Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reflecting on PLC Team FLOW this summer!

Searching for the optimal experience of the PLC work life

This week, I had the opportunity to work with some great administrative friends and colleagues in a southern California school district. We spent time together working on a learning team "Diagnostic Tool" designed to determine the current state of flow for each learning team in their PLC school (for many of the leadership teams, this was as many as 20+ teams). We then designed personal leadership actions and commitments members of the  Administrative leadership teams would take -  in order to support all learning teams within the PLC to move into a FLOW state in 2011-2012. For a copy of the Powerpoint slides used to guide this work, you can click here. For a copy of the excerpt from the Five Disciplines of a PLC Leader (2011) that describes the strategies for placing teams into the FLOW, you can click here. 

At the same time Peter Senge's  Fifth Discipline (1990, 2008) was released, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chicks-SENT-me-hi) summarized his 15-year study regarding the experience of a highly engaged peak performing positive energy work life in his book FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990). The impact and theory of his work also has been sustained for more than twenty years and includes an updated version in 2008. Csikszentmihalyi (2008), former professor and chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, is the leading researcher and architect to the notion of FLOW or “the way people describe their state of mind when consciousness is harmoniously ordered, and they want to pursue whatever they are doing for its own sake” (p. 6). In other words, as a PLC leader, you are in the state of FLOW at work when you are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and full engagement, while experiencing an incredible success in the process of the days’ weeks’ or months’ activities.

To keep your PLC learning teams in the optimal peak performance or FLOW, you must provide the proper balance between the team’s current knowledge and skill level (their current ability to respond with success), with the level of complexity for the task actions or challenges presented.

You should measure the placement of your current PLC learning teams on the “flow chart” diagram provided in the Figure . PLC learning teams will exist in a variety of places within or outside of the FLOW channel. One of your tasks as a PLC leader is to create or make opportunities for the PLC learning teams to either stay in or move toward the flow channel—and to keep the teams moving “up” the flow channel to more complex levels of work performance. This requires a sense of forever improvement by the teachers, the teacher teams, the administrators, and the students—an essential expectation of the professional learning community culture and movement. 

The same is true for you. As a PLC school leader, you must also monitor and manage the FLOW of your own tasks and activities in your leadership work life and be very careful to notice when the energy of your leadership life is being drained by either boredom or stress. Are you personally improving your level of complexity up the flow channel while remaining fully engaged in your work? Do you use specific strategies to help you stay in the flow channel in your leadership work?

These are good reflection questions for you to ask this summer as you renew and reflect on your work for next year...


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CCSS and the 2011 NCSM Summer Leadership Academy!

PD + PLC's = CCSS Implementation

How is that for a few acronyms?

PLC's = Professional Learning Communities
PD = Professional Development
CCSS = Common Core States Standards

During this next decade, the vision and demands of the CCSS expectations as well as the research on best practice for highly effective mathematics teaching and learning will look very different from much of the current reality in our K-12 classrooms. Most noticeably, all grade level teachers will be expected to work together as they teach for meaning and understanding rather than rely solely onprocedural memorization of mathematical concepts.

The Common Core States Standards (CCSS) eight Mathematical Practices will demand this paradigm shift as an every day classroom occurrence. For this to happen, your school and district must establish a strong ongoing professional development system that provides every teacher with the confidence and pedagogical knowledge capacity needed to improve their mathematics teaching and their judgments on the assessing of student learning.

Click here to receive the PP slides from our Day 1,  9-12 CCSS Academy Sessions. 

Click here to Receive the PP slides from our day 2, 9-12 CCSS Academy Sessions 

Click here to receive the PRIME Equity Powerpoint by NCSM President Suzanne Mitchell 

Click here for the Day 3 powerpoint slides form the 9-12 CCSS NCSM Academy 

How will teachers and administrators develop and improve their knowledge capacity for teaching and learning mathematics? They will need to mutually identify and undertake a coherent professional development experience that leads to effective action and practice.

Professional development of teachers that relies on one-shot workshop models, that is strictly provided outside of the context of the teachers’ work environment, and that nurtures an expectation of teacher isolation without support for implementation, is not supported by research (2009, Darling-Hammond and Richardson). Professional development cannot be an event or “training” as in the old paradigm.

They further cite that professional development lasting 14 or fewer hours showed no effect on [teacher] learning. The largest effects werefor programs offering 30 – 100 hours spread out over 6 – 12 months.

