NY Superintendent Goals for 12-13


Believe it or not, we are into the third year of Race to the Top and the Regents Reform Agenda.  After two years of hearing about, toying with, coming to terms with, and negotiating just about every aspect of how we educate, we're live and online.  All the new initiatives are on the table at this point; it's time to check progress on what we've started or implement the last few things.

New York created a workbook earlier this summer to help guide your work through 2012-2013 and ensure your district is hitting this year's metrics. The workbook is designed for DSs, Network Teams, and you. It includes survey tools for you to measure how ready you are.  You can start with the bullets on pages two and three, and then you can use the planning templates to assist you in creating district plans for implementation. State Ed hasn't left you alone in this process.  They really are supplying what you need to get this work done.

I want to take a couple minutes to go through this year's metrics as described in the workbook.

CCSS Implementation

At this point all ELA and math instruction in grade P-8 should be fully aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  Last year, each grade created two CCSS-aligned units to implement and get a feel for the CCSS.  This year, the NYSTP will reflect these Standards and all curriculum, instruction, and assessment should be fully aligned.

That leaves us with 9-12 ELA, 9-12 Math, and 6-12 Literacy in Social Studies, Science, and Technology. Each of these areas this year should create and implement two CC-aligned units.  Next year (13-14), the entire year should be aligned.

Six Instructional Shifts

Remember, we aren't just changing the content, but how we instruct it as well.  In ELA and Math, your teachers should be adopting the six Instructional Shifts

Look for these when you visit classrooms. Hold your principals accountable for looking for these.  They should show up during the evidence-based observations of performance (EBOP).  For example, if you are using Danielson, the shifts show up in Components 1a: Knowledge of Students and Pedagogy, 1e: Designing Student Assessments, 3b: Using Question and Discussion Techniques, 3c: Engaging Students in Learning, and 4e: Growing and Developing Professionally.

For your principals, if you are using the MPPR, the observation of the shifts in your principal's school will be evident in Domain Two: Culture and Instructional Program.

A word on your EBOP tools. These are coaching tools, not gotcha tools.  Use them to ensure that your district has a high-quality feedback loop.  Are your teachers reporting high-quality feedback from the principals? Are the principals held accountable for supplying high quality feedback?  Are your principals trained to give high-quality feedback and have you ensured inter-rater reliability?

Data-Driven Instruction

Paul Bambrick-Santoyo calls this a "super-lever."  If you have to choose one thing to improve the performance of your students, you should implement DDI.  For great guidance see Driven by Data and his follow up Leverage Leadership.

Let's keep this simple here. With all teachers using pre- and post/summative tests aligned to the NYS/CCS Standards and with all teachers and principals being evaluated on how well their students grow from Point A to Point B, using common, interim, aligned assessments is more important than ever.  The assessments need to be common to keep all parties working at the same level of rigor. They need to be interim so that we all have "dipstick" measures- are we on track for that post/summative?  And, aligned, well, no point giving interims if they aren't dipsticks.


So, are your secondary teachers ready for CC?

What Instructional Shifts are you seeing?

How well does your district use DDI?

Pre-Conference Questions

By using a short set of questions as a launching point for the discussion in your pre-observation conference,  you can really get a great feel for your teacher's planning/Domain One, as well as what you are going to see in Domains Two and Three. Let me take a couple minutes to go through the questions you should be asking and how they relate back to the subcomponents in Danielson. To give credit where credit is due, these questions come courtesy of ASCD iObservation.

A couple notes on the management of these.  They should run between 10 and 30 minutes averaging about 15 minutes tops.  Also, I don't see why some of this (most?) couldn't be done on paper.  If your teacher could answer these questions before you even met with her, that would speed up the actual meeting even more.

So, on to the Pre-Observation Conference...

1.  Briefly describe the students in the class. I know it sounds like a really basic start, but it will let you get at Component 1b.  Let the teacher describe the abilities and special needs of her students.

