"Deeper Learning" & "Instructional Leadership" = 3 results

Was shocked to run the combo search terms "deeper learning" and "instructional leadership" in the ERIC (EBSCO) database and return a grand total of 3 results. 

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How can this be? I know the concept of "deeper learning" is fairly new at least based on the Hewlett definition, but of all the effort that has gone into the deeper learning movement how can we (mostly) not have formally talked about or investigated instructional leadership? Changing the teaching and learning experience for the child is the core outcome needed by deeper learning and I am not sure how that is possible without serious instructional leadership. 

New Books from Friends

I am happy to recommend all of these. (all the images are clickable to Amazon). 

Leading Personalized & Digital Learning

From our friends at the Friday Institute at North Carolina State published by Harvard Education Press. 

Different Schools for a Different World

Our old buddy Scott McLeod and the respected Dean Shareski team up under the Solution Tree banner for the first time. 

Tapping the Power of Personalized Learning

Our Wisconsin school innovation partner Jim Rickabaugh has put out this roadmap from lessons learned there with ASCD. 

NESA Links - #UKNextGen in Doha

This week I was excited to take our #UKNextGen work international for the first time in Doha at the NESA Conference. I presented two workshops with Laurie Henry and we had a lovely time. I think we opened some eyes and made some great connections. Below are the links to our working documents. Most stuff is in the agendas, but the slide decks are there also. 

Workshop 1: Next Generation Leaders

Detailed Agenda: http://go.uky.edu/1UV 

Slides: http://go.uky.edu/1UU 

Workshop 2: Next Generation Teaching and Learning

Detailed Agenda: http://go.uky.edu/1US 

Slides: http://go.uky.edu/1UT 

More Sophisticated Data for Kids & College Readiness

Looking at some of the recent data on College Readiness in Kentucky I was struck by the lack of sophistication in the data. A single standardized exam is used to determine who is and is not ready for College success. While this approach might have been in a step forward helped schools focus on raising ACT, I'm still concerned. It also seems to be against the growing tide of elite colleges moving away from ACT while P-12 might be increasingly swindled. Below is the chart that we use in Kentucky, including with the ACT cut scores (the most prevalent although our internal test KYOTE gets used a decent amount too). 

Full chart with footnotes available at: http://cpe.ky.gov/policies/academicinit/deved/ 

Full chart with footnotes available at: http://cpe.ky.gov/policies/academicinit/deved/ 

What strikes me is that this is so, so very little information about a given child. It says almost nothing meaningful about either a child's current abilities or a child's future potential. It does say something, but what we should all realize is that the "something" that it says is so far removed from the reality once you get to know the kids.

Of course, that standardized tests tell us very little is nothing new. We have known that for a while so what really concerns me is that we are still doing the same behaviors. Of course, if the definition of "college ready" had little impact on the child, that would be annoying but fine ... but it actually has a massive impact on the child even beginning in high school where students without a 20 Reading ACT, for instance, cannot take dual credit courses to get a jump start on college at low rates. So, to that child, it has both a time and financial implication. When the child graduates high school and tries to enter college, again, the student is set back by this somewhat arbitrary number by having to take remedial classes (that they have to pay for) without obtaining any credit toward graduation. Setting children back like this at the end of high school, of course, is a really good way to set children back in life generally and I think that is pretty much what is happening. If there is a big barrier to entry ... then less students will enter. 

I'm not advocating that remedial courses are unnecessary or that we do not need structures to determine college readiness, but if we are going to make these massive decisions about children then our metrics for informing that decision should be as strong as possible. I think we can make better informed decisions in at least 3 ways in the near term and 1 in the long term that we should start planning for now. 

