Effective Principal Practices in Action


In 2013, The Wallace Foundation identified, based on a decade of research, five practices principals can use to guide their schools to better teaching and learning. WNET, New York City’s PBS affiliate, has just released a series of five videos that bring these practices to life by showing how successful principals put them to work day to day.

The videos include interviews with principals and their staff members from schools in Florida, Georgia, Maryland and New York. They show, among other things, how these principals work to engage students and their parents, nurture teacher leaders, instill a culture of learning and delegate authority to make time for instruction. Accompanying the videos are discussion questions to help principals interested in replicating such efforts in their own schools.

Click here to see the videos: http://www.wallacefoundation.org/view-latest-news/events-and-presentations/Pages/School-Leadership-in-Action-Principal-Practices.aspx

Click to find The School Principal as Leader, a report that describes the five practices featured in the videos: http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/school-leadership/effective-principal-leadership/Pages/The-School-Principal-as-Leader-Guiding-Schools-to-Better-Teaching-and-Learning.aspx



Are Higher Ed Students getting “The Big 6”?

gallupJust 3% of all college graduates in a recent Gallup-Purdue University study say they had all six of the experiences — “The Big 6″ — that have been shown to prepare students well for life and increase chances of on-time graduation. Together, and individually, the Gallup-Purdue Index finds these six experiences have a stronger relationship to long-term life outcomes such as employee engagement and well-being than the type of school these graduates attended (for example, public or private).

Following are “The Big 6” and the percentage of students in the poll who said they had those experiences in college:

63%  I had at least one professor at [College] who made me excited about learning.

27%  My professors at [College] cared about me as a person.

22%  I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.

32%  I worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete.

29%  I had an internship or job that allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom.

20%  I was extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations while I attended [College].

For more information, please visit:



American Opinion on Educational Standards

leadership-logoThe Leadership Conference Education Fund, Hager Sharp Inc., and ORC International have collaborated to conduct a national survey among U.S. adults about their awareness, knowledge and attitudes regarding standards in public K-12 education. The survey broadly explores their expectations of public education and also includes questions pertaining specifically to the Common Core State Standards. The research team oversampled among African Americans and Hispanic Americans to ensure representation and adequate statistical power for the analysis. They also conducted the survey in three states—Georgia, Colorado and Tennessee —to guide state-specific messaging and communication efforts pertaining to the Common Core.

Following is a short summary of the results:

-Nearly all American adults (97 percent) believe students need to be able to think critically and apply skills to the “real world” to be successful after high school.

-Nearly all (92 percent) believe schools must rise to meet the expectations of colleges and employers.

-Most (85 percent) also believe the U.S. needs consistent standards to help ensure higher expectations for students.

-Nearly three-quarters of American adults (71 percent) believe expectations in U.S. schools are too low, and half believe U.S. schools are not being held accountable specifically for the performance of students of color.

-Moreover, only 47 percent of American adults believe U.S. schools do a good job of providing a well-rounded education to every student.

-There is strong support (82 percent) for “a wholesale transformation of our education system” to ensure “long-term economic security.”

Americans are divided on two issues in education:

-Half believe there is too much testing in schools.

-Nearly half (46 percent) believe the federal government should not have a role in education.

Despite the anti-federal sentiment among 46 percent of American adults, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) believe all states should have the same standards at each grade level in math and English so students have to meet the same expectations no matter where they live. Moreover, nearly all American adults (92 percent) believe “where a family lives, how much money they make, or their race or ethnicity should not determine the quality of the education that a child receives.”

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Employer Perspectives on Competency-based Education

AEICompetency-based education (CBE) programs are growing in popularity as an alternative path to a postsecondary degree. Freed from the seat-time constraints of traditional higher education programs, CBE students can progress at their own pace and complete their postsecondary education having gained relevant and demonstrable skills. The CBE model has proven particularly attractive for nontraditional students juggling work and family commitments that make conventional higher education class schedules unrealistic. But the long-term viability of CBE programs hinges on the credibility of these programs’ credentials in the eyes of employers. That credibility, in turn, depends on the quality of the assessments CBE programs use to decide who earns a credential.

