May 2019, Vol. 2

For Principals: Take the Blame and Give Away the Credit

By: Melissa Blossom, Assistant Director

I had the privilege of working for a superintendent, early in my administrative career, who experienced a significant amount of success turning around a failing high school. The list of awards and recognitions he received was lengthy. Yet, every time he was forced into the spotlight, the credit was given to leaders and teachers who served alongside him. From his example, I learned that great leaders give away the credit for success and take the blame when things do not go as planned. Leadership Reflection: How would your staff feel if you owned low student outcomes in any area? Would they begin to see you as a shared stakeholder? Could this establish a new relationship of trust that would allow for transparent conversations about the current state of your school? I would love to hear your feedback. What would you say to a leader struggling right now to create a culture of shared ownership? Email me your ideas or comments at mblossom@doe.in.gov.

Community of Practice for Principals

The Community of Practice for Principals will kick-off during the summer of 2019! Sign up HERE to join our CoP!


PLC’s: A Change for the Better

By: John Purcell, School Improvement Specialist

The nation’s second-longest serving Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, noted that one of the best ways to convince others is with your ears. Change is difficult, cumbersome, and even scary, particularly for teachers. But when it comes to student learning, the choice is clear: All students must learn at high levels. This requires letting go of ineffective practices and committing to a proven process for success, ideally PLCs. The question is: How do school leaders navigate these tricky waters of change-big change- knowing that high levels of learning for students is non-negotiable?

First, it is important for school leaders to recognize that reluctance or resistance to change by staff is often not a challenge to their leadership, but the result of internal conflicts and anxiety. Feeling overwhelmed, doubts of self-efficacy when doing a job differently, and cynicism based on past experiences are just a few reasons teachers resist change. This is why it is vital to understand the real reason teachers are reluctant or resistant to change. And this is an important distinction. Reluctance is “to show hesitation or unwillingness”; Resistance is “to exert force in opposition.” Knowing where teachers are coming from requires communication and can be the difference between success and failure.

What school leaders say and do (as well as not say and not do) greatly influence how people react and adjust to change. As Dean Rusk advised, it’s best “convince with your ears.” That is, seek first to understand. “Why” is behind what we do. Once understanding the “why” behind teachers’ reluctance or resistance, school leaders can best communicate their own “why” as to the need for change. (Strategies for communication is an article for another time).

This leads to the last point: When pursuing the PLC process, school leaders must lead by knowing their purpose for asking others to change. The first step in helping teachers commit to change is for them to see the benefits and urgency for doing so. Urgency. When students are not learning at high levels, there is urgency for which we must take responsibility. The goal in moving forward is to tap into what teachers know their school can become, develop a shared understanding of where the school is, and then commit, together, to faithfully following a process for making their unified vision a reality.

Professional learning communities are rooted in cultures built on trust, purpose, focus, and collaboration. This process begins with what Lickona and Davidson (2005) refer to as a “palpable sense of we.”

The IDOE School Improvement staff have taken to the road...

By: Kelley Grate, School Improvement Specialist

The IDOE School Improvement team has taken to the road to find out what our model PLC schools are doing, so we can help others find the same success! We spent two days in early March visiting three schools in northern Indiana. On day one, we visited Melissa Rees and staff at Claypool Elementary in Warsaw and Lori Line at West Goshen Elementary. A special thank you to Lori Line for allowing us to observe a leadership team meeting. Curt Schwartz, Principal of Jefferson Elementary in Middlebury, hosted us on day two. His staff invited us into their PLC meetings and provided us great insight into their PLC journey. We want to thank each of these principals and their staffs for welcoming us so warmly.

Ambitious Instruction for All!

By: Diane Vielee, School Improvement Specialist

Ambitious Instruction

Let’s continue our study of one of Marzano’s Nine Essential Instructional Strategies. This month’s focus will be on the second high-yield instructional strategy, Summarizing and Note-Taking. Research shows that this high yield strategy can lead to a 34 percentile gain for students!

