September 2019, Vol.5

Focus on Less

By: Robin LeClaire, Director of School Improvement

Whether in school turnaround or growing an already high performing school, it’s getting people focused on the goal that is the job of leadership. Seems simple yet as a principal I struggled with this concept more than once. Schools, no matter if they are low or high performing, have a million pieces moving at once. That can make focus difficult and the challenge of deciding what to focus on critical. I experienced (probably promoted) and have witnessed initiative fatigue at all levels of education. Why? Because there are a lot of great and innovative ideas out there. If something will work for our students then we want it – all of it! But, as school leaders we must focus on less!

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said it best: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Rather than trying to get everything done all at once, pick and choose your priorities carefully. Choose a handful of projects to work on that are mission critical. Apply the Pareto Principle: focus on the 20% of your work that will generate 80% of results.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things I haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs

I encourage you to find the things you can say “NO” to and direct your team’s focus toward things that must happen to those that would be nice to have happen.


Comprehensive Needs Assessments and School Improvement Plans (CNA-SIP) are due October 11. If you need additional support completing either the CNA or SIP, please reach out to the Office of School Improvement with any questions.

Director Robin LeClaire


Assistant Director Melissa Blossom


CNA/SIP Announcement

By: John Purcell, School Improvement Specialist

Indiana schools must submit a strategic and continuous school plan (IC 20-31-5 and 511 IAC 6.2-3) to meet accreditation requirements. It is no surprise to educators that schools are responsible for any number of federal, state, and local mandates. While all mandates have their purposes, a strategic plan for continuous improvement can and should be the means by which everything else is pulled together. It is the thread that keeps everyone together, focused, and moving forward toward a common destination – high levels of learning for all. Without a plan, and without everyone committed to that common thread, schools are left with random acts of improvement and little to no chance of success.

Even though all Indiana schools are required to submit plans, those who have been designated as Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) and Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) must complete their plans using the state-created Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA)/School Improvement Plan (SIP) template, found here. Using this template ensures that all federal, state, and Title 1 requirements are met.

During the last several weeks, members of the Office of School Improvement have worked with many schools designated as TSI and CSI. Staff from those schools are working diligently to understand the template and create meaningful plans. To assist anyone who is using the template, a Review Guide has been prepared and can be found here.

This year, school improvement plans are due on Friday, October 11. As we move into the final weeks of plan preparation, staff from the Office of School Improvement are committed to providing guidance and the highest levels of support, particularly for CSI and TSI using the new template.

Setting High Expectations- Teach Like A Champion

By: Diane Vielee, School Improvement Specialist

This resource includes five instructional techniques for setting high academic expectations for students in every classroom: No Opt Out, Right is Right, Stretch It, Format Matters, and Without Apology. This resource can be leveraged by teachers, as well as instructional leaders and coaches, to improve instructional skills centered on setting high expectations for student achievement. Each instructional technique includes detailed examples and optional scripts that can be used for practice.

Ambitious Instruction-Using Nonlinguistic Representations

By: Diane Vielee, School Improvement Specialist

Marzano's Fifth Instructional Strategy

It is important to understand that knowledge is stored in two forms: linguistic (language-based) and nonlinguistic (image-based). This article will be devoted to the latter: nonlinguistic, or image-based storage, because this form of understanding information can lead to a 27 percentile gain. For this to occur, students should participate in activities such as, creating graphic representations, models, mental pictures, drawings, pictographs, and participate in kinesthetic (hands-on) activities in order to digest knowledge.

When students are able to store and represent knowledge in both forms, they experience the highest success-rate when they are able to think about, recall, and elaborate on the knowledge. As teachers, we can foster this through the use of:

  • Visual tools and manipulatives

  • problem/solution organizers

  • spider webs

  • diagrams

  • concept maps

  • drawings

  • charts

  • thinking maps

  • graphic organizers

  • sketch to stretch

  • storyboards

  • foldables

  • act out content

  • make physical models

Road Trip!

By: Sarah Rush, School Improvement Specialist

This summer, our team traveled around the state to deliver Planning for Proficiency professional development. Our team traveled to Brown County, Mississinewa, Kokomo, Wakarusa, and Marian University. The professional development focused on identifying high priority standards, unpacking standards, and creating instructional calendars. We are continuing to offer support around the state through our Professional Development Menu. Let us know how we can support you school or district!

School Improvement Professional Development Menu

By: Diane Vielee, School Improvement Specialist

The Office of School Improvement now offers on-site FREE professional development. Professional development sessions can be scheduled from one and a half hours up to a full day depending on the topic(s). School and district leaders can utilize the Professional Development Menu to assist in the planning of your 2019/2020 PD schedule. Our school improvement specialists provide relevant professional development on topics such as student engagement, checks for understanding, unpacking standards and creating measurable learning targets, identifying high-priority standards, and creating instructional calendars, and many more! Please contact Diane Vielee with any questions. dvielee@doe.in.gov

School Improvement Conference

Big picture

The Sailing to Proficiency School Improvement Conference on September 5 was a huge success! Hundreds of educators gathered in downtown Indianapolis to experience a day full of professional development and networking. Culturally-Responsive Teaching, MTSS, Depth of Knowledge, How to Conduct a Root Cause Analysis, and Student Engagement were just a few topics that were presented throughout the day. Thank you to everyone who made the day possible!

Leadership Spotlight

John Beeker - Principal, McCutcheon High School

John Beeker is serving as Principal of McCutcheon High School at Tippecanoe School Corporation. John has been a principal for 25 years, with 18 of those years being at McCutcheon. He has seen the school grow from 1200 students to nearly 1900, but has still managed to maintain a close and personal feel within the building. John is proud of the growing diversity within his school and loves seeing the school embrace diversity. One of his favorite parts of McCutcheon is the FOR (Friends of Rachel) Club. This club was started by seniors and promotes inclusivity around the school. John believes in the importance of listening to others and he has the ability to connect with the students. John is extremely proud of the students and staff at McCutcheon and he is looking forward to the joys this year will bring!

Michele Starkey - Superintendent, Logansport Community School Corporation

Michele Starkey has served as the Superintendent of Logansport Community School Corporation for over eight years. She has spent her entire career in Logansport. She graduated from Logansport High School, served as a substitute, teacher, assistant principal, principal, curriculum director, and superintendent. The size of Logansport has allowed her district to offer everything large districts offer. She is proud of the fact that the students from Logansport are graduating with an average of 30 dual credit hours. Michele places an emphasis of graduation pathways and works closely with the Century Career Centers. She has created partnerships with companies around the communities to enhance the school’s offerings. Michele has created a greater sense of stability within her district. She loves the fact that there is a complete investment among the staff and they can see her continued commitment. She believes the best thing leaders can do is to listen and really hear what people are saying.

Nominate a Leader!

We are going to spotlight principals and superintendents every month. Nominate an exceptional leader by filling out this form.
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.

Connect with us on Twitter!

According to edsurge.com, 4.2 million tweets a day are related to education conversations. This is a great way to connect with other leaders in the education world. We invite you to connect with us and each other!

1. Tweet about all things in LEADERSHIP using #INspirEDleaders

2. Follow the hashtag and connect with other leaders around the state

3. Follow @EducateIN for the latest updates from Indiana Department of Education

4. Follow @LeclaireRobin, @MelissaABlossom, @DVielee, and @sarah_rush1 for the latest from the SI team

Want to Subscribe to our Newsletter?

To subscribe to this newsletter, please visit our website. Please share this newsletter with your network and colleagues!