Instructional Leadership in Action

Common Core: An Obituary

by Stephen Fink Feb 2, 2016

When the scathing opinion pieces started rolling in, and the angry protest signs went up, Common Core, at first, couldn’t understand the fuss. Why should kids not achieve at higher levels? And who could deny the fact that the previous system of 50 different standards for what students should learn in school left many kids behind and put the United States on rank 35 (out of 57) in mathematics in the 2006 PISA tests?

Used to being an applause line in speeches, Common Core now found itself at the end of angry complaints and partisan sniping. Something had changed — and the life of Common Core was never going to be the same again.

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Celebrating 15 Years of Making Great Teachers, Principals and District Leaders

by UWCEL Jan 4, 2016

In 2016 the Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) celebrates another milestone — our 15th anniversary. Founded in 2001 as a nonprofit service arm of the University of Washington College of Education, we continue to be dedicated to eliminating the achievement gap that divides our nation’s children along the lines of race, class, language and disability.

To mark the occasion and take a moment to look back, we worked with graphic artist (and teacher) Taryl Hansen to create a visual overview of CEL's last 15 years (see image above). 

Explore the graphic and watch a short video slideshow

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Our 5 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2015

by UWCEL Dec 30, 2015

As we gather the files and clean up the hard drive for 2015, we like to take a moment and look back on what topics we tackled on this blog and what our readers found most interesting and valuable for their practice.

One of our top priorities at the Center for Educational Leadership is to help district leaders, principals and teachers improve instruction in every classroom. Drawn from our experiences in the field, we hope these posts (along with our tools and services) give educators the knowledge and motivation to grow their practice and help all students succeed.

So, without further ado, here are our top five most popular blog posts for 2015 (click on each title to view the post):

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One Key Ingredient For Successful Content Area PD: Include Instructional Leaders

by Joanna Michelson Nov 30, 2015

It’s a familiar professional development experience for many educators: Seven middle school math teachers gather around student work and content area standards in preparation to observe an experienced consultant teach a group of eighth graders how to talk about their own learning, which today includes how to graph on a coordinate plane.

The teachers are eager to hear their students talk about their learning in the classroom. They are also eager to try out some different instructional strategies to support math discourse. By the end of the day, they leave the session excited to take their learning back to their classrooms.

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3 Important Ways to Connect Teaching Practice to Student Learning

by Jennifer McDermott Oct 13, 2015

Raise your hand if you think you’re keeping students at the center of your work.

We all do. It’s why many of us went into education and it’s what motivates us to do the best we can every day. In my 23 years as a teacher, instructional coach and educational consultant, I have not met an educator who didn’t want their work to ultimately help students.

Unfortunately, we often lose sight of the student. Caught up in our day-to-day work, we assume that programs, initiatives and curriculum will result in student learning, but that is not always true. Sometimes we get so focused on implementation that we forget to see if the result is helping our students learn.

How does this happen? Let’s look at an example.

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The Problem With Opt-outs (And How to Move Forward)

by Stephen Fink Sep 24, 2015

This year, one in five New York state students in grades three through eight did not take the state’s standardized test. In Washington state 53 percent of 11th-graders opted out of the new Smarter Balanced Common Core exams. If this trend continues — and the coming election year will certainly fuel the fire around Common Core and testing — the future of recent school reforms will be called into question.

As much as I can understand some of the motivations behind opting out of standardized tests, I think it complicates the goal of helping all students to achieve at higher levels and close long standing academic achievement gaps.

So how did we get here and what can we do to lower the pressure around the issue and focus on improving student learning?

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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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It’s Time To End Principal Licensing in Favor of Real Accountability

by Stephen Fink Sep 1, 2015

It is no secret that the role of principal has changed fundamentally over the past 15 years. Gone is the idea of the principal as building manager and disciplinarian. Today’s successful principal is also a public relations professional, curriculum expert, data specialist and — most importantly — an instructional leader.

Despite all these new responsibilities and becoming a central figure in our nation’s continued effort to improve teaching and learning, one thing has not changed: how principals are deemed qualified and ready to fill this important role.

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