Category Archives: Learning

Community.

346630496_f6c9b8e8fd

Years ago, when I heard the word community, I thought of my childhood home and the town in which we lived, a rural town where I was free to walk to the playground, the park, the pool, and my friends’ houses. Community made me think of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street.

Now I know community to be so much more.

Even our social studies curriculum today asks our kindergartners, How do people in a community cooperate? and discussions focus around jobs and services and firefighters and post mail deliverers and teachers and police officers and store clerks.

But now we know that community can extend far beyond the physical space. That relationships are forged, ideas exchanged, and services rendered without ever having to leave the comfort of our familiar spaces.

Something fun I’ve learned about virtual communities - they exist because we want them to exist. We create them. They emerge out of a need, out of shared passions. Members don’t have to share physical space in order for the community to thrive. These spaces just need our time and attention, and they’re strengthened by the members’ desires to come together for a shared purpose.

I’m embarking on a new role as technology integrator, and I know I need support. I created the Instructional Technology Integrators/Coaches community on Google+ because selfishly I was hoping there were others out there who would share their ideas and resources with me. Just yesterday after only a few months of existence, our community reached over 400 members. I’m so grateful to the teachers, administrators and coaches who have taken the time to post ideas, ask questions, ignite conversations, and share resources with the group. Please consider joining us if you have not done so already!

It’s just one of many communities I have embraced as part of my learning network. First there was Connected Principals. Then PLP. EdcampsETMOOC. The #edchat crew and now the #edtechchat team. There are countless ways for educators to become members of dynamic, nurturing, knowledgeable communities.

It takes time and a willingness to contribute. The payoffs are huge.

When do our students need to know this? Upon entering kindergarten, are children already cognizant of their role in the global community? Why should we limit their view of what a community is and can be by simply discussing jobs and services within the city limits? Certainly I want our young children to know how the fine folks who serve them support a community in need. But, there’s a whole wide world and a global community waiting for them. A textbook definition of community just doesn’t cut it anymore. There are a multitude of ways we can help children become contributing citizens in their global learning community. Through Global Read-Alouds and Skype in the Classroom and Kiva and quadblogging and the experiences shared in Connected Learners and sophisticated service projects and collaborative work as students progress through their school years.

And most importantly, by sharing with students that you, too, are a member of communities that extend beyond the school’s walls.

 

This post is dedicated to @Joe_Mazza who reminded me that I used to blog a lot more often.

 

Photo Credit: greekadman via Compfight cc

Pay attention.

3652882596_b3ef53b455

Working from home is hard. I remember thinking, “Oh, once the baby is here, I can work from home while he naps, it will be a breeze!” Ha. Silly. Being a stay-at-home mom trying to balance some semblance of a professional life is challenging to say the least.

There are so many demands on my energy and time at any given moment. Curriculum writing calls. Laundry beckons. Snuggling is a priority, of course. But when he’s content bouncing in his jumperoo, should I try to blog? Should I tackle some reads in my Feedly stream that’s busting at the seams? Should I continue work on curating elementary tech resources for my teachers? Should I get lost on Facebook for awhile? Maybe I should get a shower!

It’s hard to pay attention.

That fact has become more and more apparent over the past six months.

My administrative colleagues would sometimes comment on my ability to multitask during meetings. Am I a supertasker? Uh, I doubt it. Quality definitely suffers when I decide to remove my brain from the task at hand, even if only for a few seconds. It might be quality of product, process, or thought. But I really can’t perform to my fullest ability when I am distracted, whether it’s a digital distraction such as a notification that a new tweet has mentioned my name, or an analog distraction like the dog hair accumulating on the bookshelf, reminding me to dust as soon as possible. Do I sometimes tune out of conversations at meetings and instead focus my attention on completing tasks that require just a smidgen of cognitive effort, such as responding to emails or creating Google forms or checking other quick tasks off of my to-do list? Yes. Because I have little tolerance for rambling and meetings, in general. For whatever reason, those conversations couldn’t hold my attention when compared to what I could accomplish during that time using the device in front of me. Lately it’s been very easy for my mind to wander elsewhere while attempting to complete a task. Blame it on sleep deprivation or the fact that the to-do list is overflowing or that I’m trying to simultaneously soak up every magical moment in person with my son while also capturing it on camera/video because he’ll only be a baby for a short while and I must cement these memories by backing up to one of many Photostreams or Flickr or Instagram or something like that.

