Tips for Increasing Interactive Learning

Link to an impressive list of “non-negotiables” for improving interaction and engagement with students.  Article and headers indicate these tips are good for turnaround situations and for underperforming students.  This list is actually good for all students.  Kudos to Cochrane Academy in the Charlotte Mecklenburg (NC) Schools.  Link Below:


Arts Education Fuels the Economy

Interesting Op-Ed piece in Chronicle of Higher Education this week.  My perspective around Arts Education is steeped in the academic, aesthetic, and life-enriching aspects of high quality Arts experiences for students.  This perspective by Sunil Iyengar and Ayanna Hudson reveal other material benefits of Arts Education.  Notably:
  • The total economic output (gross revenue and expenses) for arts education in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, was $104-billion. Arts education thus claims the second largest share of output for all U.S. arts and cultural commodities, after the creative services within advertising.
  • In 2011, arts education added $7.6-billion to the nation’s GDP.
  •  In that year alone, arts education as an industry employed 17,900 workers whose salaries and wages totaled $5.9-billion.
  •  For every dollar consumers spend on arts education, an additional 56 cents is generated elsewhere in the U.S. economy.

Link Below:


Poor Kids Under Fire in NYC

Shocking coming from whom (I thought) is a person to be well-meaning, the new Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio.  There is a link to one (of many) articles posted below that describe the Mayor’s policy assault on some successful charter school campuses in NYC.  Each of these schools is filled with kids from abject poverty, each child with high potential to learn and excel, but also with inordinate personal circumstances that make success much harder than for middle class kids.  This is a liberal man, with supposed progressive ideas, appearing to disrupt the great work of these kids and their college-preparation journeys. How can this be due to anything other than raw politics?   I suspect Randi Weingarten has some sort of direct- or indirect hand in it all.  I have nothing against organized teachers, even being represented by a union of they prefer it.  I have a lot against unions, mayors, or any interest that gets in the way of what we are beginning to accomplish with our disadvantaged youth in America.  There would never have been a need for charter schools if we had been getting the job done for kids in the traditional settings.  Shameful Mayor, just shameful!


Project Based Learning

A colleague forwarded this video clip to me.  Not new, but certainly insightful about how classroom need to finish the shift we’ve begun.  Enjoy!
Link Below:

apple made some promises

Governor Jeb Bush: “California Students Assert Right to Effective Teachers”

Education leaders, this court case is worth watching. Rights of teacher unions vs the rights of under-privileged, under-served, and under-performing children in CA. This could affect us all. If this case turns out in right direction it could greatly improve access to better teachers for all kids. Link below:




Appalling Comments about the “Poor”

I had saved a clip from the Wall Street Journal in December; you’ve got to take a look at.  Link below:


The Poor are Always with us, so What Must We Do?


One reader wrote, “…the poorest Americans, with government subsidies and benefits, have better lifestyles today…life generally is better…” The reader’s writing goes on.  Take a look for yourself.


What was appalling to me was the readers seemingly satisfaction with the state of America’s poor.  Until poverty is eradicated, can we stop patronizing, and rationalizing its existence.


Of course, equally bad to the type mentioned above are community level so-called “Activists” who make livings advocating for the poor and the interests of the poor.  Some are no more than poverty pimps, who have little interest in solving dire circumstances of the poor, since eliminating poverty would erode their own power base and financial interest for so called “advocacy”.  Certainly there are sincere, effective, and tireless soldiers still out there in the war on poverty, but it seems they are fewer and farther between.


For those of us in PreK-12 education, we understand our charge and our opportunity.  Ensuring a college preparatory high school diploma is the best weapon against American poverty in breaking family-based poverty cycles.  If you get a chance to read these writings in the WSJ, please do reflect on your hard and critically important work in American schools and classrooms.  Some of what is written will make you mad I’d bet.



Undermining College Persistence

Interesting work by the Pass With Flying Colors organization. Click below for more information
PWFC research efforts have included compiling interesting themes of obstacles to overcome for first-generation college goers.  These 5 seem most compelling:


1. Lack of academic preparation in HS that includes reading at college level, Science competency, and demonstrated critical thinking skills
2.  Lack of understanding of college expectations including academic rigor, organization, study and time management skills, and self-advocacy
3. Insecurity that stems from socioeconomic differences between themselves and their college peers
4. Insufficient support network of peers and adults who can provide guidance for unfamiliar [college] situations
5. Inadequate financial aid packages for 4 years and/or heavily weighted with loans


We’ve all heard it before. It is one thing to get them ready for college and quite another to help them complete college. Looks like some of these obstacles must be dealt with during high school, and well before our graduates hit the college doorstep.
Kudos to PWFC and the work they are doing.



Motivation Matters More Than Ever

Amanda Ripley wrote “The Smartest Kids in the World-and How They Got That Way” published in 2013. Interesting, some of Ripley’s citations:

1. One thing we know about learning-you cannot do it if you aren’t motivated.

2. Statistically speaking, boys and low-income background kids have less easy-access to [self] motivation.

3. Motivation [and self activation of motivation] can be taught.

4. According to Stanford’s Carol Dweck, teaching kids that their brains are muscles and get stronger with use, significantly boosts perseverance.

5. According to U PENN’s Angela Duckworth, training children to set goals, devise plans for overcoming inevitable obstacles increases self control.


Data that Drives Instructional Action: The Needle in a Haystack

“Data-Driven” Management in Schools and Districts

While observing Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools chief, Dr. Heath Morrison, discussing the four types of approaches schools and school districts typically conform to when using academic performance data, I found his explanation instructive:


Data Phobic–afraid of the data, and what they might reveal.  We certainly still have quite a few districts and schools falling trap to data phobia.
Atlantic’s advice for data-phobic organizations?  Start small.  Engage a partner who’s “been there — done that” with data who can support initial steps. Ask and collect questions.  Hypothesize.   The first step is often the most tentative.  


Data Overload–sometimes derived from over-zealous school system executives and school leaders.  Serving up too much to teachers and teacher leaders does nothing to help move the work for kids.
Atlantic would counsel data-overloaded districts to purge.  Find the most compelling points in the data on which to focus.  Put student achievement in the center of your data analyses and cull the “noise” so that clarity around instructional action can flow. 


DRIP–small, constant “drips’ of data flowing through a school or school district–oft times without a sense of good timing or good strategic sense of how to effectively use data.
Our conversations with Atlantic clients who suffer from “drip” sometimes portray an over-confidence in being truly data-driven.  With these clients, we ask a simple question:  “What do you DO with the data?” We then carefully scribe the responses on a white board so that, once collected, we can identify the VERBS.  Are your district’s data verbs instructionally passive?  For example, “We look at the data.  We analyze the data.  We talk about the data…” If your district’s data verbs do not get to the heart of instructional action, a mid course adjustment may be in order.  


Data-Driven–typically reserved for higher performing schools and school systems where effective use of data actually drives instruction, drives programmatic investments, and drives staffing decisions.
In our clients’ work at Atlantic, we observe clear distinctions in the academic performance growth of students when client organizations are Data-Driven.  Charlotte Mecklenburg remains one of the best examples where data-driven management persists.  My sense is the Data-Driven culture in Charlotte will continue and grow even stronger under Dr. Morrison’s leadership.


Chicago: “So Much Pride”

Ember Reichgott Junge shares her experience at Distinctive Schools.



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