The Couch Effect of Handheld Media

I have been blessed to have many opportunities to learn from colleagues throughout the country. Last week I concluded the latest meeting of the standing committee of Principals for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In the midst of numerous assessments impacting our schools, NAEP is one of the oldest and most respected, having begun in 1969. It is the only nationwide assessment sponsored by our government and funded by our tax dollars. I wrote more about NAEP after my first committee meeting in April 2014.

NAEP is working hard to stay relevant especially in the midst of an information world that is rapidly changing. While educators have been able to access national educational statistics from NCES for many years, our current thinking is that developing mobile apps might be useful.

Consider these numbers on the growth of mobile use.

  • In 2007, there were 400 million global mobile users compared to 1.1 billion desktop users. 
  • In 2013, the lines intersected.
  • In 2015, mobile users far outpaced desktop users.

Our Internet habits have been reshaped to reflect what I call the couch effect. Scores of us utilize relaxation time to browse on our smartphones or tablets, often in conjunction with other media and sometimes in the presence of family and friends. For example, sports fans often use their devices in conjunction with game watching to enhance the experience with sports data and gain commentary from fans and experts on social media. This year I grabbed my iPhone a number of times to call up my Twitter feed and gain the latest information on a Red Sox injury I just witnessed on the tube.

Granted, anyone interested in how New Hampshire Asian boys scored on NAEP compared with African-American girls in New York would certainly qualify as a full fledged educational geek. But if the app could highlight facts that really could change practice, much like NEAP’s Twitter feed, perhaps these national education statistics might prove useful.

If a NAEP app was developed for educators, what would you like to see as major features?

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The Knoster Model and Change in Schools

Enjoying Lake Champlain in Vermont

While on a much needed vacation yesterday in Vermont, the discussion at lunch with one of my nephews centered on the dual role any leader has in keeping the “trains running on time” and finding the time and energy to move the vision forward simultaneously.

Excellent leaders can do both but too many of us lean heavily on the managerial side of our jobs. Why is that? The train schedule is relatively fixed and solutions to trains being late are not usually complex. We can check off many managerial tasks quickly and we know the satisfying feeling one has by checking off to-dos.

On the other hand, non-managerial tasks are usually significantly more elaborate in scope and more indeterminent to complete. Often a leader has to rally colleagues while dipping into vision related undertakings and as such, there is greater risk.

Early on in my administrative career I was introduced to the Knoster Change Model which was first introduced at a TASH conference in 1991. It’s been resurrected as an important leadership document in our district recently:

Knoster’s premise is that the six categories of Vision, Consensus, Skills, Incentives, Resources, and Action Plan all need to be present in order for complex change to occur successfully. Perhaps most interesting is his speculation (column far right) of the change result if one of the categories is not present during the process.

CONFUSION RESULTING FROM A LACK OF VISION

This is so typical in schools. Hard working leaders want to implement programs and change the world. But the staff does not understand why they are pushing forward without vision.

SABOTAGE RESULTING FROM A LACK OF CONSENSUS

A leader cannot assume they have the power to push through change without gaining a consensus of their faculty. This does not mean 100% approval of course…it does mean setting the vision strongly enough and having enough hallway and informal conversations to win hearts and change minds.

ANXIETY RESULTING FROM A LACK OF SKILL DEVELOPMENT

Imagine being thrown into an athletic competition without having the skills to compete. You may have a vision for what brought you to the game and the resources to place you squarely in the contest. But without having developed the necessary skills you will be wrapped in anxiety and your performance will suffer. An abundance of anxiety is a certain method of crashing an initiative.

RESISTANCE RESULTING FROM A LACK OF INCENTIVE

A lack of incentive is a tricky concept. Surely the groundbreaking work of Daniel Pink and his book Drive highlights the inadequacy of monetary incentives. While we can’t be sure exactly what Knoster was thinking, I would surmise that without the promise of a healthy level of self-determination as an incentive for change, teachers will resist.

FRUSTRATION RESULTING FROM A LACK OF RESOURCES

A lack of resources is not just change on a shoe-string budget. Not creating time to work on complex change can be equally challenging.

RUNNING THE TREADMILL AS A RESULT OF NO ACTION PLAN

Great leadership energy, gobs of money, and a supurb vision is not enough without a cogent action plan that is shared with all and easily understood.

Have any of you implemented the Knoster model to any degree of fidelity? Love to hear your comments.

