Archive for category Change

Wrong Drivers

Our NY Stated accountability scores in ELA and Math were published this summer.  I can’t say I am proud of the scores, but I can say, that I am proud of what my teachers and students did to get to where we are now as a school.  Basically, I think our school followed the state norms, raised our scores in Math, but stayed static in ELA.  I am thankful that we didn’t go down in our ELA scores at the 3-5 level.  As a district, we didn’t fair too well in our 3-8 test scores with proficiency.  But, my question is, what does it mean?  Is it that our kids can’t read?  Does it mean that they can’t test as 3rd, 4th and 5th graders?  Are we not “test prepping” enough?  We follow the curriculum, we revamped our teaching style and we use data to drive instruction, but even still, in NY State, we do not grow in our ELA proficiency scores.  Hmm….

As a building principal, as I maneuver through the educational reform agenda and lead my staff, I question why we are placing so much emphasis on accountability rather than creating capacity and professional capital in our staff.  Is it about proficiency, how many kids you can get in level 3 and 4, or is it about growth?  I feel that we have a double system going on here.  We worry that we don’t have enough students hitting the mark in proficiency scores, but we get growth scores from the state.   I am all for assessing our students, standards, et. al., but I need some clearer understanding, is it about proficiency or is it about growth?  Or both?  Isn’t it nerving that schools get growth scores that are 17 or 18 and don’t hit the mark of proficiency?  What does it all mean?

Peter DeWitt published in his blog here whether increased accountability works.  He sites Michael Fullan’s work and that wrong drivers are driving what is happening in education reform.  I think Fullan is on to something, and below is brief outline  of what he is talking about.

Wrong vs. Right Drivers

Michael Fullan published a document, Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform for a symposium in Australia.  He also published many books such as Professional Capital:  Transforming Teaching in Every School with Andy Hargreaves and the latest, The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact.  (The links are documents that have been used in presentations or journal submissions about the book(s).  In both books, Fullan and Hargreaves discuss Wrong vs. Right Drivers that impact reform agendas.  They claim that the wrong drivers can be used, but have to be offset by the right drivers.  Unfortunately, in reform agendas in the US, UK and Australia, the wrong drivers are pronounced more than the right drivers.  So, what are the wrong drivers?

  1. Focusing on accountability vs capacity building.  It’s about people, not “sticks and carrot.”  Develop your people, not punish them with testing. It’s not about the test or the standards, it is how they are being used.
  2. Individual Quality vs Group Quality.  This is about developing the entire system, not one teacher here, one teacher there, one leader here, another there.  It kind of ties in with the accountability above.  Work on raising the bar for all and then get in and work together.  This is where PLCs come in and developing high social and human capital.  It is the belief that we are in this together, not competing against each other.  We help each other as a group to be the best.  Move together, grow together, help each other.  Trust building.
  3. Technology vs instruction.  This is the belief technology is not the end all be all, it is about instruction – how will we use technology to enhance instruction.  Technology will never trump good teaching.  It will only enhance it and good teachers know their craft and how to teach.  It is about pedagogy.
  4. Fragmented vs. systemic.  This means to have a systemic approach, attainable and that all drivers, capacity building, group work, and instruction are all working together.

This makes sense to me.  As a leader, I find that I have to balance this because I believe we are heavily balance to wrong drivers than right drivers.  Fullan does state that there are areas that we do need to use wrong drivers, but the gist is that countries such as the US have focused to heavily on them whereas countries who are successful have a balance.

Take the time to read the document, Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform.  I am sure it will open up some thought to how we are leading our schools, our states as well as our country.  In the meantime, maybe I’ll take a visit over the boarder sooner than later and visit some Canadian schools to see what is happening.  Heck, maybe Dr. Fullan will help us out in New York!  I hope so!

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Lead Learner – What Does That Mean?



I call myself a Lead Learner. Yes, I am officially a PreK-5 principal, but what I do is lead learning.  But what does that mean?

In a recent email from an anonymous colleague, I introduced myself as the lead learner of East Side Elementary School rather than the principal.  In the response at the end of the email, this individual asked, “Would you clarify the role of the lead learner.”  Well of course.  So here was my response:

I am pleased that you asked for more clarification regarding a lead learner.  My official role is as principal of the East Side Elementary School, but I consider myself a lead learner. 
There are three keys to maximizing impact a principal can do, as Michael Fullan states, the role of the principal is a:
1.  Agent of Change
2. Systems Player
3. Leading Learning or Lead Learner
As the lead learner, I model and shape the conditions for all to learn.  I learn alongside my teachers.
For instance, we moved to a Responsive Classroom philosophy that has dramatically improved our culture and I was trained alongside my teachers so I, as the lead learner, can have sustainability in the program.  We are being trained in PBL.  I will be at that three day training so I can sustain the outcomes and learning for the staff and students.
It is a new way of thinking about the role of the principal.  There are a bunch of us that are calling ourselves lead learners.  It’s also about building professional capital.  Our staff and teachers can be lead learners too.  My recommendation, get Michael Fullan’s book The Principal.  It’s a must for ALL principals.  I hope that gives you a snapshot of  what a lead learner is. We need too move from administrator to Lead Learner.  Even better Connected Lead Learner’s.