When I was younger and I assumed a not-so-ladylike attitude with my mother she would tell me I was “running off at the mouth” in an attempt to end my self-righteous rants. Well, now it feels like my brain is running off with itself. Can’t shut it off. So much to consider and do and so much to distract me from considering and doing it.

Imagine what our kids go through on a daily basis with a device (or two or three) in hand to use all day long in their classrooms. We ask them to tune out surrounding distractions to “Get to work.” Pay attention here. Don’t pay attention there. Don’t worry about what your best friend just tweeted or the photo you were tagged in. You can worry about that later. (Similar to how I’ll be trying not to notice #iste13 tweets flying by next month when I’m teaching my first graduate course that week!)

How can we help students pay attention? And what does that mean? To whom should they be paying that attention? To what? Are there tools available to help them do so? What strategies are effective in helping them learn how to make the most of their time online and in learning?

Thinking back to Howard Rheingold’s #etmooc session on Literacies of Attention, Crap Detection, Participation, Collaboration, and Network Know-How, I know that our attention is continually challenged by the digital demands (and not-so-digital demands) that surround us. He referenced the video of the texting girl who fell into the water fountain at the mall (a video I love to watch, because that is my local mall!) which is a clear example of how not paying attention can be detrimental to your health and productivity and self-esteem. Rheingold recorded his students as they used their laptops during his class and noticed that one of his students visited a webpage and checked email while Rheingold lectured, which we know is not atypical for students (and adults) today. What Rheingold wondered was, since the student was one of the most astute in his class and could recite the content of Rheingold’s lecture, was he one of the “supertaskers”? And was he born that way? Or did he learn something to allow him to conquer the art of paying attention?

Rheingold names attention as a 21st century social media literacy. And he believes that attention can be trained. He’s conducted a series of probes with his students to learn more about the dynamics of “attention literacy” in his classroom. He believes it’s necessary for students to learn how to turn on their “focused attention” when necessary and learn when it’s appropriate to task-switch. A simple way to train yourself to better attention is to use a tool like Netvibes which Rheingold teaches his students to use. He encourages the learner to “make your goals visible daily” which will help train your attention to what you want to get done. Another word of advice? Breathe. Rheingold shared that many people hold their breath when checking email, which is related to the fight/flight response. I hold my breath when I’m writing a blog post.

I’m doing it now.

Breathe.

Here’s another presentation about attention and learning from Rheingold. Worth checking out along with all of his resources on social media literacies. Watch the #etmooc presentation if you haven’t already.

I’m going to continue pondering how we help teachers and students engage mindfully with their devices in the classroom. I know that my work with teachers this summer will include this topic as we are transitioning to a 1:1 environment in our upper elementary grades, and teachers certainly will be cognizant about how students are utilizing their devices for learning and what they are paying attention to at any given time.

I’m going to start paying attention to attention. And also to the person sitting next to me. The sky and the flowers and the green grass. And the doggies.

I would love to hear how you have learned to manage distractions while working online and the tools/tricks/strategies you use to ensure peak productivity, both for yourself and your students/teachers. Please share in the comments below!

 

“Attention to intention is how the mind changes the brain.”

-Howard Rheingold

 

Photo Credit: untitledprojects via Compfight cc

Until we meet again…

there-are-far-better-things-ahead

Dear Principalship,

It’s been quite a ride.

I transitioned into administration in the summer of 2008, not knowing what to expect. But, after 9 years in the classroom, I welcomed with open arms (and a whole boatload of nervous) the new adventures you’d bring.

