Being Deliberate about Instructional Leadership

It’s easy to say that instructional leadership is important for educational leaders; it’s far more difficult to actually do it. Sure, the literature about effective educational leadership consistently promotes its importance. So, too, do the NCATE and ISLLC Standards emphasize instructional leadership. In fact, the ISLLC 2008 Standards display Standard 2 (Leadership for Teaching & Learning), at the center of the six-standard framework indicating its importance and centrality to effective leadership (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2008). Research clearly shows that principals of effective schools emphasize instructional leadership (Jenkins, 2009). Cotton points to hundreds of research studies that place effective principals at the center of instruction in their school (2003). Continue reading

PBL Requires Leadership

We know that the successful implementation of any change, including Project-Based Learning (PBL), depends on the support and encouragement that teachers receive from their leaders. In order to lead the implementation of PBL, there are fundamental ideas that are important to keep in mind – PBL is different than the teaching and learning that we’re used to seeing in our schools. PBL isn’t new, it precedes Dewey, but the robust and thorough implementation of PBL is different. At our regional principal meetings, we’ve been reviewing the fundamental characteristics of PBL:

It is important to work backward, beginning with the end in mind. What do we want our graduates to know, be like, and be able to do? Continue reading

Teacher Evaluation and Special Education Settings


Section 30-2.9 of the Rules of the Board of Regents provides that, in order to be certified as lead evaluators, administrators must be trained in nine elements. One of the required components is: “Specific considerations in evaluating teachers and principals of ELLs and students with disabilities.” In our initial Lead Evaluator Training, at OCM BOCES, we address this topic specifically with the help of the Regional Special Education Technical Assistance and Support Center (RSE TASC). Recently, this year’s cohort did just that. This component, however, has not received the attention that it should in the continuing training we provide for Lead Evaluators who have been previously certified. Continue reading

20 + 20 + 60 ≠ 100

1310_APPR-Lead-Evaluator-Training_REWe’re now in our third year of Lead Evaluator Training as required by the law, regulations, and rules for 3012(c). At OCM BOCES, we’ve trained (and continue to train) hundreds of leaders in the required nine components of Lead Evaluator Training:

  1. New York State Teaching Standards and Leadership Standards
  2. Evidence-based observation
  3. Application and use of Student Growth Percentile and VA Growth Model data
  4. Application and use of the State-approved teacher or principal rubrics
  5. Application and use of any assessment tools used to evaluate teachers and principals
  6. Application and use of State-approved locally selected measures of student achievement
  7. Use of the Statewide Instructional Reporting System
  8. Scoring methodology used to evaluate teachers and principals
  9. Specific considerations in evaluating teachers and principals of ELLs and students with disabilities Continue reading

OCM-Responsive Classroom® Blog-The Rules

Teacher with KidsDuring the first six weeks of school we democratically create rules with students.  There are 4 specific steps to this process and guidelines for doing it most effectively with students.  All ideas on how to do it are great as long as they fall into the following guidelines.

Creating Rules with Children:

Hopes Dreams

  • Students think of their own ideas for their individual hopes and dreams
  • Students select on “most important” hope and dream that is realistic, relevant, and respectful of themselves and others
  • Students have a way to share their most important hope and dream with their classmates
  • Hopes and Dreams are recorded in some way so they may be referred to throughout the year

Rule Generation

  • The Teacher gives children the opportunity to think of and share their own ideas for rules
  • Many more of the ideas for rules come from the students than from the teacher(s)
  • Students are encouraged to brainstorm a list of many possible rules
  • The teacher records student’s ideas for rules using the students’ own words and phrasing

Rule Consolidation

  • The teacher plans a way to help students rephrase negatively stated rules in positive ways
  • The teacher provides a way for students to categorize the many rules into three to five categories (ie. Care for Self, Others and Environment)
  • Students will have opportunities to discuss the properties of each category
  • Students decide on the wording of the final three to five rules (one for each category) within the teacher’s guidelines

Rule Posting

  • Students have input into creating the final posted list(s) of rules

In RC I (revised) we spend a lot of time generating ideas for doing each of these steps with children.  How did you introduce the concept of Hopes and Dreams and Rules with your students?  Did you use literacy as a way to springboard into the conversation?  What instructional strategies did you use for any or all the steps? Did you have a theme for your Hopes and Dream?  If so, what were they?  Share a picture!  How did you incorporate technology?  How did you incorporate academics in the process?  Please share your ideas so others can grow!


ISLLC Win-Win… Win!