Assuming a PLC Teacher team is allowed the autonomy to work two days during the summer (16 hours) and 6 hours a month for 10 months (60 hours) they will experience about 76 hours of ongoing professional development of one another throughout the year.

Yet, 30-100 hours of on site professional development has diminished effects when the content of the professional development is disconnected from daily teacher classroom work and is widely variant. Teachers must be given time to ask and answer questions together, such as:

What is the role of number sense and quantity at this grade level?
How do we teach computation with understanding?
How will we teach various units of Algebra, Geometry, and Statistics using technology?
How will we teach vocabulary to our ESL students?
How do we teach for meaning and understanding of concepts?
How do we decide best practice for formative assessment learning in this unit of instruction?
How do we respond to students who need additional support for learning?
How do we decide the types of homework and daily rigor of student mathematical tasks?

Too often, professional development for mathematics feels disconnected, too disjointed and a bit overwhelming for teachers. Hayes Mizell, in Why Professional Development Matters (2010), indicates, “The effectiveness of professional development depends onhow carefully educators [Principals and teachers] conceive, plan and implement it. There is no substitute for rigorous thinking and execution” (p.10).

Less is more is the new theme in mathematics professional development for both the content and the process of the professional development. And the Principal must lead this subtle but important shift – especially in light of the Common Core States Standards (CCSS) expectations for more depth with student understanding and less breadth with memorization in the mathematics curriculum.

The paradigm for teacher professional development has shifted in this decade to become a professional collaborative activity - PD within a PLC = CCSS Implementation

Friday, June 10, 2011

Knowing the Heart of Your Leadership Life!

It is summer! A great time for reflection and renewal, as you slow the pace from 2010-2011 and renew your commitments to 2011-2012. For those of you that have been steady readers of this blog (I  began a real commitment to the blog this past January - a sort of New Years Resolution) you know that I have been careful to mostly blog about issues and ideas of education that focus our work and attention as adults.

I have been careful not to use the blog as a platform to discuss the more emotional or perhaps softer side of life and leading. But in 2011-2012, I have decided I will try to do so from time to time. During the time I was superintendent, I would write a monthly news column to the community, and the articles that drew the greatest attention were always the ones about the "Heart" of teaching and raising our children. Like the one I wrote about children of divorce and the real struggles they face in school. Or children in our ELL programs and the silent suffering they often endure.

We relate to the Heart of Teaching and Leading because we are in the people business. And our daily struggles - our daily pursuit to get better - is filled with the happiness and the frustration of inspiring others to meet their full potential. It makes you ask, what were the 2010-2011 moments that were just the best days for you? They almost always tap into some significant moment with someone else that really clicked. Or with some significant accomplishment, that was well worth the struggle and effort. I know writing about these things from time to time will make me a bit more vulnerable, but also more human, and it is after all my blog, right?

Make your list this summer 

So make a list this summer. Take a minute to reflect on some of the best days of  2011-2012! What made them great? Who was involved? How do those memories serve you in your work and your life today?

Five Disciplines of PLC Leaders
A Personal Story

For me, a series of events over the past 2 years is leading to a culminating "heart of the journey" day this Monday, June 20th. In the summer of 2009 my wife, Susan, encouraged me to sit down and write a proposal to Solution Tree Press for a book on School Leadership. On PLC leadership, more exactly. I had been leading and learning a PLC culture at Stevenson for 22 years... what might I say?  

Several notebooks, ideas and months later, in December of 2009, I pitched the idea to Douglas Rife, the President of Solution Tree Press. It was a very rough 23 page "proposal". I was captivated by the idea, or perhaps question of whether we can actually "get better" at leading students and leading other adults. Can we "Discipline" ourselves, our lives, our daily work in such a way that we could produce a better version of ourselves every year? And if the answer to that question was yes, then how would we do that? And, what is it about PLC School Leadership - that is distinguishable from other school leadership choices? 

The result initially in January 2010 was 18 leadership Disciplines! Through research and hard work, I narrowed the self-discipline required for effective PLC School Leadership down to seven (7) Disciplines and began writing through the Spring of 2010. In late May, twenty three trusted colleagues including my wife and our oldest daughter Jessica (now a school Principal) read four chapters of the first draft and provided invaluable feedback that resulted in Five Disciplines of school leadership and an expanded set of references and resources (Their collective brains and thoughts were so much greater than my individual understanding of school leadership life). 

