Monday, November 27, 2006

Understand the True “Scope” of Effective Professional Development

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of giving the opening Keynote for the 12th Annual SCOPE Technology Conference, “Lead By Design: Technology Integration Across the Curriculum”, in Long Island, New York. The SCOPE Education Services of Long Island, NY is a powerful example of educational leaders, passionate about effective staff development based on student learning, who has built an organization to make a difference.

SCOPE is a not-for-profit, private organization permanently chartered by the New York State Board of Regents to provide services to school districts. School superintendents founded SCOPE in 1964 as a cooperative venture for sharing resources to deal with common concerns. It is governed by a Board of Directors made up of school superintendents and college representatives and serves as a regional School Study Council and School Board Institute.

As I peruse the SCOPE catalogue of exciting fall course opportunities, consisting of 62 pages of “right on… use them today strategies”, (not to mention the full range of educational services), I am very impressed.

I was even more impressed with the leading educators I met at the conference. Dr. Joseph Del Rosso, Executive Director and former Superintendent, is passionate and knowledgeable about effective professional development design. His Professional Development Staff knows we cannot expect teacher and administrator training of the past to prepare our present students for the future.

Betty Westcott, Assistant Director of Professional Development, is the energetic key organizer for the conference. With her wit and skill, plus a very hard working staff, she ran an exciting professional development event designed around the Long Island learner. The SCOPE organization “gets it” … they demonstrate strong professional development is a process, continually evaluated, of improving educator competencies and skills for the purpose of accelerating student learning.

We can all learn from them:

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

As Much As I Hate Politics…I’m Watching 36 Battles For Governor Next Week

Education is a “hot topic” for gubernatorial candidates seeking election next week. It seems like all thirty-six are portraying themselves as the “education governor” from information in a thought provoking and informative article from Education Week.

The story “Education Eyed in 36 Battles for Governor: Candidates running on pre-K, performance pay, voucher.” written by Michele McNeil, includes an impressive interactive map of the gubernatorial candidates and their education platforms.

“Every one of those governors is running on what they’re going to do for education. Every candidate says, ‘I want to be the education governor,’ ” said Bob Wise, who was West Virginia’s governor from 2001 to 2005. A Democrat, he is now the executive director of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based advocacy group that works to improve high schools.

McNeil says, “Whatever the outcomes on Nov. 7, the nation will have at least 10 new state governors, because the incumbents are prevented by term limits from running again, chose not to seek re-election, or were defeated in a primary election.”

From personal experience as Assistant Superintendent of a K-12 District, I know that whom ever sits in the governors chair effects daily life in the classroom, offices, and board rooms of every district in the state.
Knowing that our votes cast in next month’s 36 gubernatorial elections will help shape future K-12 policies, from how schools are financed to how teachers are paid, you may want to view the interactive map within the article to see what the future of our nations schools could look like.

Ask Yourself: Is your governor’s seat up for grabs on November 7? Do you know their education platform? Can we elect a real “education governor”?

Other Resources: All About Governors

Go inside a governor’s office to learn about the 2006 elections at the National Governors Association Website.

View National Governors Association Meeting Summaries and search through any governors’ database in the site’s Governors section. From the list of states with elections in 2006 you can click on the underlined gubernatorial candidates' names to access campaign websites.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I Won’t Read “The Catcher in the Rye” Again… You Can’t Make Me

I remember the struggle, the confusion, and the sheer length of the novel “The Catcher in the Rye”. It could have been because I was newly in eighth grade and we were required to read all those words. Could it have actually taken an entire semester? Does that sound right to you? Well, if not, it seems that way, to put it simple… I wasn’t ready for it and I don’t think I will ever pick it up again.

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post says: “Although fluency had long been identified by experts as important, it then became a hot issue.” In two articles on reading fluency she shares opinions from experts in the field and ideas from successful practice.

In Quest for Speed, Books Are Lost on Children

Evans Middle School, in Ottumwa, Iowa, was declared a school in need of improvement in reading in 2004, and Principal Davis Eidahl said he adopted a program focused on reading fluency using a model constructed by Rasinski aimed at improving comprehension. The article includes a fluency chart from expert Tim Rasinski of Kent State University,

But, is it all about speed?

Assigned Books Often Are a Few Sizes Too Big

Many teachers exclude graphic novels and comics from reading lists, even though a graphic novel was nominated for the National Book Award this year. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has said he learned to read through comics after his schoolmaster father disregarded others who said the comics would lead to no good.

