There are 1,862 elementary schools in the state of Florida. We are featuring another “Extreme School” and its name is Blackburn Elementary. Last year, it was one the lowest performing (5%) elementary schools in the state (one of the VERY, VERY lowest).
Now, when we see schools struggle like this, there are many possibilities. First, we can debunk the most commonly mentioned myths about low-performing schools…
First, we can debunk the most commonly mentioned myths about low-performing schools. Which of these 4 possibilities is actually correct?
Possibility #1: Most all of the kids share some common genetic defect, which prevents them from succeeding at school.
Possibility #2: There is something in the air, water, plants or food in this zip code which is hurting the cognitive ability of the students.
Possibility #3: The parents don’t care about education or their IQ is low, so therefore the kids can’t learn.
Possibility #4: The staff of the school can influence achievement by making some changes.
I am guessing you picked #4, which is correct. I have often shared success stories of schools, so you could see the end “product” worthy of high-fives. But, this month is different. I thought you might be interested in the process itself. In other words, how are the principal and the staff mapping out the changes to build a successful school?
BACKGROUND: This school was the winner of the “Extreme School” prize in early 2013. They were a struggling, very low-performing school. I presented to this staff in August 2013. This is a progress report after five months.
Before her school enjoyed the “Complimentary Staff Development Day”, Principal Kathy Redmond began sharing a clear and compelling vision of success with her staff. The bar was set sky high and she started by “seeding” the faculty with a new vision for the school.
By August 12, 2013 the following had happened:
1) A school team of eight attended the 2012 Poverty workshop.
2) The principal spent extra time observing her staff during the 2012/13 school year to help her make better decisions about staffing for the following year. Then she worked with school leadership to develop a tentative school improvement plan.
3) She got the state test score data and assembled it in a user-friendly format for her staff. She looked at student data carefully, and then they had a faculty meeting to review the data.
4) Her school was the random winner of the “Extreme School” contest.
5) Three months prior to my August presentation she held a telephone conference call with four of her staff and myself (Eric). Goals were set and staff were getting on board.
6) Summer arrived and the principal had decisions to make regarding whether to renew each teacher’s contract. Several staff (who had been quite hostile to change and thought “those kids” couldn’t learn) were not renewed for 2013-14.
7) Book study time: the staff read the book, Teaching with Poverty in Mind, so the groundwork was laid prior to my visit.
8) Then, after all of this preparation, I arrived in August. The staff members were excited and ready to launch their plan. All I had to do was to steer them in the right direction and provide the missing strategies.
RESULTS? What is going on at the moment, 4 months after the “official launch” of the new school identity? I will let the principal, Kathy, give the update in her own words…
“It has been fantastic!”
“During the week that you (Eric) were here, we continued to build momentum. We did several significant things… one, while working on our staff core values, a conversation evolved and our “Gaudy Goals” were brought up.
One of our leadership team members, at her table, suggested that we build core values that would drive us to become world famous. Her group shared her idea and it has completely stuck. We have shared it with parents, students and I even went on our local news declaring that our school will be world famous. Of course, the superintendent, who was present during the interview, just smiled… and other district leaders think I’m crazy… but you know what, Eric? I’m not crazy. We ARE going to be world famous for the huge turn around we are going to make at this school!
And two, our second significant move that first week was creating a list of our most significant learning’s from our work with you…. and the purpose of the list is to put it in front of us as we do all of our work (especially our problem solving work) as we improve our instruction. We now have a “Working Memory Activities” blog on our staff website. I have added several of our learnings to the Prof. Learning portion of our school’s “Walk-Through” feedback form. I have also added working memory activities as part of our lesson plan checklist. Our monthly faculty meetings are going to have a short (less than 10 min. segment) on working memory activities.
