New Year – Focus on Attendance

I have written in the past about attendance and how it is the educational epidemic that most do not talk about.  We focus on test scores, graduation rates, and other things (all important) but at the foundation of those issues is ATTENDANCE!

6 million students miss over 3 weeks of school a year.  3 WEEKS A YEAR!

If your frequent fliers are not in school then they will not close the achievement gap, graduate, perform well on standardized tests, or be the first in their family to go to college.

Elissa Nadworny, vai nprEd,  discusses how Gibson Elementary in St. Louis had big problems with absenteeism and how the addressed it.  It is so inspiring!   I will not spoil the fun of reading it for yourself but  I will say that Melody Gunn is an all star and she definitely showed her community who CARES!

I realize that not all scenarios are the same however, we have to do more as educators, administrators, parents, and the community to support our youth.  Children have needs and sometimes they cannot be met without help from us!  This story is amazing and I hope it inspires you to investigate absenteeism in your school because it is a HUGE issue and let’s face it, these children are the future!

Check out this 2nd story posted about Dr. Gunn and her school from The Huffington Post.


8 Proven Secrets To Superior Skill

Anyone looking for a challenge today?  This is a great article from the Blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree.  It discusses 8 secrets to becoming an expert and having superior skills.  Here are the 8 but you have to read the article for the details!

  1. Be In It For The Long Haul
  2. Find a Mentor
  3. Start With What’s Important
  4. Train Like You Fight
  5. Use “Desireable Difficulty”
  6. Get Fast, Negative Feedback
  7. Study Less. Test More.
  8. Naps Are Steroids For Your Brain



4 Apps that Promote Parent-Teacher Communication

I have posted commentary in the past on how important it is to work with parents and the community to secure involvement.

This article, “4 Apps to Foster Parent-Teacher Communication“, was written by Meghan Bogardus Cortez and posted on EdTeach Magazine.  She highlights a gallop poll that I use when discussing this very topics with districts as they prospect what ed tech is going to help them achieve their goals.  This is depressing to say the least!

Here are her 4 apps: check our the article for more details!

  1. Bloomz
  2. SimplyCircle
  3. ClassDojo – I have personal experience with this one.  My daughter has it and so far I am impressed with it and like how it can keep me informed with her, her class, and her teacher!
  4. Remind

What do you use in your classroom, campus, district?  Interested to hear the pros and cons of these great options!

18 Digital Tools to Support Students’ Reading and Writing

Katrina Schwartz recently published, on Mind/Shift,  a great list of technology tools to help support your students in reading and writing.  You can the list here.

Teachers Create What They Experience


What a powerful speech by Katie Martin.  She is on point and does an amazing job explaining how classrooms today are not built for the modern day child.  She discusses her fears for her 2 children and how she feels the reform necessary for schools today can be achieve.  She developed 3 concepts to create learning environments to bring people together, create positive learning experiences, and feed your children’s love to learn!

  1. Shared Vision
  2. Learning as a process, not an event
  3. Go Open

Watch the video to learn more about her 3 concepts and be prepared to be inspired!


Teacher Bias, Race, and How to Change

I have recently posted an article about who CARES in education and how building a district with a strong foundation will set you up for success.  It will serve as a building block that will allow you to try new tag lines, initiatives, etc and challenge boundaries/walls in education and break them down.

Ayana Coles is an educator in Indianapolis, IN and wow is she inspirational.  After reading this article, published by nprEd, it had me really reflecting on my time as an educator.

If district leaders, counselors, and teachers are having conversations like this with their staff and students it will help to create a genuine connection between all parties involved and create an amazing culture for learning.

Feel free to comment and share about your experiences in education around this topic, discussions you have had, and how your campus addresses biases.

10 Exciting Formative Assessments

Hillary Hill published a great list of formative assessments that allow you to engage and check for understanding on Edutopia.  As the year approaches check them out and decide which ones you could use!