It’s hard to summarize in a single post the valuable leadership lessons I’ve learned over the past five years. I’ve blogged about many of them. I don’t want this post to be a total rehash of everything I’ve ever written about the life of a principal, so suffice it to say that serving as the principal of Brecknock Elementary School has allowed me to learn about myself as a person, teacher, leader, manager, caregiver, organizer, disciplinarian, partner, mentor, mentee, coach, supervisor, friend, teammate, and student.

I laughed, and I cried.

I will greatly miss interacting with my students on a daily basis. (Understatement of the century). When I thought my day couldn’t get any worse, I’d see one of their smiling faces, or one of the kids would say something so innocent and ridiculous I’d laugh my head off. Thank you, students.

I worked with a large number of teachers during my principalship. New teachers, veteran teachers, and teachers somewhere in between. Teachers with a variety of strengths, needs, and all inspired by the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child. Thanks to the teachers who supported me, challenged me, and everything in between :)

Thanks also to all of the members of my PLN who’ve supported me over the past five years, who’ve read and shared my work on leadership, and who’ve joined in the conversations both here on my blog and on Twitter. Thanks also for your support of my webinars and conference presentations. I appreciate everyone at Connected Principals (not sure if I’m permitted to post there anymore :) and the educators who contribute to #cpchat and #edchat. I’m so grateful for the contributions of these communities. Much love also to Powerful Learning Practice and all of the plpeeps! You’ve all nurtured me as a learner and leader, in one way or another.

The bad news? I suppose I’ll need a new title for my blog!

The good news? I’m not going anywhere!

I’ll be serving as our district’s elementary instructional technology integrator beginning next school year. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with teachers and staff seeking to best integrate technology into our classrooms and to help bring about “the shift” that is so necessary in the ways in which we approach teaching and learning for today’s learners. I’ll have the chance to design professional development, co-teach, coach teachers, and facilitate student project work. The position will afford me with the freedom to pursue my passions and to help teachers get connected and transform learning experiences for their students.

Thankfully I will still have many leadership opportunities, and this summer I’ll be teaching both my first college course to prospective principals (tech for administrators!) and an online course for admin through PLP (check out the details here, because I’d love for you to learn with me!), so I’m very excited about my continued role working with school leaders.

If you’re reading this post, please please comment with the names and blogs and Twitter profiles of people I should connect with to help me be the best I can be in my new role. What hashtags should I follow? What do I need to know? What can I learn to extend my thinking and strengthen my skills in this area? Reach out to me here, on Twitter, via email… thanks in advance!

I could write this farewell post ten thousand times over and remember fondly a different aspect of the principalship each time. I’m looking forward to change, growth, and to new beginnings.

Goodbye, Principalship. Until we meet again… because we will, someday.

 

 

 

What is digital literacy?

I’m playing #etmooc catch up (again) and will begin sharing all of my reflective posts here as well as my original learning with #etmooc blog space because of the demise of Posterous, which has both saddened and irritated me.

Digital literacy is the topic that made the etmooc learning space so irresistible to me… I think as educators we spout off about wanting our students to be digitally literate, but not many of us (myself included) have a firm grasp about what that actually means, and quite a number of us are still attempting to become digitally literate ourselves.

Whatever that means.

It turns out, defining digital literacy isn’t such an easy task. The etmooc community was fortunate enough to hear Doug Belshaw speak on this topic in a recent webinar. I’ve followed Doug on Twitter for quite some time, and it turns out his dissertation investigates just what is digital literacy… and his TED talk can be viewed here.

Doug explained that digital literacy is quite ambiguous, and he doesn’t have all of the answers when it comes to defining these terms. He made a point to ask, How can we define digital literacy when we don’t know what literacy is? There are over 30 definitions of digital literacy represented in one of the first texts about the topic (from Gilster, published in 1998!!), so it’s no wonder that as educators we have a difficult time trying to figure out what it is and how we can ensure our students are “digitally literate.” (Doug also pointed out that often we like to attach literate to a term in order to make it sound more important :)).