ScalesSo, you’re trying to help principals, or principal evaluators, or principal-candidates understand the ISLLC Standards:

  1. Setting a widely shared vision for learning
  2. Developing a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth
  3. Ensuring effective management of the organization, operation, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment
  4. Collaborating with faculty and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources
  5. Acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner
  6. Understanding, responding to, and influencing the political, social, legal, and cultural contexts.

Maybe you do an overview of the six standards and then ask your audience to try to makes sense of them graphically. Sooner or later the conversation shifts to using the ISLLC Standards for evaluation — and how to collect evidence of the Standards. A natural activity would be to have the participants generate lists of the artifacts and other sources of evidence for each of the Standards. That’s a logical approach and not unlike one I’ve employed in the past. What do you get when you do this? You get a cacophony of potential artifacts — and everyone reaches for a 4″ three-ring binder in which to collect all this stuff and which will eventually accompany the other three-ring binders in the vinyl library.

We can do better! We can use the ISLLC Standards for school improvement and not just evaluation. A colleague, Dawn Shannon from Broome-Tioga BOCES, showed me how to use the ISLLC Standards in a way that can guide school improvement initiatives and provide a scheme for growth-producing feedback and evaluation.

Here’s how: Rather than collecting all sorts of evidence about all sorts of efforts, the principal and superintendent (or supervisor) should identify an initiative for the school year (yes, this overlaps with the goal) and use the ISLLC Standards to guide, follow, and evaluate the success of the initiative/goal. The evidence that is collected, therefore, is centered (and authentic) on the initiative. The initiative will benefit from the analysis and application of the ISLLC Standards and the evidence will be collected for proposes of evaluation. This is a win-win situation! We can comply with the APPR regulations while also helping principals with their authentic initiatives and goals.

This is a much better alternative to just collecting binders full of evidence that is disconnected — the shotgun approach to evidence collection. Instead, follow an initiative (and improve the initiative) while collecting evidence. Along the way, monitor the progress of the initiative with the ISLLC framework. It can be a trifecta: growth-producing feedback for the principal, evaluation for the regulations, and initiative improvement for the school. Win-win-win!


How to Ride an Elephant

Ride an ElephantIn his remarks at the 2011 Network Team Summer Institute, Commissioner King held up a book about change that he referred to at several points during the institute. The book was Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. I dutifully noted the title, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I got around to reading it. I’m glad I didn’t wait too much longer.

Now we all know that there is no shortage of books about change and leadership – our bookshelves are full of them. If you are like me, some of those books influenced your practice; some didn’t. I like Switch and I think it has influenced my practice. Basically, it uses an analogy previously described by Jonathan Haidt in his bookThe Happiness Hypothesis: the elephant and its rider.

The rider, in the metaphor at the center of the books, sits atop a big elephant. The rider (which represents the rational part of human behavior) uses knowledge and reason to guide the elephant – sort of like a leader of a big system. The elephant represents the emotional part of human behavior. Our emotional side is governed by instinct and short term needs. If you can picture a rider perched atop a great big elephant you can get a sense of the struggle the little rider has to steer the big elephant. Most of the time, the elephant is going to go where it wants to go! The challenge is for the rider to persuade the elephant to go in a desired direction to a desired location. A reluctant elephant won’t get anywhere. A directionless leader won’t get the elephant/rider pair anywhere, either. Of course, both the rider and the elephant need each other for this to happen. Working together is not enough, the Heath brothers caution. What also must be clear is the path to take.

With a clear path the rider can know where to lead and know how to avoid spinning her/his wheels. With a clear path the elephant will encounter fewer obstacles and distractions. Of course, if you know where you are going you are a lot more likely to get to your destination.

If you think about our present situation it’s easy to identify the rider and the elephant. The rider is the reform agenda – the rational places we have to go. The elephant is our present system and status quo – comfortable and reluctant to change. The rider has to work with the elephant. In our roles as educational leaders we have to make sure that the path is clear to both the rider and the elephant. Not always easy to do – but absolutely necessary if we are to get our elephant and rider anywhere. Toward the end of chapter 1 in Switch, the Heath describes their framework which they suggest can get us through any change situation:

  • Direct the Rider. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity, so provide crystal-clear direction.
  • Motivate the Elephant. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can’t get his way by force for very long. So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side—get their Elephants on the path and cooperative.
  • Shape the Path. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. We call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the “Path.” When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the Rider and Elephant.
So, as you move ahead, make sure you take care of all three components if you want change to happen. Oh, and in all your spare time, you might want to get Switch and give it a read. I think you’ll like it.