Turning around Failing Schools-Colleagues, this is on us!

There is a piece in the Denver Post, Feb. 21, 2012 on turning around failing schools.  Link is:

Sure it is tough to do this work.  As we know, those funded with federal dollars to do this work have four options:

• Turnaround: replacing 50 percent of the staff and hiring a new principal.

• Restart: turning the school over to a charter or education management organization.

• Closure: shutting down the school and transferring the students.

• Transformation: providing professional development and coaching and changing the curriculum, and hiring a new principal.

What is troubling is that this sluggish pace is ON US colleagues.  We all know that this takes a relentless daily focus on instruction, making mid-course corrections, energizing and re-energizing kids and teachers, and of-course providing real supports that teachers need to improve their work and how they spend their time with each child.  Frankly, this is the recipe for high performing schools as well.  So why the underwhelming results?

I fear we remain so engaged in rhetoric, so focused on others to blame, and heads-in-sand when it comes to facing up to our own individual shortages of knowledge and skill, that we remain sluggish in mounting and driving success strategies.

What is your part in any sort of turnaround?  What are you doing to accelerate the work?  What good news can we share?

The kids can’t wait any longer for us to up our game for them.


Mathematics and Science Lesson Planning


Those who have responsibility to plan lessons or support teachers in lesson planning in Mathematics and Science, you must take a deep look at

Gooru Learning is free and something I heard a great deal about at the Idaho Superintendents meeting earlier this week.  To look deeply, ou must register (for free).

Amazing intellectual property and it is shareware–so free for your use and the taking.  Are they on to something at Gooru Learning?  If you have the chance, please let me know what you think!


Better Serving our Students from Poverty Backgrounds

One of the most passionate and talented school principals I have worked is Lavinia Smith.  Principal Smith referred to each one of her students as “her angel”.  Smith also referred their “beautiful home” even after visiting each student’s individual home in the deeply impoverished neighborhood where she led the school.  The neighborhood was in-fact in the poorest ZIP code in Delaware.

I was a bit ambivalent about whether Principal Smith should have referred to their homes as “beautiful” especially after visiting a few with her; however, I watched the self-esteem of students seemingly soar and certainly watched student achievement soar, as evidenced by her school’s data year after year.

What I am not ambivalent about is the deep skill building it takes for every educator to serve kids well from poverty backgrounds.

Although every educator knows firsthand about the effects that poverty can have on students and how the effects of poverty have to be addressed in classroom teaching and school and district policy.  Brain expert Eric Jensen understands what poverty does to children’s brains and why students raised in poverty are especially subject to stressors that undermine school behavior and performance. The effects of poverty can be reversed when educators employ the practices that have a history of high performance among students raised in poverty.  From his research, Jensen explains what educators everywhere can do to improve the achievement of economically disadvantaged students.

Mainly skills and attitudes worth developing among school faculties where concentrations of kids from poverty attend include the following:

  • How to recognize the signs of chronic stress caused by poverty.
  • Why to assess low performing students for core skills that are affected by poverty, such as attention, focus, and problem solving.
  • How to change school and classroom environments to alleviate the stress caused by chronic poverty.
  • Ways to empower students and increase their perception of control over their environments.
  • Which school-wide factors lead to success and which are always achievement killers.
  • How enriching learning environments that include the arts and highly engaging instruction can change students’ brains and improve their lives.

I do not know Jenson, but perhaps I should.  His book is entitled:

Teaching With Poverty In Mind: What Being Poor Does To Kids’ Brains And What Schools Can Do About It

His work runs deeper than Ruby Payne’s work and is worth a read.

If you  decide to read it, please let me know what you think.


Kids pushing us into the future~

Good morning–headed from chilly Philly to sunny St. Augustine, after a great dinner meeting with Philadelphia school superintendent Dr. Lee Nunery and former Chicago schools chief Ron Huberman.  It is interesting and quite appalling to learn how so many educators are working hard to fix structural deficits (as Nunery currently faces and Huberman faced previously in Chicago) and how the media, the pundits, and certainly other factions butcher the facts to serve other agendas.  In some media markets,  instead of helping solve very problems threatening our students, many use the problems to sell newspapers and garner support for competing interests. These types of distraction, often masked as journalism, makes the efforts of many educators harder in their efforts to improve school district performance and fiscal management.

On to better news.  Enjoy this video (compliments of Intel) where students effectively cause us to think about the future by revisiting the past.

Have a great weekend.


IMSA Design Charrette

On December 3, 2011, I had the privilege of facilitating the first ever Design Charrette for the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy–a residential school for scholarly high school students.  The Design Charrette served to work-out intense plans and strategies for the future growth and accelerated impact IMSA is to have on students, teachers, and our whole Nation in the areas of Mathematics and Science education.  Below is one snapshot of the intense work being done by participants of the Design Charrette.  Watch closely the work of IMSA president Dr. Max McGee and that of his Board, educators and students at IMSA.  They will continue to be a formidable force in the advancement of Mathematics and the Sciences in Illinois and our Nation.

Happy New Year!


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