2. What are your goals/objectives/learning outcomes for your students? How will
You communicate the objective(s) to your students? Remember the important question is not, "What did you teach?" but rather, "What will they learn?"  What is your priority content? What Standards will this lesson address.  This is the teacher's rationale. Posting an Essential Question should ring a bell. This will address 1c.

3. In what ways are the goals/objectives suitable for this group? You can use this question to address to different subcomponents.  Both 1b and 1e are touched on.  Your teacher is not explaining a knowledge of students but should rub up against how this instruction will be design around this particular group.

4. What challenges do students typically experience in this area and how do you plan to anticipate and address these? Again 1b and 1c.

5. What will you do to cognitively engage these students? What will the students be doing? What will you be doing? First let's stress the importance of cognitive engagement. Students who are busy with a worksheet are not necessarily cognitively engaged.  As well, students who are deep into the conversation might be off-topic as well.  You are looking at 1e here and it will give you some insight into what you will observe in Domains Two and Three when you are in the classroom. I also like the 2nd and 3rd questions here.  When you script the observation, you are recording objective evidence. What did the teacher/student do and what did the teacher/student say.

6. How does your grouping support student needs and the desired outcomes for the lesson? This questions hits on 1b and 1e and should reflect what you'll observe in Domains Two and Three.

7. What materials and/or resources will the students be using? Easy enough- 1d.

8. How do you plan to assess student progress toward the objective(s)? What formal/informal procedures will you use? Attach any tests or performance tasks with rubrics and scoring guides. In the DDI era of pre, post, and interim assessments, this is key. No more "teach, test, and hope for the best." You want to see evidence of those dipsticks- the checks along the way.

9. How do you plan to use the results of the assessment? This really goes directly to Domain Three.

10. Is there anything else you would like me to specifically observe during the lesson? 

One small aside: it's worth noting how nicely Domain One hangs together narratively from 1a to 1f.  You have to know your content and then know your students.  Next you have to set your outcomes- what are my goal (UbD anyone?).  Ok, you have your goals, so what resources are at your disposal to accomplish them. With content, students, goals, and resources in mind, what is the instruction going to look like and how will I assess learning?

Three Leadership Learnings

Interview Season is coming to a close in my neck of the woods. Despite the anxiety and hard work that goes into preparing to make that impression that, in turn, lands you a job, there is something genuinely refreshing about the process.  We craft our resumes to give strangers a look into our work.  We write our cover letters to answer the question, "Why do I fit in your organization?"  Answering questions in interviews requires, not only a thorough understanding of your own business, but the ability to think and reflect on your feet. And shouldn't we be able to do all this any way? Explain ourselves and our place? Know, think, reflect?

Near the end of a recent interview, really after the bulk of the "tough stuff," I was asked a great, great question.

"In your time in administration, what three lessons have you taken regarding leadership? What three things have you learned?"

Wow. Excellent.

This is what I told the committee:

First, people can do it.  They are capable. Despite resistance of many kinds, we can all change for the better. The catch is understanding what will motivate.  Does talking about improving student achievement motivate? Does talking about the root of the change- state policy, district planning, etc.- motivate? If a leader knows his people, he should be able to motivate for positive change.

Second, we need to be aware of how much progress our constituents have made. And we need to be aware of how much they even know or understand about our initiatives. It may be that the K-8 staff "gets" using data and has been for years because of the state testing program, but the high school on the other hand doesn't. A one-size-fits-all approach at a faculty meeting isn't going to work.  I'm also  mindful that not all stay as wired as I do- they may have heard one thing from the local paper, one thing from the neighbor-educator, and something else entirely from the faculty room. Don't assume that they have the full story just because you do.

Third, climate is often leader-dependent. Simply put, f the principal mopes around during the annual budget development, the faculty worries.  If the principal is positive and optimistic, the faculty brightens up. As leaders, we need to be conscious of the face we show our people.

So, what do you think? How did I do?  What are your three lessons learned from leadership?