What about visual learners?

What Do you Think?
Should kids read Shakespeare or the comics? Graphic novels or "The Catcher in the Rye"? Many reading experts say they should read everything – but only when they are ready to understand what they are reading.


Other Websites of Interest:

Reading in Content Areas for Teachers
School improvement network provides complete professional development solutions for public & private schools. Reading in content areas teacher development solutions.

Teaching Reading Program
Discover a research proven way to raise student literacy and test scores by building your students' academic vocabulary.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Get the “Big Picture” With Video in Education

eSchool News presents the new Video Resource Center

I took a look at the debut edition of the eSchool News Network's web-based video program (October 18, 2006) and found a painless way to keep current on educational technology.

eSN TechWatch, which is anchored by Managing Editor Dennis Pierce, brings you the latest news and information for K-12 decision makers. This first 21-minute video helps me to view a wealth of creative events, progressive ideas, and application of newest technology at elementary, secondary and university levels. It is a time saving way that is working to keep abreast of rapid technology change. Links include best practices, expert insights, student videos, and information on tech conferences.

Staying with the theme of “keeping in the know”, check out this same issues’ Ed-Tech Vanguard Report, a publication dedicated to documenting the ed-tech successes of America's school districts. These articles give extensive information about three creative districts: “Broward County Public Schools, Ed-Tech’s Place in the Sun”, “Fairfax County Public Schools, New take on Ed-Tech in the Old Dominion”, and “Clark County Public Schools Meet the High-tech High Rollers of CCSD”

Please share your latest “discovery” of a creative use of technology you may have found. Even better… tell us your own!!

Entire Oct 18, 2006 Issue

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

To Strike or Not to Strike:

Today was a good day for 129,000 children in Detroit, because 9,500 members (the majority) of the Detroit Federation of Teachers voted to return to class this morning (Wednesday, September 13), ending a strike that began Aug. 28th. During the announcement of the vote results, teachers stood and cheered.

To get a sense of the tension within the city during these last few days, I have included several articles published by the Detroit Free Press from the day before the union strike was settled, and on the day teachers voted to return to their classrooms. By reading these articles, you can feel the struggle both sides had with 129,000 Detroit children missing precious learning time.

Headlines Tuesday, September 12, 2006:
Detroit Cancels Classes as Teachers Defy Court
By: Catherine Jun, Amy Lee and Kim Kozlowski / The Detroit News

"We have the right to protest what we think is unfair," said Cynthia Van Horn, an English teacher. She said she is not fazed by the court order, despite possible penalties. Detroit teachers vowed to remain on strike during a brief but raucous union meeting Sunday at Cobo Center. They went on strike Aug. 28 after rejecting a proposal that included a 5.55 percent pay cut and increased co-pays on health care benefits.

Headlines September 13, 2006:

How Mayor Brokered End of School Strike: No Wage Givebacks, but Benefits Cut
By: Christine MacDonald and Catherine Jun / The Detroit News

After two weeks of round-the-clock negotiations -- some stretching to 20 hours -- no breakthroughs were in sight.
But pressure was mounting from all sides. Two prominent Detroit religious figures -- Detroit NAACP president the Rev. Wendell Anthony and the Rev. Oscar King III -- planned to tell the community that both sides refused to give. Gov. Jennifer Granholm had just launched what could be a lengthy and tedious fact-finding process. And the district was about to ask a judge to fine teachers for not reporting. That's when Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick opened his office doors to a settlement. Ten hours later, after coffee, catfish and chocolate cake, the two sides had hashed out a deal with the mayor and two of his top staffers -- and without the mediators who had sat with them for weeks.

Pay freeze troubles teachers
By: Catherine Jun and Amy Lee / The Detroit News

Sylvia Leavell, a teacher consultant with Detroit Day School for the Deaf and a union member, said she planned to vote on accepting it."The teachers were more concerned about giving up more," she said. "If we had to continue to give up more, teachers probably would not budge." But some teachers say the latest proposal is still difficult to swallow. "I have a problem we're not even getting a raise this year," said Jonathan Blakey, a physical education teacher at Osborn High School. "That's not a very good contract."

Here are some of the particulars of the new contract:

The three-year agreement includes a pay freeze in the first year, with teachers giving up 5 percent in non-wage concessions, and seniority pay raises restored. In the second year, teachers would get a 1 percent wage increase, followed by a 2.5 percent increase in year three.