Doug shared this quote from his research (Martin, 2006): “Digital literacy is a condition, not a threshold.” It changes the way we teach. It’s a relationship and represents the way we orient ourselves with the world. Digital literacy doesn’t include a sequential set of skills. There’s a lot more “messing around” involved, and it’s subjective and highly contextual. Digital literacy in a K-12 setting varies greatly from that in a collegiate setting.

From his research, Doug crafted Eight Essential Elements of Digital Literacy:

8essentialelementsofdigitalliteracy

He explained each along with “soundbites” from his research to guide the discussions.

Cultural - We need to pay attention to the culture in which the literacies are situated.

Cognitive – We can’t just consider the procedural ways in which we use devices and programs. It’s the way we think when we’re using them.

Constructive – We can’t be passive consumers of technology/information. We should strive to use digital tools in reflective and appropriate ways to be constructive and be socially active.

Communicative – Digital tools and power structures change the way we communicate. An element of digital literacy is how we take command of that structure and use it to communicate effectively and contribute meaningfully.

Confident – Doug believes that in order to be a proficient user of technology, one must have the courage and confidence to dive into the unknown, take risks, make mistakes, and display confidence when “messing around” with new tools.

Creative – Doug shared this quote from his research, which, to me, said it all:

“The creative adoption of new technology requires teachers who are willing to take risks… a prescriptive curriculum, routine practices… and a tight target-setting regime, is unlikely to be helpful.” Conlon & Simpson (2003)

Critical – Digital literacy involves an understanding of how to deal with hyperspace and hypertext and understanding that it’s “not entirely read or spoken.” Can we critically evaluate the technologies we’re using?

Civic - Something I think many schools are beginning to embrace, we must use technology to improve our lives and the lives of others in our world.

There was a discussion in the session about the term “digital native” and most participants disagreed that digital natives actually existed, and instead the term “digital wisdom” was suggested as an alternative.

So, as someone who is currently working on drafting a sort of elementary “technology curriculum” for her district, based around ISTE’s NETS for Students and aligned to our content curricula, I see a great need to infuse these digital literacy elements into that plan. But, alas, how to do that when digital literacy is so “grey?” How to make a plea for these characteristics and competencies to be modeled by our teachers and administrators when due to our current state, teachers may just revolt if I ask them to veer from the script they’ve been tasked with delivering to spend time on topics and tasks that won’t be progress monitored, standardized-tested or used in their professional evaluations? Alec’s comment in the chat caused me to mutter, “Uh, yes” under my breath when I read it:  “Which is where curriculum planners always get stumped by deliverables.” How can we design standards for digital literacy when we’ve proven how contextual it is? And how best to marry these digital literacy elements with the strictly enforced content area curricula our district prescribes?

All questions I shall continue to ponder.

This is a fantastic digital literacy slideset shared by Doug. Check it out, and ask yourself: In my school, how do we approach these eight elements of digital literacy with our students? Teachers? Administrators? Community? If we don’t, how can we start? If you have ideas/advice/resources to share, please do so in the comments below!

The care effect

3791628422_02ef933ff3

There was an article in the most recent issue of Wired magazine that sparked my thinking. It didn’t detail the latest gadgets or technological innovations, or deal with the field of education, yet it immediately made me consider this question in regards to our roles as school leaders and educators:

Do we show them we care?

Dr. Feelgood, written by Nathanael Johnson, explores the beneficial effects of alternative medicine. Despite the fact that science is often unable to prove its ability to be effective in curing patients, the same scientific studies show that patients treated by alternative measures often end up feeling better.

Huh?

Johnson reminds us of the placebo effect: when sick people are given a treatment, even if it’s just a placebo, their condition often improves. But not always. So further studies commenced, and researchers discovered that when patients are treated by doctors and care providers who approach treatment with kindness and care, they report marked reduction in symptoms. Researcher Ted Kaptchuk from Harvard Medical School concluded ”the empathetic exchange between practitioner and patient” made the difference. This approach to healing has been coined the care effect:

“the idea that the opportunity for patients to feel heard and are for can improve their health.”