A new report by Katie Larsen McClarty and Matthew N. Gaertner of AEI addresses these concerns. Following are the key points from the report:


— Employers’ overall awareness of competency-based education (CBE) is low, but the small minority of hiring managers already aware of CBE have a favorable view of the model.

— CBE programs generally employ student-centric marketing efforts, as opposed to employer-centric marketing messages, which may help explain the low levels of employer awareness.

— Employers rooted in traditional hiring approaches express significant misgivings that targeted skill-building approaches (as in CBE) may come at the expense of more general skills. Still, two-thirds of employers think that they could be doing better at identifying students with the skill set required for each job.

— Institutions offering CBE programs should partner closely with employers to help students attain the general and specific skills they need to succeed in the labor market in a cost effective way.

To read the report:



College Preparedness Over the Years, via NAEP

NAEP-1A recent Fordham Institute study is out with a new analysis of NAEP data showing that the percentage of college-ready high school seniors has been flat for 20 years.

This is particularly disheartening given the importance placed on college readiness today. Even with flat results, there is an increasing “college preparation gap.” Following is an excerpt from the article:

To repeat: The “college preparation gap” is larger now than in 1992 even though the college preparedness rate has remained relatively flat, due to the fact that the proportion of recent high school graduates enrolling in college rose sharply between 1994 and 2009—from 61 percent to 70 percent—before easing back down to 66 percent in 2013.

So, in other words, while the college readiness rate has remained the same over 20 years, this is more worrying because the percentage of students attending college has gone up over those same 20 years.

One caveat to keep in mind about the NAEP statistics is that they are based on a no-stakes test given to high school seniors.

For more information, please visit: http://edexcellence.net/articles/college-preparedness-over-the-years-according-to-naep


Business Leaders Endorse Rigorous Academic Standards in New Videos

CED logoThe Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board (CED) unveiled a video series that features business and education leaders discussing why college- and career-ready standards benefit students and employers. The series consists of three videos and is part of the nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization’s work to support the implementation of high-quality K-12 standards and education systems across the country.

Each video features themes associated with the need for, and implications of, a high-quality education system:

For more information, please visit:




Why Is Achievement Rising in Some Countries, Going Down in Others?

TOP-Performers-with-opinion-slugMarc Tucker of the Top Performers blog for Education Week has a new piece discussing the important research of Australian Geoff Masters. Masters argues that an important way to study the success of education reforms is to take into account which countries have had sustained educational success, with the thought that culture plays a key part in ongoing achievement. Not all countries should just do what those countries do, because changing culture takes a long time. Rather, Masters wants to look at those countries that have made educational reforms that have brought improvement in a shorter amount of time, which would suggest that those changes are not a part of deeply ingrained educational culture and are more easily attainable.

Following is an excerpt:

Geoff Masters, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council for Educational Research, is one of the treasures of Australia.  Not just my opinion.  He holds the Medal of the Order of Australia, the highest honor the Australian government can bestow on its citizens.  He’s written a paper you need to read, with the innocuous title “Is School Reform Working?”

In it, Masters makes the point that countries that have long been top performers may have that status for reasons-mostly cultural-not directly related to their education policies and practices.  So, to determine which policies and practices work best, he looks first at countries that have been doing well and improving rapidly, on the assumption that cultures do not change very quickly, so it is more likely that education policies and practices are responsible for the high performance.  Then he looked for systematic differences in policies and practices between these improving countries with others in which student performance has been relatively poor and either holding steady or declining.

Masters observes some common themes among the countries in which average student performance and equity were improving: “[R]eform efforts tend to have been focused first on building the capacity of school leaders and classroom teachers to deliver high quality teaching and learning, and on ensuring that excellent teaching and leadership are distributed throughout the school system.”  He also notes that top performers have emphasized the training of teachers to “undertake systematic research into their own teaching,” another mark of an effort to professionalize the occupation of teaching.  He observes that “[a]nother feature of high-performing systems is that they have put in place system-wide processes to identify students who are falling behind and to intervene quickly to put students back on track…These countries set high expectations for every student’s learning…[and] appreciate the importance of effective system and school leadership.”  He makes a particular point of the importance of making sure “that performance improves across the entire education system.”  And they do this, he says, in part by making sure that resources are equitably distributed across all schools.

