Sharing powerful thoughts on equity

I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole this morning about equity and change that I can’t resist sharing.

It started with  this article by Shane Safir about using “street level” rather than “satellite data” for equity, which is a really powerful mindshift about what data we collect and use.  (At PBLWorks, we’ve done some equity work with Shane. She is amazing.  Her book The Listening Leader is at the top of my list of books to read.)

And then, this article,  which is linked in Shane’s article about how equity should be about liberation.  This quote is what prompted to share all this:

Much of the traditional literature assumes that the leader is the hero, the members of the organization are the resistance, and the central challenge is to achieve “buy-in” via “change management.” A liberatory design approach, by contrast, assumes that teachers and students would like to develop engaging, meaningful learning experiences, and that the problem is not them but the institutional structures and culture of schools that constrains them. Such an approach would foreground the lived experiences of students and teachers and invite them to help redesign schools in ways that are more purposeful and humane. Rather than act on students, teachers, and communities, we would work with them.






Love, Literacy and Liberation: power school mission

I love the power and simplicity of this school’s vision (reminds me a little of Westgate Elementary’s: Lead, Love, Learn).  And I especially love the way they identified clear, public strategies and outcomes for each one.

Don’t forget this name: Michael Fullan

Don’t forget this name: Michael Fullan, New Pedagogies for Deep Learning

Michael Fullan, is the Global Leadership Director, New Pedagogies for Deep Learning and specializes in Whole System Change in Education.  In the video, Michael will respond to some difficult questions from Leader Educators Around the Planet (LEAP).  With Jeffco’s Generation being our vision, I feel that Michael’s overview of learning environments, new pedagogical practices, deep and meaningful learning reaches students like never before which in turn prepares them to be active and engaged students.

This video is a MUST SEE for all Jeffco Cohorts.   Enjoy!


JTG-Continually Relevant

john taylor gatto

John Taylor Gatto, was a creative, a thinker, a visionary, and a whistle-blower who challenged us to examine our current academic paradigm.  He passed away last week at the age of 82.  His legacy and spirit live on in his works, including many books, articles, and speeches.

For this week’s class we read the thought-provoking essay titled, The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher.  Although it was originally published in 1991, the themes he discusses are still concerning 27 years later.  Why is that?  In fact, it feels like things have only gotten worse.  Additionally, why do his thoughts feel so controversial and how come so many people have a hard time discussing his points?  JTG coats his lessons in sarcasm, yet they are no easier to swallow.

His writings hit me deeply for a number of reasons, mostly related to feelings of helplessness and hopefulness, and to move out of that space, I find it helpful to dig a little deeper.  By starting to ask “why” things are the way they are, and sitting with the questions, I may be able to help move toward a solution.


Below is an intriguing, animated video where John Taylor Gatto dives deeper into the Six Purposes of Modern Schooling, which ultimately result in teachers teaching the “Six Lessons” we read about for our class.

What about you?  What questions are you sitting with after reading the article and/or watching the video?

More on JTG’s life and his work can be found on his website.

Will I be as Good as Julie Waage?

“Is she really a new principal?”  

“She seems so confident for a newbie.”

“Will I be as good as her when I first start out as an administrator of one kind or another?”

“Did she just say that she just shows up at a student’s house without announcing that she’d be coming over…to convince the family that their child is welcome back even though that child has been known to cause trouble. Wow!  That’s pretty bold. Will I be that bold?”

Those were the few questions that were running through my head as she spoke.

I’ve really learned a  lot from Julie Waage in such a short period of time.  I kept hearing the words, “vision” and “values” repeatedly as she spoke.  She took the time to get to know the history and values of the school’s community.  Her school has been around a long time and several generations have attended there as well.  Her school has long-held tradition she had come to appreciate and value. I feel like I’m starting to get an “a-ha” moment with mission, vision, values and goals.  Not only can they drive the school, they can drive you to the right school (that is, if you know what your visions and values are).

