Thankful for our success #Engage109

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Happy Thanksgiving!

In our school district we have so much to be thankful for. As we approach the end of calendar year 2017, it’s nice to reflect upon how we are meeting the needs for ALL children in the Deerfield Public Schools District 109. As we reflect upon the transformational changes in our district over the past five years, including but not limited to:

Full day kindergarten, Transformative technology/1:1 environments, Instructional coaching structural changes, Communication Media Arts and Science Technology Engineering (the arts) and Engineering (STEAM), Construction (science labs, SMART labs, libraries of the future, engaging classroom furniture, National Blue Ribbon awards, award winning administrators, strategic plan, and more!)

we say THANK YOU to the Board of Education, Teachers, Support Staff, Students, Parents, and all engaged in the District 109 journey!

Sharing a note of thanks I sent to the DPS109 community earlier this week:

Dear District 109 Parents, Grandparents, Staff and Community Members,

In our District and the communities we serve, we have an abundance for which to be thankful. Thank you all for your support, communication, respect, and partnership in the education of our students. The success of our schools is directly related to our many connections and positive relationships.

At last week’s Board of Education meeting, the administration presented an overview of our award-winning student performance as shown on the official Illinois Report Card. The report card provides a variety of information about the District, and each individual school, including demographic information, finances, average class size, and the academic progress of our students.

You can view the 2017 report cards:

The information on academic progress is primarily based on the results of the PARCC test for our students in grades 3-8, specifically in the areas of mathematics and English language arts. But please know that the PARCC results are just one data point; we rely on multiple methods of review and assessment including MAP assessments, the BrightBytes survey, student engagement, and organizational culture. Each child is far more than a test score!

Some report card highlights in our District include:

Closing Achievement Gaps: Over the past three years, our focus on helping all students succeed has led to a drastic drop in achievement gaps.

Exemplary Performance: All six District 109 schools are in the top 80 schools in the state (of almost 4,000 schools ranked), and Walden ranks 13th. These rankings include magnet schools that admit only high-achieving students. You can view a summary of the results, which Dr. Anthony McConnell, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning & Innovation, presented.

5Essentials Survey
You’ll notice one set of measures missing from our reports on the Illinois Report Card under school environment the 5Essentials results. We are required to distribute the 5Essentials survey to parents, staff and students (grades 3-8) every two years. Last year, we did not meet the response threshold to have results included on our report cards. We believe that this is an important measure, and we will again ask our community take this survey.Here is an in-depth description of the survey from the University of Chicago/5Essentials website:

5Essentials is an evidence-based system designed to drive improvement in schools nationwide—it reliably measures changes in a school organization through the 5Essentials Survey and provides individualized, actionable Reports for each school. The 5Essentials system is based on more than 20 years of research by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research on five components found to be critical for school success:

  • Effective Leaders
  • Collaborative Teachers
  • Involved Families
  • Supportive Environment
  • Ambitious Instruction

Parents and staff: please look for the link to the 5Essentials survey in the coming weeks, and take a few minutes to share your perspective. (We don’t yet have a date for the release of the survey, but expect that we’ll send it to our community sometime in January.) Students in grades 3-8 also will receive an email with a link to a student survey to their school email address. Parents of students in grades 3-8: Per Board Policy 7:15, if you do not wish your child to participate in the 5Essentials survey, please email Cathy Kedjidjian (ckedjidjian@dps109.org) by end of day on Monday, December 4, with your child’s name, school and grade.

Transportation Fee Review: Your Input
Finally, we are asking the Board of Education to review the District’s fee philosophy in general, and transportation fees in particular. Please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey about transportation fees; the Board of Education will carefully review and discuss the results at an upcoming meeting.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for allowing us to engage, inspire and empower our students, our community, and each other!

Sincerely,

Mike

The Wow Factor – #engage109 #suptchat

Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”
– Steve Jobs

Every day in every classroom everywhere, student voices should be filling the halls, rooms, gymnasiums, cafeterias, playgrounds, buses, everywhere with “WOW” language.

At some recent professional leadership learning conferences I was WOWED with the experience, the possibility for extending that “wow” to all of the students and staff I serve, and reminded we CAN and we MUST WOW our communities!

