Instructional Leadership in Action

To Improve District Leadership, We Need to Learn and Share

by Krista Parent Aug 16, 2016

My first teaching job was in the South Lane School District in Cottage Grove, Ore. Today, more than three decades later, I’m still in the same district, having served as the superintendent for the last 16 years.

To be completely honest, I’m not exactly sure how I ended up as a superintendent because, at heart, I’m still a teacher. I view my work through a teaching lens, which, coupled with my long tenure, has really helped me go deep in my work and analyze what it is that makes systems drive instructional improvement.

What I’ve learned is that good teaching and learning is not just a teacher issue. True, students need effective teachers. But effective teachers need good principals. And good principals need support from the central office. Unfortunately, it’s the last part of this chain where the system often breaks down.

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What We Are Reading This Summer

by UWCEL Aug 2, 2016

Photo by .christoph.G. / CC BY-ND 2.0

It's the time of the year when we are still in summer break mode but coming to grips with the idea of school starting back up soon. And while some of us might still have a beach read on the nightstand, it's a good time to dive back into important education topics like equity, teaching, learning and workload management.

Here is a list of four books that inspired our CEL experts and might inspire you as you get ready for a new school year:

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Celebrate the Power of Coaching

by UWCEL Jun 28, 2016

Improving teaching and learning is a complex task. Shifts in instructional models, new standards and a lack of time drive educators and school districts to find new ways to help teachers grow their practice.

Rebekah Kim, principal of Midway Elementary School in the Highline Public Schools district in Burien, Wash., faced a similar challenge: How to maintain the sacredness of her time with teachers, while providing meaningful, personalized feedback to grow teaching practice.

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Common Goal Unites District — How Leaders and Teachers Build Literacy and a Collective Responsibility for Student Learning

by UWCEL May 24, 2016

Strong literacy skills are a key factor for a student's educational achievement and career. But while the debate around higher academic standards has sharpened national focus on the reading of complex, discipline-specific informational texts, educators have been grappling with how to help content-area teachers support student literacy for decades.

Traditionally, content-area focused teachers, particularly in middle or high school, have not been trained to teach students how to access rigorous texts, including which disciplinary-specific strategies to use, how to break down and think about disciplinary text, or how to grapple with difficult questions while reading closely.

To address this challenge, Wyoming's Uinta County School District #1 is engaging in long-term, comprehensive literacy-focused professional learning in social studies, science, and vocational education.

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With ESSA, It’s (Finally) Time to Put Growth at the Center of Teacher Evaluation

by Patty Maxfield May 10, 2016

In education policy — as in life — there are few second chances. So it’s exciting to see that as a result of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), teacher evaluation seems to have gotten one of these rare opportunities to reassess and change course.

ESSA hands more policymaking power to states and districts. States will have complete control over teacher evaluations and more power over how test scores and other factors figure into accountability. In fact, state legislatures have already started to change assessment and accountability requirements.

So how should we use this second chance to design a teacher evaluation system with the right priorities that helps both students and teachers reach higher levels?

The short answer is: with a focus on growth.

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5 Tips for Setting Up and Sustaining Coaching in Your District

by Joanna Michelson Apr 28, 2016

I recently visited two elementary school instructional coaches in a district where we are providing support to all K-12 coaches. Rebecca used to be a teacher at the school and is now in her first year as a full-time coach. Cheryl is in her second year as a district-based coach and spends a week a month at the school.

"I work here all the time and I know these teachers so well, I think I am overly casual sometimes," Rebecca described her main challenge. "I don’t want to be too pushy but I do want to do more coaching. How do I strike that balance?"

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Delivering Impactful Feedback to Teachers

by UWCEL Apr 21, 2016

All teachers come to schools with specific strengths, but they need additional supports to truly meet the diverse needs of their students. Effective principals know this and focus their instructional leadership on teacher growth rather than evaluation system compliance.

Helping teachers improve their practice can take many forms but one essential skill principals need to succeed is to know how to give teachers effective feedback. It's not enough to step into a classroom once a year for 45 minutes and offer feedback like, “Great lesson!” “Your students seemed engaged.” “Keep up the great instructional work.” Today’s principals carve out time for frequent classroom observation and need to learn how to provide meaningful feedback.

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Get Specific in Improving Instructional Practice With the New 4D™ Instructional Leadership Growth Continuum

by June Rimmer Apr 4, 2016

Over the years, I have worked with a lot of principals and their supervisors with the goal of improving the principals' instructional leadership practice. There is one issue that comes up often: Supervisors are not specific enough in telling principals what they should do to get better.

For example, a coach, supervisor or consultant might say, "You're doing a really good job with collecting evidence of classroom instruction, but an area you might focus on is the way you give feedback to teachers." And that's all they say.

As a principal getting this feedback, I don't necessarily know what I should do next. I just know I'm not doing it right.

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Could Common Core Save our Democracy?

by Stephen Fink Mar 22, 2016

You might have noticed that that there is an election going on. So far, it has been surprising, convention-defying, outrageous, at times downright mean — but above all, it has been a spectacle full of dubious declarations and light on real world compatible policy proposals.

I’m a lifelong political observer and I think I have a good grasp of the state of education in this country.

After hearing so many patently false statements on the campaign trail, I wonder if we, as citizens, are able to evaluate the credibility of claims so that we can make an informed decision at the ballot box. And, do we even care to?

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Central Office Needs to Support, Not Just Manage Schools - Here is How You Can Help

by Max Silverman Mar 16, 2016

The work of educators is changing. First, teachers had to adapt to new classroom expectations and accountability requirements. Next, principals had to think beyond just managing a school and become instructional leaders. Now, central office needs to take up the challenge and offer new approaches to help principals and teachers improve instruction.

Over the last three years, the Center for Educational Leadership together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has worked with central office leaders to find new ways to support principals as instructional leaders and improve student learning.

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