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Denver, CO
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This week, we will be transitioning the McREL Blog to a new platform. If you have bookmarked our site you might encounter page errors, which you can fix by refreshing the web page and updating your bookmarks. If you subscribe to our RSS feed, or you’ve commented on any recent posts, you might receive an automatic email update alerting you to updates to our blog. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this might cause, and invite you to re-subscribe to our RSS feed after the transition. We’re confident that this transition will provide a more robust social experience for our readers, and we thank you for your patience as we make this move. Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2016 at McREL Blog
In recent years, annual performance reviews for teachers have become ubiquitous. Between 2009 and 2012 alone, the number of states requiring them jumped from 14 to 43. But do teacher evaluations make a difference in how teachers teach? Do they really help teachers improve? Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2016 at McREL Blog
The 5th-grade class gathered by the creek that ran between their school and neighborhood, reminiscing about years past when it was safe to play in and around this water. The creek was now stagnant, cloudy, thick with algae, and foul-smelling. Thus began their yearlong GreenSTEM project that used STEM concepts and processes to investigate the problem with the creek, and inspired students to design and carry out a solution. Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2016 at McREL Blog
Recently, I’ve had some enlightening discussions with colleagues about the concept of an inside out approach to school improvement. Many of the meaningful exchanges in these conversations have centered on opportunities to learn from bright spots within our schools and districts. Often in school improvement planning, we limit ourselves to discussing challenges, ignoring the bright spots. By doing this, we’re missing a great opportunity to expand and replicate the greatest aspects of our schools, our existing strengths. Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2016 at McREL Blog
Teachers looking together at student work seems like a surefire way to improve teaching and learning, as teachers look at real artifacts and reflect on expectations, practices, and results. However, as with most things in education, success depends not on what teachers do but how they do it, write Bryan Goodwin and Heather Hein in this month’s Research Says column in Educational Leadership. Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2016 at McREL Blog
At a recent training in Virginia, some teachers and I were discussing classroom tone and the importance of maintaining a positive classroom environment. One teacher shared a wonderful philosophy from her years of teaching: To keep your class and yourself in a positive frame of mind, it’s important to water the flowers more than the weeds. Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2016 at McREL Blog
High school graduation rates have reached an all-time high in recent years (82%)—that’s the good news. But there appears to be a not-so-silver lining: Once they get to college, those same graduates seem to have a harder time, with only about 59% completing their four-year degrees within five years. Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2016 at McREL Blog
One of the perks of my job is working with dedicated teachers in schools across the nation. Lately, I’ve been asking questions and collecting data from teachers at all levels on their instructional needs and concerns. An overwhelming number of educators have shared with me both their good thinking about, and their challenges with, keeping students more engaged in their learning. Specifically, I’ve heard teachers say, “I need ways to help motivate students who have lost faith in themselves,” and, “How can I help students want to come to school and stay engaged in what is going on in class?” Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2016 at McREL Blog
Despite years of trying various approaches to reduce the achievement gap between English language learners (ELLs) and their non-ELL peers, the gap has remained virtually unchanged since the late 1990s. Why? Bryan Goodwin and Heather Hein examine this question—and what can be done about it—in the February Research Says column for Educational Leadership magazine. Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2016 at McREL Blog
The vast array of intervention programs is staggering, and sifting through the options to determine which will be most successful can be overwhelming. School and district leaders often feel paralyzed by the intricacies of selecting and implementing interventions in their settings as they contemplate myriad options. Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2016 at McREL Blog
We often think that identity—both our present- and future-oriented conceptions of the self—motivates and predicts behavior. In education, when we think of student identity, most of us would agree that we want all students to believe a positive future self is both possible and relevant, and that student belief in this possible future self motivates their current behavior. But, when we really investigate that belief, is it actually true? When I see data that shows 95 percent of students say they want to go to college, but only 80 percent actually graduate from high school, I see a disparity between what students want for their futures and the behaviors in which they engage. Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2015 at McREL Blog
Why does some professional development (PD) resonate with teachers more than others? I believe it has something to do with how teachers view their role in the classroom—the concept of “teacher self-identity”—and how it aligns and interacts with the practices being taught. Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2015 at McREL Blog
A recent report from TNTP (formerly the New Teacher Project) examined the professional growth of 10,000 teachers to try to determine what distinguishes the “improvers” from the “non-improvers” and found—perhaps not surprising to some of you—that most of the professional development (PD) teachers receive does little to improve the quality of instruction. Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2015 at McREL Blog