Marzano’s Second Strategy: Summarizing and Note Taking

With the use of this strategy, students will learn to categorize the information they are studying into three categories:

1. Information that can be eliminated because it is not of major importance.

2. Information that can be substituted or rewritten.

3. Information that should be kept because it is important.

This strategy allows students to analyze information to enable them to gain a deeper understanding of the content. Note taking should be an active part of the learning process.

When teaching this strategy, it should be modeled through the use of numerous techniques. Depending on the content or topic being studied, you may wish to model summarizing by:

  • Identifying key concepts

  • Bullets

  • Outlines

  • Clustering

  • Narrative organizers

  • Journal summaries

  • Break down assignments

  • Create simple reports

  • Quick writes

  • Graphic organizer

  • Column notes

  • Affinity diagrams

  • Reciprocal teaching

The key is to model the strategies for students, making sure to establish consistent rules for creating summaries. Students should also be encouraged to write notes using their own words rather than copying verbatim.

More information about identifying similarities and differences can be found here.

  • Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The Heart of a Teacher Leader

By: Kelley Grate, School Improvement Specialist

Teacher leaders are such a valuable asset in our schools! They have a passion for their work inside the classroom that stirs a calling in their hearts to impact other classrooms as well. I was a teacher leader. I loved my work with students, but I felt the need to lead. I wanted to affect change in our school that was bigger than just my classroom. At first I thought that might be in the area of administration, but I soon figured out that what I really had a passion for was helping other teachers with their instruction. I wasn't interested in managing a building; I wanted to be an instructional leader. With creative scheduling and some "out of the box" thinking, my administrator was able to make this a reality for me. Some corporations are able to staff instructional coaches while others are not...don't let this stop you! I was able to be a teacher leader without an official position. The short video below speaks about the value of teacher leadership. For more information about utilizing teacher leaders in your schools, please feel free to email me at kgrate@doe.in.gov.


Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices

By: Tarrell Berry, School Improvement Specialist

Culturally responsive teaching goes beyond having an understanding of classroom composition. A high level of cultural competence in the classroom involves the ability to read and react to challenging scenarios that stem from cultural variety and differences among students and staff in the learning environment. All educators should spend some time on the IDOE Compass page and take a look at the achievement data broken down by ethnicity, as well as the racial breakdown of educators throughout the state. The Office of School Improvement will be releasing more information on best practices as well as a list of Technical Assistance Partners that specialize in training staffs continuously on best practices around culturally responsive teaching.
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Jump-Starting Instructional Transformation for Rapid School Improvement: A Guide for Principals

By: Diane Vielee, School Improvement Specialist

Leading the change for rapid improvement in a school can be a daunting task. At the heart of school improvement is transforming instruction. Changes in instruction require thoughtful, persistent, and systematic approaches led by the principal and a team of teachers. Jump-Starting Instructional Transformation for Rapid School Improvement, A Guide for Principals provides a comprehensive roadmap for developing and implementing a plan to strengthen instruction across a school. This guide also has an extensive number of templates that can be adopted or adapted to help a school leader and her/his team of teachers complete the action steps outlined in this tool.

This tool is organized by four key action steps:

  1. Establish practice-focused collaboration
  2. Map the instructional system
  3. See through the students’ eyes
  4. Set the course for change

This tool provides detailed, step-by-step guidance to help a school leader and her/his team of teachers successfully complete each of these four action steps.

Click here to learn more about this fantastic resource!

Fifty-four Technical Assistance Partners (TAP) participated in the 2019 School Improvement Summit hosted by the Office of School Improvement. For a list of approved partners, profiles, and contact information, please click on the following link: https://www.doe.in.gov/school-improvement/2019-school-improvement-summit. If you have additional questions about the event or the approved list, please contact Melissa Blossom mblossom@doe.in.gov or Kelley Grate kgrate@doe.in.gov.

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