Wolcott's Weekly "What's Up"

Office of Teaching & Learning Update 1.15.2014

Quote of Note

“One of the leader’s most important roles, is to boil down an organization’s many priorities and strategies into a simple plan, so that employees can remember it, internalize it, and act on it.”

  • “Management Be Nimble” by Adam Bryant in The New York Times, Jan. 5, 2014,

Six Ways to Build a Positive Culture

In this New York Times article, Adam Bryant summarizes the key factors involved in building and sustaining a good organizational climate – “the things that, if done well, have an outsize positive impact, and if done poorly or not at all, have an outsize negative impact.”

  • A simple plan – “One of the leader’s most important roles,” says Bryant, “is to boil down an organization’s many priorities and strategies into a simple plan, so that employees can remember it, internalize it and act on it. With clear goals and metrics, everyone can pull in the same direction, knowing how their work contributes to those goals.”
  • It’s about the team – One leader had a simple rule: you have to do what you say you’re going to do. In other words, everyone has to play his or her position well and feel confident that others will do the same. “When everyone does that,” says Bryant, “the team can focus on executing the strategy, instead of worrying whether colleagues will do what they’re supposed to do. (And such concerns, multiplied across the entire organization, can add up to a lot of wasted energy and lost momentum.)”
  • Rules of the road – There’s more than one way to develop an organization’s values and norms, says Bryant. They can come from the leaders, from a bottom-up process, or from a combination of both. The key is that people have to live by those values, reinforce them every day, and not tolerate behavior that’s at odds with them. If poor behavior is accepted, people get cynical, and that spreads like an infection.
  • Adult conversations – Teamwork and values will thrive only if people are willing to have frank discussions when norms are violated and work through their disagreements and misunderstandings. Here’s how Seth Besmertnik, a technology CEO, put it: “When you’re confident, you can give people feedback. You can be candid. You feel secure enough to say what’s really on your mind, to bring someone in the room and say, ‘You did this. It really made me feel XYZ.’ Having good conversations is really 80 percent of being an effective manager.”
  • A little respect – Bryant says that most adults have had the experience of a boss criticizing them in front of colleagues, and it usually makes them determined not to do that themselves. John Duffy, a mobile-technology executive, says, “We have absolutely clear discussions with everyone about how respect is the thing that cannot be messed with in our culture. When we have problems with somebody gossiping, or someone being disrespectful to a superior or a subordinate, or a peer, it is swarmed on and dealt with. We make everyone understand that the reason the culture works is that we have that respect. There is a comfort level and a feeling of safety inside our business.”
  • The hazards of e-mail – The convenience of e-mail leads many to fall into the trap of avoiding face-to-face conversations and thinking they can handle almost anything, including conflicts, electronically. “By talking over the phone or in person,” says Bryant, “you’ll not only avoid dangerous misunderstandings, but you’ll also develop relationships and a sense of trust with colleagues, essential ingredients in fostering the kind of high-performing culture that drives innovation.” Nancy Aossey, CEO of International Medical Corps, says, “People change when they talk in person about a problem, not because they chicken out, but because they have the benefit of seeing the person, seeing their reaction, and getting a sense of the person. But arguing over e-mail is about having the last word. It plays into something very dangerous in human behavior. You want to have the last word, and nothing brings that out more than e-mail because you can sit there and hit ‘send,’ and then it just kind of ratchets up and you don’t have the benefit of knowing the tone.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/05/business/management-be-nimble.html?_r=0; this article is adapted from Bryant’s new book, Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading C.E.O.’s on How to Create a Culture of Innovation (Times Books, 2014).


Synopsis courtesy of Kim Marshall "Marshall Memos" http://www.marshallmemo.com/

February 28th County Wide Institute Day

Last year, the Professional Development Committee recommended that we utilize the County Wide Institute this spring to meet the needs of each group of staff members by offering as many differing opportunities as possible. Based upon these wishes, the plan for February 28th was developed and distributed to all staff via email on Tuesday, January 14th.

Please Note 1: Classroom teachers will remain in the building that day. Principals are responsible for planning individual building based professional development based on your Rising Star and other school improvement needs. Principals should send me County Wide Institute Day Agendas, as I need this for the ROE.

Please Note 2: It is highly likely that we will pull all teachers involved in PARCC Field Testing for an informational meeting from 11:00 am until 1:15 pm. Please plan accordingly.

PARCC Field Testing Updates

  1. Adding Test Sessions. Several of you had asked to add additional field tests, at certain grade levels, in order for students to be exempt from portions of ISAT. Due to having 2000 schools already involved in the testing, those requests were declined. No additional tests have been added beyond what is listed in the table below.
  2. Student Accommodations. Scott, Kim and Chris have been working over the last two days to make sure all student information is entered correct for the Field Test upload. They will be contacting you and special education staff to ensure we have proper accommodations on file for students participating in the field testing.
  3. Communication Plan to Parents. I will be drafting a letter to be sent home to all parents and guardians of children participating in the field tests. This letter will explain why testing is occurring and the impact on the child. This letter will not go home until we receive final knowledge on whether or not ISAT Waiver is granted by the US Department of Education.
  4. Test Scheduling. At the February 6th admin meeting we will spend time going over the estimated total administration time for each field test session at each grade. I will also have a mock schedule laid out for you to see how scheduling can work at your building.
  5. Field Testing Dates for District 68: A Reminder.
  • PBA: March 24- March 28 & April 7 to April 11
  • EOY: May 5 to May 23

Bandwidth Warning!

Given the many unknowns, please make sure staff are prepared NOT TO USE the internet during the PARCC Field Testing period. If no adverse impact is felt, we will open the internet back up, but it is better to be safe than sorry!

Optional RTI Spring Mid-Point Assessment Change

Several very important notes for scheduling and planning purposes:

  1. The optional RTI Spring Mid-Point Assessment time period has been moved to the week of March 17-21.
  2. No student participating in PARCC Field Testing should take part in the optional RTI Mid-Point Assessment.
  3. PARCC Field Testing takes precedence over optional computerized mid- point assessments. Therefore, no computerized RTI testing will until the PARCC Field Test window has closed.

Principal "To Do" List

  • By Tuesday, 1/21 I need each principal to look at my calendar via Microsoft Outlook and schedule a time in January for me to stop by for 30-45 minutes. I would like to touch base with each building regarding their Rising Star progress as well as any curricular questions or needs.
  • Upload agendas from all building meetings, Principal PLC's, and school improvement planning to your personal evaluation folder for Pat.
  • Please send me your County Wide Institute Day Agenda, as we need this in a separate location for the ROE by March 5th.
  • Meet with Kindergarten teachers to discuss Jolly Phonics needs. Several are in need of SmartBoard software and/or hands-on manipulatives to assist students.
  • Continue rekindling relationships with staff and students!

On The Radar

The following items should be on your radar to attend to over the next month or so:

  • ISAT Scheduling
  • Tentative Budgeting for 2014-2015