“Culture of Poverty” and America’s Schools

After a viewing of “Waiting for Superman” with our firm’s senior vice president, Dr. Lloyd Martin and our colleague Melissa Megliola Zaikos who leads the Autonomous Schools for Chicago Public, I am even more mindful of the effects of poverty on educating our youth. The “Superman” movie certainly highlights some of the key issues. Even though imbalanced on a few key points, the documentary goes far in making us think. I hope it will go as far in causing us to act.

For me, however, I am now wondering whether too many of us remain focused on the ill-effects of poverty on a child’s education or START focusing on how our educational system might be CAUSING poverty to repeat itself.

Think about it: some say poverty wreaks havoc on our schools. Others say our work in schools causes poverty to survive. Those already squarely in a thought-camp on this issue can reinforce their side; however, we must become better focused every day on how our work in education can solve the ill-effects of poverty. In-fact it could be the only cure there is. Effective teaching and rigorous schooling create the solutions.


Instructional Leaders are Leaders of Instructors

After enjoying a snack or a meal on an airline, did you ever neatly tuck the stray plastic and torn packaging into a container or tight bundle to help make the retrieval of the trash easier for the flight attendant?  I’d bet you have.  Did you ever neatly fold a newspaper you’ve bought and read and take pleasure in leaving it on a Starbucks table or other public place for another person to read?  I’d bet you have.  Did you ever stop and happily allow another driver to take a parking space or have the right-of-way, even when the “right” was yours first?  I know you have!

These behaviors, and the attitudes that drive them, are of the genre we must contemplate when we carry out our roles as leaders of teachers.  For our book Power of Teaching—the Science of the Art, David Sundstrom and I studied the power of each teacher’s artistry in the work we lead on behalf of children.  In-fact, it is only through teachers’ artistry that we can effectively serve children in our roles as Instructional Leaders.  As we each reflect on the tenets of Servant Leadership, we should cement the notion that each and every move we make as Instructional Leaders, we really do impact the work of teachers—to the good, the no-so good, or to the detriment of their work.  We either create improvements for teachers to better leverage their individual artistry for their students, or we further erode the supports that teachers need to accelerate achievement.  If we value the importance a random flight attendant (see above) and we value any anonymous citizen who might want to read the newspaper we purchased and already read (see above) and we value another car driver’s convenience (see above) we surely, and above all the rest, value our teachers and what we do (constructively) for them.

For those of us charged with impacting the work in America’s classrooms, we should strongly connects the principles of Servant Leadership Jim Autry’s notion of Compassionate Confrontation to the work in our respective roles as supporting cast to the real stars in our profession—the teachers.

Joseph Wise


We must Shift from Teacher Quality to Teaching Quality

Thanks to Education Week (www.edweek.org) our piece focusing on the shift we must make to improve our supports to teachers was published earlier this week.  This has allowed a lively debate on the importance of better balancing the HOW of teaching with the WHAT in teaching.  Excerpts from the published version of EdWeek follows:

We must Shift from Teacher Quality to Teaching Quality

By Joseph Wise

Remarkable transformations in preK-12 education have occurred over the past 30 years; some have actually enriched schools and school systems by implementing systemic efficiencies.  Others have served to heighten awareness of all that effective teaching actually entails.  But many have been devastating. They have weakened the work being done in preK-12 classrooms, and set in motion certain practices and protocols that frankly undermine daily instruction.

Over a period of decades—decades of hard work and even greater posturing that ultimately resulted in No Child Left Behind—we have blurred an essential component of our work—Accountability.

Accountability, at its essence, is not a goal; it is the acceptance of responsibility for all that we do in our classrooms, day in and day out. Accountability, when embraced for what it is, turns out to be not some sort of punitive “gotcha;” instead it is what drives commitment to continuous examination, reflection and improvement.

Despite the upside of Accountability, we have failed to manage its unforeseen downside: a tendency to look back at regimented instruction with a sanitized fondness.  It seems we have, in our profession, lost the will to acknowledge and leverage the multiple ways in which children learn—or to recognize the multiple ways children fail to learn when ineffective teaching is all that a classroom provides.  We have, perhaps, become a nation of educators focusing wholly on the what of teaching—without effectively confronting the far messier (but pivotal) how of teaching.