Johnson describes other studies in the field of nursing that support the healing power in the relationship between practitioner and patient. While “nurturing is no replacement for science,” the author stresses that mainstream medicine has a lot to learn from alternative medicine, where practitioners tend to show empathy and involve patients in conversations about care, rather than just dole out treatments.

Two weeks ago our school community lost a bright and shining soul, a young girl in first grade whom we all loved deeply. She valiantly battled cancer day in and day out, but you wouldn’t know it when you interacted with her. She always greeted us with a smile, a funny comment, and compliments, blended together with a perfectly charming amount of six-year-old sass. At the end of my pregnancy, she asked me if she could kiss my baby, and she wrapped her arms around my middle and placed a perfectly sweet kiss on my belly. She showed us she cared, and she made everyone around her feel special. Her care effect was unwavering.

As school leaders, when problems arise, do we just TREAT the issue? Or do we examine the patients and what they need? Do we consider the feelings of staff? Of students? Of community? Do we approach difficult conversations with care and concern? As classroom teachers, do we consider the individual needs of the children sitting in front of us? Do we recognize that one-size-fits-all is a ridiculous notion? Can we learn from the people, especially the sweet children around us, who always manage to approach life’s toughest situations with concern and dignity?

As Johnson concludes, “We need to stop thinking of care as just another word for treatment and instead accept it as a separate, legitimate part of medicine to be studied and delivered.”

It’s a difficult task, to lead and manage a learning organization. It’s stressful, it’s overwhelming, and at times we struggle through and think we’ll never again see the light. Remember this is why we do what we do. When challenges arise, focus on the care

Photo Credit: recompose via Compfight cc

#etmooc

cropped-headNavy

#etmooc – a Massive Open Online Course on Educational Technology and Media -is underway. I registered and will do my best to participate in this course, since its topics are of great interest to me: connected learning, digital storytelling, digital literacy, the open movement, and digital literacy. View topics & schedule here.

As with any MOOC, the more I put into engaging in the spaces and the conversations, the more I’ll get out of it. I know it will be difficult to find the time to attend sessions and complete all tasks, but I’m eager to learn more in these areas. I used Posterous to create a space for my #etmooc reflections. (Is there anything simpler than setting up a space in Posterous? Love it.)

You can participate too! Register here.

Reactions.

Last week I received a direct message tweet from a former administrative colleague, asking me if I had seen the “gangnam style”  video that was dubbed “the worst video on the entire internet.”  He told me he saw it when the link was tweeted by someone with over 25,000 followers… so I figured it was going to be viewed by a handful of people.

But why did he send the link to me?

I was out and about with a newborn singing melodiously in his carseat and didn’t have a chance to view the video at that time, but when I glanced at the video’s thumbnail, I recognized three of my administrative colleagues from our district’s high school:

Reaction #1: These three are dedicated professionals and do have a great sense of humor, but why in the world would they create a gangnam style parody video and post it on YouTube?

When I got home I was able to view the video in its entirety and realized it was a student-created video. At the time, it had around 45,000 views. (As I write this post, it has over 1 million).

And then, I began reading the comments.

Hateful, hurtful, horrid comments. Many of which were written by children. (Yes, high school students, you are children. Embrace it.)

“The worst video on the entire internet?” Hardly. Could it have used some polishing? Sure. But it clearly was a video that the students put a lot of thought into, and its production was supported by the school community at large. The student incorporated the school’s “Spartan Way” ideals and the messages shared were positive ones.

Reaction #2: Please, God, don’t let the student who made this video take these comments personally.

(Kind of impossible, right?)

As the video went viral, it found its way to various media sources, including the Huffington Post, MSN, and even Tosh.0′s Facebook page, which, if you know anything about Tosh.0, you know he doesn’t feature the world’s most dazzling internet video footage. The local news reported on the story, and the comments shared on this article were positive overall and supported the student and school for their creative efforts, which was nice to see.