What Do You Think?
Should teachers strike? What would you do? What do you think of the Mayor getting involved?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How Does Competition Affect Student Learning?

In my previous post, on August 25, we examined ways of “keeping kids in school”. As a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent I took this as a personal mandate. So today, when I found some interesting research published by ASCD on their Research Brief webpage, I hoped to spark some dialogue.

Dan Laitsch, in his article Competition and Student Learning, asks the question: “How does competition affect student learning?” Let us put it another way: Does competition “push out” or “pull” students into the learning process?

Laitsch’s bottom line stated: “Using a behavioral-economic model, the researchers found support for the concept that competition between students may have a negative effect on student motivation as students attempt to protect their own perceived self-worth.”

In his writing Laitsch made reference to, Metacognition and the Self-System, an article by Kavita Seeratan, a member of the Learning Disabilities Resource Community from University of Toronto.

Seeratan states: “faced with a challenging intellectual task, the student who believes he has the capabilities to perform it effectively will be more likely to undertake it and to persist at the task than will the student who has doubts about his ability to perform it successfully”. Her final premise: “In order for the metacognitive systems to work properly, children must have adequate information about both strategic knowledge and metacognitive activity. Hence, positive attributions or high motivation to succeed would be of little use to an individual who does not have the necessary accompanying strategic knowledge and metacognitive skills. But in the presence of strategic knowledge and metacognitive skills, motivation and affective states are very advantageous in promoting progress towards self-determination.”

A couple of questions come to mind: Would a “competition strategy” be a successful motivator in the presence of strategic knowledge, metacognitive skills and students belief in their ability to perform successfully? Wow, and if so, how do we do that in our classrooms?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Develop A “Don’t Give Up” Attitude

A group of South Carolina business leaders commissioned a closer look at their schools and found something they were not looking for. They discovered that their “worst-in-the nation dropout rate” cannot be explained by high poverty levels, single-parent households, or rigorous graduation requirements, as reported on the South Carolina Home Page

Kudos to South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, who pointed to recent state-sanctioned initiatives targeting truancy and curriculum changes to make high school instruction more relevant to individual student interests. This is a wonderful start to developing a powerful strategy that teachers can use to keep kids in school. The strategy is: Develop a “Don’t Give Up” Attitude.

Why do your students leave school? Do they “step out” to pursue other alternatives, such as full time work or marriage? Do they experience “push out” because the staff passively allows them to leave with little effort to help them identify problems or reasons to stay? Or do they “drop out” because of boredom, alienation, low academic skills or a negative perception of themselves as a learner?

Gene R. Carter, Executive Director for ASCD, describes in his article “Is it Good for the Kids? What our High School Students Need” the efforts of a high school journalism teacher who chased down one of her students on the football field to remind him his paper was overdue, and how it changed his life. Now that is the “Don’t Give Up Attitude” I was talking about.

Would more of your students stay in school if each, and every one of us ratcheted up our “Don’t Give Up Attitude”?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What do you mean, as a teacher I fare better than other professionals?

I'm not in agreement with Amy Jeter and Deirdre Fernandes blanket statement, "Public school teachers used to earn less than just about everyone else with a college degree. No longer." The statement was taken from their article in the The Virginian-Pilot on August 7, 2006.

I do, however, agree with their statement, "Few political priorities locally or nationally trump the desire for good schools and qualified teachers." So, I would like to introduce a couple of points they might want to ponder before they continue their public discussion on the topic.

The authors refer to the "average" teacher salary, which may not be "average" at all. As educators know, the largest number of classroom teachers, (those darn baby boomers,) are at the top of the pay scale with many holding out on retirement until they are sure of a strong economy. This recent trend is inflating their "average"” figure. So much for numbers!

Let's look at a statement from the article: "On average, professionals work 232 eight-hour days a year, including paid holidays and vacation, the federal survey shows. Teachers work an average of 187 days, 7.5 hours a day." I ask them to probe a bit further.

Amy, Deirdre...interview a business manager or executive who is about to give a four-hour presentation, and ask: How many hours did you take to prepare? My guess would be a day or two. When do the authors think the classroom teacher prepares? When do they think he or she corrects student independent or group work from class? When do teachers review and comment on individual homework assignments? When do they study student data and reflect on changes to be made to their classroom instruction? When do they make those changes?