Read the report here: http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=policyinsights

Read the full blog here:



The Importance of Social and Emotional Skills for Student Learning

gtl-logoMuch has been made in recent years about the importance of “grit” for student success and achievement. Grit has been a term that broadly includes such concepts as persistence, perseverance, and ability to overcome challenges. A new Policy Snapshot from GTL sheds light on how students can come by this crucial trait.

Employers and colleges want candidates who are motivated and adaptable, are able to work well in teams and communicate effectively, have strong work ethics, have solid interpersonal skills, and are strategic in their planning skills. In short, students need social and emotional skills to prepare them for work and for life.

The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders has released a new Policy Snapshot, Social and Emotional Skills for Life and Career: Policy Levers that Focus on the Whole Child (February 2015). It provides a summary of existing research about the effects of education on students’ social and emotional skills. The brief identifies important state and district policy considerations for initiating and integrating SEL, as well as for supporting and developing teachers and administrators to focus on the whole child.

For more information, please visit:


Wired: Let Big Data Do Its Job in Education

smarter-balanced-and-PARCCA new article by Jason Tanz for Wired Magazine makes the argument that big data already reigns supreme, and for the most part helps us, in our lives, so why shouldn’t it do the same in education? Tanz understands that there are legitimate concerns from parents and education leaders about the role of large-scale standardized assessments in education, but he argues that these yearly assessments like PARCC are only annual checkups, and what we really need is seamlessly and continuously integrated formative assessments that will provide many more data points. By making assessment more of a constant part of the education process, we can see the benefits of assessment and data, such as real time feedback that allows for continuous monitoring and intervention.

Following is an excerpt from the article:

But ultimately, the solution isn’t to rely less on data. It’s to rely on more of it. Imagine if the process of data collection weren’t decoupled from the act of learning—if tracking and measurement were a natural part of the learning process, rather than an artificial adjunct tacked on at the end of the year. Imagine if every learning activity were automatically recorded—each homework assignment, class discussion, group project. Over time, all those points would come together to paint a full picture of a student’s intellectual life. Because that picture would be composed of so many data points, no one set would have outsized influence. And because it would be a record of actual learning, as it happens, it wouldn’t be as gameable with fancy test prep. Parents wouldn’t have to worry that their kid would be penalized because they couldn’t sleep the night before the big test. And there wouldn’t be teaching to the test, because the teaching would be the test.

For more information, please visit: http://www.wired.com/2015/03/standardized-tests-suck-fix-data-not-less/


School Design that Works

ers_logo-2Education Resource Strategies (ERS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming how urban school systems organize resources—people, time, technology, and money—so that every school succeeds for every student.

Following are three of their new publications that focus on improvements at the school level:

Designing Schools That Work:  Organizing Resources Strategically for Student Success

Building off The Strategic School by Karen Hawley Miles and Stephen Frank, this new guide presents 12 principles of strategic school design and several portraits of schools putting them into action. For example, you can learn about strategies to build or improve:

  • Teacher teaming
  • Personal relationships and school culture
  • Targeted and dynamic learning resources

For more information, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/p4vqghv

School Check: A Tool for School Leaders

This quick self-assessment tool allows school leaders to begin planning strategically by doing a “healthy school check-up” and asking, “Where am I using my resources strategically, and where am I not? Where should I consider increasing investment or reducing spending?” An entire leadership team can take School Check and compare results.

For more information, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/noupd6t

School Scheduling Tools

These templates allow school leaders to create their new master schedule with the principles of strategic school design in mind. It also includes pre- and post- scheduling questions to ensure that your schedule meets your school’s needs and vision.

For more information, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/qz9zzzb