Reaction #3: This, too, shall pass. But at what cost?

Like any internet meme, the meteoric rise to attention can be overwhelming and, in the case of a meme swarmed with negative attention, alarming for those at the center of the hullabaloo. When we create, publish, and share, we open ourselves up to a world of other people’s reactions: praise, criticisms, attention. Sometimes the feedback is unwarranted. It can be constructive. It can be destructive.

Reaction #4: We need to do better.

Now a myriad of questions are swimming through my sleep-deprived brain. How do we continue ensuring our students develop into respectable digital citizens? Can we help students understand the impact a hurtful comment can have, as well as the power of constructive criticism? When we talk of cyberbullying, particularly with today’s high school students, does it just go in one ear and out the other? When posting children’s work online (whether school-related projects or not), how do we help creators understand and use the types of feedback they may receive? Are we helping children develop into respectful, caring, empathetic human beings who can resist the urge to use profanity and hateful speech when remarking on the work of others?  (I wondered how many of the commenters, particularly those who attend the same school, would consider sharing their comments in a face-to-face conversation with the video creator. Is it easier to be disrespectful online?) How are we addressing these issues with our youngest students? With our pre-school children? How are we educating parents and communities about the types of online engagement and conversations that their children will be involved in, and how are we modeling the importance of respectful online dialogue? Are the teachers and administrators who helped promote the completion of the project now second-guessing allowing students to take risks and the ways in which technology is integrated into the curriculum?

There are many more questions to ask and attempt to answer when it comes to children and digital citizenship. As school leaders, we need to have a heightened awareness of how to help our school communities thrive in an increasingly public world.

Learning as we go.

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user kudaker

As new parents, my husband and I are learning as we go. This isn’t to say we didn’t read, research, and Google the heck out of every possible pregnancy, labor & delivery, and newborn-eat-sleep-and-poop-related topic we could find over the past nine months, but there truly is no replacement for “hands-on learning.” (Especially when your little one surprises you by arriving three weeks before his due date! Talk about the need to be flexible with your thinking.)

I consider the time we spend with our son to be the ultimate authentic assessment. (And I’ve never been assessed by someone as darn cute as our little guy.) If we can meet his needs, he’s happy. If we don’t, he lets us know about it. We use his cues as feedback to adjust our methods and continually strive to get it right, for him. We don’t compare ourselves to other parents. We don’t strive to attain some sort of blue ribbon parenting status, judged by measures that don’t take into account our strengths, needs, and personal circumstances. We work hard to give him a happy life because it’s meaningful work for us. The most meaningful work we’ve ever done, for sure.

Posts here may be infrequent over the next few months as I take some time away from the principal’s office to focus on motherhood. However I will be spending time next semester developing an educational technology integration overlay for our current elementary curriculum, so I’ll no doubt be reaching out to my network for support in that area. If you have any resources you can send my way, please do!

In other exciting news, Powerful Learning Practice has launched its new educational publishing venture, Powerful Learning Press! What’s PLPress?

PLPress will publish concise, inexpensive books that showcase the authentic voices of teachers, principals and other educators who are revamping their classroom and leadership practices to better meet the learning needs of iGeneration students.

PLPress is looking to publish educational voices … from writers like you! Do you have a book idea? If so, check out the Write for Us page and submit your proposal to PLPress!

Also be sure to request your free copy of PLPress’s first interactive eBook, The Connected Teacher: Powering Up! This book is a collection of work from Voices from the Learning Revolution contributing authors. You are sure to be inspired reading the experiences of these dedicated educators who seek to transform learning experiences for students!

In the spirit of the holiday season, I’d like to thank everyone who has read, commented, and shared my posts and work over the past few years. I am truly thankful for my professional network… I appreciate your support, collaborative spirits, and friendships.

Principal evaluation systems – do they help us grow?