In July of last year, Solution Tree Press sent out the first draft for review, and that response created intense writing and revision last fall and winter. Eight months later, the design work around the final draft of the book began. Gretchen Knapp at Solution Tree Press and others brought a quality to the book this spring that is beyond description, and this Monday June 20th the book will be released. A polished work that merged and oozed out of those vast notes and ideas plastered on my office walls from almost 2 years ago. 

I don't pretend the experience was unique to me, but as a math guy, it was perhaps a more challenging experience in many ways to learn to write with clarity, focus and meaning for you, the reader (Thanks to Loyola professor Janis Fine for that insight). And it brought extra parental attention and expected detail to our youngest daughter's (Anna) research paper for Freshman English this past spring too!   

One Final thought: The 2nd of the 5 Disciplines of PLC Leaders is The Discipline of Accountability and Celebration -  as PLC school leaders if we get really good at it - it results in our improved ability to Turn Vision into Action - thus the title of this blog.  Thanks for reading this and my personal thanks and kudos to Solution Tree,  Solution Tree Press and for my many professional friends and family that joined me in the journey for turning this Vision for School Leadership into Realized Action!  And for being models of the Disciplined Leadership life as well. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Choose to Be An Inequity Eraser!

Why PLC's?

Until recently, there has been a mystifying silence in the PLC leadership literature about how the discipline of service and sharing—hallmark qualities of all teachers and leaders in a professional learning community—serves as an inequity eraser for the social injustices caused by isolated decision making and the resultant wide variance in student learning experiences. 

Decisions made in isolation or as a result of teacher or administrative learning team dysfunction affect the rigor of daily classroom task selection choices, ongoing rigor for assessment task selection, and instructional lesson design practices. These noncollaborative decisions are primary contributors to this variance. Inequities can be seen throughout the K–12 curriculum teaching and learning experience, unfortunately. 

At least six areas of inequity are created by the failure of grade-level or course-based faculty and administrative  teams to work together within a serving and sharing school culture. As PLC leaders, it is your task to attack these inequities with passion and persistence.

This summer is a good time to reflect on your performance in this area of your school leadership, and commit to improved action in 2011-2012. 

1. Access inequity. This inequity is seen in who gets access into the school’s various academic programs once tracking begins in fifth grade and beyond. Most kids are locked into a permanent track as early as sixth and seventh grade. How is it decided who gets into and out of a level or track?

2. Task selection inequity. The selection and rigor of daily tasks and experiences performed by students each day in class reveals inequities in the quality of lesson planning and design from teacher to teacher.

3. Formative assessment inequity. Task selection and level of rigor of daily in class prompts and tasks used by teachers to assess student understanding also vary, as do rigor and task selection for homework assignments, rules for make-up work, and the depth and quality of teacher feedback on formative work.

4. Summative assessment inequity. Inequities can emerge in the rigor in task selection that teachers or teacher teams use for unit tests and quizzes. How do you, as the school leader, define high-quality assessments for each academic discipline, grade level, or course? How high is your tolerance level for tests and exams that either do not meet the prescribed standards or vary widely in task rigor from teacher to teacher of the same course or grade level?

5. Grading inequity. The grading of all assessments, formative learning, and effective feedback loops is one of the areas of greatest inequity. Assessment tasks must be discussed and agreed upon by all team members to arrive Assessment tasks must be discussed and agreed upon by all team members to arrive at an implementation of common practice.

6. RTI inequity. How variant, swift, and complete is the intentional and collective team response to instruction and intervention on all aspect of the academic programs you lead? How well do your responses demonstrate evidence that both students and teachers are becoming reflective learners?

 Teams attack the inequities and seek out “magnified impact” that is far greater than any individual could ever achieve.

As a school leader, you need magnified impact. You need teams. You need your teams to be the smallest unit of change in the school or program. Your students need highly effective faculty grade-level or course-based teams that work diligently to erase the inequities created by the widely variant judgments that occur when teacher and administrators work in isolation or simple groups. Again, how do teams differ from working groups? Team members are willing to relate and rely on each another. More wisdom from Katzenbach and Smith (1993):

[Teams] require both individual and mutual accountability. Teams rely on more than group discussion, debate, and decision; on more than sharing information and best practice perspectives; on more than a mutual reinforcing of performance standards. Without discrete team work-products produced through the joint, real contributions of team members, the promise of incremental or magnified performance impact goes untapped. (p. 90)

A team promises greater performance than a working group. A team will erase the  inequities they personally cause. And it is hard work. The wisdom of Katzenbach and Smith was declared almost 20 years ago. What are we waiting for?