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Leading to Reform: December 9

This Week’s letter highlights working with parents, the growing impact Common Core is having in schools, teacher collaboration and finding the right level of nice. As always, we to an array of columns and pieces spanning the ideological spectrum on leadership and reform.

Parents as Partners – Seek First to Understand, Rather than Be Understood
I hear many suburban school leaders and board members saying that parents are changing. Peter Dewitt writes in Education Week that everyone needs soft skills. I would add common interests – in their student’s learning and having successful schools. Too many adults bring their own, partly right, usually obsolete views to the schoolhouse and then seek first to be understood – and then wonder why things are not going well.

The problem with communication between parents and schools is that every ones enters the school with their own objective. As soon as things do not go well, finger-pointing and conversations ensue in the faculty room between teachers and out in the parking lot between parents. Board members start getting held responsible for every comment and decision they make. Throw in some social networking sites like Facebook, and schools have a major problem on their hands and conversations soon take on a tone that blocks collaboration and common ground.

Schools and the vision forward in education are changing swiftly as our communities shift around the quick sand of life. True leaders understand this and organize around a common goal — what is good for our kids. Parents and communities must unite behind and communicate this shared vision and be guided by that in their decision-making process.

I urge you to check out your local school district. I would wager the later you will find a range of views. In the good schools, the common ground is kids first. In many, including my hometown, it is who is right and why are they so out of touch?

How are parents and school leaders doing in your school or district? Learn More...

Common Core in English – Changing What Kid’s Will Read
As states across the country implement broad changes in curriculum from kindergarten through high school, English teachers worry that they will have to replace the dog-eared novels they love with historical documents and nonfiction texts as the common core standards change English Calls

The Common Core State Standards in English, which have been adopted in 46 states and the District, call for public schools to ramp up nonfiction so that by 12th grade students will be reading mostly “informational text” instead of fictional literature. But as teachers excise poetry and classic works of fiction from their classrooms, those who designed the guidelines say it appears that educators have misunderstood them.

The new standards, which are slowly rolling out now and will be in place by 2014, require that nonfiction texts represent 50 percent of reading assignments in elementary schools, and the requirement grows to 70 percent by grade 12. Some school boards are balking at these changes, applying the age old adage of what I learned is good enough for the kids we are preparing for the 21st century. Teacher leaders are obviously way past the views date school boards members using their own education as the benchmark of excellence.

Among the suggested non­fiction pieces for high school juniors and seniors are Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” “FedViews,” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (2009) and “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” published by the General Services Administration.

Teacher leaders in a highly regarded Midwestern high school in Greendale, WI points out that so many are focusing on the informational text part of the CCSS.

According to Jenny Hussa, common core will require schools to make choices about the texts they’re teaching and to look at cross curricular work. At her school unprecedented work is happening between English and Social studies faculty. At the same time, these same teacher leaders are looking past the traditional English curriculum to read and work with materials from beyond USA.

What do your English teacher’s think and if they are getting results with students, should they have to change?

Teacher Collaboration: The Essential Common Core Ingredient
Vicki Phillips posted on Impatient Optimists recently about collaboration and the Common Core. Nearly every state and Washington, D.C., adopted the Common Core State Standards over the past two years, but the real challenge is just beginning. Helping all students meet these new college- and career-ready expectations will require new resources, tools and supports for teachers.

a recent Education Week commentary, Teacher Collaboration: The Essential Ingredient, co-authored with Robert Hughes, president of New Visions for Public Schools, we explore the exciting work underway through the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) and Mathematics Design Collaborative (MDC). This work is redefining how teachers can work together to share best practices and shift instruction to improve student learning.

Teacher Leaders: Take a look and tell us about your experiences with the Common Core.

Stop Being So Nice
"Being liked is overrated," writes Jessica Valenti in The Nation.

Valenti, the founder of the
blog Feministing is primarily writing about women — for whom likability is negatively correlated with success — but her advice is useful for leaders out there, too.

When we adjust our behavior to be more likable — withholding our most deeply held opinions so as not to offend, agonizing over every bit of negative feedback, eventually "tempering our thoughts" as well as our words — we stunt our selves, our careers, our impact in the world. "The truth is that we don’t need everyone to like us," she writes, "We need a few people to love us."

I will give Valenti the last word: "Yes, the more successful you are — or the stronger, the more opinionated — the less you will be generally liked. All of a sudden people will think you’re too 'braggy,' too loud, too something. But the trade off is undoubtedly worth it. Getting results and authenticity are worth it." Learn More...

Articles for the Week:

“Leadership is taking people forward, where they likely don't want to go and as they get there, realize it is the place they need to be.” --WHH

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