#INspirEDleaders

October 2019, Vol.6

October is National Principals Month!

Happy National Principals Month to all of the amazing district and building leaders around the state. You are so important to the success of the students and we wanted to express our appreciation for your tireless efforts. Thank you for your great work!

If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It

By: Melissa Blossom, Assistant Director of School Improvement


Many schools are preparing for fall break after nearly one-fourth of the school year completed. The ambitious goals set for the 2019-2020 school year might be falling off your plate of priorities, as discipline referrals are piling up, email inboxes looks like the dollar amount equivalent to the Hoosier lottery, and faculty and staff members are more than excited to take few days off to spend with their families.


When leaders get the chance to slow down, they begin to reflect on the progress towards school improvement goals. The pressure begins to feel real and overwhelming. Would modifying goals by lowering expectations of success relieve some pressure? Was listening to the school improvement lady from the state challenging me to create ambitious goals a mistake?


It is normal to have doubts and consider lowering expectations for success. Setting ambitious goals is not for the faint of heart. Change-makers, school improvement warriors, and administrative super heroes, are the leaders who stay the course when things get tough. So stay the course and do not back down! Be different. Be unusual. Be the change in the status quo, because if it was easy, everyone would be a leader.

A Toolkit for Implementing High-Quality Student Learning Objectives

By: Diane Vielee, School Improvement Specialist


This toolkit is designed to provide a foundation upon which districts and schools can build a quality Student Learning Objective (SLO) system that allows teachers of non-tested grades and subjects to participate in compensation and evaluation systems that require measures of student growth. The toolkit enhances the first Race to the Top Reform Support Network's (RSN) SLO toolkit, published in the 2012 and produced by the Student Learning Objective Work Group. The toolkit illustrates how districts and schools can leverage SLOs to promote strong instructional and assessment practices.

Emotion, Attention, and Memory

By: John Purcell, School Improvement Specialist


The goal of learning is to acquire knowledge and skills and be able to use those in a variety of settings. For teachers, four essential questions serve as the bedrock for enabling students to reach this goal. The questions are:


What is it we want our students to know and be able to do?

How will we know if each student has learned it?

How will we respond when some students do not learn it?

How will we extend the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency?


The first question pertains to Indiana Academic Standards and the curriculum that school corporations design from those standards. The second question is aimed at the formative and summative measures teachers use to determine how successfully students learn that which is expected. But, imbedded between these two questions is the all-important step of instruction. That is: How will we teach in a way that students acquire knowledge and skills and are able to use those in a variety of settings? After all, that is the goal of learning. The first step is reaching the student.


Studies in neuroscience tell us that we are continuously bombarded by stimuli. Attention is the cognitive process that enables us to control these stimuli, take note of that which is important, and redirect our focus from stimulus to stimulus. Indeed, attention drives learning. Without it, that which must be learned does not “get in” and the information that does may not have adequate mental resources to transfer to long-term memory. As Marilee Springer writes, “The brain is always attending to something, and we want to be the first priority.” So, in what ways can teachers design instruction so they are the first priority? There are a number of factors and strategies that highly effective teachers employ in their practice. Below are several.


• Create and sustain an emotionally secure environment.

• Design lessons that ignite intrinsic motivation. Students must see relevance, purpose, and find personal connections to content.

• Use advance organizers to focus attention.

• Teach to a variety of learning styles: visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic


This is by no means a comprehensive list, but non-the-less each is highly important for teachers to open the door of attention and usher in the knowledge and skills that students are to use in a variety of settings.


Sprenger, Marilee. How to Teach so Students Remember. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.

Ambitious Instruction-Using Cooperative Learning

By: Diane Vielee, School Improvement Specialist


Cooperative Learning


Marzano’s 6th High-Yield Instructional Strategy focuses on cooperative learning. To maximize the effectiveness of this strategy, it is necessary for teachers to utilize flexible groupings that:


  1. are small in size

  2. allow for structured activities that capitalize on cooperative learning

  3. allow for independent practice


When students are participating in cooperative group learning, it is imperative that they are assigned roles and responsibilities as members of the group. The group is only as effective as its members. When this strategy is used effectively in instruction, it can yield a 23 percentile gain!


