Fair School Exams

In light of all the controversy around high-stakes tests, including Texas where there is a major uprising, I thought this cartoon might be instructive.

Thank you Jeff Strickler for the piece!  In all seriousness, we should demand high stakes exams for all our kids, but they should measure growth, not static performance.  At minimum, we need a year’s growth for a year of work between a teacher and a child, and more than a year’s growth (each year) for a student who is behind.  This is while I am so fond of NWEA MAP, which measures pure growth on a vertical scale score and has adaptive features so we can tell just how far ahead (or behind) a child is.

Flipping the Math Classroom-Lessons from Byron, MN

 In Byron, MN school district, teachers and leaders tackled a shift away from Math textbooks, wrote their own Math curriculum, and employed Flipped Math Classrooms, all in one swoop.  Largely driven by intense budgetary issues, Byron has found great success in their shifts.
Flipping as you may know was borne out of shifts in corporate and higher-ed training.  Simply put, it “flips” much of the whole group instruction and lectures to technology-driven venues for students to cover at home or outside of the school day.  This allows the teacher to do more hands-on, hands-in work with students during regular class time.
As reported by Kathleen Fulton in Kappan, Byron, MN has 10 top reasons for making this “flip”:
1.  Students can better move at their own, individual, pace.
2.  Doing “homework” in class gives teachers better insight into student difficulties and learning styles.
3.  Teachers can customize and update curriculum, and provide to students 24/7.
4.  Students have access to multiple teachers’ expertise.
5.  Teachers flip professional development by watching each others’ videos and learning from each other.
6.  Classroom time can be used more efficiently and creatively.
7.  Parents have a better window into the coursework.
8.  Student achievement is increasing, so is interest and engagement in higher-level Math.
9.  Learning theory supports the new approaches.
10.  the use of technology is flexible and appropriate for 21st-century learning.
Good luck Byron.  We are watching!

Parent Involvement and Teacher Satisfaction

In a previous blog post I reported the new survey figures for teacher satisfaction being down to 44% of teachers indicating they are “very satisfied” with the job (down from 59% in 2009).  Source was the 28th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.

What I did not report at that time was the degree to which parent engagement seems to be improving (increasing).  Fewer teachers and parents in this year’s survey than since the 1987 survey reported that they believe parents take too little interest in their child’s education and fail to motivate them to learn.

Additionally, the same survey reveals strong correlation between parent engagement and teacher satisfaction.


Getting Students to Care About Producing High Quality Work

An overwhelming concern of teachers is getting their students to care enough about producing high quality work, this according to Damian Cooper.  Cooper’s suggestion is for teachers to ask themselves these 4 questions about the assigned work to facilitate the student’s concern for their own work.

  1. Do I ensure that all of the work I assign is worth each student’s time and effort?  Cooper stresses these keywords:  meaningfulness, relevant, engaging, and authenticity.
  2. Do I always provide clear performance standards for their work?  Do they know what excellence looks like?
  3. Do I constantly remind students that high-quality work takes time and focus to produce?
  4. Do I always insist on excellence in the final product?  Nothing less than each student’s very best is acceptable.

I find these questions a nice 4-prong test for teachers in developing high standards for quality work and work habits from their students.


Removing the Obstacles to Professional Growth in Teacher Development

Insight – the ability to step back, reflect, and to think about what works and doesn’t work in all we’re doing – is crucial if we are going to make a genuine difference in the lives of our students.  Yet, despite the substantive training afforded to those entering the profession, little is done to prepare teachers to analyze their practices, and to use, examine and interpret student data in ways that ensure maximum classroom effectiveness.  As a result of this anomaly, no area is frankly more appropriate for coaches to intervene.  Increasing our advisee’s awareness – about their craft and about their effect upon students – can be immensely satisfying.  Further, it raises inquiry and commitment, and tends to open doors that remain frequently closed and unnoticed during rudimentary teaching practices and methods courses.