Educators are well aware that teacher evaluation systems are at the forefront of the discussions on school reform. A member of the general public who catches even a glimpse of educational headlines in the local news realizes this as well, although I would venture to say they don’t fully comprehend the scope of implementation and accountability of these systems. The general thinking behind the design and use of teacher evaluation systems is that if we create more effective teachers, better learning outcomes for students will result.

As an administrator, I have noticed that the topic of principal evaluation systems may be a secondary thought in “school reform” conversations. In fact, in many districts, the principals of under-performing schools are simply fired or reassigned to other roles or buildings. Many state systems define the effectiveness of teachers and principals based mainly on one measure: student achievement on standardized tests. This narrow focus does little to improve the quality of our educational organizations or the professionals within. Where’s the professional development? Where’s the support?

Principals play an integral role in the success of school improvement efforts, and they have the power to create solid foundations for improvements in student learning and teacher professional growth. If we believe that principals are essential in developing stronger school systems, how are their professional needs best addressed and supported?

Last week, NAESP and NASSP released a report from their joint Principal Evaluation Committee, which worked to examine best practices in principal evaluation across the nation. Along with analyzing available research on the effectiveness of current principal evaluation systems, they sought out the experiences of acting principals and administrators to help guide the development of a “comprehensive, researched-based framework for principal evaluation systems that links evaluation to professional development” (p. 1).

If you are a practicing principal, consider your current supervision/evaluation model. Does someone observe your practice? Are you held accountable to demonstrate proficiency in and mastery towards a set of leadership standards? Does your system measure your “worth” based on standardized student test scores? What types of professional feedback do you receive from supervisors or peers throughout the year? How is your professional growth nurtured and encouraged? How meaningful do you find your current model to be in improving your skills as a school administrator?

The Principal Evaluation Committee’s report findings indicate that most state and district evaluation systems “do not reflect existing principal standards or proven practices, and many principal evaluation instruments are neither technically sound nor useful for improving principal performance- despite the proven importance of the principal to school and student success” (p. 2)

The committee outlined a framework for principal evaluation based on seven underlying beliefs:

  • created by and for principals
  • part of a comprehensive system of support and professional development
  • flexible enough to accommodate differences in principals’ experiences
  • relevant to the improvement of principals’ dynamic work
  • based on accurate, valid and reliable information, gathered through multiple measures
  • fair in placing a priority on outcomes that principals can control
  • useful for informing principals’ learning and progress (p. 3)

 

The framework is comprised of six key domains, summarized below, along with examples of measurement for each.

1. Professional growth and learning – “focuses on measuring a principal’s growth and the degree to which he or she has followed through on professional development or learning plans to improve his or her own practice” (p. 12)

Examples of measurement could include principal self-reflection, deliberate practice, attendance at national conferences, and portfolio development aligned with core leadership competencies.

2. Student growth and achievement – While included as a key domain in the framework, the report emphasizes

“although student growth and achievement are essential to evaluation systems, the Principal Evaluation Committee noted that while effective principals meaningfully share teachers’ instruction by providing relevant resources and supports that increase learning, there is little research that links principals directly to student achievement. Many of the contextual conditions (such as student and teacher variables) that influence high academic attainment or growth in a given year are also outside the direct control of a principal” (p. 14)

However, the principal does have a large amount of influence over areas including developing strong leadership teams, practicing distributed leadership, and serving as change agents and implementing the change process. As the committee wisely suggests,“states and districts should avoid an over-reliance on standardized test assessments of student achievement in favor of multiple measures designed to encompass the entirety of a student’s learning experience” (p. 15)

Examples of measurement could include portfolio of artifacts, work sample scores, benchmark assessments, discipline referrals, graduate rates, and participation rates in school activities.

3. School planning and progress- “focuses on measuring a principal’s ability to manage school planning processes for achieving school improvement goals and ensuring quality implementation of the programs and services identified with increasing student success” (p. 16)

The report highlights the work of Doug Reeves in his 2006 book, The Learning Leader, who says that through inquiry, implementation, and monitoring, the leadership of school improvement plans can be effective in supporting school achievement.