I was impressed that she met with every staff and community members of her building and  asked each one three basic questions: “Who are you? What are you greatest hopes/expectations for the next year? What are some of your fears?”  As a current teacher, I know I would’ve been thankful that someone would take the time to get to know me. I’d imagine that it would make them feel valued, respected and hopeful.

But…yes, but…all that takes time and energy.  I can see the value of taking the time to make everyone feel like they have meaning within the school.  I can see how it must make a family feel to be told that their child is welcome back and will be given a chance to improve.  I can’t help but wonder if I’d be able to accomplish as much as she has in such a short period of time.

What were your takeaways after listening to Julie Waage talk?  Did she make you feel fear that, perhaps, you may not be a good as her?  Or, did she make you feel, “Well, if she can do it, so can I?” Do share, I’d love to know what thoughts were swimming around in your head.


Know your school and the value of a question.

This week our readings explored different types of data and school measurements for the purpose of school improvement. As we really begin to delve into our module 1, I want to highlight not the obvious importance of a question, but the consequence of what an intentional question drives. In other words, a good question can yield some interesting data and maybe even some conclusions. However, a great question will yield data leading to other questions! Which begins a cycle of research, thought, conclusions and a rich picture of information.

Victoria Bernhardt’s “Multiple Measures” article highlights the intersection of four key measurements. Her examples of questions which intersect the four key measurements drive her data collection. I completely agree with her approach and think we should consider purchasing some books as a resources for our class.

I have been working closely with a group at my school to develop a new mission and vision. We use guiding questions to lead us into conversation. We’ve been using a timeline framework to drive our questions.

What our school looks like in 2021? Questions for the Future (May 28, 2021)

 What does outstanding, “signature” student success and engagement look and sound like?

 What does outstanding, “signature” instruction and interaction look and sound like?

 How are students being prepared for their life long journey?

In what ways do adults collaborate, think and learn together?

  How do our programs and communities engage and intersect?

What dispositions (behaviors/values) stand out around the school?

Questions for how we got to the Future (from Sept. 2018- May 2021)

What specifically was developed or changed to achieve signature student success?

What specifically was developed or changed to achieve signature instruction and engagement?

What specifically was developed or changed to achieve our most effective collaboration?

How did it improve…What practices and areas of focus did we prioritize?

What does our school look like today (September 14, 2018).

What makes us good?

What initiatives, programs and designs drive our practice?

What are our students greatest strengths and attributes?

What are our most instructional practices?

How does our community thrive?

These questions lead us to more authentic/specific questions pertaining to our program. Which in turn lead to some really great conversations about our mission and vision work. I have shared a short comics called  A day at the park It’s a cute comic discussing the value of questions vs answers. In a fluid field like education, where the only constant is change, it is my belief that we must always be questioning every aspect of our system, community and self to try to improve.



Deliberately Developmental?

In reading the last 2 articles for this week (Class 5: 9/27/18) one thing that kept coming up for me is a wonder about the importance of staff culture and context to really make change happen via continuous improvement from data analysis. To me it seems like culture would be really important and that key characteristics of that culture would need to include transparency, trust and collaboration (along with vision and action)

  • transparency: we’ve got to put it all out there, no un-discuss-ables, or elephants in the room
  • trust: so that we are each really open to see what is there in the data even about ourselves and are open to critique without getting defensive.
  • collaboration: because the work of change and improvement is too big to do alone.
  • (vision: we have to know why we’re digging in deep and doing hard work)
  • (action: we have to do something based on the analysis, otherwise trust will be eroded)

This reminded me of a book I read recently called An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Development Organization.  (You can find a shorter summary here.) This book speaks to the benefits of an organization-wide orientation toward continuous improvement of each individual–as person and professional–as a core element of the work of the organization.  Not an add-on or a nice-to-have but inseparable from the “real” work of the organization.

My biggest wonder so far about our orientation or mindsets as leaders is whether our focus should be on the development of staff as our primary mission in service of a shared vision of positive outcomes for students.  Is that the norm with principals? How would that cascade throughout the system? Would it lead to achievement of the vision? Spoiler alert: The book above suggests yes.  I’m really curious about what it would look like in schools.