Kentucky has a school culture problem ...

because far too many kids are being removed from school in the name of "discipline." 

Source: Kentucky Safe Schools Annual Statistical Report 

Source: Kentucky Safe Schools Annual Statistical Report 

Now, I want to make sure you understand that the 287,981 suspension or expulsion events are across 655,475 students total P-12 in the system. So, a ratio of 43 events per 100 kids. And, second, there are lots of repeat offenders. In fact, 86,930 kids are responsible for those 286,981 events. So, that total ratio is 13 kids per 100 kids can expect to be suspended or expelled. 

But, for many reasons that too does not accurately capture the challenges either. The vast majority of school discipline happens in grades 6-12 (middle and high) so the ratios are skewed by using the full population. Your chance of suspension/expulsion in grades K-5 is small, only 14 events per 100 kids. But, in 6-12 the game changes to 70 events per 100 kids. In 9th grade in particular, there are 107 events per 100 kids (more suspension/expulsion events than there are kids). At those very formative moments transitioning into adulthood, 1 in 4 kids (26%) are currently being suspended or expelled. What result do we expect for that 26% of kids who are suspended in their first year of high school? Will they discover the error in their ways while sitting in the in-school suspension room and reform themselves? Or will they give up on the system? Will they determine the culture to be one to which they are ill suited. Will they count the days until they can drop out?  

The bottom line is that this is a picture of a something that is broken. Our middle and high schools have a culture where many children are suspended and some many times over. Kids misbehave for a variety of reasons and some of that behavior does require removal from the learning environment. But, much of the misbehavior of kids is a direct response to the lack of engagement/motivation/hope by schools. Not every lesson is going to be captivating and compelling, but a child should have a reasonable expectation that each day they walk into the school something throughout the day will be captivating and compelling. Sadly, this is not our current culture. Perhaps it is time we consider a change. 

Data Sources: 
1. Kentucky Safe Schools Annual Statistical Report 2016-17
2. Kentucky School Report Card, Statewide Data 2016-17

Prichard Committee: Transforming School Climate & Culture

The Prichard Committee is a wonderful mix of adults and kids as well as business and educators all representing a diverse set of Kentuckians. 

The Prichard Committee is a wonderful mix of adults and kids as well as business and educators all representing a diverse set of Kentuckians. 

At the recent annual meeting of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in Kentucky the focus turned to transforming school climate and culture. This focus included a specific desired outcome of culture and climates which specifically promote equity of opportunities.  

Over the course of a day and a wonderful agenda, the Committee and guests heard from students, educators, national scholars, journalists, and a former U.S. Ambassador on strengthening school climate and culture. This focus transforming school climate and culture links to a recently adopted three-year strategic plan adopted at the meeting by the 100+ members of the Prichard Committee.

In an effort to translate this learning into specific recommendations for educators and, in particular, the leaders of schools the Prichard Committee and guests worked hard to identify specific suggestions across a variety of domains of climate and culture in schools. The attendees identified the following 11 domains of the challenge.

  1. More student autonomy/agency

  2. Teacher autonomy & agency

  3. Intentional communication with parents

  4. More authentic project based learning/projects

  5. Nurture and respect educational professionals

  6. Authentic/meaningful teacher administrator dialogue

  7. Collaborative community partnerships

  8. Equal academic/sports emphasis

  9. Equity of opportunity and inclusive excellence

  10. Engaging all students

  11. State accountability of climate

Across eight of these domains, the attendees sought to work collaboratively to identify eight specific suggestions for a total of 64 specific suggestions for educators and school leaders to improve school culture and climate toward equity of opportunity. This task was formatted into Lotus Blossom coordinated through the collaborative use of Google Docs and Google Draw. A picture of the final result is below. In the middle is the core challenge (bright green) surrounded by the 8 domains of the task (yellow). Then, each domain is explored in more detail on the petals of the lotus blossom flower (the yellow box surrounded by mostly green boxes). Finally, the colored boxes within each petal represent our identified practices that we wish to share with school leaders and other educators as the potentially most impactful near-term implementation concepts.

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Full Lotus Blossom (zoom in): http://go.uky.edu/prichard  

Once the 64 ideas were generated, we again worked collaboratively to identify our suggestions for the most impactful concepts that educators and school leaders might employ (the blue, red, orange and purple in the image). The following is the result of those impactful suggestions across the 8 domains examined in the full Lotus Blossom activity.