Measurement examples could include SIP implementation data, teacher and staff questionnaires, and district records.

4. School culture – “focuses on measuring a principal’s ability to develop and maintain a positive school culture that includes not only the tone of a school but also school safety, enthusiasm of students and faculty and level of connectedness with the community” (p. 17)

The report findings indicate that when a school has a positive climate, school improvement can occur at a faster pace and is more substantial. A culture of high expectations, collaborative opportunities, commitment to distributed leadership, and supportive social relationships within the organization, among other characteristics, are necessary for leaders to create a positive school culture.

Examples of measurement could include school climate surveys (from parents, staff, students), observations, interviews with key stakeholders, and stakeholder involvement in the school.

5. Professional qualities and instructional leadership – “focuses on measuring a principal’s leadership knowledge, skills and behavior competencies.” This includes the abilities “to lead instruction, build support for organizational mission and vision, and behave in a professional manner.” (p. 19)

The committee referenced sets of standards/processes used at the national level to evaluate principal qualities and practices, including ELCC 2011 Program Standards, ISLLC 2008: Educational Leadership Policy Standards, and NASSP 10 Leadership Skills.

Examples of measurement could include portfolio artifacts aligned to leadership standards, documented progress towards achieving professional growth plan goals, observations of practice, 360-degree feedback, and self-reflections.

6. Stakeholder support and engagement – “focuses on measuring a principal’s ability to build strong community relationships with stakeholders within and outside the school” (p. 21)

This domain speaks to the vital importance of the principal’s ability to be able to engage stakeholders and develop supportive relationships in order to meet the needs of all students. In order to effectively evaluate principals, stakeholder engagement must be measured.

Measurement examples could include stakeholder surveys, school recognitions, and newsletters/communications.

I appreciate that NAESP and NASSP recognized that creating a stronger evaluation system required the input of acting principals. They state,

“without principal participation in the national, state and local discourse about performance assessment design, new evaluation systems will not be improved, and principals may not view feedback from these new evaluation systems as informative for improvement of their practice or their schools” (p. 9).

The core belief underlying the framework is that “evaluation feedback be used as a formative tool for building a principal’s leadership capacity” (p. 24). If that is the case, principals need to be engaged as participants in the evaluative process, and this process should be used to build administrative capacity.

From this research, the committee recommends that states and districts design processes that are flexible for evaluation teams, and should include collaborative efforts with input and data from key stakeholders. States are encouraged to compare their current systems to the criteria in the report in order to identify and reflect upon areas of need in their current systems, and use the committee’s findings to design better professional supports for principals. In Pennsylvania, our new teacher evaluation system framework has been released and is in its pilot phases, and there are plans to release the newly revised principal evaluation system in January 2013. I look forward to examining this framework to see how it aligns with the committee’s findings.

Principals, I encourage you to work with your local districts, state departments, and leadership consortia to help influence principal evaluation system frameworks. Make your voices heard in order to make the systems work for you. Be transparent about your professional learning needs. We are in need of frameworks that help us grow as professionals, develop collective knowledge through powerful principals’ networks (and let us not ignore the role social media can play in this), and create systems that will promote stronger organizations and improved learning outcomes for students.

Join us at PLP Live!

PLP Live is fast approaching… if you’re looking for a day of learning facilitated by passionate speakers and educators, this is the day for you. I have no doubt you will leave feeling inspired!

When? Friday, September 28, 2012

Where? PA Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA

Who?  John Seely Brown, Suzie Boss, Darren Cambridge, Bruce Dixon, Will Richardson, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Jackie Gerstein, Jane Krauss, Renee Moore, and more!

What? Inspire – Collaborate – Shift! Inspirational keynotes, collaborative opportunities with educators and educational leaders, “lunch ‘n’ learn” with the speakers, and more. The day’s agenda can be found here.

I’m really excited to be facilitating a “collaborate” session with Lisa Neale, Alan Fletcher, and Bonnie Birdsall.

Are you ready for the shift? Join us!

For all of the great details and to register, click here!