No doubt content—the what in teaching—is essential.  But, we don’t teach in a vacuum. And it is evident that teaching centered solely on the content of what is being taught—while ignoring the how of delivering that content effectively—is deadly.  The practice enables us to reach only a fraction of students, and ignores a fundamental reality: Our students continue to learn in diverse and different ways—often despite our well-intentioned efforts.  The bottom line for us now is that accountability solely for the what of whatever is being taught is not enough.  If we are to make sustainable change in the lives of our students, we as educators have a baseline duty to establish accountability for how we are teaching.

This singular focus on the what has led to interminable state and local debates about what academic standards are adopted, what assessments are valid and used, what curriculum is implemented, what data are analyzed, what policies are embraced—and ultimately, what information is presented to our children.  This one-dimensional approach to teaching and learning measures only one element of the equation by focusing on content—a potent political and policy driver—in isolation from all else.  But deciding on and measuring only what is taught manifests a constant churn, and continues to conceal a fundamental flaw in the work we do.

We now largely discount or wholly ignore the how of teaching and how of learning.  We measure and re-measure each school’s Adequate Yearly Progress.  We engage in benchmark testing, high stakes testing, measurement of student population and population trends, measurement of students-per-class and students-per-employee; measurement of the number of impoverished students and numbers of racially-identifiable students per school or district; measurement of special education services offered— this what measurement lists go on.  Again, let’s restate it: our work on the what in teaching is not without merit; it simply is not enough.  Never has been.

The Obama administration has made great strides towards correcting our federal funding deficiencies in preK-12 education.  Bold leadership at the federal level, however, must be matched at the district and school level with a committed focus on teaching as a practice.

Thoughtful leadership on the how of teaching is not entirely absent from our preK-12 teaching profession.  However, much of the leadership governing how teachers teach has been narrowly focused, disjointed, and flat-out misguided.   For us to effectively support our teachers and lead schools effectively, we must provide constructive, holistic, and behaviorally measureable guidance on how to engage students in the content being taught.  By supporting and guiding teachers in the delivery of instruction, we ensure classroom teaching will be not simply correlative to learning; it will cause learning.

Historically, intense focus on the what of teaching has led us away from a healthy balance of all that drives true academic achievement. How we teach, how we challenge, how we redirect, and how we engage students is of no less importance than what we profess to teach. Ironically, over the years we actually have learned much and documented much about best practices in teaching.  Substantial and expert research reveals that we already have explored and analyzed much about the how of teaching; we simply haven’t acknowledged its pivotal effect on academic achievement in the way we support and coach teachers.


It is our duty as educators to ensure that teaching is powerful.   And powerful teaching is as much about effective communication as it is about the content communicated.  Frankly, we as a profession have a compelling need to balance the what with the how of teaching, and to shift the argument away from teacher quality to teaching quality—for every child, in every classroom, every day.


Dr. Joseph Wise is managing director of Atlantic Research Partners, and the author of Power of Teaching—The Science of the Art.

Power of Coaching—Teachers and Teaching is now available on Amazon.com

I am pleased to inform you that our new book—Power of Coaching—Teachers and Teaching has been released and is available on Amazon.com or through our website at www.atlanticresearchpartners.org .

In our firm’s focus on teaching quality, we found it essential to delve into what teachers perceive they need to better support their continuous improvement in their classrooms and to accelerate student achievement.  The attached article is based on the book.  More than 1,200 teachers in 4 states through surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews helped to guide the work.  These data, combined with the very best in the existing preK-12 coaching literature, and the expert literature in performance coaching from other fields were of great significance in our research.  Kudos to our partners at the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio and the Columbus Coaching Project for their tremendous experience which contributed to the work.  In particular, Dr. Bart Anderson, the ESC Superintendent, served as a tremendous visionary behind the project.

Our faculty stands ready to provide 1-day workshops to assist instructional leaders and coaches hone their craft and improve their coaching impact on student achievement.  Additionally, through our Power of Teaching workshops and Power of Culture—Navigating Culture, Race, and Poverty in America’s Schools seminars, we provide more in-depth training and support where needed and requested.