  1. More student autonomy/agency

    1. Assume all students can do the best work and have high expectations for all learners

    2. Employ more student internships and work-based learning experiences.  

  2. Increased teacher autonomy & agency

    1. Incentive teacher innovation and creativity through new supports from schools and districts.

    2. Encourage teacher ownership of professional learning communities

    3. Provide teachers leadership opportunities within schools and districts.

  3. Intentional communication with parents

    1. Ensure ongoing positive communication with parents rather than emphasizing the negative.

    2. Co-design a communication plan with parents.

  4. More authentic project based learning/projects

    1. Promote state, district, and school accountability systems that honors this authentic engagement work by students.

    2. Provide iterative feedback and opportunities for growth to both teachers and students engaged in authentic PBL.

  5. Nurture and respect educational professionals

    1. Promote culturally responsive training and support for teachers

    2. Respect educator mental health and personal time

  6. Authentic/meaningful teacher administrator dialogue

    1. More frequent formal opportunities for teacher-administrator dialogue in both 1:1 and group settings

    2. More time flexibility in school schedules to promote dialogue

  7. Collaborative community partnerships

    1. Encourage reciprocal partnership where both schools and community members benefit.

    2. Develop community asset maps to identify key resources for teachers to link to learning

    3. Develop trust and partnership through ongoing authentic dialogue.

  8. Engaging all students

    1. Engage students in high expectation, high yield activities such as leadership development opportunities.

    2. Build relationships with learners by promoting student voice and choice, specifically engaging in suggestions made by the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team across their multiple publications.

These excellent suggestions emerged from a day of learning and an hour of work to make our learning tangible and specific. We think these suggestions are superb entry points for educators and schools looking to improve the school culture and climate for both the adults and children who inhabit these spaces. The progress that we collectively seek as Commonwealth for our schools and children is dependent on institutions capable of strong cultures which minimize institutionalism. We are convinced that such improvements to the schools of Kentucky are possible and we look forward to working with students, educators, and community members to make robust, equitable climates and cultures.  

 

Trusting our Teachers: Stories from STEAM

We have been having lots of tours of STEAM lately ... and the word "Wow" was used multiple times this week in follow-ups by visitors. That's great and a nice validation by other professional educators, but what I really want is for STEAM not to stand out as much because other schools steal and implement our ideas and models. That is the point of a research and development school, after all.

One of our core ideas has always been to get the right adults in the building and then deeply trust our people. Part of that story means a bit more turnover especially at the beginning, but the lasting part of that story is the culture of trust we have in our staff. And, just to validate that ... it shows up in our data such as these TELL survey results where 2/3 report strong agreement on the question of whether they are trusted (see blue in bottom row).

Results from the 2017 TELL Survey 

Results from the 2017 TELL Survey 

That kind of trust does not happen by chance, rather it takes intentional effort. School leaders and communities have to be willing to stand back a bit even in the face of potential failures. We have to encourage a bit of risk-taking and not freak out when something goes a bit amiss. Over time, not only does that create a culture of trust, it also lets them refine their own practice ... which earns them more trust ... and that cycle repeats until what we really have is a culture of professionals making sound professional judgements.

No single person or institution or policy can "fix" schools ... what we need are thousands of professionals making professional judgments day after day after day. If we trust teachers ... they will earn it and reward us all with better schools for our children.

Leaders for less than 3 years ... that's not enough

In Kentucky, 46% of our school principals have been at their school for three years or less. 

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These results from the TELL survey in Kentucky by the New Teacher center are fairly stunning. Alternatively, only 28% of our principals have been at their school for 7 years or more. 

Innovation takes time. As I have watched districts across Kentucky innovate as part of Next Gen, a ballpark range for an average innovation cycle from the initial leader learning to full school implementation of a concept is usually around 3 years. And, remember, that is to the initial implementation not to the mastery implementation ... that takes at least an additional two years. 

So, only about 1/2 the schools in Kentucky have a serious shot at mastery implementation of deeper learning innovations because without sustained leadership such innovations typically fall apart. Now, school-wide innovations can be led and sustained by someone other than the principal but that seems to happen only rarely. 

"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. 

College Affordability = Dual Credit

Today I spent time at a great Prichard Committee event here in Kentucky focused on College Affordability. There were a variety of speakers sharing a variety of data points. It was very good stuff. Really professional. The best part, even, was that the Student Voice Team released their new report (which you should read ... proud does not begin to capture it). Great day. 

But, let me summarize.

  • State support for higher education is flat to negative. Indefinitely.
  • College tuition and, particularly, housing costs are going up. Indefinitely. 
  • Pell grants help poor families a lot. Kentucky state support helps too, but less. 
  • Lots of kids don't think college is for them & don't go. Cost is an increasing concern. 
  • Lots of kids who do start, don't finish.
  • Rather few kids finish community college. 
  • Some, especially those that don't finish, default on loans and ruin their credit.
  • High schools are not doing enough to advise, especially because of the lack of guidance counselors. 
  • And, inequity is still rampant throughout. 

