classroom 2In the past few decades, we have become much better at understanding the needs of our low-achieving students and meeting those needs. We have learned how to differentiate our instruction — rather than simply modify our expectations–, and we are much more willing and able to engage students using different modalities. We also are doing a far better job at staffing our schools with special-education personnel who oversee the progress of these students and offer appropriate advice and support for teachers and parents.

Without a doubt, there remains much room to grow in this regard and better meet these children’s needs. However, there is another population within our schools that I worry about, in some ways more than the low achievers. My concern does not stem from the fact that they may complete their formative education without basic life skills. Nor do I fret over their self-esteem and social standing. Rather, it is an unease that emerges from our complicit willingness to under-serve them. (read more…)

leadershipSchool climate has rightfully emerged as an essential element of any school improvement initiative. The goal of improving a school’s climate should be universally accepted by every member of that school’s community, but it is often met with resistance.

Schools that want to improve their climate typically choose a survey that helps them measure and quantify their climate. They use this data to generate plans designed to improve it. This approach sounds pretty clear cut, straightforward and should work — but too often it doesn’t. Unfortunately, changing school climate is a very difficult and complex undertaking that often leaves many schools “unchanged” and in some cases even more resistant to future attempts to change them.

There are some inherent problems that all schools face in meeting the challenge of improving climate:

Climate is hard to grasp for those who live and work in it. To those who work in a school, climate is indistinguishable from their experience of school. (read more…)

Diversity has long been an issue in technology. Less than 30% of tech jobs are held by women, and that number is even smaller for leadership positions.


Gender diversity: How top tech companies compare

Many tech companies are working hard to improve the industry’s gender gap, releasing diversity numbers to the public and launching hiring initiatives geared specifically toward women. But for real change to happen, it needs to start earlier – specifically, in STEM education.

Current trends suggest that more women are studying STEM now than ever before – in fact, in 2010, women represented 50.3% of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. But there’s still a long way to go when it comes to getting – and keeping – women interested in tech.

Below, we’ll look forward at what’s being done – and what can be done better – to improve gender diversity and help get women and girls started in technology. (read more…)

ECCA_header_v1Two original content pieces about the Maker Movement struck a chord with SmartBrief readers this year. Our readers voted and chose two winners for SmartBrief’s first annual Educators’ Choice Content Awards. Makers in the Classroom: A How-To Guide by Aaron Vanderwerff and Project-Based Learning Through a Maker’s Lens by Patrick Waters were chosen from among 20 original content pieces written by educators, for educators.

Earlier this year, SmartBrief Education editors introduced the Editor’s Choice Content Awards, a monthly program honoring two original content pieces that inspired readers to engage, innovate and discuss. Last month, we asked readers to pick their favorite of the 20 stories; nearly 3,000 voted. In addition, members of ASCD’s Emerging Leaders program — a group of diverse, forward-thinking educators — weighed in on their top picks.

Aaron Vanderwerff is a K-12 makerspace and science coordinator at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, Calif.

“I am honored to be recognized by my peers who are helping us to elevate awareness of the importance of Making in education,” Vanderwerff said. (read more…)

professional developmentAfter school — as well as many in-school support programs — often face a critical challenge early on in their development: How can schools expand their services to meet student and school demand while still keeping the “back-office” as small as possible?

We faced this dilemma when expanding our Export program in Chicago, launched in partnership with the University of Chicago. The students served in this program doubled from 550 students with 50 tutors in 2013-2014 to 1,100 students with 85 tutors in 2014-2015. The key populations, from full-time staff to students, were nearly doubling overnight, and yet we wanted to keep the primary focus, and our funds, in the schools we were serving.

How did we accomplish this and remain data-driven without adding additional data analysts and operations managers? If you’re in the same expansion position, or looking to start a new program, here are some things to keep in mind. (read more…)