Monday, May 3, 2010

Support Criteria

Would you take psychiatry advice from a trained & certified psychiatrist who has not treated patients for over 10 years?

Would you take medical advice from a trained & certified doctor who has not treated patients for over 10 years?

Would you take automobile maintenance advice from a trained & certified auto mechanic who has not fixed a car in 10 years?

Would you take educational advice from a trained & certified educator who has not working in a classroom in 10 years?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Assessment and Accountability

When entering the emergency room there is an expectation that regardless of the doctor that takes your case you will be serviced with the same high quality of care. Either Doctor Alpha, Doctor Beta, Doctor Gamma, Doctor Delta, or Doctor Epsilon will provide you will the necessary treatment in the best of his/her ability. You have an expectation that regardless of the luck of the rotation or scheduling these doctors share the same knowledge, skills, attitudes, aspirations, and behaviors that will eventually lead you back to health.

When entering Best Buy to purchase a new high definition television there is an expectation that regardless of who approaches you first that you will be serviced by someone with expert knowledge of video format, field rates, screen resolution, pixels, and aspect ratio. There is an expectation that you will be provided be quality service that will lead you to make a purchase with any sense of buyer’s remorse.

As a parent when dropping of your daughter or son on the first day of school there is an expectation that the teacher assigned to teach have the same knowledge, skills, attitudes, aspirations, and behaviors with the other teachers at the school. As a parent it should not matter who is assigned to teach your daughter or son for you are confident that the areas of content knowledge, classroom management, assessment, technology, critical thinking, communication, and ethics are consistent with every member of the school. As a parent who believes of such equity, one will not discriminate or judge for he or she believes that teachers are professionals.

As a patient, consumer, parent, or this your reality?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Undercover Boss

My jury is still out when it comes to reality programming. It’s the reality part that I find disturbing, just how real is 38 minutes of programming extracted from 100 hours of recorded footage? Yet I like the message of Undercover Boss, a CEO goes undercover in his/her own organization to work the front line to determine areas of success and areas that need improvement. While I manage to sit through the extended commercial and contrived drama I am moved by the thought of reducing the distance between the white collar and blue collar workers regardless if this undercover job is driven by a renewed moral compass or a marketing ploy.

The issues of accountability are often discussed yet practices rarely reach fruition of change. I wonder if the undercover process will lead to the end. Would this model work in our school systems? Should a Superintendent teach for a week? Work in the cafeteria? Drive a school bus? Okay…well maybe not a school bus.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Leaving for a Payoff

While sitting through a focus group regarding salary for educators I found my mind wandering toward the similarities and differences with the pro sports industry and Florida’s A+ incentive pay.

When it comes to team sports pro athletes play each game to add another victory to the win column, each providing a closer step to the playoffs and a championship. Prestige follows each success as well as monetary incentives; both welcomed yet only one pays the bills, provides for the family, and secures a comfortable retirement. A successful team reaches the championship, that being the case, how does the attitude and aspirations change of the individual Superstar who year after year performs at an exceptional level yet fails to make the championship or the playoffs? In order to achieve the incentive pay, does the Superstar stay with the team and provide leadership and support to move the team closer to the championship or does the Superstar leave the team to join a franchise with similar Superstars? Is earning base salary enough or is that bonus necessary to make ends meet?

In order to achieve the Florida A+ incentives, does the successful educator stay with the school and provide leadership and support to move the faculty closer to the vision and mission (and test scores)or does the successful educator leave the team to join a school with similar successful educators? Is earning base salary enough or is that bonus necessary to make ends meet? In isolation does the Florida A+ plan place successful educators in a position to consider transferring to a school with other successful educators?

I do realize that the comparison to sports is quite complex and involves more than what I discuss here. Let me know if you care to engage in conversations on tax base, salary caps, team ownership, bond issues, Pay for Performance or the hundreds of other variable that comprise the system of sports or education.

Just to throw this out there…is it the successful team that reaches the championship or the wealthy team?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Teaching on Scrubs

The unexpected return of Scrubs on ABC (yeah who knew) brought our doctors into a new yet familiar environment. The past few years provided a glimpse of Newbies developing into accomplished doctors; this season takes the staff into the new role of teachers at a med school. Before the first day is over JD is already questioning his ability to connect to his students. Perhaps his reflective nature is his strength that has carried him though his career and eventually brought him to the role as an educator. Then again, I am starting to wonder why he chose to be a teacher. Did an experience in his role as a med student prompt his decision?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Principal made my day

Last week I taught OES children how to use Microsoft Word and Wordle. At the end of the week I recorded a few of their comments on the process and published them to our school's audio podcast. My principal was received the following message. Speaks for itself... and made my day.

