Instructional Leadership in Action

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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Side by Side: Smart Strategies, Strong Support from Classroom Coaches

by Jennifer McDermott Mar 9, 2012

Learning curves have been steep in Carrie Howell’s classroom – for the students, for the teacher, and for the peers who have come to watch over the years as she worked side-by-side with Center for Educational Leadership coaches, tackling learning problems and trying on new instructional strategies.

“The coaches asked smart questions that pushed my thinking and really helped me to take risks,” says the language arts specialist at The Academy of Citizenship and Empowerment in SeaTac, Washington. “I had always been afraid to try on new things until I had mastered them as a teacher. But here, I had the support of the coaches and of my colleagues in the room and it felt safe to take risks as a teacher.”

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CEL is Partner and 'Critical Friend' to Transforming District

by Stephen Fink Mar 9, 2012

System-wide change in an education system is not easy, and it is not fast. Ginger Shattuck, who worked with the Center for Educational Leadership in a long-term comprehensive partnership aimed at boosting literacy in her underperforming district, describes the transformation as “evolutionary, not revolutionary.”

“We understood from the beginning that there would be no quick fixes, no magic bullets,” says Shattuck, who was superintendent of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District when it signed a multi-year contract with CEL in 2004 aimed at building a new vision, language, and mission for powerful, equitable classroom instruction.

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Anacortes Transforms Teacher Evaluation

by Anneke Markholt Sep 1, 2011

Beyond 'Satisfactory': A Teacher Evaluation Pilot Focused on Professional Growth

Evaluations that tell teachers “You’re OK” or “You’re good enough” say little about actual  classroom practice and provide no targets for professional growth.  But that’s the evaluation system that pervades Washington State education – a system that the Center for Educational Leadership, in partnership with the Anacortes School District, is working hard to overhaul.

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A Constructive Buzz in Louisiana Classrooms

by UWCEL Aug 4, 2009

How to engage the students who hide.

We all know the students who are good at hiding. They’re the ones who cast downward glances when the teacher is looking for someone to call on. They utter as few words as necessary during classroom conversations, and slump in their seats to become part of the desk.  We all know these students–they’re the ones who usually need our support the most. Louisiana leaders and teachers are finding ways to engage these students in purposeful classroom buzz.

For the past three years educators in nine parishes (districts) have been working in collaboration with CEL to increase student engagement—specifically, increasing the number of students who take ownership of their learning through classroom “talk.”  The goal is more than just talk, however.  They want to be sure that student conversation reflects substantive intellectual work. 

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How one district is systemically closing the achievement gap

by UWCEL Mar 1, 2008

What critical elements make a difference? We all know that being an educator today has its share of challenges and responsibilities: ensuring all students achieve at high levels, acquiring the skills and expertise to support 21st century learning, making sure that cows don't collide with departing school buses...Well, most educators don't have to address this last responsibility, unless you're in Prosser, WA - a small town located about 50 miles from Yakima. What’s impressive in this small community is not just how educators handle the cow/bus conundrum, but more importantly how they’ve accomplished what few districts have been able to do.

The scores speak for themselves.  About 70% of the district’s seventh graders in 2007 met or exceeded standard on the WASL reading scores, up from about 50% in 2006.   That would be impressive enough, but what’s really extraordinary is that Prosser has been consistently closing the gap in achievement between Latino and white students in specific content areas. For example, each year since 2004 the achievement gap in the area of reading has been shrinking between these two groups of 7th graders.  In 2004, 28.4% of Latinos met or exceeded standard, compared to 60.2% of whites— a difference of 31.8.  By 2007, that gap had shrunk by half.   Now 62% percent of 7th grade Latino students are meeting or exceeding standard as compared to 77.8% of whites. The same scenario is true for 10th grade WASL writing scores.  The gap has decreased from 25.9 in 2004 to 14.9 in 2007, with 67.6% of Latinos in the district meeting or exceeding expectations, and 82.5% of whites.  As school districts across the nation are looking for ways to decrease the achievement gap that exists in their individual districts, you could ask, so, how did they do it? Considering the dedicated focus of the district for the past seven years, the results aren’t surprising at all.

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CEL Partnership Making Gains for Wyoming Students

by Anneke Markholt Sep 1, 2007

It was during the 2006 Summer Leadership Institute that James Bailey, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction of Uinta County School District #1, became intrigued by the opportunity to partner with CEL.  Now, a year later, the Wyoming school district is celebrating the gains made as a result of its first year of partnership and is ready to begin year two with a continued focus on the mathematics achievement of all students in their diverse community.  

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Working Together to Improve Learning

by Anneke Markholt Jun 1, 2007

Walk into a school district boardroom and you’re likely to find artwork and school projects highlighting student learning.  The boardroom walls of the Marysville School District are similarly plastered with posters and paperwork depicting learning—only this time the names on the papers are those of teachers, principals, and central office staff.   Also displayed is a large sign: “OUR VISION:  Marysville students, families, staff, and community are committed to working together to achieve academic excellence.” That phrase, “committed to working together,” is significant, as this is the same district that a mere three years ago experienced the longest teacher strike in Washington state history—49 days.  Yet today there is no evidence of this past strife in relationships between the teachers’ union and the district management, nor between teachers and administrators.  No one would disagree that the district is in a very different place today.

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