Just one more quick comment before I ask for your thoughts on this topic. Let's not forget to add in the holidays and paid vacations those "other" professionals receive. Let's see, 187 teacher days + 12 holidays + 10 vacation days + professional development days, now that is a least a better starting point from which to begin.

I believe good teachers work twelve months a year in a nine-month timeframe. How about you?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

“Waste Not, Want Not”

While we are on the subject of money… A surprising number of districts don't fully utilize their E-Rate funds. In fact, school districts' use of awarded E-rate funds have declined from 80 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2004; according to an E-Rate consulting firm Funds for Learning.

Sheila Riley has written an article on lessons from the School District of Philadelphia who are model E-Rate recipients. They believe the maxim, "Waste not, want not" are words to live by. Sheila also gives an E-Rate legislative update at:

A key aspect of making the most of E-Rate funding involves the often thankless, but nonetheless crucial, task of paperwork. Peter Kaplan, director of regulatory affairs for Funds for Learning, notes that districts often lose out on E-Rate money simply because they fail to make filing deadlines. "Each spending request has several dates and deadlines associated with it, whether it's an installation, payment, or Form 486 deadline," he says. E-Rate filing deadlines can be found at

Another mistake, says Kaplan, is handing the paperwork job to someone on the low end of the office hierarchy. He cautions us, "Someone relatively high up on the food chain needs to manage and oversee the program, there's a lot of money at stake here." Administrators take note: this strategy is worth a look!

Is your E-Rate manager high enough on the decision making latter to make a difference?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Well-Conceived Idea, and a Solid Plan for Implementation… Can Pay Off… Big Time.

Every school, district, university and educational organization has been asked to tighten their belts, again and again. Making decisions to cut extraordinary programs and creative personnel is frustrating to say the least.

To try and regain control of the monies spent on these programs, consider a diligent (all be it time consuming) look at the ever-increasing number of private sector grants that may align with your vision. Your unique demographics, personnel, organizational structure or limited resources could even be a benefit when applying.

Susan Brooks-Young has compiled an impressive directory of timely grants that may give you impetus and ideas. They are posted

Susan believes the funding landscape continues to change in these times of economic uncertainty, however, opportunities are out there for educators who have a well-conceived idea and solid program implementation plans. The above website will provide updates throughout the year so keep the address handy.

With the stiff competition for government and private sector grant funds, your educational organization may consider commissioning a marketing agent or a grant writer who has practiced skills in these areas. Here are a few tips that may help you today.


TIP #1: Form a partnership or consortium with other districts, institutes of higher education, or non-profit organizations. There is definitely strength in numbers! Many grantors are interested in funding proposals that have broad impact and are replicable. Partnerships and consortia address both these requirements and strengthen your proposal.

TIP #2: Include alternative financing options in your budget. For example, after years of shying away from equipment leases for technology purchases, many districts now find that this approach enables them to have more up-to-date equipment and keep up with a reasonable replacement cycle.

TIP #3: Partner with a business. This is not a new idea, but many districts are adding twists that reap funding benefits for them and their business partners. For example, by offering to pilot or beta-test a service or program or to participate in a research project, districts can often build in permanent discounts for the future. Or, they can receive slightly used product donations following major activities including conferences, sporting events, etc.

Source: Technology & Learning

What are the keys to writing a winning proposal? Gwen Solomon lets us in on a few tips with his "Deconstruct a Grant" article at;

And to browse and create your own search for grants, contests and other funding opportunities you may want to check out:

Monday, June 26, 2006

Putting Content in the Context of Students’ Everyday Life

Gil Klein from the Richmond Times Dispatch says, “The latest in cool for schools is iPods”, and boy does he have that right. Educators, led by student excitement and their own creativity for using every available tool to accelerate learning, are sharing ideas on how iPod technology can produce positive learning results. Read about how teachers are using this interactive device to put content in the context of their students’ lives in and outside the classroom. Richmond Times Dispatch Article

Last week, principals from Leon County Schools in Tallahassee, Florida may have been the first administrators in the nation to receive training on the powerful uses of iPods for instruction. They discovered the teaching power of the same device they have been telling students to turn off in class. Adriane Peters, Instructional Technology Director said, “ We got administrators hooked on a cutting edge technology for learning, this will have a trickle down effect on our teaching staff.”

The principals will practice on their new tool over the summer and present ideas to their staff in the fall.