I am a big fan of number 2!  How many of your kids are on Twitter!?  I am willing to bet more than 75% of them access it daily.  As an English teacher you could assign them to read X number of chapters or pages and then summarize them and post it with a hashtag.

(For example: If we are reading To Kill a Mockingbird that hashtag could be #mckeanTKMBpd4.  This would make it easy for you to see and check who has posted, while also providing accountability.  Students will know who did not participate!)

What is your favorite and how would you use it in class?!?

‘Small Data’ could fix what ‘Big Data’ could not fix in education.

How many of you have been provided with so much data that you are lost and not sure how to effectively manage it?


How many of you receive so much data that you spend hours molding the data with pivot tables, calculations, etc. just to analyze it and break it down into what you really need to make informed decisions?

I was in the first bucket.  I remember being introduced to an online data warehouse that held ALL of my districts information, was given a log in, showed how to run reports, and was handed the keys to do what I needed.  Thanks for nothing?

Data is useless, its what you do with it that matters.

Now once I got where I needed to be, the data was not completely useless.  I would use it to find out which kids did not test proficient on last years state assessment but there was no way to see how they scored over the past 3 years.  Another problem was that I had to massage the data to get anything valuable out of it because there was so much of it!  Then I started to think, “What if last year was an outlier?”  Things like this frustrated me to no end because my goal was to teach and this emphasis on test results, I felt, encouraged people to teach to the test.

We were never provided data on attendance rates for students, behavior data, or how they performed on their report card for the last 4 years.  It all revolved around benchmark tests and state exams.  What if they provided me all the reports I just mentioned, then ran that data against how they performed on tests, to really look for small to focus on that might make a HUGE impact.  We are now going to segway into an article published by the Washington Post and Valeri Strauss who shared a a post by Jonathan Hask and Pasi Sahlberg called “Next Big Thing in Education: Small Data”.

You can read the Washington Post article OR the article directly from Pasi Sahlberg’s website.

Share your thoughts and lets start some great conversation on where data analytics maybe going in the near future!

Zuckerberg Continues to Make a Splash in Education

For those of use who are big believers in personalized learning you have to see what Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are doing at Summit Public Schools in San Francisco!  As a former educator this concept is intimidating but the results speak for themselves.  They also publish screen shots for a sneak peak!

Here is the article from the New York Times which discusses how “Facebook Helps to Develop Software that Puts Students in Charge of Their Lesson Plans.”

Share and comment on what your thoughts are.  Is this the next big thing in education and the world of Learning Management Systems?

Foundation for Successful Schools: All About Who CARES

The idea of a Slogan, Theme or Tag Line for your campus reminds me of one of my favorite stories growing up; The House on a Rock.  For those unfamiliar with the story, the premise is that wise builders build their houses on a rock (believers who put the thoughts of God into practice) while the foolish builders build their homes in sand (believers that do not put the words of God into practice).  The story concludes with a great storm of wind and rain and the home built on sand fell with a great crash while the house on a rock stood.

The purpose of the story is not to speak of religion, but this concept directly relates to developing successful schools, businesses, and being successful in life.  We want to build our foundation with CARE and make sure that it is on a ROCK!  If your foundation is strong then you will be able to withstand the pressures of budget, test scores, bullying, etc.  When you analyze the strengths and beliefs of your campus, do you not only believe in them but put those thoughts into action?  When we build our foundation for our campus/district/school we need those concepts to not only be heard but followed or your “house” may fall.

The CEO of my company has been CEO of companies with 30,000+ employees before coming back to one of his passions, education.  He frequently comes back to the word CARE when he speaks to groups of people about education, where it was, where it is now, and where it is going.  His argument is that if you CARE, (like really care – not care like care if it rains today or not but like you cared about your Pokemon or Pog collection as a child) then the sky is the limit.  His speeches always motivate me in a variety of ways because it is evident by knowledge and passion that he CARES.

cares 2


The number 1 concern in this area is providing a environment where students feel safe.  A culture of learning also needs to be established that supports them as they grow and encourages them to be life long learners.  Knowledge is power!   It needs to be modeled at all levels that the campus/classroom is a safe environment for all to be themselves, learn, but also have some fun! Once they genuinely feel safe then you can start to break down the walls and work on the rest.  Students need to feel secure, respected, and supported.   This concept of “community” needs to also extend outside of the school walls to the playground, library, and at home.  If this can occur throughout your campus then anything can happen.