Let me also summarize the number of serious plans articulated to address this in structural ways ... nada. 

That's not an indictment of anyone. Everyone honestly is well meaning in this space and I enjoyed all the conversations today. But, we seem locked into a pattern here and nothing I heard today (outside of seriously listening to students more which policy folks seem to applaud but not really grasp) seemed to have a real chance at changing the pattern. Some folks I spoke with today, including critical folks with state agencies, even seemed resigned to this unchanging reality including the indefinite inequity.  

Enter dual credit (or dual enrollment, or early college, middle college, etc.). It came up a couple times today but mostly just in passing. That missed the mark, unfortunately. 

In my work innovating in education the past 10 years, few things seem to have the screaming potential that dual credit does ... and few things are harder to actually implement, let alone change. I spent 3 years trying to build a dual credit program at STEAM and it is still not that great. But, it is the key. I'm convinced of that now more than ever before. We need to get serious about implementing large scale models across Kentucky and resetting our expectations around the space between high school and college (i.e. there should very little). 

Jobs for the Future has a summary of the research

The What Works Clearinghouse also recently took a look and concluded ... it works (image at left). 

REL Appalachia even did a serious study of Kentucky dual credit last year. Some of their findings: 

  1. Dual credit programs are an important feature of college readiness efforts.
  2. Program implementation and costs vary wildly. 
  3. Key challenges include
    1. limited availability of high school teachers with appropriate credentials,
    2. limited access to courses and instructors in isolated rural districts,
    3. limited student readiness for college coursework,
    4. financial burden for students and families,
    5. inconsistent standards for ensuring course quality, and
    6. lack of dedicated staff to manage dual credit programs.

This should have been discussed today in more detail. We need serious attention here, especially with the Kentucky Secretary of Education announcing last week that he wants all students to do a dual credit experience while in high school. Kudos to Hal for having a broad vision here. That's the kind of vision we will need to reset the status quo ... followed up with a great deal of leadership to make the vision a reality. 

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Ultimately, if we are serious about resetting the status quo we could just make the Associates Degree the end point for high school (rather than, or in addition to, the high school diploma). At first blush it sounds crazy, but it is less crazy than you think. Both the money and the time required for this are largely already within the P-12 model. If we made it a P-13 model, we could get a majority of kids to the Associates. A lot would have to change to make it happen, but mostly it is changing norms rather than markets, laws, or architectures. In short, if we wanted to do that for Kentucky kids, we could reasonably achieve it within a moderately short period of time. Certainly, the kindergartners of today could be in a P-13 system that gets them an Associates if we wanted to do that. Even if we missed the full target here, we would still get lots more kids to College and more would finish. I do not see the downside to trying.  

If we just keep having the same discussion we had today simply acknowledging the patterns, however, those kindergarteners tomorrow will face the same (or worse) situation than our college entrants today. Thus, if we are discussing making college seriously affordable and changing the current patterns, we necessarily must be discussing dual credit programs.

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. 

Schooling Outside the Lines - book launch

Tonight, we as the EDL 662 Course are launching a book! Yeah, for real!! 

The book is called Schooling Outside the Lines. The links to download and read are below.  

 

iBooks: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1183544449 

PDF (cleanest version)

ePub (for reading on tablets) 

Google Docs: http://go.uky.edu/42V 

 

This book emerged from our EDL 662 investigations into teaching and learning in the digital, global world. Along the way, students wrote blog posts on a variety of topics that helped us question what we are doing in schools and how we can improve these learning systems. The 5 chapters in the book address: 1) Meaning of the Diploma, 2) Technology, 3) Culture, 4) Assessment, and 5) Growth Mindset. I wrote the opening and closing, but the rest is their work. 

Next, we picked chapters and assigned pairs of students to curate and edit each chapter. Thus, everyone had a part not only in writing the book, but in bringing it together. We also assigned additional roles like building the index, the cover art, marketing, etc. It was certainly a group effort. 

Students used various blog platforms to do the initial writing and sharing. We read and discussed those in our LMS, Canvas. Once we picked a direction for the book ... we used Google Docs to bring it all together into a single place as students made their curation decisions. Students then engaged in about 2 weeks of curation and editing. We had a pair of managing editors, Kyle Curry and Bailey Ubellacker, who kept everyone on track and managed the whole process. They did great ... thanks to them! 

Once we had a full edited copy ... it was time for exporting. Google Docs allows exports to both PDF and ePub. I used Calibre to do a reformat, though, between the PDF and the final ePub. Then, I used that ePub file for upload into the iBooks store. We will also publish a paper version, just for ourselves, through Lulu.