challenge their sense of self, their context, and their truth. Paul Bardwell, in Students' Broken Moral Compasses, brings focus to this important topic.

Technology and Adolescents. Its a New World.

As students embark on their academic and professional careers, one thing that will have been well established is their digital footprint.  From baby photos posted on Facebook and Flickr, to pictures and videos on Snapchats, Instagram, Pinterest, and others, young people today are creating a record of themselves from the day they are born.  And while there is fun in that, it can also be quite dangerous if not managed well.

For those of us from the baby boomer generation, technology has played a very different role in our lives than it has for the generations following.  We have had to learn to use apps and games in ways that is more organic to younger people, and they live with the expectation by their peers that they use the technology as part of their social network.  As a result, not only do they trust it more, but their constant use of it has given them the facility to manipulate it in ways that we don’t.  

But because our learning curve is steeper, we also appreciate, respect, and fear, the technology more.  This level of conflicted emotion is needed with young people, so that they understand how much harm the technology can cause them when they are careless, and mindless in how they use it.  The good news is that it is learned behavior, and therefore, good habits can be learned. Clara Galan wrote an article, Students Are The New Digital Influencers, that speaks to the issue of adolescents and technology, and the importance of teaching them how to use their technology. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Maker Movement In Schools

The "maker movement" is alive and well across the country.  Do-it-Yourselfers are tinkering in their spaces, building and creating really cool things.  This movement has gained traction, and as a result has now begun to make its way into schools and classrooms.

But what will be the purpose for bringing the maker concept to the classroom? How will it be integrated? What will be the indicators of effectiveness?  These questions are not unique to the maker concept, but reflect the challenges that arise when integrating any new idea, program, strategy, etc., with the established school curricula, teaching methods, and accountabiities.  But as schools and districts begin to move again toward addressing the needs of the whole child,  opportunities such as the maker movement will help to facilitate that effort. In a recent NPR story, 3 Challenges As Hands-On, DIY Culture Moves Into Schools, Eric Westervelt shares his thoughts on the challenges and possibilities of the maker movement in schools and in classrooms.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How Students Learn Best. A Revisit.

How do students learn best?  There are dozens of theories and practices that have defined how we can best help students learn in order for them to achieve the stated objectives.  As a result, entire industries have flourished around this question, seeking answers.  The issue, however, goes beyond what we implement or apply.  It starts with how we think about the life of a student in school, how they view their experience, and whether or not we are taking advantage of that view in helping them learn.

Will Richardson, former teacher, who now travels the world speaking on this issue, believe that part our struggle in helping students learn is that “the current context demands a radically different vision of learning”, and we have not adapted.   But how will our vision for students be different than what we have in our schools and districts now?  What systems, structures, and processes, will we need to reimagine in order to more effectively help students learn?

In today’s Wiredprofiles, we highlight an article on this topic by Katrina Schwartz, How Can Schools Prioritize For The Best Ways Kids Learn?

Friday, July 15, 2016

What Should We Teach Our Boys of Color?

Having grown up in El Paso, right along the boarder with Mexico, I share many of the same experiences with the police as other males of color - not very positive ones.  I was stopped many times for any number of reasons while walking or driving, regardless of where I was in the city.  Often times it was a simple conversation with the officers remaining in their car, while others were full-on placing hands on the hood of the car, being frisked, placed in the back seat of their car, and interrogated for several minutes.  In the end, I was always allowed to leave, but those experiences have left me with some emotion.  My resentment and my fear of officers is pretty real. But as my son grows, the one thing I don’t want him to do is to develop the same feelings of resentment and fear toward police officers. 

It is not easy for me to put my feelings aside, but it is essential, so that my son can become part of the solution.  Thousands of other men and women of color have conversations with their sons every day, on how to get through being stopped by the police, and not feel resentful and afraid.  While it sad that at this time in our history young boys of color - and even girls of color - are having to be instructed on how to behave in front of those charged with protecting them, I believe that the next generation of men and women of color will help bring about change in race relations in a way that impacts policing in America.  

In today’s Wiredprofiles, we highlight an article by John Silvans Wilson, Jr.,  What Should We Teach Them?   

Thursday, July 14, 2016

TEDTalks to Challenge Your Thinking

TEDTalks has been an important learning and entertainment medium for many, including myself.  The valuable stories told by individuals from wall walks of life, sharing incredible ideas,  pushing our thinking in fun and interesting ways, have served as topics for rich conversations. 

One of my favorite TEDTalks was Ken Robinson’s, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?“  Much has been debated about his presentation since he gave it, both good and bad.  But for me, the idea that we have the power to move and inspire future generations, and often make choices that don’t,  caused a deep reaction in me.  And there are other TEDTalks that are as powerful that I am sure you have seen. 

In today’s Wiredprofiles, we highlight an article about TEDTalks curated by George Couros,  4 Great Ted Talks That Will Challenge Your Thinking.

Monday, June 6, 2016

On Mentoring: Who Is Your Sensei?