21st Century Skills

I just read a nice post that summarizes the idea of 21st Century Skills nicely.  I think many people automatically think computers when the term is brought up.  This article did a nice job reminding me that there is so much more to the skills than just tech.
21st century skills have been defined in many ways and include the following:
  • critical thinking
  • problem solving
  • collaboration
  • leadership
  • agility and adaptability
  • initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • effective oral and written communication
  • accessing and analyzing information
  • curiosity and imagination
How much of this is embedded in what you already do in the classroom? Where would you do more? Also:
Costa and Kallick have defined 16 habits of mind necessary for success.  These are:
  • persistence and perseverance
  • managing impulsivity and thinking before acting
  • listening with understanding and empathy – being able to perceive another’s point of view
  • thinking flexibly and being able to change perspectives
  • metacognition – being aware of your own thoughts and actions and how they affect others
  • striving for accuracy and precision
  • questioning and problem posing
  • applying past knowledge to novel situations – using what you have learnt
  • thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  • gathering data through all the senses
  • creating, imagining and innovating
  • responding with wonderment and awe
  • taking responsible risks – living on the edge of your competence
  • humor – being able to laugh at yourself 
  • thinking independently and being able to learn from others and work together
  • learning from experience 
Much of that reminds me of the Common Core expectations. It’s worth 5 minutes to read the full post here.

The Effect of Good Teachers

The Effect of Good Teachers

How about this: the effects of a good or excellent teacher include lower teen pregnancy rates, greater college matriculation, and greater lifetime earnings as an adult.
Those facts come from a study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years. I don’t think we can really argue with the sample size.  The study was done by economists from Harvard and Columbia. They find that if an excellent teacher replaces an average teacher anywhere between 4th and 8th grade, the student will earn $4600 more in his or her life and be slightly more likely to attend college.
Modest right? But in a class of 25 students that is $115,000 more in the economy. Multiply that by a 30 year career and you’ve added $3.4 million. And the numbers work from worst to average as well- the same things happen when a poor teacher is removed and an average teacher added. Certainly significant, makes me want to digress to talking about rural teacher recruitment and retention.
So here’s the part that may start debate.  The researchers used “value-added” ratings to separate excellent, average, and poor teachers.  A value-added rating “measures an individual teacher’s impact on student test scores.” Yep, what they are saying is that better teachers lead to higher standardized test scores, which lead to college and earnings. The opposition would tell you that VA scores are unreliable, invalid, and unfair. That it is too difficult to measure the effect of one teacher on a class’s test scores with all the variables needed to be taken into account (poverty, ELL, SwD, maybe even prior teachers, etc.).
But VA scores are coming to NY, they are a part of the new teacher evaluation system. NYC already uses it. Check out the formula:

Crazy, right? So, what are the takeaways? I don’t think any of us doubt a good or excellent teacher has a lasting effect. I wonder if having a string of excellent teachers continues to add to the effects (earnings, college attendance, etc.). I wonder about the emphasis on standardized tests as well, especially in NY. What do you think?
Read more at The New York Times.

Let Them Play

From the “News You Knew” file: Time magazine had a short article on the benefits of letting kids get in an hour of physical activity each day. It’s worth a look: it’s brief, research-based, and it makes sense…
Just a few quotes:
“…the studies showed that the more physical activity the children had, the higher their scores in school, particularly in the basic subjects of math, English and reading.”
“Being more active, says Singh, may improve blood flow to the brain, which provides more oxygen to cells involved in learning and attention. Exercise also boosts levels of certain hormones that can improve mood and fight stress, both of which can also provide a better learning environment for children.”
“Shorter periods of activity that break up the hours-long school day may be just as effective as a single session, and may make it easier to work in physical education into school curricula.”

What Do You Make?