  1. Tap into more of the data currently available on a student. Already, datasets within Infinite Campus here in Kentucky contain a lot of additional information about a kid. How often they come to school. How many, and the types, of disciplinary events. Grades, of course, with varying degrees of detail and consistency. Beyond Infinite Campus, other datasets, like the student's ILP, contain additional information some of which is actually supplied by the kid themselves. Of course, there are also other assessments like MAP and EOC (both of which also have their flaws, but like polls can work better together). All of this makes for a messy mass of data, but making sense of this data seems possible to give a richer understanding of a child's readiness (or merits for graduation, whatever). 
  2. On the grading front, another near term opportunity is helping high schools provide more standardization not in the curriculum but in the systems of assessment. Right now, few people put stock (outside of parents, perhaps) in any individual letter grade at school because it doesn't really contain any descriptive meaning of what a kid can do. A kid might have an exceptionally scientific mind, but miss a couple of assignments and get a C in a biology class. The "C" tells us little and is actually misleading about that kid, which is why I think most college metrics put little stock in high school grades. But, right now, a moment is afoot led by Tom Guskey at UK (this book is a good entry point) to make grading a more informative practice. In the near term, it would make a lot of sense for us to begin pilots with schools engaging in standards based grading to determine how predictive, and which metrics predict most accurately, from the vastly richer dataset of grading. 
  3. Again, near term, why don't we just ask teachers which kids have which skills that we deem relevant to graduation/college? Let's build a smart rubric that asks teachers about kids' skills and ask them only to answer for skills they personally seen demonstrated and for which they could provide evidence. Let's then run mass surveys to collect the data at some point (end of junior year, whatever). Then, to keep it honest, let's follow up with a few random spot checks when we ask teachers to show their evidence of their rubric scoring. Each school could assign a teacher (preferably the Advisory teacher) to complete the rubric for their small group of students. Not only would this encourage proliferation of Advisory models and portfolio systems across P-12, but it would provide a rich external assessment of each child from a skilled educational professional. I'm not sure why we don't do this already, actually. 
  4. Now, long term, we need to begin preparations for the inevitable transition of learning to digital platforms which provide big, big data (like, a LOT more). Soon (hopefully within 10 years), all high schools will be digital in their learning management (some already are). In fact, some states have already taken big steps in this direction. At STEAM here in KY, we use the LMS Canvas for every single course. It worked so well at STEAM that Fayette is now going district-wide and similar LMS solutions are emerging throughout the state. We even have our own Ed. Tech. LMS startup here in Lexington. For a child, nearly every learning activity throughout the whole of high school is digital in a single platform. While this is not perfect data, but it is exponentially more data about a child than we have now. How quickly students complete things, how many times it takes to get it right, how collaborative they are, how much time they spend on their readings, and, of course, their performance on various assessments (hopefully graded with a standards based system). This is already MASSIVE data that mostly just washes over us, but it is only going to exponentially expand over the next data. Honestly, it is hard to fathom how much data we could have. We need systems that talk to each other, we need algorithms that make sense of the data, we need informatic data displays, we need to know which variables have what predictive value ... whew.

If all of this seems like a lot of work ... well, it is. Absolutely it is a lot of work and, obviously, I get the attraction to a single test and a single metric. It is simple and clean. But, kids are not simple and clean. They are complex with messy lives spinning off messy data. They have good days and bad. They have projects they ace and projects they struggle with. Teachers that click and teachers that don't. They are kids and they are all beautiful and intelligent in entirely different ways. A "21" is not in any way an accurate representation of their beauty, intelligence, or potential. We can do better and we can start now.       

As a baseball guy, we are clearly already in an era of Moneyball for public education in terms of data, but it is like we are ignoring most of it and still making decisions about kdis based only on 1 metric in 1 game. We have more data, we are just not using it. And, we are going to have a LOT more data very, very soon. 

This needs to be a pretty high priority. 

kentucky & the "super schools" we need

Today, the ultra high profile XQ America "super schools" were announced. None were in Kentucky, including here in Fayette County Public Schools of course.

But, Lexington and Kentucky already has a "super school" ... it is called STEAM. When we looked at the Super School priorities ... we were already doing most of those things but because we were an existing, homegrown school, we could not apply. Now, obviously there is no existing facility so maybe on that front we are still a startup. (If only the district would invest in a "super" facility for their "super school').