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10 Summer Tips for Principals

Last day

Clapping the kids out on the last day of school

Summer is a bonus for school administrators. We are given the gift of time to accomplish tasks that simply cannot be completed during the school year commotion. But with adrenaline flowing out of our bodies by the end of June, we have to be careful to make the most of our more flexible time. Here are 10 tips to best use the summer months:

1. Reflect

I encourage teachers to find time after a lesson or when the day is done to take 15 minutes and reflect. What worked in my lessons and what would I change? Sadly, I rarely find time myself to meditate on the value of what I accomplished during a day, but I can use the summer to reflect. As one way to reflect, I would encourage you to develop a blog for the first time. I have some hints for you on finding time to blog, 5 ways to increase hits on your blog posts, and 5 reasons educators should blog

2. Become Paperless

I went nearly 100% digital a few years ago and this was an organizational game changer. To have every document I need at my fingertips via Evernote on the web, laptop, tablet, and smartphone, is not only peace of mind but pushes me into a higher level of productivity. I have scores of examples just in the last week…just yesterday, the Fire Chief was in to do the annual inspection. The Department recently moved their offices and he could not find last year’s inspection document. It took me less than a minute to call up the doc and print it out. Here are some of my previous thoughts on going paperless. 

3. Read

How many professional books, magazines, or digital books do you have stacked on your nightstand waiting to be consumed? Once the day is done at 5 PM, assuming you do not have a night meeting, how many of us (after checking email and planning for the following day) have time to read? But, we do have time in the summer if we can remain disciplined. We need to read in order to reflect. We have to feed our intellect as change will not happen in our schools unless we add substance to our own vision. We can’t possibly grow the vision of our schools without formulating the vision first in our own spirit. As food nourishes our body, the printed word nurtures our understanding.  It’s a year old, but this is an example of my professional reading from last year. 

4. Productivity

Given the hectic nature of our jobs, it is critical that we develop a work flow for efficiency. Summer is the best time to develop good productivity habits. The best known productivity expert at the moment is David Allen, the creator of Getting Things Done (GTD). The philosophy is supported by strong task management tasks such as Omnifocus, Remember the Milk, or Evernote. In fact, you can check out my workshop resources on Evernote, here

5. Review of Data

Summer is the time to review a year’s worth of academic data. Perhaps even more crucial is developing a solid system on how to collect and warehouse the data you collect so that it can be easily accessed by teachers and data teams. We developed a tool using Google Docs we call the Kid Grid which allows us to share data on all students with just the right educators. Our PLC leaders can add and sort data easily with this method. 

6. Meet with Staff

As part of our teacher’s CBA in my district, teachers are required to spend a day in the summer planning their professional learning for the upcoming school year as well as meet with their Principal. This is the perfect time to talk informally about the year to come as well as reflect on the year past. 

7. Inspect Your School for Safety

There are certain late afternoon days in the summer when I’ll wander the building alone and view things I won’t normally notice in the heat of the school year. Yesterday I wanted to ensure that all of our downstairs windows had pull down shades for safety purposes in a lockdown. I’ll look for egress issues around doors and of course, I’ll check the playground equipment for obvious problems. It was a summer day years ago that I decided to plan a few minutes a day during the school year to walk the perimeter of the building, ensuring that each door is locked and observe anything out of place. 

8. Hone Your Communications System

Is anything more important for success than how effectively we communicate with our staff and the community? Summer is the time to adjust the web site, your parent email list procedure, and your regular communication with the staff. It was in the summertime years ago when I developed the Sunday Blast, a weekly blog post to my staff. 

9. Reconnect with Your Administrative Colleagues

While your teacher colleagues are in and out of your building, your fellow district administrators share your summer schedule. Reach out to have lunch with them and discuss the issues you didn’t have time to chat about during the school year. 

10. Vacation

Vacation doesn’t just mean working from home or even taking day trips. If at all possible, clearing the mind might mean getting away from anyone who knows you outside of your family. It is also crucial to reconnect with the family that supports your crazy schedule for 9-10 months during the year.

I’m sure you can add to this list. Any other summer tips? 

 

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How Should We Celebrate?

 

Ediesboard

 

Last night I attended the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards, known informally as the “EDies”. The event is corporately sponsored by McDonalds and various educational companies, while co-sponsored by our local colleges and universities and our state’s professional organizations (such as NHASCD). These diverse organizations pick yearly winners to represent the “best” in our field. We pack a very large room at the largest hotel in Southern New Hampshire, have a great dinner, and we listen to short speeches delivered by nervous educators. The event’s Master of Ceremonies is Fred Bramante, a well known former Chair of the State Board of Education, successful entrepreneur, and one-time candidate for Governor.

Not everyone is comfortable accepting recognition as our field generally transcends individual feats. While popular media loves to exalt the omnipotent teacher (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dead Poet’s Society, Stand and Deliver) or the uber-dedicated and absurdly tough Principal (Lean on Me, The Principal), the reality is that our field is primarily a team sport. When we accept accolades we can picture scores of educators who are easily equal to our accomplishments.

On a national level, the Bammy Awards have been recently created to identify and acknowledge “the extraordinary work being done across the entire education field every day”. Since the nominating and voting is completed online, the early winners were a list of educators with Twitter followers above 10,000 . But the governing board and intent and purpose appear pure, so I hold out hope that the Bammys will celebrate in the proper way as the years continue. The greatest danger is that we create rock stars of our teachers and administrators. 