For more information, please contact Donna Damiano at (904) 501-1901 or me through the contact information below.

For those of you inside schools and school districts, best wishes for an exciting school year ahead.  And, to each of you, best wishes for a safe and happy Labor Day weekend.

Joseph Wise
Managing Director
Atlantic Research Partners
1093 A1A South #422
St. Augustine, FL 32080
(904) 651-6700 (cell)

Congratulations to Faculty, Staff, and Students at Estill High School

In South Carolina, a state with some of the highest academic standards in the country, Estill High School, part of the Hampton County (SC) School District 2 has achieved phenomenal improvements in the 2010 (over 2009) academic results.  Estill High School has been a successful user of Power of Teaching protocols and research. We at Atlantic Research Partners are pleased with and proud of our colleagues and their students at Estill High. See their results below:
ESTILL HIGH SCHOOL SPRING “first time test takers” HSAP RESULTS 2009-2010

YEAR                              ELA                       MATH               ELA & MATH
08-09                              56.5%                    32.1%                29%
09-10                               73%                       53%                   50.%
DIFFERENCE             +16.5%pts.             +20.9%pts.      +21%pts.
Source: South Carolina DOE

Power of Teaching Video Examples

Faculty members with Atlantic Research Partners and I along with the production experts at TeacherStudio (see teacherstudio.com ) are beginning to create the long-awaited video examples of effective uses of the teaching indicators that comprise Power of Teaching instruments. If you have special requests for which Power Sources we should focus on first, please let me know at jw@atlanticresearchpartners.org or as a reply to this blog. Some of the effective teaching indicators are easier to teach and observe for and others are more complex. We want to capture those most needed first. Please let us know your preferences. JW

P.S. BTW, if you haven’t seen TeacherStudio I strongly suggest you take a close look ( teacherstudio.com ) It is an amazing teacher professional networking and professional development portal.

P.S.S. (January 31, 2012 update)  More information on Power of Teaching workshops can be found at http://www.nwea.org


2010 Illinois Superintendents Preparation Academy

Applications have been reviewed and later this week, we will announce the two 2010 (inaugural) cohorts of the Illinois Superintendents Academy. Applicants were considered from many school districts and charter schools from all parts of the great state of Illinois. We are excited to reveal the names, and more excited to learn of so many highly talented and committed educators ready for more significant work to support teachers and students. Look for the names on this blog and on the atlanticresearchpartners.org website. JW

Columbus Coaching Project and Power of Teaching

The 14 instructional experts assigned to the 2010-11 Columbus Coaching project, operated by the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio are working on their Power of Teaching certification this week.  The coaching project is an impressive partnership between/among Columbus City Schools, the service center, Ohio State University, and Nationwide Insurance to support the intensive work is several under performing schools in Columbus.  Dr. Bart Anderson, superintendent of the educational service center is the executive sponsor of the project and Jean Kugler coordinates the work of the coaches.  We look forward to these educators completing their certification in Power of Teaching on July 28, 2010.  for more information, visit http://www.escofcentralohio.org or http://www.atlanticresearchpartners.org


Power of Teaching and Charlotte Danielson Framework

Recently, co-author of Power of Teaching, David Sundstrom had a chat with Charlotte Danielson when they were in Prince Georges County together.  When they exchanged books–a copy of Power of Teaching–the Science of the Art and a copy of Talk About Teaching! they also conferred on how our work overlaps nicely and that never was there a time more urgent for all of us to support teacher development in the various districts where we serve.  As a result we have completed the cross-walk document that depicts how Power of Teaching bolsters the work in districts where Danielson frameworks and rubrics  are implemented.  For more information on this cross walk, visit us at atlanticresearchpartners.org or call David at 9026620620 or me at 9046516700.

Have a great day.

Joseph Wise

Some Myths in American Public Education

On Friday July 2, I attended the closing presentation at the Northwest Evaluation Association conference in Portland.  NWEA CEO Matt Chapman provided a compelling message about some remaining myths in American Public Education. We have attached his slides from the speech on the bottom of the front page of the atlanticresearchpartners.org website.  Please feel free to download and share with others. Embedded in the speech are excerpts from an interview of Marian Wright Edelman—a must view. JW

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