Hey Teachers,
Taylor Mali has the best, most inspiring answer for the question: as a teacher, what do you make?
I hope you all take three minutes to watch it. I found it on Teachingchannel.org (which is linked over there on the right).
Just a little pick-me-up…

Grant Wiggins Takes on VA Measures

A very wonky article, but hugely insightful.  Print it out, take some time with it…

From the Mouths of Babes

This from a 10-year-old:
“…my teacher says that we need to do good on them. She’s nervous about us taking the tests. Now here’s what I think. I am supposed to learn in school, right? But either you are test-taking or you are learning—can’t be doing both at the same time.”
A couple of interesting items from the article:
 The LSAT for Law School admissions takes 2.9 hours plus a 35 minute writing sample.
·        The NYPD Officer Written Exam designed to measure the cognitive ability, observational skills, and mental acuity of applicants to the NYPD takes one hour and 30 minutes to complete.
·        The NCLEX (National Council Licensure EXamination) is an examination for the licensing of registered nurses. Nurses are permitted up to six hours to complete it.
·        The Series 7 exam, which licenses stockbrokers, is a six hour test, too.

Just for Fun: Take a 100-Year Old Test for 8th Graders

This was making the rounds a while back. Perhaps you’ve already seen it.  It’s a test for 8th graders from Bullitt County in Kentucky...from 1912. It’s really worth a look. How well could you do?
To me, the spelling list looks difficult for today’s 8th grade. The arithmetic section looks like mostly real-world problems. Most of the rest- grammar, geography, physiology, civil government, and history- seem pretty low-level knowledge questions. “Name,” “Define,” List” questions abound. I only spot one “Why” question.
So, while the amount of “stuff” to know is great, it’s all Google-able. And really, if it’s Google-able, how much thinking are the  students doing?

Absenteeism Study

Ok, I try not to post raw research.  I know for most people, reading research is like watching paint dry.  However this time there were just too many good nuggets to make my own post out of.  Instead, I’m posting the PowerPoint that goes through point by point.  A lot of it proves what we already assume.
Economically disadvantaged? Probably more frequently absent.
Absent in Kindergarten? Absent at least through 5th grade.
Absent in 5th grade? Absent in 10th grade.
One item I found interesting for our purposes.  The researchers found that chronic absenteeism is higher in rural areas. In urban areas, absenteeism is higher in the upper grades.

ASCD's Emerging Leaders

Each year, ASCD selects a group of educators as Emerging Leaders. I’m honored to have been chosen as a member of the class of 2012.
The Emerging Leaders…
  • Have been in the profession approximately 5–15 years;
  • Demonstrate a passion for teaching, learning, and leadership;
  • Have not previously been involved with ASCD in a leadership capacity;
  • Collectively exhibit a broad range of diversity in position, location, cultural background, and perspective;
  • Hold promise as leaders; and
  • Are committed to ASCD’s beliefs and to pursuing leadership opportunities.
For me, I get to connect with up-and-coming leaders in the field over the next two years, share best practices, learn, and grow. This starts with the Leader to Leader Conference they send me to in July. I may also be paired up with a with a coach or mentor to create and implement a learning and leadership action plan for my two year commitment.
I’d like to congratulate my fellow “classmates” as well.  There are 26 of us from as far away as Hong Kong.


One of the things educators are going to address with Common Core is the new expectations for reading level.  Common Core uses Lexile level  to determine to appropriate grade range for a text.  Lexile, simply put, is a measure of how many syllables you find per number of words and how many words you find per sentence. More syllables and/or more words will generally give you a higher Lexile. Text with lots of dialogue is usually a lower Lexile.   
If you look at Page 8 of Appendix A of the Standards you see this chart:    

You can see that starting in about 4th grade, Lexile level changes significantly and continues through 12th grade.  
How can you find the Lexile of a given text? Here’s one resource: in the upper right is a quick book search. I plugged a couple of books in I used to teach 11th grade with. The Great Gatsby is a 1070L, middle of the road now for 9th-1oth grade CC range.  Same with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest- an 1110L.  
Give it a try. Start thinking about reading materials.

Network Team Site

I wanted to share another site full of good stuff related to our current work.  Our BOCES Network Team has a page set up focusing all Race to the Top.  You can find handouts, short webinars, training updates, and more on DDI, APPR, and Commonn Core.  Ther are also starting to collect best practices from around the area and post them as well.