Children making music with instruments at homeThe math teachers at my school — Castle Park Middle in Chula Vista, Calif. — face the same challenges moving students to math excellence and mastery as so many teachers across the nation. Students must learn a difficult common core curriculum, catch up on missing skills from previous grades, as well as complete numerous rigorous practice problems. Students are often not engaged in this process due to variety of factors including poverty, different learning styles and English language issues. Some of our at-risk students find it easier to give up rather than face a daunting, difficult path to math proficiency.

As part of the Granger Turnaround Model, my team and I addressed attendance and behavioral issues, identified struggling students and arranged for time-on-task both in school and after school for academic supports. The missing piece was a set of math lessons that was rigorous enough to move students toward proficiency, yet engaging enough to keep our at-risk students excited, motivated and focused on mastering math. (read more…)

leadershipOver the years, I’ve read more than a few books, listened to audiotapes and CDs, watched videos and attended conferences where I’ve had the chance to consider viewpoints on what makes leaders excellent in their work. Leader media take up more than a few linear feet of shelving in bookstores and quite a bit of space on the Internet.

Researchers quantify and qualify leaders. Biographers document leaders.

Leaders write and talk about themselves. Search “leaders” and you come up with millions of hits that lead to habits of leaders, characteristics of leaders, skills and competencies of leaders, procedures and processes of leaders, values of leaders and so on.

A lot of media get generated and sold to people looking to understand what makes leaders tick — successfully.

From my own lifelong research, there’s no particular leadership “sauce” or recipe for excellence that appears consistently across leaders. Based on millions of search hits on leaders, one thing is for sure: We have no common performance rubric for leaders that allows us to say: Be this, learn this, do this and you will reach the five. (read more…)

textbooksWith increasing costs and shrinking resources most, particularly public, universities need to find alternatives to ever-increasing tuition and fees. Basing graduation requirements on total grade points earned is a novel model that could help reduce the time students’ spend obtaining a degree and help focus their studies.

Under this proposed model, an A student would graduate with fewer courses than a C student. While still requiring all courses in the major and general studies, the requirements would permit a students to graduate when they obtained a certain number of grade points.

Using the equivalent of 125 semester credit hours of C as the minimum requirement, a solid B student could graduate with about 100 credit hours, which is more than the total requirements for many majors, including general studies, and can be done in three years. A straight-A student, of which there are very few, might graduate with 85 credit hours. (read more…)

professional developmentHave you ever been inspired by a great conference keynote speech? A workshop presenter that your school or district hired? Do you want to share your ideas, be useful to others and make some extra money? Have you ever wondered how that could be you some day?

Well, it can, but it takes time to position yourself to take your show on the road. Below are some suggestions taken from what I’ve seen work for successful speakers and professional development providers.

  1. Know what you want to be known for. Pick your focus. There should be just be one or two things you are known for as the go-to person. This should guide your identity in all your profiles/bios and there should be keywords that you use that become tied to who you are and what you stand for.
  2. Engage on Twitter. Find other people doing your work and who are the audience that would invite you to speak.
  3. (read more…)

digital literacyOne of the most wonderful things about working with 5- and 6-year-olds is their ability to talk and communicate how they feel, their opinion, their ideas and what they understand. They have an amazing ability and willingness to communicate. The communication is spontaneous, contagious, fun and so important as we begin to learn together. Their language is encouraged, enriched and enhanced through authentic opportunities to engage.

When thinking about communication I am also thinking about the importance of having many opportunities for my students to have conversations inside and outside of the classroom. I am also thinking about the tools we have available to broaden and deepen our audience and getting exposure to the idea of perspective and the role it plays when sharing ideas and opinions.

Conversations are ongoing, interactive; they reflect what you understand and are thinking as well as what you might be curious about. In kindergarten, the conversations are always happening and are fluid. (read more…)