So how do we do it?  How do we open doors for those we coach, and how do we recognize obstacles when they arise?  Here are some preliminaries you might consider:

  • Breaking Through Obstacles That Interfere with Teacher Development
  1. Continuously examining and refining what to look and listen for in a teacher’s classroom – to ensure that our skills as advisors are never limited or antiquated.  Not fully understanding what one is looking for in an observation radically undermines trust in our purpose.
  2. Avoiding even the appearance of condescension while giving feedback and managing interactions with teachers.
  3. Recognizing strengths at the outset, and blending areas of concern with areas of proficiency during discussions.
  4. Maintaining confidentiality.  Always – unless health and safety are at risk.
  • Additional Fundamentals:
  1. Scheduling teachers to provide appropriate reflection time with colleagues  including strategically arranged (and used) common planning time.
  2. Providing master-teachers who can demonstrate model lessons for teacher observations
  3. Maintaining focus on the specific behaviors that are enhancing or undermining the teacher’s work.
  4. Providing release time for the teacher to actually go and observe teaching practices in other schools and classrooms (with explicit purposes pre-agreed upon).
  5. Making frequent visits to the teacher’s classroom for variety of purposes (e.g., walk-throughs, observations and data collection, for personally modeling lessons if appropriate).
  6. Creating and maintaining a work environment in which it is safe to occasionally fail as one explores different options on the path towards improvement.

We were all novices at one time, and we all continue to be novices in some areas of our work.  Interestingly, when the founder and CEO of a Fortune 500 company was recently asked to identify whether there was one thing to which he felt he could attribute his organization’s successes, he responded – without hesitation – “our failures.”  His company had come close to filing for bankruptcy protection on three separate occasions as the company was growing at a remarkable pace; there were times decisions were made that had served the organization badly.  But painful – and inordinately stressful – periods during which the mistakes were recognized for what they ultimately were, enabled him – with his team – to change strategies and grow more resilient and successful.  That old adage “that which does not kill one only make one stronger” has some truth to it – even in our work as coaches.

What has become clear in the research is this: occasionally, coaches risk unintentionally reinforcing an individual’s internalized obstacles to professional growth.

  • Coaching Traps to Avoid
  1. A tendency to teach or prescribe (too quickly)
  2. The tendency to avoid telling difficult truths.
  3. The habit of seeing ourselves in the teachers we are coaching and projecting what we would do in their circumstance
  4. The tendency to follow predictable lines of inquiry or approaches in coaching that allow us to feel comfortable.
  5. The need to feel competent or to establish a perception of competence (“as a coach”)
  6. The desire to engage in the coaching relationship as a means to elevate one’s own status
  7. Certain emotional triggers that tend to take us into impatience, judgment, sadness, or other detrimental emotional states
  8. The habit of mistaking our advisee’s success (or lack of it) with our own

What is Coaching?

Multiple theories on coaching have evolved over the past thirty years, and – on the basis of all these theories – substantial numbers of coaching “models” have been designed, labeled, and implemented and refined. It’s important to note that virtually all interpersonal development process, designed for only once purpose: improvement through personal interaction and support. But first, what does coaching really entail if you’re an Instructional Leaders?

1. First, coaching means overcoming resistance and opposition.

  • a. “get outa my face” opposition
  • b. “I’m listening but I don’t buy in” resistance

2. Second, coaching means establishing relationships:

  • a. Collaborative
  • b. Non-threatening to the Individual
  • c. Exploratory

3. Coaching also means proposing options tat are both logical and practical.

4. Coaching means observing certain fundamental rules of engagement:

  • Avoid even the appearance of condescension because no one wants to be patronized.
  • Recognize Strengths at the onset and never lead with a negative statement
  • Maintain confidentiality – always – except when subject to legal and ethical considerations that compel contrary action.
  • Active Listening to the professional seeking guidance.
  • Candor – about one’s own strengths; no bluffing; no arrogance
  • Acknowledging at the onset that, as a coach, he or she likely has some – but not all – of the answers.
  • Reflecting, individually and with the professional, on the professional’s performance and specific needs.

Power of Coaching—Teachers and Teaching is now available on

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

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)

Power of Teaching Video Examples

Faculty members with Atlantic Research Partners and I along with the production experts at TeacherStudio (see ) 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 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 ( ) 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


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