As the 2017-18 School Year Comes to an End. . .

As schools and districts across the U.S. are closing out another school year, many of us can look back and celebrate the joy and pride we have experienced at our school campuses and classrooms. Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 11.33.45 AM.png

I am proud of the celebrations I have experienced and seen at each one of the Distinctive Schools campuses this year, and look forward to what the 2018-2019 school year will bring, as well as the growing opportunities Distinctive Schools (DS) will provide students, families, and school communities. With that said, I would like to share and recognize the great work of DS with this end-of-year blog post and photo gallery.


EdTech and Measuring Efficacy

Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI) recently announced the launch of its new podcast Radio:ERDI. On Radio:ERDI, I have the opportunity to sit down with education leaders and discuss hot topics, trends and the current state of education.ERDI Radio

Currently, ERDI’s capacity is 104 school superintendents, as well 86 other senior school district and charter network leaders. Because of that, there is a rigorous vetting process. Likewise, there are 15,000 + high performing school leaders and districts across the United States. Therefore, we launched the podcast as a platform to reach all education leaders and share education insights. 

In this debut podcast, Kevin Hoffman, Associate Manager of Innovative Learning at Aspire Public Schools, and I sat down at the ERDI EdTech Institute to discuss how we know if education technology (edtech) is actually working and how schools are measuring efficacy around their edtech investments.

Tune in to learn more, as well as feel more informed about best practices you can utilize at your school or district.

Click here to access podcast:

Innovative Staffing in Today’s Schools and Districts

Chicago International Charter School (CICS) West Belden, managed by Distinctive Schools, successfully implemented personalized learning (PL) within its classrooms. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 2.48.14 PMThe journey began with research and gaining knowledge on personalized learning, planning and designing implementation, piloting PL in classrooms, and then scaling personalized learning throughout the entire school.

Scaling personalized learning at CICS West Belden impacted staffing structure as well, and leaders at CICS West Belden and Distinctive Schools asked themselves, how can we staff this school while addressing the unique needs of each and every student? As a result, CICS West Belden creatively built a staffing model utilizing multiple teachers and staff in the classroom, including teacher roles such as an instructional coach, mentor teacher, career teacher, and resident teacher.

Recently, the Christensen Institute and Public Impact released their paper, “Innovative Staffing to Personalize Learning: How new teaching roles and blended learning help students succeed.”

I am honored to read how the paper highlights CICS West Belden’s staffing model. Additionally, in this paper, the Christensen Institute and Public Impact examine how schools and districts have successfully adopted blended learning and new staffing arrangements to better enable personalized instruction in the classroom. The paper highlights how blended learning gave teachers more real-time student learning data, so they can quickly respond to students and improve instruction and learning. It is also important to note that the schools and districts highlighted continue to analyze results to determine teacher and staff roles, and the how those roles can collaborate and work together to best support our students. 

Read about CICS West Belden’s innovative staffing model, as well as insights from other schools and districts across our nation. It is amazing to learn more about what today’s education leaders are achieving!

Link to paper: Innovative Staffing to Personalize Learning: How new teaching roles and blended learning help students succeed

Personalized Learning ROI

Regarding problems with Personalized Learning ROI, lack of results is oft times where practitioners make this about the device. Devices do not create personalized classrooms. Relationships between students and their teacher along with good student-as-agency practices and personalized pedagogy make personalize learning effective. The device comes last. This is one of the reasons I’m so inspired by the work of the distinctive schools team. Check out the CICS West Belden case study at the website:

Follow education technology-reform projects, and you’ll find mixed academic outcomes and expensive consultants.Take Fulton County School District, in …
— Read on

Waffle House Shooting: A White Shooter, a Black Hero, and White Presidential Silence

Great writing by John Pavlovitz. This has all gone way too far as a new normal.

Waffle House Shooting: A White Shooter, a Black Hero, and White Presidential Silence
— Read on

Innovative Staffing at CICS West Belden

I am always proud of the work at Chicago International Charter School (CICS) West Belden, and some of the great work begins with a staff that is dedicated to the mission of Distinctive Schools – “To support each child in becoming an engaged and curious learner, a confident self-advocate, and a creative problem solver by setting high expectations and nurturing a positive culture that honors diversity, collaboration, and optimism.”

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.48.30 AMA recent report by the Public Impact and Clayton Christensen Institute, Innovating staffing to personalize learning: CICS West Belden, describes the different roles that direct students’ learning experience and CICS West Belden’s innovative staffing model: An instructional coach, mentor teacher, career teacher, and resident teacher.

Take a look at this case study to learn how CICS West Belden uses non-traditional staffing arrangements to personalize learning, while demonstrating noteworthy student achievement results.

Case Study:


“Something very good is happening in Florida”

Nation’s report card: ‘Something very good is happening in Florida’ – Orlando Sentinel
— Read on,amp.html

Now it is time to bring the levels of pay UP substantially for FL teachers. It is also time to substantially increase funds for innovation, infrastructure, and overall programming for traditional AND charter schools. Stop making them fight over scarce funds in FL. They’ve outpaced other states in NAEP progress. Invest more in these winners!

CICS West Belden Personalized Learning Journey Case Study

I am proud of our students and staff at Chicago International Charter School (CICS) West Belden and celebrate them with the launch of their case study that shares CICS West Belden’s Personalized Learning Journey.casestudy.png

In 2011, CICS West Belden became operated by Distinctive Schools, and we knew all of CICS West Belden students deserved the opportunities to fulfill their hopes and dreams, as well as grow a love for learning. Since we wanted to support each child in becoming an engaged and curious learner, in 2013, CICS West Belden began its journey into personalized learning.

The first step was to build a foundation and create a culture of respect, innovation and self direction. CICS West Belden then spent nearly a full year planning the details of the pilot classrooms to first implement personalized learning before going school-wide. Since then, CICS West Belden has piloted innovative ideas, refined and implemented  methods, and transformed the student experience.

Today, CICS West Belden serves 530 students in grades kindergarten to eighth grade, and is a place where learning is cultivated and where students are active partners in their education. Likewise, CICS West Belden teachers collaborate together, as well as with families and students, to design learning experiences that provide all our students with curriculum and instruction that showcases their passions, successes, and ambitions.

It is an incredible case study written in collaboration with FSG and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, LEAP Innovations, Chicago International Charter School, The Chicago Public Education Fund, Next Generation Learning  Challenges (NGLC), Summit Public Schools, and The Learning Accelerator.

For your copy of the CICS West Belden Case Study, visit:

What’s going on in Oklahoma

Here’s a great analysis of what’s going on in the State of OK. Seems like these lawmakers need an attitude adjustment. Just what the teachers seem to giving them. And, it seems like kids in OK are low on the list of priorities of top many OK politicians.

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