Superintendents as Instructional Leaders

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 5.43.44 PMIn my work, I am finding it more and more rare that school superintendents are actually engaged in instructional leadership. Here is a SHINING example. Dr. Michael Bregy, newly appointed superintendent of the North Shore school district 112 in IL, has been a long-time client and friend. Now that he is on his second gig as superintendent, he has “sharpened his saw” even more. Today, in a session we facilitated, Michael provided this list of ESSENTIALS to his team. I thought you might want to take a look. This school district, already high performing in a sense, will greatly accelerate its work as I see many predictors in place. Congratulations to Michael and his team for an outstanding 2-day work out. Also thanks to Atlantic colleagues David Sundstrom, and Dr. Rob Tomback for your valuable- and wise-counsel in the work.


HS Drop-out Re-engagement in Bethel WA

Note of personal privilege here:

Last summer when I recruited Bart Anderson to lead our Atlantic Firm to build out a new vertical service to school districts, we had no idea, reaching our first milestone in this new work would get us onto such a great start. Today we opened our first Acceleration Academy in Bethel, WA as a partnership with the progressive Bethel School District, and their superintendent Tom Seigel. By the end of this week, this Acceleration Academy will have enrolled more than 50 former drop-outs into meaningful high school diploma-seeking work. Check more of this work out at: and find the cool pictures of the (almost fully) built-out site at Atlantic Education Partners Facebook page. Link is:

You probably already know the degree to which the high school drop out issue is reaching epidemic proportions in our Nation. Find more about the issues, the solutions and the opportunity before us to fix this challenge at Dr. Anderson’s blog:

Congratulations to my Atlantic colleagues, including Drs. Bart Anderson and Jim Hager, Adrienne Leonard, Frank Walton, Mark Graves, Lila Bradley, David Sundstrom, Ryan Graves, Mark Sundstrom, Alex Morgan, Amy Mims, and others. These colleagues are truly invested in what’s right with education, and armed with the courage to tackle the hard problems. To Tom Seigel and your progressive school board and team, thank you! We look forward to helping your district get to the top of your game in high school graduation rates and helping you achieve even more success stories with your team, students, and families.


New Report: Charter Schools More Cost Effective

The University of Arkansas has released a new report – The Productivity of Public Charter Schools – that finds even though public charter schools receive fewer dollars per student than their traditional public school counterparts, they’re producing greater results when it comes to national math and reading assessments and better long-term economic gains for students.

The report found that public charter schools are 40 percent more cost effective nationwide, but in some cities the percentage gap was more than 100 percent.

While there’s a lot of work to be done, and regardless your view as pro-charter or anti-charter, we can be optimistic that school choice is a critical component to ensuring that all students receive a high quality education.

Teacher Pay-Needs a Fix!

Interesting article about Randi Weingarten, and others with the “same ole, same ole”.  Link is:

While graduate degrees can add great value, as can teachers’ experience in their craft.  Regardless, there is no evidence that graduate degrees and experience add value (statistically) to students’ learning and academic experiences.  Further, it pains me to employ more than 250 teachers adding immense value to their students in our Distinctive Schools, and having to pay them a good bit less than their unionized counterparts make in IL.  

Until we fix broken funding streams to free up funds for top teachers, and break our (political and policy) addiction to steps, lanes, experience-driven, and graduate-degree dependent salary schedules, we will not be able to pay the best teachers what they are REALLY worth, or even get much closer to it.

When will we EVER fix this national problem around teacher compensation?!  Union Leaders–you aren’t helping!



Texas-worse than pathetic?!

Link below is an ad.  The contents of the ad are not important.  What IS important is this snapshot of latest Texas achievement gap-actually now a chasm.  Texas, known for standing behind lowest tier academic standards in the Nation-with their Governor enthusiastically rejecting Common Core State Standards, continues to demonstrate what we know to be true.  Low standards hurt poor and underperforming kids the most.  This seems worse than pathetic to me.  What a shame.  Worse, they defend their stance on the issues and their work.  See link:

LEAP Innovations

See video link featuring students from CICS West Belden.  Next year CICS Irving Park, Bucktown, and West Belden will all be working with Leap Innovations to deepen participation, rigor, and efficacy around device-driven personalized learning.  Mary Stafford and several Distinctive Schools team members developed the grant applications which led to this funded partnership.  Stay tuned for progress.  Special kudos to Phyllis Lockett and the LEAP Innovations leadership.  LEAP Innovations advance the use of personalized learning and technology to accelerate education for students. LEAP serves as the new R&D hub for education innovation, bringing the best technology to Chicago to pilot, research and scale. This is a wonderful initiative for Chicago students, parents, and teachers to bring more 21st Century learning to schools.

At Least They Aren’t Debating Creationism vs. Evolution for Science

Seems like the Brits have similar debates over curriculum, teaching and learning.  Fun piece by Eliza Filby in The Daily Telegraph over arguments on teaching history. Link below:


It is worth a read.  At least the Brits aren’t debating Creationism vs. Evolution in their Science standards.




HS Graduation Rates on the Rise

Good news about US high school graduation rates–see attached article below:

Reason for this writer’s take on the good news from the US DOE is the other side of this good news. States, such as Nevada, are still critically low in getting students across the finish line with a high school diploma.


THIS is Privatization of Education? Really?!

Great OpEd by community education and development expert Miguel A. Acosta. The work Miguel is doing is commendable and admirable. There is a concern that the dropout initiative Engage Santa Fe is a way towards privatization of education, however the truth couldn’t be further from. What really is happening here is the hardcore political agenda of legislators and teachers unions that will go to extreme, even if that means denying the opportunity of success to thousands of students. It’s disappointing that the needs of the community and the youth of Santa Fe are being trampled upon.  -JW

See article below:


To Serious Educators–Assessment Matters! (and so does what happens after the testing period)

It’s that time of year, when mostly every K-12 student is assessed on his or her academic progress.  For those of us who believe that a balanced approach to assessment is appropriate, we know that “that which gets measured gets done”.  Not too much testing and using the best assessments are also key. Very important is getting each student “ready” to sit for their exams.  But, great educators also make the most of instructional time after the last exams are given and taken. Here are some good ideas for engaging kids until the end of the year, and how to help them put assessments into their greater context of school. Link Below:




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