For this one I am look at you.  Yes you, the adult in the room, MUST check their ego at the door.  We need to completely buy into the first step to make this successful.  As a young gun, I sometimes struggled with this because I would get defeated when I followed the “community” concept, but then held onto my ego when kids challenged/disrespected me.  “I kept it together until the end” is not enough because the end is where you needed to show your strength the most.  This does not mean we give the control to the kids and hang on for the ride.  Classroom management is a huge piece of this and we must pick our battles with the end game in mind: creating a learning community where our kids feel supported, secure, and respected.  Having a Growth Mindset is a great way to show, support, and use this pillar.  Interested in more information?


Respect must be given to the kids right away while we earn theirs.  Who is thinking right now, “PSSSSH, Oh no he didn’t!  I respect the kids but the kids need to respect me”.  (I admit I even thought it a little bit while I typed it!)  Please do not click “X” and stop reading, stick with me here and hear me out.

Take a second and think back to when you were younger.  Let’s be honest: some teachers you automatically gave your respect and others had to earn it.  That could have been based on who was “cool”, attractive, scary, or whatever fit your personality.  We need to avoid thinking like my quote above.  We need to give the respect to the kids FIRST and the rest will follow suit once they witness your positive attitude, support, love, care, and respect first hand.  Again, this does not mean we hand the keys of the car to the kids, but we always need to keep community and attitude at the forefront!


Simple definition from Websters: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

This translates into being an understanding, sympathetic, loving role model for your students so that they see and feel the true meaning of Respect, Community, and a good Attitude.  Being empathetic does not mean you let things slide, give breaks when they are not deserved, or “insert whatever comes into your mind here”.  It means that we provide a learning culture that supports growth and understanding.  We can still give deadlines and hold firm on them or do not accept late work without a medical excuse.  You can draw the line in the sand where ever you feel it needs to be.  As long as you can be 100% transparent and say, “Yes I did” when asked if you provided all opportunities for success and supported the student along the way with encouragement.  You need to also provide them all the resources they need to be successful.  If so, then yes, sometimes the students need to learn a lesson the hard way.

If this is the case, I encourage you to have a conference with them (and maybe the parents too?) to explain what is happening, why, how it could have been avoided, and how it could be avoided in the future, so that you protect the community and the learning culture that you have fought to hard to build.  Again, never give up the ultimate goal, show them who CARES.


Plain and simple it is when your district turns the corner and starts to grow by creating learning cultures that foster life long learners.  Success can be defined in a magnitude of ways but I encourage you avoid student achievement, high test scores, national rankings, parent satisfaction, whatever you want to stand on as a campus or district, and focus on who CARES.  The success will follow.  I believe this because there is power when people know that you care and feel your passion.  It fosters success, growth and inspires people to try new things and accomplish things that they dreamed were not possible.

This is a model created on my opinions, experiences, and reflections on my time in the classroom and also working with schools.  It is however, based on several things that are proven to be effected and supported in the industry.  Take Finland for example.  They have the highest performing schools in the world and a recent article in the LA Times highlights what makes them so successful and they, along with my CEO, inspired me to write this post.

—–>>  Feeling inspired?  I want to point you to a friend and former principal of mine, Justin Aglio and his colleague Dr. Michael Ghilani.  They recently published an article that discusses this concept while sharing their districts tagline for this year.   I worked with Justin and he CARES and it easy to feel it while you are with him.  Their district, Montour School District, is one of the 30 schools in the US that you need to visit – says Getting Smart. Check them out!