November 26, 2018

Football Coaches Get Fired, Do Educators Get Fired?
This is the season of firing football coaches. North Carolina, Louisville and Texas Tech have fired their coaches. Surprisingly, Illinois extended Lovie Smith's contract for two more years (don't even get me started talking about that move). Several NFL coaches will soon be relieved of their duties. The reason for the firing is poor performance by the team as measured by wins and losses.
This leads me to think about why very few educators ever get fired. What about the superintendent or the principal who have school(s) rated as "Lowest Performing" on the ISBE Designation list? What about teachers who have few students meeting state standards on PARCC or SAT and whose students show low student growth compared to other students in the state with the same starting scores?
Is it true that no matter who the superintendent is, who the principal is, or who the teacher is, the students would still fail? Is it solely the socio-economic status of the family that determines success or failure as many educators think?
Recently I was in a very poor socio-economic community in which 100% of the students were designated as free lunch and where it looked like the majority of businesses and houses in the community were boarded up. In this school I observed one of the best lessons I have ever observed, and just down the hall one of the worst lessons I have ever observed. The difference? The teacher!
I have observed "Super Principals" in low income neighborhoods doing fantastic work. These principals were responsible for the processes that lead to respect and rapport between adults and students, among adults, and between the community and the school. These schools look just like schools I observe in high income communities. There is definitely learning taking place. Students are exhibiting discipline, grit, study skills and a disposition to learn. The principal makes numerous formal and informal observations of teachers and works with the teachers in a collaborative and supportive way for the teachers to improve the effectiveness of their instruction.
There is no magic formula for fixing all schools. If there were, somebody would have already written the book. Being a successful teacher, principal or superintendent is hard work. There is no magic, but we all know that some educators are better than others. We also know that some should not be re-employed on an annual basis. Our job as school administrators is to teach the underperforming teachers, principals and superintendents to be better.
For teachers, I believe it starts with effective Professional Learning Communities and Professional Development for teachers to learn from their colleagues. Teachers need to share formative and summative scores of their students' work with colleagues who teach the same grade level and/or discipline. The teacher whose students score the best or show the most student growth must be directed to share their strategies with their fellow teachers. Principals and superintendents need to make sure that this happens. A teacher should never be rated "Excellent" unless they teach other teachers what they are doing.
We cannot fire our way to an adequate and equitable education for all students but we sure can provide the right work environment so teachers are maximizing their skills for the students in their classrooms.
Tip of the Week
I mentioned in an earlier newsletter that one common problem I see in classrooms today is that teachers talk too much (and do too much of the work) and students talk too little. I recently tweeted an article on this topic by Angela Watson. I think the suggestions are very good. I recommend sharing the article with your administrative staff and discuss who is doing the most talking in your classrooms. The title of the article is " 8 ways teachers can talk less and get kids talking more ."
The 8 ways are as follows:
  1. Don't steal the struggle.
  2. Move from the front of the classroom.
  3. Teach students signals for your often-repeated phrases and for transitions.
  4. Use non-verbal reinforcement for behavior whenever possible.
  5. Turn your statements into questions and prompts.
  6. Instead of asking, "Does that make sense?" say, "Can you put that in your own words?"
  7. Stop repeating yourself.
  8. Notice moments when you summarize/review for students and instead get their input.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Richard Voltz
Associate Director
Professional Development/Induction-Mentoring
2648 Beechler Court
Springfield, IL 62703
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