Instructional Leadership in Action

How Kelso School District improved graduation rates with equity

by Mary Beth Tack Feb 14, 2017

Over the past few years, I have noticed something in the principals I work with. As their work has gotten more complex and intense, the question of “Why am I doing this work?“ starts to come up more often.

So, at the end of the last school year, I asked each principal to interview a student they regarded as a main reason as to why they came to work every day and entered the profession. The video clips we got back were inspiring. One principal filmed a student whose family came from Mexico, struggled with English in middle school and became an amazing leader. Another talked to a high-achieving student who was touched to tears to be one of the principal’s main motivations for their work.

As the director of teaching and learning, I had to ask myself: What story do I have to tell? What’s my “why”?

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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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How Onalaska Middle School Went From Lowest to Highest Performing in Three Years

by Stephanie Teel Nov 11, 2015

One of my favorite things to read or watch is a transformation story. You know, seeing the before and after pictures of a renovated home, weight loss, or a yard.

My school, Onalaska Middle School is a transformation story. But our before and after pictures are much different than the ones you are used to seeing.

In 2011, the Washington State Board of Education and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction identified Onalaska School District as part of a Required Action District, or RAD, because it was one of the consistently lowest performing schools in the state.

Obviously, this was not a good place to be in as a school and it was going to take a lot of work to improve.

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Keeping One Foot in the Classroom: Developing Teacher Leaders in Pittsburgh

by Joanna Michelson Sep 16, 2015

As a teacher leader in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Monica Wehrheim wanted the teachers she worked with to be inspired by her feedback, to mature as instructors and to improve their practice. But initially, some teachers didn’t understand Wehrheim’s newly created role and weren’t as receptive to her suggestions as she’d anticipated.

So at the start of this past school year, Wehrheim turned to her coach from the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) for advice on introducing herself to the handful of teachers she would mentor that year.

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Central Kitsap Builds Shared Vision of Instruction

by June Rimmer Oct 15, 2014

Chris Mygatt (left), language arts teacher at Central Kitsap Junior High School, with a student in her classroom. Implementing CEL's instructional framework has  helped teachers give students greater control over their own learning.

At Woodlands Elementary in Bremerton, Washington state, Cindy Larson’s kindergartners don’t just answer her questions. They explain their thinking and evaluate their classmates’ reasoning. For example, during a lesson on measurement, one of the boys asked to come to the whiteboard and explain why another student’s answer was incorrect.

"He was basically up there teaching the class," Larson said. "That would never have happened in my classroom before." Discussing content at such intellectual depth early on bodes well for students’ future growth, she added. "If we’re starting this in kindergarten, the discussions in the upper grades are going to look qualitatively different."

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Teton Tackles Achievement Gap

by Anneke Markholt Jan 14, 2014

The Big “Aha”: CEL Brings Equitable Learning Strategies to Small District With Stark Gap

As she scans student faces during classroom discussions, Michelle Rooks constantly asks herself “Who is being left behind? Who needs support to access the conversation?” The middle school instructional coach describes these as “gut questions” – questions planted by University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) experts who, over the past three years, have brought powerful equity-driven instructional and leadership strategies to a Wyoming school district with a stark and striking achievement gap.

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Principals Collaborate in Seattle

by Max Silverman Sep 1, 2012

Working Together: School Leaders Problem-Solve in Professional Learning Communities

School principals in the Seattle Public Schools district are discovering the power of peer collaboration. They’ve opened the doors of their school buildings and classrooms, invited school leaders in to observe and give feedback, analyzed instruction in partners’ schools, and shared strategies for ensuring that every student, regardless of background, achieves academic success.

The Center for Educational Leadership has guided this collaborative work in the 91-school district for two years, helping principals and assistant principals establish themselves in professional learning communities focused on quality instruction. “This is a way for them to share their practice with each other in disciplined ways. They build on that practice together,” says Max Silverman, associate director of CEL, a nationally recognized, research-based, non-profit arm of the University of Washington’s top-ranked College of Education.

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District Partnership Boosts Literacy

by Stephen Fink Apr 20, 2012

Leading for Literacy: CEL Partnership Helps District Smarten Up Practice System-Wide

The South Los Angeles County school district faced tremendous challenges. Less than one-third of its students read at proficiency level. Its high populations of English Language Learners and special education students were chronically underperforming: even those who could read words often had no idea what the words meant. Many of their teachers were convinced that some students just can’t learn. The teachers didn’t connect their own low expectations to the low literacy levels in their classrooms.

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Purposeful Instruction in Anchorage

by Max Silverman Apr 13, 2012

A Clear Focus: Leadership Lessons in Purposeful Instruction

What if all teachers knew how to plan purposeful, standards-based lessons and learning targets with all of their students in mind? More importantly, what if each of their students understood and could articulate the purpose of each and every lesson?

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Instructional Coaching for Principals: Hard Questions, Demanding Work, Big Rewards

by Max Silverman Mar 9, 2012

Oregon high school principal Charles Ransom considered himself an experienced instructional leader – until he started working one-on-one with a coach from the Center for Educational Leadership. “The coach started asking me these very difficult questions: How I was going to make changes, what did I have in mind in working with teachers, how I was going to set up their professional development?”

Having an instructional coach was like having an exercise partner who boots you out of bed and tells you to put on your running shoes, says Ransom, who worked directly with CEL Associate Director Max Silverman. “Early on, I was not clear that, as an instructional leader, I had to get out of the office and walk away from what I perceived as ‘priority emergencies. Max would walk in, ask how a project was going, and if I didn’t know, he’d say, ‘Let’s go see. Let’s go to the classroom.”

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