Monday, January 11, 2010

Secrets to Success

There is never one single factor that is at the core of a successful school: no one structure, set of policies, or curriculum. If there were then every school would be using them, school are complex organisms that can't be changed easily. There are characteristics that all share.
1. They teach their students. They concentrate on student learning, what they need to learn and how to make sure they are learning it. They never accept "I taught it, but the kids just didn't get it."
2. They don't teach to the state tests. The state standards are important and students should be prepared for the tests, that is only fair, but what is taught should not be limited to the state standards, just tied to them.
3. They have high expectations for their students. The students will achieve what they are expected to achieve. When empathy becomes sympathy expectations get lowered.
4. They embrace and use all the data they can. By looking at state assessments and local assessments schools can draw a conclusion on how to better instruct their students.
5. They constantly reexamine what they are doing. Tradition is never the sole reason you do something. It is difficult for some teachers to change practices and patterns, however, it only makes sense to change instructional methods as times change.
6. They are accountable. They realize the obligation they have to their students and the community, we are preparing students for their future and their next step in life.
7. They use school time wisely. School time is for instruction and that is sacred time. Students need to be engaged in productive activities most of the time.
8. They like kids. Schools should never treat their greatest asset students with contempt. Students and parents are treated with respect.
9. Principals are a constant presence. They don't hide in their office, they are in the halls, cafeteria, and classrooms.
10. They provide teachers with the time to plan and work collaboratively. When teachers get together they often find they are a valuable resource to one another and need to work together for the betterment of the school.
11. They think seriously about professional development. Staying current with trends and preparing students for the 21st Century is our responsibility. They allow teachers to attend meetings and bring people in to keep staff current.
12. They are nice places to work. How do you feel when you walk into a building, does it give a warm feeling or a guarded feeling? This is even reflected with the office staff, cooks, custodians, bus drivers, as well as the teachers.

Monday, December 21, 2009

21 Things that became Obsolete this Decade

I love lists, they keep you better organized or provoke thought, this is the latter of the two.

21 Things that became Obsolete this Decade:
1. Palm Pilots
2. Email you pay for
3. Dial-up
4. Getting film developed
5. Movie rental stores
6. Maps
7. Newspaper classified
8. Landlines
9. Long Distance Charges
10. Public Pay Phones
11. VCR's
12. Fax machines
13. Phone books, dictionaries, encyclopedias
14. Calling 411
15. CD's
16. Backing up data on a CD or Floppy disk
17. Getting bills in the mail
18. Buttons
19. Losing touch with people
20. Boundaries
21. Record stores

Great Planning

When great lesson planning gets translated into great lessons, a strong teacher is essential. They make the difference between the student never quite getting it and the lesson being a success. But when lousy lesson planning gets translated into lousy lessons, even the greatest teacher can't help. The lesson is the product, and a great product needs a great sales person, in this case a teacher, to make it a success. It's a partnership of well crafted lessons and instructional sequences, and the teacher that makes it all go.

In most instances student do not just accept they need to learn what the teacher is teaching. They learn because of the benefits to them. A great lesson is more than the sum of its parts. It needs to connect to the student's life. These benefits are not usually obvious to the naked eye, but it is up to the teacher to demonstrate these benefits.

Students still need to know why they should want to learn what you're teaching. They need to be told, explained, and demonstrated what it will do for them. At our desks we make standards based data driven lessons. In front of the students, we sell hope, that is education innovation. The more I learn HOW kids learn, not what they learn, the less I have in common with teachers.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


As we all heard last week President Obama committed another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan at a cost of $1 million per year for every soldier, according to Robert Gibbs.

We spend $47,780 per year to keep 1 Kansas senator in the state legislature in Topeka, according to

We spend $35,632 per year to keep 1 inmate in Kansas prisons, according to PBS.

But our legislative leadership thinks that $4100 is too much money to spend per year to keep 1 Kansas school child educated. They are quick to point out the money crunch in the state, however, it was known we were heading in this direction in 2005 and nothing was done, plus there was no recession going on at that time. The legislature has put schools exactly where they wanted them, thanks for your help. I'm not sure we can stand much more of their priority spending.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fun Facts About Technology

In 1810, the population of the United States was just over 7 million. That is 4.3 per square mile
In 1910, the population of the United States was just shy of 100 million. That is 26 per square mile.
In 2010, the population of the United States will be greater than 300 million. It will be at least 80 per square mile.

There are over 270 million cellphones in use in the United States. That is almost double the number of landlines.

Now if the average cellphone is 4 inches long, then if we set all 270 million in a straight line, they'd measure out at 1,080,000,000 inches, or 90,000,000 feet, or 17,045 miles. That is more than half of the circumference of the earth at the equator.

And that's just the cellphones in the US. There's another 634 million in China. And 427 million in India. And Germany, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia sport numbers well above the 100 million each.

As for the Internet, there are 231 million users in the US (on a good day).

In other words, there are more than double as many folks online in the US today as there were people in the US a hundred years ago.

Now I know that these sorts of stats get cited and bandied about all the time; yet no matter how often I look at them they nonetheless give me shivers.

Because 2110 is going to make 2010 look like 1910. And we've already produced children who will live to see that day. What are we preparing them for?

Fun Facts to Know and Tell.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Are We Thankful For?

Now that Thanksgiving is over with and all of got to spend time with family and friends it gives us a chance to reflect on what we are truly thankful for. We all celebrate the usual things, children, health, and our families. We should be thankful for them year round not just on one day.

I thought of writing what I am thankful for in the profession I work in. In a leadership position I realize most we hear about schools revolve around funding but I am choosing not to be negative because there is so much more to this profession.

1. Working with people that enjoy their jobs and have positive attitudes.

2. Connecting with kids. I would rather be around kids than work with adults all day every day.

3. Parents who are supportive and don't leave us alone in the village to raise their child.

4. Creative and collaborative thinking that solves problems.

5. People that make me laugh, and I mean really laugh. I couldn't be at a job where humor was prohibited.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The governor recently made his budget cuts to balance the budget for Fiscal Year 2010, which will conclude on June 30. With public education making up 52% of the state budget we all knew we would get cut, but as an educational leader it still upsets me when we are at the funding level of 2006 and there is no relief in sight.

Which brings me to several points:
1. When the legislature knew this would occur back in 2005 why was nothing done to curtail spending or a roll back on some of the tax exemptions that were made for big business. Of course no one wants higher taxes but have you seen a tax cut from the state on your check lately? NO, none of their cuts effected the individual but just businesses.

2. Who forecasts what revenue the state will bring in? I realize it is done in November for the following year but good lord could we get a little closer so budgets of state agencies don't have to get cut at mid-year. Whoever predicts this makes the weather man look like a genius.

3. This one hurts to say, I feel the legislature is getting exactly what they want, a cut to education while hiding behind lost revenue. The recession had nothing to do with our current economic situation, there was no recession in 2005 when they knew in 2009 we would be close to $450 million short of the budget. When they signed the three year education funding act they knew good and well they couldn't fund it, and in my opinion this was how they could get out of the Supreme Court ruling.

This is a shame for the school children of Kansas, they (legislature) will be $855 million short in Fiscal Year 2012, and what is being done? Nothing, they only want to pay education back for winning the law suit against them. I hope they are happy and realize that the cost of an education far out weighs the cost of ignorance.