Principal Reardon,
Greeting from Jacksonville, NC. I just wanted to send a word of praise for your Twitter site and a podcast I just listened to regarding It looks like you and your students are really taking a 21st century approach to education.

Christopher M. Barnes, Principal
Morton Elementary School

Listen to the podcast @

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Data for direction

The Dolphins’ 31-27 win adds another digit in the W column making the Week 5 benchmark at 2-3. As a coach, where do you from here? Data driven decisions are important, yet which data actually can lead to an improvement plan? Especially when coming off a win, it is important to escape the feeling of “it’s not broke, so why fix?” While numbers are everywhere, 2-3 or 31-27 hardly provides the direction we need for improvement.

To give you an idea of the range of data, below is a smidgen published by the Sun-Sentinel; these indicators provide the surface view. Just how much depth can you go? For the football coach each indicator is just the start of the conversation, hopefully leading to an action for improvement.

As a teacher looking at student work, completing the assignment might just give you the Win-Loss assessment, but where do you for depth? What data actually aids in changing instruction? Take a closer look.

Total first downs by rushing
Total first downs by passing
Total first downs by penalty
Third down efficiency
Fourth down efficiency
Total net yards
Total offensive plays
Average gain per offensive play
Net yards rushing
Total rushing plays
Average gain per rushing play
Net yards passing
Times thrown - yards lost attempting to pass
Gross yards passing
Pass attempts-completions-had intercepted
Average gain per pass play (inc. # thrown passing)
Punts number and average
Net punting average
Total return yardage (not including kickoffs)
Yards punt returns
Yards kickoff returns
Yards interception returns
Penalties number and yards
Fumbles number and lost
Touchdowns rushing/passing
Extra points made-attempts
Field goals made-attempts
Time of possession

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Team Leader

For just over a year the team turned to Chad Pennington as their quarterback and as the team leader. Now with an injury ending Pennington’s season and possibly his career, Chad Henne stepped in to the role of Dolphins’ new quarterback. The key to the team’s success over the Bills has two distinct parts: 1) the comfort that Henne showed behind center and 2) the performance of the rest of the team.

Before being asked to lead the team, he was provided a year to learn, to practice, to fail and to succeed. Even though Henne was forced to start his season ahead of schedule, his role of understudy behind Pennington showed his patience on the field and smart decisions at the line. As the new leader emerged his team stepped up their game and had his back. What we learned here is that developing talent is a process not an event.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Team member in need

The agents of the NCIS team wake up every day to go to work. A task that hundreds, thousands, millions do each day. While the nature of their job places them at risk, how many employees would sacrifice their life for a team member? For us it’s only a question of student coverage; a far stretch from a life threatening circumstance. In this year’s season premier of NCIS we saw something different.

Each week we get a glimpse on how Special Agent Gibbs develops his team, some weeks are better than others. When Ziva’s behaviors did not match up, Tony pushed for assistance. The catalyst for her support did not come from the top, it came from a co-worker. This makes me wonder if this was the barometer that Special Agent Gibbs was looking for. What exactly do school leaders look for with their team when a teacher is in need? Who is there to assist? Who will step out of the comfort zone? Gibbs creates a culture of trust and dependence. If you don’t know where to begin that’s a start.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Transition

What started as a “Promise” to his teammates to step up his own game, Tim Tebow’s commitment to his teammates and fans has created a culture of high expectations. During the first minutes of the game, the ESPN announcers commented on the attitude of the younger players. ”The wide receivers are sick and tired if being referred to as the team’s big “?”. They are looking to step up and show that they are ready to fill in the vacant positions.”

After the loss to Ole Miss, the focus was certainly on Tebow, now it is time to turn the attention to the team. A point of view that I am sure Gainesville’s Superman would appreciate.

As much as we want to see Tebow for 60 minutes each Saturday, the less we see him equals additional “practice” time for our second, third and fourth stringers. While their Moms and Dads are thrilled to see their babies on the field, the coaches and the fans are getting a sneak peak at the future of this team. The opportunity to play the bench and place these players in high stress situations where their failure on the field can only lead to growth, well…one thought does come to mind… Induction, nothing beats growing your own.

Makes me wonder how school leaders develop their "players".

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Measuring Performance

Tonight’s episode of Chef Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen provided an example of assessment and evaluation based on multiple sources of performance data. While two teams competed to complete a dinner service, the Red Team celebrated the win prematurely believing that serving their last ticket first guaranteed victory. All through service the language coming from both kitchens focused on speed and completion while omitting anything related to quality. Well, Ramsay was the only Chef who addressed high expectations. The Blue Team deflated when they heard that the Red Team sent up their last table, yet frowns turned into possibilities as soon as Ramsay mentioned two words…Comment Cards.