Collecting and sharing data is critical for schools and districts to pinpoint problems and craft solutions, but data alone doesn’t guarantee improvement. A number of factors affect data use—including getting data in time to make necessary changes, the skills of those analyzing the data, and, perhaps most importantly, the mindsets of those expected to act on the data. Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2015 at McREL Blog
“I times’ed 12 and 140 and I got 1680.” Sound familiar? While visiting a middle school math class recently, I heard more than a few students use language like this when explaining their work to their peers and to their teacher. While their answers showed they understood the academic concepts they were learning, the way they expressed their ideas revealed a need for academic language development. Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2015 at McREL Blog
Kids come to school with all kinds of emotions—and the school environment can supercharge those emotions, whether they are positive or negative. To head off negative behaviors and instead foster optimism and self-determination, more and more schools are incorporating mindfulness practices and programs into their already-full school days. Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2015 at McREL Blog
If your state is anything like Colorado, Florida, or Michigan, an educational revolution is occurring—or perhaps it would be more apt to say, an evolution is occurring—with districts making the shift from using Response to Intervention (RtI) and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), to using Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2015 at McREL Blog
“How can we implement MTSS/RtI when we have an upside-down triangle?” I hear this refrain from schools across the U.S. that do not have the perfectly distributed groups of students...The unfortunate reality in many schools is that far less than 80 percent of students are mastering academic standards through tier 1 instruction alone. Given this predicament, how can school leaders tackle RtI implementation? Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2015 at McREL Blog
When it comes to asking questions in the classroom, the most important voice may be the one that you don’t hear. As McREL President and CEO Bryan Goodwin writes in the September issue of Educational Leadership, while we know teacher questioning is key to student learning, research suggests what matters more are the questions that students ask themselves. Self-questioning, Goodwin explains, is something effective learners do naturally. For example, say you’re watching a science program on TV and you hear an astronomer explain that much of the starlight in the night sky comes from stars that may no longer exist. A little voice in your head might say, Wait, I don’t get that as you reach for the remote and rewind the program to listen again. Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2015 at McREL Blog
A new report on a two-year study conducted by TNTP on the effectiveness of professional development (PD) for teachers suggests that much of the available PD is ineffective in helping teachers improve, and that vast resources are being spent on programs that don’t stick. Our experience in working with districts and regional/state agencies has been that some PD works, and some doesn’t. Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2015 at McREL Blog
At one point or another, most educators find themselves in a school improvement effort that gets “stuck.” Frustratingly, this often happens after some initial success—and then, improvements reach a plateau or even slide backwards. In an article in the June online edition of Educational Leadership, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin looks at why this happens and what schools can do to get back on track. Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2015 at McREL Blog
Over many years of guiding schools and districts on integrating technology and instruction, the costliest mistake I see is the rush to purchase hardware and software without first identifying a clear purpose and plan for the new technology. This kind of oversight can lead to misuse or neglect of expensive equipment and systems, resulting in little of the intended impact on student learning outcomes. Before you add new technologies to your school or district, here are six vital questions—and a few related ones—I recommend you ask first to help you look before you launch. Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2015 at McREL Blog
When you think about the teachers that made a difference in your life, do you wonder why they made such an impression on you? Was it because they taught you clever strategies for comma usage, or posted the learning objectives and referred to them often? Perhaps, it was the way they kept everyone quiet during tests. Sound improbable? More likely, you remember how they respected and valued what you had to say, or that they cared about you as a person. You might also recall how passionate and excited they were to teach their favorite subjects. As a teacher, it’s important for you to consider the type of personality and energy you bring to the classroom each day. Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2015 at McREL Blog
As you start reading this, stop and take note—how far away is your smartphone? When did you last check it? Did you check it just now? You’re not alone. In just a few short years, many of us have become addicted to our mobile devices. They’re nearly always within arm’s reach, and many of us cannot help ourselves from checking them (or fixating on them) regularly, no matter where we are, what we’re doing, or who we’re with. Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2015 at McREL Blog
In 1989, I became the principal of a technology magnet school. Nine years later, I was named an Apple Distinguished Educator. As the lead author of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, 2nd Ed. (2012), I remain an active proponent of technology-infused learning. Technology enables learners to do or create things that might not otherwise be possible. Knowing all of this, you might ask why I, of all people, would ever advise educators to restrict technology in the classroom. Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2015 at McREL Blog