Sunday, May 6, 2018

Ideas to improve education

Creative solutions to systemic challenges facing our schools

I am offering to my audience a few stories on a bi-weekly basis that promote good ideas and demonstrate bold leadership. I have been inspired by great ideas that often make their way into my classroom or into my leadership journal. The more good ideas we share, the greater the chances for improving education policy and practices.

When I get a little down and feel like I am delivering a twentieth century education to my students, I turn to reading about innovative thinking within the profession. When I feel like the status quo is winning, I search for inspiration. Usually I quickly snap out of the funk to deliver the best I can for my students and school.

There are some pretty cool ideas out there - too many to count - but my mention here is worth the effort. These writers provide reporting that could be the creative fuel and inspiration needed to creatively solve our problems.  Please read and share.

Each headline is an active link to the original story.

Many Detroit educators have never worked in a high-performing school. This program imports coaches who have

Photo By Nick Gregory

This article featured in Chalkbeat by Erin Einhorn lays out a super ambitious plan at work in Detroit to improve Detroit Mumford Academy. It is clear that a blend of innovation, best teaching practices and clear goals are pitted against several challenges.

It's not that the leaders in charge do not want to face the uncertainty, it's just that they are so determined to win that they do not spend time wishing for outcomes. Instead, they are taking action with a bold approach. Part of the premise is based on the fact that winning in Detroit is tougher because many of the teachers and leaders in Detroit's school system have never worked in high-performing schools. With that fact in mind and with incredible support from the Team Fellows Program funded by the Detroit Children's Fund, a new model for leading and teaching is emerging as you read this.

The work of the education leaders featured in the story is couched in a clearly defined mission and they are setting out to cut "shadow missions," a term for all the work that takes away from their priorities. The ideal Detroit Children's Fund Leaders Institute candidate characteristics:
  • A track record of positive results for students
  • A clear vision for an engaging and rigorous culture of instruction
  • A growth mindset and the ability to translate feedback into action
  • A desire to take personal responsibility for every child’s success
  • A sense of urgency and dissatisfaction with the status quo
It is refreshing to see a new approach in an effort to move the needle on progress. Obviously there are all-star teachers and leaders on board, and their challenge is one that most suburban teachers cannot relate to due to inequity and circumstances. The lessons on innovation apply to all education systems however. You will read this story impressed by the effort, nervous about whether it can work and most of all proud to see a laser-focus approach to give every child and teacher a school where learning and preparation for the future are the priority.  I badly want to be part of an initiative like this one!

When Administrators Keep Teaching - Teaching keeps school leaders connected to students and other teachers and lets them feel the effects of their own decisions

With subheads like, "Walking the Walk" and "Recharging the Batteries" this interesting idea written by Heather Wolpert-Gawron of Edutopia is worth reading for school leaders looking to step-up the learning in a stagnant school culture. Heck, it's also worth it for schools that have a proven record of taking risks in order to serve students. These risk-taking schools are most likely to seek imaginative ways to increase collaboration among staff and administration and this article will start you on that journey. 
Why is it that so many schools fail to give teachers and leaders room to grow? Too many schools lack creativity. Imagine how much could be gained for everyone if building administrators actually taught students.
Lately I have been spouting off to my colleagues that my dream job would be to teach at least one class and assume an assistant principalship role simultaneously. Then I am usually quick to follow-up with a complaint about the archaic nature of most schools and the fact that path does not exist yet. Well, I could not have been more wrong. This is quick read at less than 800 words got me thinking about how to find a leadership position with the capacity for a hybrid role. Thank you for Ms. Wolpert-Gawron and Edutopia for giving me hope!  

What Happens to Student Behavior When Schools Prioritize Art 

This article is not just for the die-hard fans of the arts. It's also for visionary leaders and anyone who appreciates a good risk.

By Nick Gregory
In a tale of nothing to lose the featured school, Orchard Gardens Elementary in Roxbury Massachusetts may have even exceeded their own expectations by scrapping the old way for something better.

In an age of cookie-cutter attempts to improve test scores, this piece from You, Your Child, and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education by Sir Ken Robinson & Lou Aronica sheds some light on good ideas that harken back to the good ole days. The basic gist: the arts and providing space within the school culture for students to find their voice is a win.

(Now, if we can just get schools to understand that recess and enough time to eat lunch will also help schools meet the learning needs of students)
"Innovative schools everywhere are breaking the mold of convention to meet the best interests of their students, families, and communities. As well as great teachers, what they have in common is visionary leadership." 
- Sir Ken Robinson & Lou Aronica
Be inspired.

Please message me your ideas and interesting reads using the "Contact Me" tab on this link.

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