The Blue Team while finishing second in the delivery of service had an 83% positive review rate compared to the Red Team’s 81%. Chef Ramsay declared the Blue Team the victor leaving many Chefs realizing that finishing first is not always the best. The competition blinded why these Chefs were even in the kitchen; their purpose is to provide the customer with an excellent dining experience not to beat the other team. They never realized that by focusing on the customer’s needs the victory will always be in reach. I can imagine that during the next competition aspirations will now include quality and thinking about the clients experience then just on beating the other team.

This reminds me of the difference between teaching and learning, one focuses on the teacher while the other on the student. I wonder how many wait to realize that both are important for winning.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Developing Talent

The wrestling business knows how to develop talent.

Growing up I watched World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for mindless pleasure in the back and forth battles between good and evil wrestlers. Now my interest is with the backstage news and politics that developed talent that transformed a local promotion into a global business.

As reported from Ewrestling News the experienced wrestlers (Edge, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio) are working really hard with the newbies in the business (John Morrison, Dolph Ziggler, Mike Knox). These newbies are being viewed as potential Superstars a change “to the veteran mentality in the past where the opinion of newer talent was that they haven't paid their dues or are missing something important to become a star.”

The relationship between the two groups is grounded in the common goal to provide the customers with a quality product. The mentoring relationship is critical to this success and that of each individual and of the organization. What drives the Superstar to mentor is the recognition of being a locker room leader and is rewarded with television airtime and pay per view opportunities. What is unique in WWE is that worth ethic is evaluated by how well you make your opponent look good during a performance. Can you imagine if our educators were evaluated with the same criteria? This connection will have me looking for similar relationships with our classroom teachers. Just what is the veteran mentality? What will inspire competent and qualified teachers to mentor? Are new educators viewed as potential superstars? Does the success of the team outweigh the success of the individual?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Team Leadership

While there might be no I in Team, is there a need for a leader?

While watching Kevin Costner’s “For Love of the Game” I am reminded how the accomplishment of an individual brings out the best of the team and helps define the role and responsibility of leadership. As pitcher Billy Chapel is second guessing his ability to accomplish the Holy Grail of pitching, a No-Hitter, his catcher Gus reassures him that he has the support of the team.

Gus Sinki offers comfort with the following, “The boys are all here for ya, we'll back you up, we'll be there, cause, Billy, we don't stink right now. We're the best team in baseball, right now, right this minute, because of you. You're the reason. We're not gonna screw that up, we're gonna be awesome for you right now. Just throw.” While the outcome of this game was determined by a screenwriter, there have been moments where the success of the leader brings out the success of the team.

I am starting to believe that there is a time and place that a leader will emerge and help set the vision and pace for success. So which came first…the identification of the leader or success defining leadership?


Monday, June 8, 2009

Proactive Thinking- Maintaining Institutional Memory

What happens when you prepare a replacement? If change is inevitable proactive thinking protects the bottom line.

Last Monday there was a change of guard at NBC’s flagship late night show, The Tonight Show. While at a ratings high Jay Leno was replaced by Conan O’Brian. This move follows NBC’s belief on investing into the future and preparing a replacement; NBC executives announced the formal transition process back in September 2004. While Monday might have been Conan’s first time at the 10:30 time slot, he has been preparing for this position since 1993 at the 12:30 time period. After a week on the air, The Live Feed, an entertainment news site reports “the first week of O'Brien's "Tonight" has averaged a 4.7 rating in the summer -- 21% higher than Jay Leno's second quarter average with the show.”

For television networks, ratings are the bottom line while schools look at student achievement. Since change is inevitable the Florida Association For Staff Development addresses how proactive thinking will protect the school’s bottom line. An example is provided in the article, The Role of Staff development in Creating and Maintaining Institutional Memory, “If you agree schools are in fact experiencing a steady loss of knowledge, we propose a parallel, complementary, cost efficient enhancement of staff development’s primary role. It is suggested staff development purposely establish processes and strategies to capture knowledge from teachers prior to their leaving our schools. Significant improvements in individual and school performance can be made by capturing and sharing knowledge and expert skills acquired from our most competent teachers. Staff development research has shown teacher improvement is better accomplished by working with teachers within the school as opposed to going outside the schools calling on outsiders who come in, deliver a workshop and disappear.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sharing a Worst Practice

Sharing a Worst Practice for the sake of improvement.

Critics of sharing Best Practices argue that the lack of result data defeats the concept of a Best Practice. For the most part changing input behavior does not constitute improvement. Is it possible that sharing Worst Practices is a solution to identifying strategies for improvement? At least by sharing what did not work includes results data, granted not desired results, yet results.