Progress? While working on our school improvement plan, we listed barriers to some of our goals (which we turned into Gaudy Goals… I can’t wait to explain that to our Florida DOE Differentiated Accountability Team!). We identified the barriers we have no control over… like “that our kids get no support at home”… and “our kids come to us so low” and we cut those statements off the chart and I made a big deal about shoving them through a shredder. We really have left those excuses behind…” (Principal Kathy Redmond).
(Eric speaking here). You and I know that it’s only a start… but it’s a GREAT start. There is, of course, no data at the moment, but this is the kind of excitement and momentum it will take to turn the school around. We will keep you posted on the progress. Remember this school is starting out at the bottom 5% of academic scores (among 1,862 K-5 public schools in the state). Let’s give it a bit of time before we check back in again.
Now, you’ve read about another “Extreme School” success story, and we have a question for you. What can you learn from the true story mentioned above? The only good that happens in this world is when you move things from inside your brain to the outside world. What ideas, principles or strategies were affirmed, OR, what was new to you? Could this be a topic of discussion at your next staff meeting?
Miracles do happen every day. Are you ready to be one of them?
FINALLY: If your Title 1 school has an “Extreme School” story to tell (whether you are near the bottom or the top) please email me your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line, put “Extreme School” story. Thanks.
Your partner in learning,
CEO, Jensen Learning
Most, but not all, have regrets as they age. People wish they would have done things differently as they look back at their life. Seniors often look at broken marriages and say, “If only…” Many look at bad decisions and wish they could get an “instant replay” or second chance. I thought it might be productive to ask someone who has heard from hundreds of people (both young and old).
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, Bronnie Ware heard the same five common themes over and over and over. (Excerpted from the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware).
After you read them, ask yourself, “Is there anything (at all) in my life that I truly regret?” And secondly, “Is there anything that I can do now, in the next days, weeks or months, to make my life full, complete and satisfying.
After all, we don’t always die according to our own plan. Well, here they are, all five regrets. (more…)
For some, the holidays are quite stressful. I’ll introduce you to an important concept that has a dramatic affect on your life. In fact, this concept can literally make you smarter (or dumber) and even dictate job success.
You’ll learn why this occurs, and what you can do to reduce the problem. Plus, I’ll make connections for your kids in school. The concept is grounded scientifically and I’ll show you the evidence. In fact, people joke about this concept all the time. They just don’t know that it’s actually REAL. The mind-blowing concept that can change your life (and raise student achievement) is… (more…)
There’s an assumption that if a student in school feels threatened in any way, there’s going to be an immediate response we’ve all heard of before. Those might include “fight” (talk back to teacher, argue or even get physical), “flight” (try to get out of the situation, change seats, rooms or get out school), or “freeze” (quit participating and disconnect from learning).
However, recent research tells us there’s far more going on. In fact, you might be surprised what researchers have discovered about student emotions (and your own)…
There are many things you should know about our emotional system, but we’ll focus on just one area (the amygdala) and only the relevancy to school and your own life. Just maybe we can help out your relationships and add joy to your life!
First, there are gender differences in our emotional system.
You may have heard of the amygdala as if it’s singular, but we have two of them (on the left and right side of the brain). Technically, it should be referred to as the amygdalae (plural). Known as small, almond-shaped brain structures, they are highly involved in the fear response. These structures are located deep in the temporal lobes at the foot of the hippocampus in each hemisphere. And, they operate differently in males and females. (more…)
Whether you’re an instructional coach, administrator, counselor or classroom teacher, you are asked to motivate. All of us adults can find our own energy or motivation dropping at times. There’s one factor, when used with another co-factor, that makes the highest contribution to motivation. The secret to motivation is… (more…)
Also on Education Week’s blog. By Eric Jensen
Stop Looking to the Government for Help. It’s been 50 years since the start of the “War on Poverty” and enactment of 1965 ESEA legislative funding (Title 1- VII programs). Today, the U.S. Senate Budget Committee says we have 83 overlapping government welfare programs that together represent $1.03 trillion in fiscal spending by federal and state agencies (this year alone), based on data from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). We now have 22% of all school age kids (12 million) from poverty in K-12 schools. The government’s approach, over 50 years, isn’t working.