As educators we have a gift in our calling to serve, teach and lead. The gift is creating the WOW every day for every child. Each child has but one year to spend with us (typically we have children in our grade level for one academic year). We adults get “do overs” annually but the children have but one time to be a 1st grader, an 8th grader, etc. Thestudents do NOT get “do overs” – we owe them WOW moments.

I believe we owe the students WOW moments all the time. My role as a superintendent of schools and a national leader affords me incredible opportunities to both have and create WOW moments. Wow moments for my own development as a leader, wow moments for colleagues and peers through national, statewide and regional leadership, and most important – helping others create WOW moments for students and staff.

Todd Whitaker (highly respected educational leader, professor, author, and speaker) says “10 days in a row” – meaning we must engage, inspire, empower – every day – every child – every learning encounter. In education our profession is too critical to mess up – to create wow moments 7 out of 10 days for example. 10 days in a row … we must do this because the students rely on us to be ready for them and to provide limitless opportunities for them every day.

The past few weeks have been quite busy for me professionally as I have participated at the state superintendent conference, an executive briefing at Apple in Cupertino, CA, I also attended a Visible Learning conference with John Hattie (himself perhaps the greatest research aggregator of our modern times), and I co-led the American Association of School Administrator (AASA) Digital Consortium Fall Conference in Seattle, WA with my good friend Nick Polyak.

At the Digital Consortium Fall Conference we spent time at three schools in the Highline School District; we also spent time at the Museum of Flight and Boeing in Seattle, WA.

So at Apple and at Boeing we educational leaders got to learn first hand what jobs are needed today as well as tomorrow at two of the planets most impactful companies. We got to see what a modern, contemporary workspace looks like. We got to see what a factory in 2017 looks like – it’s a lot different than the factory of 1917 for which the foundation of US public schooling is built. We thought leaders are doing great work disrupting archaic organizational structures in preparation for 2017 – and for 2020, 2025, and beyond.

At Apple and at Boeing I was WOWED around every corner – I cannot share photos because we are not permitted to take or share photos (corporate protection is real and necessary) though I can share with you how and why I was wowed – but more importantly and far more impact-fully I can share how and why we can and must provide WOW moments for every student every day.

I can share photos from the Museum of Flight – I am sharing photos throughout the text of this post.

While we were engaging in US and world history discussions as well as science and technology history discussions and math and engineering discussions, we were WOWED.

We learned about sociology, manufacturing, coding, computer programming, photography, digital photography, national security and more. We were engaged in our learning. We were provided both whole group and small group learning experiences. Our docent was able to differentiate, individualize and even personalize our experiences. We were learners – we were learning – we were engaged, inspired, and empowered. We connected our own interests, knowledge, and thoughts with the content (the exhibits). We were able to imagine, think, … learn.

In our 30-60 minute lesson at the Museum of Flight, and during our visits to the innovative schools in Highline, we were wowed and we saw wowed lessons and experiences. These experiences included students explaining to us what competency based learning means (i.e. take a year of Spanish in a few months for credit and advancement at the high school); what individualized pacing with artificial intelligence looks like (i.e. with advanced curricular resources); in addition, we learned about how the principals and teachers were building cultures of excellence and managing change. On behalf of Students, Staff, and community!

Our challenge, and as Nick and I write about in the Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today, and what Nick and PJ and I write about in Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable, is to provide true and meaningful engagement for ALL students – every day.

We can do it – we have the knowledge and we must have thecourage. As always, I welcome comments!

 

 

 

 

Culture of “Nice” vs Culture of “Honesty” #suptchat

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is for you”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

In terms of organizational culture, many (Drucker & others) are clear that culture “eats strategy for breakfast”. Meaning – focus on culture or you’ll have nothing on which to focus! Culture is not just important – it’s everything! I write about culture a lot, folks a lot smarter than I (Fullan, Marzano, and others) write and research a lot about culture too! So … if we know how important it is to create it, measure it, build it and sustain it (in education especially) … why are we so “nice” instead of “honest” in the context of leading and managing change?

So this year in the Deerfield Public Schools District 109, two more of our six schools earned the highest education award in our nation – the National Blue Ribbon Award. They join two other of our six schools who earned this distinction last year.