In fact, Kentucky already has a developing group of super schools spread throughout the state and I'm proud that our work in the University of Kentucky Next Generation Leadership Academy helped in that. There is the Owensboro Innovation Academy, the ILEAD Academy, the work in Trigg County High School, The Boone County Schools, Eminence Independent School District, Taylor County Schools, Paris Independent Schools-Paris, KY, Marshall County Schools, Shelby County High School, the work of Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, and I could go on for quite a while and that is just big projects. Teachers across the Commonwealth in groups like Hope Street Group, JCPSForward, Edcamp Kentucky are moving individual classrooms toward developing Modern Learners. Together, these local super schools and classrooms are already transforming education in Kentucky.

What we do not have in Kentucky, though, is a collective sense of this transformation and a collective, sponsored effort to get the #NextGenHS we all seem to want. Where is our "Super School" coordinated effort like XQ? Top flight educators are doing what professionals do and trying to move the work forward, but there is no coordinated effort. Groups like Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky, Kentucky Education Association, KSBA (and more) need to help. Perhaps we need a new entity, such as the Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN) or the NC Friday Institute for Educational Innovation or the Oklahoma K20 Center (many states have coordinated approaches). Maybe some existing unit can make it a huge priority. It is a huge priority for us at University of Kentucky College of Education but we are maxing our capacity to support this work. I'm open to ideas. Is there an existing group that I am missing?

The lesson is, though, that the seeds of innovation have already been planted and they are already growing all over the state. But, those efforts need watering (ahem, building please for STEAM), those efforts need to be evaluated, those efforts need to be networked more tightly, and the seeds from these efforts need to be spread formally and systematically. There needs to be collective expectations (and deliverables) for #NextGenHS redesign all over the state. To expect that though, we have to help them get there at scale. We need to produce start-up guides and transitional supports. We need large scale professional development to retrain our education workforce. We need support in tough meetings where issues like dual credit are not just tweaked or incentivized, but fundamentally rethought. There are a thousand things to do, but we are not embracing the task head on. At best, we are playing on the edges.

Now, Kentucky knows how to reform ... at least I hope it still remembers. And, generally, Kentucky is great (not just good) at working together to solve problems. For these reasons, and because of our work to already sow the seeds of innovation, we have been specifically targeted by national reform leader Ted Dintersmith as a place where magical things might be possible. He will be in Kentucky in 2 weeks to help us start some of these conversations, so please find a showing of Most Likely to Succeed and hear what he has to say.

Kentucky, while XQ drops millions on a few "super schools," without any major financial support we have already developed our own homegrown examples of what the schools we all seem to want look like. We can continue to exceed outsider expectations and continue to be a global leader in education reform ... but we need to take the next step. I'm open to any feedback to help us do that.

"Deliberate Indifference" & Broad, Slow Harassment of Children in Schools

I'm a huge fan of Will Richardson's thinking and earlier this year he did an exceptional job of articulating educational elephants in the room that everyone simply wants to ignore. I find it hard to argue with each of the 9 elephants that he identifies, but see for yourself

Lately, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with our unwillingness to acknowledge these “elephants in the (class)room,” if you will, because the new contexts for modern learning forged by the networked world in which we now live are creating an imperative for new ways of thinking about our work in schools. I’ve been collecting a list of these “things that we don’t really want to talk about in education” in hopes that it might challenge us to bring those elephants out into the open and ignite some much needed conversation about how to deal with them. — more (read the 9 elephants) ...
— https://medium.com/modern-learning/9-elephants-in-the-class-room-that-should-unsettle-us-8335b2cef9aa#.4aw5zli9w

I can't tell you how many meetings I've been in across various components of the education system over the last decade where there is an almost willful ignoring of these elephants. In law, we have a term for this behavior ... "deliberate indifference." It comes mostly from the field of harassment law under Title IX where on occasion school officials consciously ignore harassment occurring within schools. The Davis case from the Supreme Court is seminal. 