I haven’t heard back as of yet, but wanted to meet and talk about it further about my journey as a lead learner.  As stated, this is a shift in philosophy and a new way in looking at school leadership.  Michael Fullan has a great visual noted here:

Move from principal to lead learner.  Build the professional capital of your staff.  Give them the autonomy and the power to make decisions that are best for kiddos.  Bring in your parents and systems not only within the the school, but throughout the district as well as the community and region.  And let go of, “But that is the way we always did it.”  That is not change leadership.  This is not easy and believe you me, I have a lot to do, but in the end, it is best for kids.  Isn’t that what it’s about?



(This is the Monday Focus to my staff this week.  I thought I would push it out to all.  Enjoy!)


I have a new tool that I am using for professional development and it is the app, Voxer. This nifty app is like a walkie-talkie, so a bunch of us are using it for a book chat using the book, Digital Leadership by my friend Eric Sheninger. (I blogged about it here.) As we are going through the chapters, we are talking about change, change leadership and then one of us brings up TTWWADI in chapter 2.

You are probably wondering, “What is TTWWADI?” It’s that saying, “But, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” I cringe when I hear that from educators. Really? TTWWADI doesn’t work. It is a closed or fixed mindset. It means that folks are not willing to grow, be open to change, and look to make it better for kids!

This past year, we have had lots of change. We have looked at how we are teaching and still are reflecting to meet the needs of our students. We are changing times to help improve transportation for our kiddos. Some think, “Why change?” Let’s look at what is happening with our students sitting there for 30 minutes on a bus. Is it really good for kids when some of our babies can’t hold it anymore and spoil themselves? How about how we are servicing our special education students? Can we do better and have teachers work together within the classroom to help our students access the curriculum? Wouldn’t that be easier for two teacher to co-teach and deliver and differentiate instruction rather than one teacher pulling her hair out trying to service the diverse population? We had change forced down on us and changed our standards to embrace the CCSS. We are moving ahead and working together to make it better for ALL students and aligning curriculum. Just because it is a change in the curriculum doesn’t mean it does not have to be creative and innovative. We need to look outside the box and make the modules MORE engaging for our students. APPR has been a change and we had to adjust to that, with me beating my drum and being the biggest cheerleader because I know you all are more than a score. We will have change in the master schedule, having our grade levels scheduled to allow for maximum time for teaching and placed on the master schedule into SchoolTool so we can accommodate the times. No more creating your own schedule, it’s done for you! Hip, Hip Hooray! We are looking to a rubric based report card K-5, because grades really aren’t working! How about homework? Can that change, or are some folks going to continue to be punitive if kids don’t get it completed? My question to that is, is it really working or will you continue TTWWADI?

I guess what I am getting at is this: How can we be more effective and give the best to our students who are now 14 years into the 21st century, have them efficiently and effectively access the curriculum, and continue to have engaging, creative and innovative lessons as well as keeping the social and emotional curriculum? Not easy! Are we still going to stand for the same-ole standardization and clogging of creativity and innovation or are we going to break the mold and embrace the change ahead, use the tools available to us to create engaging lessons and differentiate instructions for all learners? Are we going to have that mentality or belief that, “Oh, Johnny is so low, he can’t do the work, let’s quickly slap an IEP on him” or are we going to differentiate our practice and work smarter? What models can we use to help all of our students and work together to make it easier for us, or are we going to worry about that APPR score and not what is best for kids? Are we going to be quick to get rid of a student because he is being so distracting in the classroom and send him to the office where he probably wants to be because it is so hot, and the office is air conditioned, (something to think about) or are we going to work together and find ways to help our students and work to see what the triggers are and work on social and emotional behaviors?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not pointing fingers at anyone and I think what we have done this year is amazing and you all want what is best for kids. But, are we reflecting and making the right decisions and trying to make it even better? Or are we going to say, nope, not my problem or can we take it further and make it better for kids and stop worrying about that damn APPR score? I get a score too, but it is not the end all be all. It can’t hinder what we can do and what is best for kids. We have to revamp curriculum. So what! We did that before and will continue to do it and yes, we have a State test, but good teaching is good teaching! We cannot afford to be stifled and continue to be in a 19th or 20th century model! When you get down to it, it’s about what is best for kids. Isn’t that why we went into education? I sure did and I am ready to forge ahead.

Change is not easy. Change is not going to stop, not as long as I am at East Side. Check out what Eric writes about jobs and why schools need to change: ” Jobs available today have changed radically due to the rise of globalization, the continuous surge of outsourcing by many businesses and industries, increasing immigration, and a flattened world. (Friedman, 2005). Schools need to change in the face of this challenge if they are to create the next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, and engineers who work in a technology-rich and technology-driven world. With this modern workforce as the goal, what do we want our schools to look like? Why do we need to change? Are we doing what’s best to meet the needs of ALL of our learners who have grown up in the digital age with ubiquitous access to information? If we are to change, we must be willing to shed some strongly embedded ideals, opinions, and behaviors that have shaped our schools for over a century The consensus has to be that every student can and should learn, and that educators must learn how to push them to become ever better.”

Let’s not get into the TTWWADI trap. (Not that we are, I just don’t want to go there!) It doesn’t work. We are educators – we are born to do this. Let’s work together, grow together, and be the best of the best for our kids, because that is the #1 factor. You are the best! We can do this because we are a great team. Embrace change and let’s make it better for our kids! Be a risk taker. Don’t be afraid of failure, because you know what, that is how we learn and we have each other for support! Enjoy the week!

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