Luis Valentino on Mentoring
(Luis Valentino) Institutions outside of public education have, as a matter of course, provided mentoring support to its members as part of human capital initiative.  Only recently have we in public education taken mentoring as a critical component in our development.  Below is a piece on mentoring written by Dr. Albert Solano, a career educator, consultant, and trainer.  I hope you find it helpful. Enjoy!


Impactful Mentoring: Lessons from Sensei (Teacher)
When we are deep in the minutia of day-to-day work that can often include toxic politics, organizational culture inertia, putting out fires, etc., we can sometimes forget to take a step back and reflect on key lessons learned from a mentor. For me, that mentor was Miyazaki Sensei (teacher). A positive role model who set the example for all of his karate students, he was largely responsible for keeping me off the streets while growing up in New York City. He taught me many lessons at a very young age that I didn't fully appreciate until much later.

Some context...
My mother, a single-parent, invested her money from multiple jobs to enroll me in karate when I was about ten-years-old. It was perhaps the best investment she ever made. It kept me off the streets (mostly) and provided me with a positive role model and teacher, Toyotaro Miyazaki. We all knew him simply as "Sensei." An incredibly talented man who was a well-known fighter in the 1960s tournament circuit and forms/weapons champion in the 70s & 80s, Sensei maintained an enormously humble persona. He didn't care to be called Shihan (master). He preferred Sensei (teacher).

The basics…
In the 1980s, there was an explosion of martial arts popularity in the U.S. Schools were popping up everywhere. The big fads were flips, splits, and spinning kicks. But not at our dojo (school). We would spend years perfecting simple stances, simple kicks, and simple blocks. Sensei could've secured more students (i.e., revenue) if he offered the fancy stuff but he didn't compromise. (Not to knock down people who can demonstrate fancy techniques. I admire their physical talent. The point is Sensei was not quick to implement fads at the school).

Continuous improvement...
When I was a teen, my mother could no longer afford lessons. The kind and generous man that he was, Sensei asked me a question in his deep Japanese accent, "Do you know how to clean?" So, soon after I began cleaning the dojo every day after school and on Saturday mornings. I was a horrible janitor but he was patient with me. A couple of years later Sensei had me start teaching some of the young children's classes. He didn't hand me a booklet with teaching directions. Rather, a culmination of tips as he observed my teaching amounted to a 4-step process. Sensei taught me: 
  1. Plan the content. 
  2. Visualize the sequence. 
  3. Implement and adapt the pace and content as you see students perform.
  4. Reflect on your lesson. 
I taught classes intermittently for about three years, moving over to teach the adult classes, and eventually assisting with tournament activities. It's only as an adult that I came to fully appreciate Sensei's 4-step process, especially step 4: reflect on your lesson. Could I have done a better job teaching the class? What do I need to improve for the next class? 

Lessons learned…

Key lessons Sensei taught me:
  • Don't be concerned with titles.
  • Don't focus on the revenue. Know your core values. Revenue will eventually come from doing the right thing.
  • Don't be quick to adapt the latest fads. Focus on doing the basics well.
  • Be kind and generous.
  • Reflect on your work. 
Admittedly, I sometimes neglected Sensei's key lessons throughout my career. This was particularly true when I was deep in the minutia of day-to-day work as an education administrator. I didn't always take a step back to reflect on my early life lessons. I could've been more patient, thoughtful, and focused on the basics. I definitely could've done a better job to reflect on my work. 

If you find yourself entrenched in the minutia, I encourage you to reflect on a special mentor, teacher, friend, family member or any other positive influencer who taught you key lessons that should be brought back to the surface again. Perhaps you'll find a way to reignite your passion and view work and life through a fresh set of reliable lenses. 

Who is your "Sensei"?


Dr. Albert Solano
Educator. Consultant. Trainer

Monday, May 30, 2016

To Charlie, And All The Brave Soldiers Who Died For Their Country

As a kid in my El Paso neighborhood, I remember a number of my older neighbors and friends being drafted into the military.
Many of them, sadly, never returned home safe. I remember one afternoon, in particular, playing out on the street with my friends, when a dark green military car with two men in uniform drove up and parked across the street. They knocked on the door where Charlie lived before he had been drafted. Charlie's mom opened the door and the two soldiers walked in. 15 seconds later we all heard a blood curdling scream that enveloped the neighborhood and lasted forever. To this day I can recall it vividly. Charlie had been killed during the battle of Quang Tri, in Vietnam. Charlie's mom was informed Mother's Day weekend. Needless to say, she, Charlie's dad, and his sisters were never the same again. They soon moved way from the neighborhood. And for us kids, it was the first time that we understood the impact of war, not from a textbook, but from personal experience. That night, I took all of my old green soldier action figures, packed them in a box, and stuck them in the closet - never played with them again. I've come to realize that Memorial Day honors not only the soldiers who gave their lives in the service of our country, but their families and close friends who experience the loss in an incredible way. I have had family members in the military, but, gratefully, all have come home safe. To Charlie, and to all of those brave soldiers from El Segundo Barrio in El Paso, Texas, "we forever honor you and thank you."