In two years four out of our six schools earned the highest honors. Leadership, Culture, Focus, Excellence, and Joy define the experiences for children and adults at these schools. What are the leaders doing with respect to culture at these schools that it making the difference?

Are these leaders confronting brutal questions? Are these leaders acknowledging when good is good and when good is not enough? Are these leaders honestly and respectfully addressing that which needs to be addressed even when it ruffles feathers? “You bet they are!”

In education many of us have been faced with “niceness” and an aversion to “critical review” for whatever reason – we don’t know why – “that’s the way we have always done it” (TWADDI). In conversations, training workshops, conversations, discussions etc. with school leaders, I have discovered many report that the toughest part of supervision/evaluation/coaching is giving honest, direct feedback. 

Often the “culture of nice” supersedes the “culture of honest”. With this post I’m hoping to highlight how the culture of honest impacts the organization in measureable and powerful ways. The culture of honest is pervasive in the Deerfield Public Schools!

If you’re reading this blog and you are wondering why your particular organization is not changing or is not making progress – perhaps you should check your culture and communication.

Is everything in our district’s culture perfect? – NO – of course not; but we as a matter of leadership assess, measure, and lead with respect to culture and dimensions of culture every year. Our school principals are held accountable for their school’s culture. We expect increases in dimensions especially when action plans are centered around growth, acknowledgement and honesty. This year 93.81% of all employees report that they are highly engaged and highly satisfied with their work in our district!

2017 Organizational Culture Results – DPS109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In In 2013 the average “dream box” (top right) score was 61.90% from a database of more than 10,000 education employees in the USA. Our district’s “dream box” score in 2013 was 85.75%. See below for a look at the past five years’ worth of dream box organizational culture for the Deerfield Public Schools:

 

 

In our district we are far from perfect – highly successful but never satisfied!

We are on a journey toward excellence with a focus on continuous improvement. Over the past two years we have had a failure in the execution of middle school standards based learning. There are a number of reasons for this. One of the reasons was the “culture of nice” superseding the culture of honesty; and our deliberate decisions to “compromise” in the spirit of cooperation (compromise with the best of intentions – but it was really appeasement).

Students of history remember what happened when Neville Chamberlain appeased Adolph Hitler … well – appeasement doesn’t work so well in leadership

honesty and courage work. Granted I’m oversimplifying a really complex and life and death time in history with the day to day leadership of a school system … you get the point.

Strong, direct, honest, dignified, respectful conversations and coaching are required – are imperative – are expected – are to become the norm when success is desired. With honest, direct, clear communication people know what the shared vision is – what the direction is and to what they’ll be held accountable. The three goals shown above reflect the current strategic goals in our district; clear, concise, coherent.

Five years ago the principals in our district began a process of becoming honest and clear culture leaders. They started to address student growth, teacher performance, stretch goals, limitless opportunities for ALL as well as innovative, future focused leadership. As a result, we have four of our six schools honored with the nation’s highest educational honor, we have administrators with regional honors, and we have shared the DPS109 story around the USA. Is it easy to lead in a culture of honesty? No – but I don’t go to work for an easy time … I go to work for a meaningful, impactful time!


I would love to hear your thoughts about culture – “nice vs honest” and leadership overall! If your leaders are too focused on management and not on leadership – excellence will be out of reach! Those who can manage and lead with courage, power, honesty, and in line with the shared vision – those leaders will be successful!

Article about Voxer in AASA Journal

“When you’re a leader, you don’t have a ton of people that work for you– you now work for those people.”
– Todd Bentley

Lately I have discovered a passion for writing! I have published several articles and books. My second book: Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable, ISBN 9781475840025, will be released in January 2018 (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers).

Like the quote above, I work for those I serve – I write for those I serve. The story of the success of the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 (main content for many of my writings) is written for the thousands of students, teachers, support staff, board, administrators, parents, and community members whom I serve.

Another passion of mine is using social media tools for leadership, communication, and progress. To that end, I have published an article in the latest School Administrator Magazine about the social media tool Voxer – see the images below (each is linked to the article/journal). 

As always comments are welcome!