Nearly 10 years ago Rick and Becky Dufour and colleagues wrote in Learning By Doing that we should make…

“regular public recognition of specific collaborative efforts, accomplished tasks, achieved goals, team learning, continuous improvement, and support for student learning remind staff of their collective commitment…” 

They also emphasized that celebrating as a team is invaluable as anyone who has played a team sport knows:

“Make teams the focus of recognition and celebration. Take every opportunity to acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of teams.” (Dufour, Dufour, Eaker, Many 2006.)

So, let’s continue the awards. The recognition is good for our profession and is likely to spread good will for all of us. But the more we celebrate our local successes, the stronger our schools become, especially when we celebrate as a team. 

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The Authentic Grant Wiggins

 

Grantwig

 

I am saddened to hear tonight of the passing of the inimitable Grant Wiggins, which occurred yesterday according to tweets from his wife and daughter as well as from this post from ASCD.

Grant is one of the most influential educators I have learned from in my 30 year career. I had the honor of meeting him a number of times in my involvement with NHASCD as we brought him in as a speaker often through the years. Of course, he is best known as the author of Understanding My Design  with his good friend and colleague Jay McTighe. But he was also an expert on assessment as his book Educative Assessment changed the way many of us looked at formative assessment.

Despite being a modern day John Dewey for many of us, he was always kind and considerate, never leaning on his renown. Every learner in his workshops was equally important. At our conferences he willingly took his lunchtime to dine with our NHASCD Student Chapter pre-service teachers. When I interviewed him for our newsletter or simply chatted during a break, he would speak more about his son’s rock band and what guitars Grant himself loved to play. I think he was more excited about his own band (and his son’s) than even his educational work. 

  

Voila Capture 2015 05 28 06 02 17 AM

 

He and Jay moved easily with the times. Grant was able to integrate the great work of UbD and link it with the advent of the Common Core State Standards without missing a beat…and without it appearing that he was simply profiting on trends. Their book Schooling By Design took the ideas of UbD and applied them to a school or district curriculum model.

Lately, his blog became a major mouthpiece for his views. His last post from May 25 (just two days before his death) was a response to a Washington Post article on reading comprehension which he disagreed with. In typical Grant fashion, he always did extensive research before writing. 

Recently I had a conversation over dinner with fellow NHASCD Board Member and QED Foundation‘s Kim Carter all about Grant’s contribution to our own careers. We talked about how practical his work was while maintaining a theoretical base and legitimacy. While Grant could be esoteric, he was always a teacher first and laser focused on improving instruction. 

We’re going to miss you Grant. 

 

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In Need of Wellness

 

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 The view from Great Bay, Seacoast New Hampshire – my hike this weekend

Yesterday was a rare day for me. I did less than one hour of “work” and spent much of my day engaged in relaxing activities and enjoying my family. I must confess that I love Memorial Day weekend, mostly from my memories of my father and appreciation for him and the millions of other men and women who fought for our freedom. But I also love the ability to stay up late on Sunday night, knowing that I can sleep in on Monday.

But like most educators, the month of May is a bit like the weeks before April 15 for accountants. Today I have 22 projects listed on my Omnifocus task management program and about 57 to-dos listed for the month of May and June is only a week away. 

My reflection on wellness yesterday began with my participation in a research study by my colleague Dr. Kathleen Norris of Plymouth State University. A former Principal herself and now Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Learning and Curriculum at PSU, Kathleen designed a thoughtful survey and sent it to current Principals, asking us to reflect on the status of our wellness. There were the usual statistical questions in order to desegregate the data, but there were many questions that probed my own level of wellness and the need to support the wellness of those I work with. 

Thoughts on wellness:

  • There has to be a limit on hours worked before there’s diminishing returns on productivity. Finding that sweet spot has to be a priority for me.
  • I have to model wellness. Carrying the Diet Coke from meeting to meeting isn’t a good image. I need to encourage staff to eat well, exercise, and reach out when stress reaches a breaking point. 
  • It’s easy for me to justify not going to the gym since this month is so busy. But I have to remember that there are short term gains for exercise in the release of endorphins and reduction of stress. It’s all likely to make everything more productive. 

The question is if I will heed my own advice. Be well my friends, in this merry month of May.

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Nepal Needs Help

 

Nepal

Courtesy of DZI Foundation (https://dzi.org/

 How different can two lives be while existing on this same earth? Today, while working from home during spring break, I wrote up a teacher observation, added pictures to our school website and answered a ton of email. In the late afternoon, my wife and I strolled around the lake across the street. As I’m starting this blog post, I’m watching the Red Sox and posting pictures of our family trip to the Sox Open House at Fenway Park on Flickr and Facebook. 