The Real Causes of Poverty. Since 1970, the dollar has lost 80% of its purchasing power. Those in lower or middle class, on a fixed income, lose the most. The inflation is a result of government debt and printing money. While it’s true that depressed job markets have some correlations with greater poverty, the greatest factors are rarely talked about: (more…)
Bobby McFerrin is a singer and conductor known best for his 1988 hit song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. If you haven’t heard the song, go to YouTube or iTunes and listen to it. Pessimists dismiss the song as being “Pollyana” yet those more optimistic typically love the song. But let’s narrow this conversation down to your school and even the classroom. Which side is correct and which is actually better for student learning? You might be surprised at the answer…
Two game changing studies to report on. Each will answer the question about the “Be happy” effect. But the kind of happiness you’re feeling is what matters, because each type of happiness has a VERY different effect on your physical well-being and your genes.
To your brain, you feel happiness two different ways, producing two types of “happy.” The first is instant gratification from everything from eating great food, shopping, smelling awesome flowers, sex, entertainment and all other forms of “quick fun.” This is known as a “hedonic” experience, where a person seeks pleasure as the outcome.
The second type is different. With this type, pleasure is the by-product. It’s more of a joyful satisfaction, almost a deep smugness of pleasure. This type is called eudaimonic (pronounced “you – day – monic”). This kind of happiness comes NOT from consuming but from producing something. It comes from a sustained effort at working toward something bigger than you, seeking purposeful and meaningful goals. (more…)
Here is how to decide what music to play in your classroom to help with brain-based learning. While you could use an endless number of criteria, these are a good start. I recommend using an iPod with a Bose Sound Dock player. You get the best of all worlds.
1) State. What emotional state are you trying to elicit? Pay attention to what happens to your own body and mind as you listen to a song. Pay attention to the beats per minute (BPM). Songs in the 35- 50 BPM range will be more calming, while those in the middle 55-70 BPM will be more moderate for seatwork. For activities, the pace might be 70-100 and for energizers, maybe 100-160 BPM will REALLY rev it up.
The state is also the feelings you want to have within your students. When students complete an assignment, project or even a simple task, I want upbeat celebration music. When we are doing a class stretching or reflective writing, I want slower, uncluttered, calming music. When we are about to start out on a big task, I want inspirational, upbeat, even marching music. In short, use music as a second teacher in the classroom to support the mood.
2) Age of Listener. What generation am I working with? Stay within your generation! The way to decide is ask this simple question: If they’re adults, what music did they listen to in high school and college? If they’re age 14 or less, what are the current soundtracks to movies that are hot?
3) Type of Music. Do I use music with words or instrumentals only? In general, use words only if it’s for transitions, games that require them or special occasions. Most of the time, instrumentals are better. If you use only one kind of music you’re missing out on some great alternatives. (more…)
One teacher told me about her class. At the start of every school year she asks her young elementary level kids, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”
One year a kid responded, “I wanna be like my daddy and be on welfare.” Some teachers would have rolled their eyes and thought, “How am I supposed to teach kids in poverty that have a home life like his?”
But this teacher refused to lower her goals or her standards for her kids. She does what high performing teachers often do.
Her strategy? What did she do?
The answer is, “Broaden the kid’s horizons and help him think bigger!” (more…)
That’s how one of my favorite TV commercials starts out. There’s a guy in a suit sitting on a low chair, with preschoolers seated around him. He asks questions like, “Which is better, faster or slower?” This month’s question is, “Which is better, more fun or less fun?”
The answer may surprise you!
You could have guessed that your students would say, “More fun!” Many teachers would answer, “Less fun, but better learning!”
So, which one is right?
Actually, you can get the best of both worlds. How? It’s time for the research. (more…)