This strategy potentially has multiple benefits, including the focus on positive interdependence, social skills such as conflict resolution, face-to-face interaction, and individual and group accountability. Some possible methods to consider when integrating content and language through group engagement may include:


  • reader’s theater

  • pass the pencil

  • circle of friends

  • cube it

  • radio reading

  • shared reading and writing

  • plays

  • science projects

  • debates

  • jigsaw

  • group reports

  • choral reading

  • affinity diagrams

Cultural Competency: Hispanic Heritage Month

By: Tarrell Berry, School Improvement Specialist


According the the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in the United States is nearly 60 million, making the people of Hispanic origin the nation's largest racial minority. This is equivalent to 18.3% of the nation's total population.


Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1968, to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week to recognize the rich culture and contributions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America and Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean. In 1988, lawmakers expanded to a month long celebration, from September. 15 to October. 15.


The timing is key. Hispanic Heritage Month always starts on September 15, a historically significant day that marks the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The designated period is also a nod to those from Mexico and Chile, which celebrate their independence on September 16 and September 18, respectively.

Depth of Knowledge

By: Sarah Rush, School Improvement Specialist


How often have you heard the phrase 'depth of knowledge' and 'rigor' throughout your career? Understanding the depth of knowledge levels has become critical within schools and classrooms. Depth of knowledge refers to the depth of understanding and cognitive reasoning required to answer or explain an assessment-related item or a classroom activity. There are four levels and they are not sequential, but rather, four different ways to interact with content. Increasing the depth of knowledge levels within your buildings will push student thinking and creativity. You can find additional information and practice question stems here.

Leadership Spotlight

Rick Davis - Principal, Sheridan High School

Rick Davis has served as a principal for 13 years with two of those years being at Sheridan High School. He is thrilled to be back in the community where he grew up and graduated. Rick’s favorite thing about Sheridan is that due to its size, they can form positive and relevant relationships with the students. Rick and his staff work hard with the students, guiding them and encouraging them to graduate. Rick believes that when it comes to leadership, nothing is more important than your attitude. Being a teacher or administrator is challenging and he believes you should always look for the positives and work to keep those things going. He knows that Sheridan can get through anything if they stay positive and work together.

Dr. Karen Goeller - Deputy Superintendent, Vigo County School Corporation

Dr. Karen Goeller has served as the Deputy Superintendent of Vigo County School Corporation for the past 19 years. Dr. Goeller loves her district because of the exceptional teaching staff. She emphasized that the teachers in the district are very bright and very caring. They work closely with the students to reach their goals and they have the ability to look at the whole child. Thanks to Dr. Goeller and her team, the district has received large federal and state grants to support all students in the district. She believes collaboration and a strong worth ethic are the backbone of a great leader. Leaders should work alongside those in their district make improvements. Dr. Goeller's ability to listen closely to others has made her highly respected within the district.

Amy Rudolf - Principal, Andrews Elementary School

Amy Rudolf has served as a principal for 13 years with eight of those years at Andrews Elementary School. Amy loves the staff at Andrews Elementary and describes them as some of the most dedicated educators that she has ever met. For every student's birthday, Amy can be found going from room to room singing happy birthday to them. She believes in creating a culture where students feel special and valued. Her advice for other leaders is to love what you do each day. Education can be very challenging, but when things get tough, get out of your office and go see the kids. She believes that we need reminders as to why we do what we do. Amy prides herself on the relationships within her school and her first goal is to make students feel safe and loved.

Nominate a Leader!

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

STEM and Computer Science Curriculum Showcase

The Indiana Department of Education is hosting a STEM and Computer Science Curriculum Showcase at Conner Prairie on Monday, October 21 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET. Join us and learn from various STEM and computer science curriculum providers about what you can do to provide your students with high-quality STEM and computer science experiences at ALL grade levels. Attendance at this event is required of all schools/districts planning to apply for an IDOE Stem Acceleration Grant, but the event is open to all that are interested. This opportunity may also help you to plan how your school/district will comply with the requirements of IC 20-30-5-23. Register here.

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

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

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