What are some critical recommendations for the 2013-2014 school year?

Posted by Ronald | August 3, 2013  |  No Comment

While students are enjoying the last couple of days of summer, educational officials are preparing for their return. To help educational institutions get off to a smooth start, the question to be asked is: What are some critical recommendations for the 2013-2014 school year. Over the past years, we have written articles purposely to support the professional development and intellectual capital of all stakeholders in public education (K-20). The following provides an excerpt of four articles that we recommend educational institutions consider reading and instilling the suggestions in their environments as they open the 2013-2014 school year. A full description of these articles can be found on theholmeseducationpost.com.

Creating a Culture of excellence for all students, staff and families

Deborah S. Delisle, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education for the U. S. Department of Education, discussed at the American Association of School Administrators for school districts to transform their schools through telling students what we value, predict what students need for their future, afford students hope and a reason to report to school daily since many of them come to school bored and tired due to challenging and stressful situations at home. Delisle said students don’t care about whether we are opponents or proponents of the Democratic or Republican party. We must create a positive climate that gives students hope for the next day.

Delisle also discussed the need for school districts to look at their support structure or ways to show appreciation for staff that change teaching and administrative positions throughout their careers, and think critically about how they engage or welcome parents to the school. She cautioned educators to be aware of intention and the conflicting messages we may send. She provided the example of a school that indicated it has an open door policy although there was a sign at the school that said family hours are from 3-4 p.m., which could cause a major issue for working families.

Utilizing vertical alignment to improve student performance

Vertical alignment has been regarded as one of the best strategies to improve student performance in the schools according to the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. Vertical alignment “ensures what is being taught and tested in the classrooms aligns with the state standards and assessments. It articulates the logical, consistent order for teaching the standards-based content at each grade or course level, which allows teachers to focus on building skills and knowledge while reducing the need for excess review and repetition.”

The coordination of all parties involved in the vertical alignment plan has to be seamless through the leadership team of key district and school officials. With their support and expertise, the high, middle and elementary teachers would have to buy into the plan and establish a collaborative relationship with their feeder partners. For example, the elementary teachers would need to bridge relations with kindergarten constituents (students, parent and teachers) for improved learning.

Requiring leadership standards with a tool for measurement

While the leadership standards for school leaders may vary slightly from state to state, the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium provides six national standards for educational leaders. These standards include ensuring that the school administrators are educational leaders who have the knowledge and ability to promote the success of all students by (1) facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of the school’s vision of learning supported by the school community; (2) promoting a positive school climate, providing an effective instructional program, applying best practice to student learning, and designing comprehensive professional growth plans for staff; (3) managing the organization, operations, and resources in a way that promotes a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment; (4) collaborating with families and other community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources; (5) acting with integrity, fairness, and ethical behavior; and (6) understanding, responding to, and influencing the larger political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context.

Having the mindsets to harness change

Dr. William E. (Brit) Kirwan, chancellor for the University System of Maryland, was the keynote speaker for the 95th Annual Meeting of the American Council on Education. Kirwan believes that to harness change without spending additional revenues will “require a new mindset.” He reveals that we can lead change through four areas: (1) more effective matching of students with colleges; (2) employing different financial aid models; (3) building a stronger culture of college completion rates (4) utilizing online teaching to provide lower cost, high quality education.

To lead change through college completion rates, Kirwan says that we do a good job of “advertising to attract students to colleges;” however, we do not commit the same attention to ensuring that students graduate from our institutions. He recommends that we benchmark best practices with institutions that are having success with graduation rates such as the University of Northern Iowa, Pennsylvania State, Albany State and Florida State Universities. According to a study conducted by Kati Haycock and the Education Trust, these universities have success rates that are approximately 11-20 percentage points higher than their peer institutions. Kirwan says the key to their institutions is that their presidents “made a visible focus and commitment to college completion.”

Our educational institutions are challenged to identify effective practices to foster a positive learning environment. We hope these articles provide added support to educational institutions for the 2013-2014 school year. Continue to logon to The Holmes Education Post for a wealth of resources and solutions to improve public education.

Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of three books, “Education Questions to be Answered,” “Current Issues and Answers in Education” and “How to Eradicate Hazing.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is the national superintendent of education for the National Save the Family Now Movement, Inc., a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected]

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