Meanwhile, tonight there’s a middle aged father in Kathmandu, Nepal escorting his family to the nearest green area away from his home. He wants to avoid any danger from aftershocks. His home is still standing but there are structural cracks due to the recent earthquake. His son, daughter, and wife are hoping for dinner but there’s little food to be found. There’s an overwhelming sense of sadness due to their friends that have died, the historical sites downtown that are demolished and the lack of hope for the future. 

Fortunately, there are heroes lending a hand in Nepal including Ben Ayers, the son of my former Superintendent, Dick Ayers. Knowing Ben works in Nepal, I immediately emailed Dick after the earthquake and he replied:

How nice to hear from you and for your thoughtful concern about Ben. Ben is still in Nepal with DZI Foundation and is OK. He is fortunate that all those who with with him are not injured as well although they have had considerable damage to their homes.

In fact, one of my colleagues found this article about Ben, essentially an interview with him about the conditions in Nepal right after the quake. 

Ben is the director of the DZI Foundation, an organization working to improve conditions in Nepal. This is an organization you should feel comfortable donating to, and you can do so by clicking on this link. Please help.

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Different Kinds of Data

 

Assessment chart sb

 

Nothing has changed more in our field than the way we assess students in our public schools. Intuition ruled the day back in the 80s when I began in education. We relied largely on our own instincts (which were generally pretty accurate) but we had little quantitative data to back things up. We may have relied more on qualitative data, a trend that we may be losing sight of in modern times. Now…we have numbers. Lots of them.

Sue Brookheart, who has written often on assessment for ASCD, presented this morning on “Different Kinds of Data” at the ASCD Annual Conference in Houston. I just tweeted my notes from the session…(and already 47 people are viewing them). Side note-the growth of positive social media in the years at the Annual ASCD Conference is really amazing.

Major takeaways:

  • With so many assessments, we have to categorize what we do in order to realize the purpose of each assessment. (See graphic above). 
  • We cannot use our current interim assessments as both formative and summative. Let each category rule the day and serve its own purpose. 
  • Interim assessments can’t only be used to determine if a student can read or complete basic math…our intuition already tells us that. We have to be committed to using these assessments to disaggregate to sub-skills and determine the real cause behind a lack of progress in a particular area. 
  • Be very careful with cut points and what is truly proficient or not. Or…let’s not take numbers at face value. This is cliche, but how often in our rush do we not analyze data enough before we use that data to change a child’s instructional program?
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Blogging and Tweeting from the ASCD Annual Conference 2015

 

Houston ASCD

After a crazy winter in New England, Houston green looks great.  

I’ve been blessed to attend the ASCD National Convention nearly every year since 1996 thanks to my school districts and NHASCD who have supported me greatly through the years… and of course, my wonderful family who bids farewell for a few days every March. I am here in Houston for the 2015 Conference and starting this post on the shuttle bus at 6:45 AM on Saturday the 21st. 

As it is truly an honor to attend the Convention annually, I like to give back as much as I can. I’ll be live tweeting (@wcarozza and @nhascd) and blogging.  I’ll share notes of great sessions when I can and tweet out the link. I’d love to communicate with you via blog comments or Twitter during or after the conference. 

In the meantime, don’t forget about what our local NHASCD Affiliate can offer. We have Yong Zhao (who is speaking here in Houston) coming to the Grappone Center in Concord, NH on April 3. He is a rock star in our field. Love to see you there…and hey, you don’t have to travel to Houston to see him!

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The Facebook Quandary

 

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A couple of weeks ago I received a post on my Facebook timeline from one of my mother’s good friends back in St. Louis. She was sending along best wishes given the crazy amount of snow we’ve received in a very short period of time. Now, my mother has been gone for two and a half decades and I still miss her greatly, so it’s heartwarming that her friend still thinks of me. It’s wonderful to see the friend’s name on my alerts as it reminds me of the 60s and 70s with my Mom. 

There’s much to like about Facebook, still the king of social media. In addition to joyful reminders of days gone by, I am friends with scores of former students from my classroom days and I get to pore over their joys and successes and read their accounts of what they remember from my classroom long ago. (Now there’s probably a research project there.) On Facebook I see vacation pictures of family members and close friends while laughing at the latest exploits of my Goddaughter as she navigates the world of toddler-hood. 

But there’s some silly stuff too.  My calendar is set to document the birthdays of all of my 460 Facebook “friends” and I often receive notices of many whom I have never heard of. Of course, why are they my “friends” anyway? I must have confirmed their “friendship” at some point. 

There’s also plenty of unsettling pieces of Facebook. There’s criticism of people I care about on Facebook by persons with little knowledge of the facts. There’s post by “friends” of mind that have alarming points of view that I don’t want to be associated with. 

It really is a quandary. Your thoughts?

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