Now, I want to make an analogy, but hint beyond that. Certainly, that over 1/2 of the kids are bored in a given moment (or pick a different elephant) is not the same at all as explicit acts sexual or gender harassment. These are not the same thing, but they are both things that happen to children and the question is how to judge school official's behavior thereto.  My case in this post is that in both of these instances, the behavior of the school official is largely the same. Legally, the full test of school liability for sexual harassment from adult to child is: (1) actual knowledge and (2) deliberate indifference. For school liability for harassment between children we add third component of (3) severe, persistent, and objectively offensive. 

It is a useful legal test that has seemingly worked okay in the field of harassment, so, look back at Will's 9 Elephants and see which of those, if using this test, we could potentially find school's liable? Use either the first two parts or all three parts of the test (your choice). 

For me, perhaps not all 9, but certainly the majority would create at least a prima facia case of school liability for student harassment. Whether a school official can be held to have "actual knowledge" that subjects and time blocks, for instance, are not the best way to allocate information and time is questionable. But, if actual knowledge is established for any of the 9, then certainly deliberate indifference would follow along. As Will points out, we generally know these things and we generally ignore them. Let's see an example. 

Every time a principal observes a fifth grade math classroom of utterly disengaged and bored students, sees and understands what is (or is not) happening, and then walks on with no further action taken ... using our test there would be a case of liability for student harassment. Let's assume this particular math teacher has provided similar observations many times in the past. There was actual knowledge, deliberate indifference, and, if you desire, the treatment of the children is severe, persistent, and objectively offensive. 

Now, I hear you, forcing students to memorize multiplication tables is not harassment you say. Okay, but what if you did that, or something similar, all day long? Is that not harassment? Let's remember what we are doing here. We are legally forcing children to sit in mostly white concrete block rooms, quietly, compliantly, for hours and hours, five days a week. Multiplication tables are not the only activity, there is also worksheets, sight words, quizzes, reading of textbooks, etc.  ... the question is not whether any one of these is harassing to children, it is whether the vast compilation of these rises to something akin to harassment. 

I'm not sure, honestly. But, my sense is that this is something we should think more about. What thoughts do you have? 

Charter Schools and the Difficulty of Operating Schools

It turns out, opening and operating a school is really hard ... and then it is even harder to make it successful. Unfortunately, as this episode shows, there is a lot of schools that do not make it and kids, who have no choice, get caught in the middle. Political types who have no understanding of schooling, simply have no idea. A school is not like a business in any way so using business models to try to govern school models is ludicrous. So funny in fact, that it is actually funny in a really sad satirical way. 

Now, as my buddy Wayne Lewis has convinced me and I've seen for myself, there are also a lot of really poor public schools and some great charters. Thus, I am open to Charters as an option to help kids, but it must be an intensely controlled option with lots of fail safes and backup plans and overseen by actual top flight professional educators who know what they are doing. If all that sounds costly ... that is because it is. 

By the way, John Oliver gets satire right (and most American comedians don't) ... Malcolm Gladwell can tell you why. The first time you watch a video like this, you should laugh ... the second time ... not. 

how does one of the most innovative public school districts respond to the most innovative education documentary

like this ... 

Inspired by the documentary Most Likely to Succeed, leaders at Albemarle High School have rapidly adopted progressive approaches to education through integrated learning and real world application with impressive results.

This is how a school district should respond to Most Likely to Succeed. Huge kudos to the team at Albemarle County Public Schools under the leadership of Pam Moran and specifically to the principal Jay Thomas for making it happen. For us in Kentucky, I think only Marshall County had an immediate, similar response as a district (and I am proud of them also) and a few schools like Royal Spring in Scott County might also be in that group. But, for almost any school leader that watches that film and then returns to school the next day to face those 9th graders they know will struggle (and to those in high schools, they know what I'm talking about) ... well, Team 19 should not be exceptional, it should be normal.