duncan-100As teachers gear up for a new school year, I want to offer two thoughts. One is a message of celebration and thanks. The other is a response to a concern that has come up often in many conversations with teachers and families, and which deserves an answer.

First, the thanks. America’s students have posted some unprecedented achievements in the last year — the highest high-school graduation rate in the nation’s history, and sharp cuts in dropout rates and increases in college enrollment, especially for groups that in the past have lagged significantly. For these achievements, we should celebrate America’s teachers, principals and students and their families. These achievements are also indications of deeper, more successful relationships with our students. All of us who’ve worked with young people know how much they yearn for adults to care about them and know them as individuals.

These achievements come at a time of nearly unprecedented change in American education — which entails enormously hard work by educators. (read more…)

Stock PhotoI tend to be one of those educational risk takers.

As a K-12 administrator, I loved nothing more than to visit classrooms where there was a buzz of student learning, where you could stand in the doorway for minutes before anyone even knew you were there, where a room was a hive of student activity, where the teacher was lost in the swirl of investigation and collaboration, where classroom management stemmed from an intensity of engagement rather than the enforcement of rules.

Not surprisingly, I am an unreserved proponent of blended learning.

Creating an environment that fosters collaboration, respect and passion — that thinks outside of the educational box — reaps so many rewards for student engagement and embraces the dynamic nature of education. We regularly challenge the teachers we work with to commit to reinventing their approaches with technology and to intellectually rejuvenate their spirit.

For years, we “early adopters” have been advocating the many advantages of blended learning — the predominant one being that it naturally allows for differentiated instruction. (read more…)

classroom 2How do we ensure that we have the best teachers in all of our schools? We’ve already taken the first step by acknowledging that our best teachers aren’t drawn to serve in our highest needs schools. We also know that these schools and teachers need significant additional support in order to begin to make a difference. We haven’t yet defined what the additional support must look like and what it will cost. To date, many band-aid solutions have been put into place. It is time to make a major commitment to enacting real change for our most needy children. We must also commit to developing excellence in each and every teacher.

This type of change happens at a grassroots level and must be tailored to local needs. This means that school districts, schools and teachers must be empowered and supported to create learning environments that will maximize learning, growth and development for each and every child in their care. (read more…)

professional developmentToday’s school leaders face a new education landscape, one fraught with challenges and new expectations. Smart leaders are realizing the benefits of applying business principles to school practice, as they navigate this tricky new terrain. Executive coach and former educator Naphtali Hoff shares eight leadership skills 21st century school leaders can borrow from their corporate brethren.

It’s been four years since common core burst onto the scene — and tossed the U.S. educational system on its ear. The standards ushered in an era of reform, marked by increased accountability, new forms of instruction and a change in roles for students and teachers.

And new demands for school leaders. Today’s schools now have to teach all students to high standards. School leaders must now adjust their operations and adopt new practices in order to support emerging pedagogies and ensure deeper learning, according to Naphtali Hoff, president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Hoff spent more than 15 years in education, as a teacher and school administrator. (read more…)

leadershipAs a principal awaiting the start of school, I knew one thing for certain: There would be a lot problems in the year ahead. Most educators ironically are too busy solving problems to find time to reflect upon the nature of their relationship to problems. Since reflection is essential for learning, I offer some of mine, based on a career of living with problems.

Here are the stages of my evolution of attitudes toward problems:

I wished they were few and far between. At the start of my career, I still held onto the hope that problems would be the exception to the plans that I made as a teacher. I worked under the illusion that “things were supposed to go according to plan” and that problems should be minor events along the way. This attitude however often led me to complain about them or wish they would go away as quickly as possible. (read more…)