Coaches–help for your Music Teachers

Many instructional leaders and coaches I know become withdrawn when it comes to observing and providing helpful feedback to teachers of subject areas in which they have little to no experience.  Coaching Music teachers is one such area–if you were not a musician or previously a Music teacher.

Coaches–enter those classrooms and find good things going on.  Also find the areas to help using your own deep knowledge about good instructional practice.

For example, in Music, if the teacher is singing a phrase or song and asking the student(s) to repeat the phrase–with their instrument (s) or their voice(s) it might be a good exercise.  If done too much, it is overuse of rote-recall (just like overuse of rote-recall questioning is not good practice in other subject areas).

Take a teacher teaching a Jazz lesson.  Music teacher sings: bah-dop-bee-bop-da bop so the students parrot  bah-dop-bee-bop-da bop and then the teacher says good job class.  This can be efficient for preparing an ensemble for a performance, but it does little to help students depend their analytical knowledge, etc.  Bloom or Madeline Hunter would say–bad practice if overused.  So should we.

Teachers deserve our best thinking and coaching.

bah-dop-bee-bop-da bop!

Have a great day.


Providing Feedback Respectfully and With Specificity

Teachers ranked as “highly critical” the methods employed by coaches in providing feedback on teaching behaviors discerned during an observation-both effective and ineffective. Consistently, teachers in focus groups and on survey responses identified a need for pre- and post-observation conferences conferences in which specific teaching behaviors are identified, the rationale for their significance discussed and broad generalizations wholly avoided. Particularly for post-observation meetings, teacher expressly and without hesitation consistently stressed the need for specificity, both in behaviors observed and in recommendations (if any) for change. A substantial number expressed dissatisfaction with feedback that they invariably described in terms such as “fuzz,” “unclear,” “vague,” “ambiguous” and “equivocal.”

Teachers indicated a need for pre- and post0visitation conferences that embedded constructive and useful feedback. While anecdotal evidence and informal conversations were reported as generally welcomed, teachers express that they wanted specific examples of area(s) in need of improvement or worthy of commendation. We cannot stress enough that specific, targeted and timely feedback is crucial to ensure validity of their coaching process. Fifty five percent (55%) of responding teachers rated specific feedback as critical to their teaching craft.

Compulsory HS Attendance until age 18!

“So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.” 

Words from President Obama’s State of the Union Speech on this past Tuesday evening, January 24, 2012.

It is far past when we should have made this change to require all students to remain in high school until they graduate or turn 18.  In most all states, the required attendance remains at (until) each child’s 16th birthday.

When I served as superintendent of schools in Duval County, FL (Nation’s 19th largest school district located in Jacksonville) I worked hard with state legislators to try to convince them to change the law.  Appalling, that the only obstacle was the funding that would have to be shifted from building prisons to adding funding to schools.  And, “we can’t do that” as was repeatedly said to me, even though the change in the law otherwise resonated with every lawmaker I encountered.

No doubt the work of educating high schoolers needs to continue to improve (and most everywhere it is).  We need to provide flexible learning environments, schedules, and experiences.  We need to further ratchet up the rigor and the real-world relevance to help  teenagers see the value proposition of the work so they want to stay in school.  And as I told the FL lawmakers–require them to stay until 18 so that my high school leaders and teachers have a chance to make these improvements, before these children make irreparable choices of dropping out or disengaging.  I was not successful in getting the law changed back then, even though we did make many great improvements to the high school experiences of most kids.

Now that the President has called us to action on making a law requiring students to stay in school until age 18 or actually graduating in every state, can we finally move on this?  I hope so.

Your thoughts?


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 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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