I can reflect on activities this past year that failed, yet even though they fall short of being identified as a Best Practice, there is a need to share what did not work. Our Teacher Leadership design that involved a professional learning community with teachers from across the district failed to materialize. Analysis of the design, participant work, and interviews identified what to do differently to increase desired results. If offered again we would need to identify if participants are geographically undesirable and provide a plan for collaboration. My Worst Practice is not providing a structure during the course for participants to develop a plan to work together.

Inspired by Chris Blatman, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Economics at Yale University (

A response to Chris can be found at Why Not Share Your Worst Practices?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Conflicting Systems

A school has multiple systems serving children; it can be frustrating when good intentions prevent success.

To understand how organizational systems can work together to achieve a common goal, just watch an episode of Law and Order. To understand how dysfunctional systems can prevent a common goal, just watch an episode of Law and Order SVU. Have you ever noticed that the breakdown occurs when members of the organization make people-centered decisions? As much as I admire Detective Stabler and Detective Benson’s passion for the job, I want to scream every time they bend the rules for justice. People centered decisions has an impact on how systems work. Why don’t they see beyond the arrest and realize they are making it difficult for the District Attorney to make a case? Even with good intentions, desired outcomes only occur when both groups of individuals adhere to the norms of the system.

Preparing for next year

Another story about preparing your replacement.

The continued transition of quarterbacks was evident during this year’s traditional Orange and Blue Spring game. Ever since Tim Tebow grabbed John Brantley to join him in a victory lap around Florida Field the future of the Gators has always been peeking around the corner. As much as it pains the Gator Nation to accept that this is Tim’s last year, the process for preparing for the future has been as important as preparing for the next game. Last year we might have seen Brantley late in the fourth quarter cleaning up the carnage left by Florida’s players, however just as we were introduced to Tim during the Chris Leak reign this is the year to welcome John into the position. John placed an exclamation point at the Orange and Blue game by throwing for 265 yards with three touchdown passes and two rushing scores.

Coach Meyer and Tim are making decisions based on what is best for the organization. Can the same case be made for your leaders?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Planning in advance?

The distance between where you are and where you want to be can have an infinite amount of points in-between. Where should we identify the focus of planning?

I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time contemplating the relationship between planning and reaching goals. My obsession started with the excessive “coach speak” during the NCAA football season. While each coach had aspirations and goals to improve their rankings and receive a bowl berth, they effective coaches maintained their immediate focus not on the future in January, but on the next game. So I began to wonder, when it comes to planning how close to the point of action is necessary for success? Or was my question, does planning too far in advance increase your chances on missing your goals. I wasn’t sure, but I do know that the successful coaches didn’t prepare for the games two weeks away but planned for the next week. Yet is that close enough? Did they plan for each day of the week? Perhaps after the Saturday game and watching the game film, they planned for Sunday, and took each day one day at a time.

What are the aspirations and goals of our School Liaisons and Instructional Coaches?
I am curious to know how their planning is approached.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Systems Thinking

A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, and interdependent components that form a complex and unified whole. As you read the definition what connections do you make to your role of developing teachers?

"Systems thinking is a perspective because it helps us see the events and patterns in our lives in a new light—and respond to them in higher leverage ways. For example, suppose a fire breaks out in your town. This is an event. If you respond to it simply by putting the fire out, you're reacting. (That is, you have done nothing to prevent new fires.)

If you respond by putting out the fire and studying where fires tend to break out in your town, you'd be paying attention to patterns. For example, you might notice that certain neighborhoods seem to suffer more fires than others. If you locate more fire stations in those areas, you're adapting. (You still haven't done anything to prevent new fires.)

Now suppose you look for the systems—such as smoke-detector distribution and building materials used—that influence the patterns of neighborhood-fire outbreaks. If you build new fire-alarm systems and establish fire and safety codes, you're creating change. Finally, you're doing something to prevent new fires!"

Source: About Systems Thinking. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2009, from

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Focus on improvement before the win

When inducting new football players to the team there are practical tips that I believe can be easily transferred to our work. Since new players are expected to perform with the same results as their veteran teammates here are two sensible acts that coaches can easily implement:

Tip #1- Reduce the number of plays to study. There is a greater chance of success that a new player will learn 20 offensive schemes than 50. Develop the first 20 to mastery before biting off more than you can digest. Assist the new player in identifying the best 20 plays for success.

Tip #2- Focus on the technique not on the Win. While the goal of the game is to add another number in the win column, the time spent planning, the time spent practicing, and the time spent reflecting should be invested on what skills and techniques need improvement. When working with the new player assist with focusing on the need without forgetting the purpose of the game.