This is a blog from the Superintendent of Schools for the Deerfield, Illinois Public Schools, District 109 Our mission is: Provide an innovative educational experiences of the highest quality that engage, inspire and empower each student to excel and contribute in a changing world.
This is teacher, nurse, educational support staff (and administrator) appreciation week! We can never say thank you enough to our educators!! THANK YOU!
I’m sharing a quote I have held closely for many years and I’m sharing two notes I recently sent the DPS109 community.
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes.” Maya Angelou
Dear District 109 Families and Community Members,
At its last meeting, the Board of Education declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017 as Teacher Appreciation Day in District 109. Please join the Board of Education and the District administration team in applauding our teachers and all of the educators and support staff throughout District 109 who work so hard each day. We have high-achieving, nationally recognized, innovative, warm and welcoming schools because amazing teachers engage, inspire and empower our students – your children, grandchildren, and the children of your friends and neighbors!
I encourage you to find a way to show your support to your favorite teacher, or any school staff member who makes a difference in the lives of the children in our community. Whether you write a heartfelt, handwritten note, have your child create a work of art, or just go out of your way to say a personal “Thank you,” you are giving a great gift. They deserve all the thanks that we can shower upon them!
“If we neglect our gifts and talents, they, like an unused muscle, will atrophy and waste away.” Stephen Covey
Dear District 109 Teachers and Staff,
The Board of Education recently approved our 2017 Strategic Plan. The planning process was both reflective and forward thinking, and very eye-opening to me. I realized how much we have accomplished in four short years. I also acknowledge and thank you for being open to change. I know that’s not easy. Your leaps of faith and constant hard work have allowed our students to thrive, and schools to achieve local, regional and national recognition. In the strategic planning process we should all be proud of the input and impact of that input. Your voices and your input helped shape the goals, objectives and plans. I look forward to working with you and for you to achieve our goals in the coming years.
On April 24, the Board of Education declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017 Teacher Appreciation Day in District 109. The community will celebrate you throughout the week. To show our thanks, the District administration and Board will provide a gift and special treat at some point during the week. They are small tokens of our boundless appreciation of you and your continual work to engage, inspire and empower our students, their parents, your colleagues, and our community.
So THANK YOU, from me personally, and from the Board of Education and District leaders, for allowing us to work with the best team of educators in the nation.
“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
– William Faulkner, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate
One of the coolest inventions of the modern times is the rear view camera. It’s safe: the rounded view shows people and images as they approach. The camera is also integrated into other safety features like “collision avoidance”. In my car (a VW Passat) for example, if I am going in reverse while a person/vehicle is moving behind me, if I don’t brake – the car brakes automatically!
he first backup camera was used in the 1956 Buick Centurion concept car, …. The vehicle had a rear-mounted television camera that sent images to a TV screen in the dashboard in place of the rear-view mirror. The first production automobile …was the 1991 Toyota Soarer Limited ..The system was discontinued in 1997. In April 2000, Nissan’s Infiniti …introduced the RearView Monitor on the 2002 Q45 flagship sedan at the 2000 New York International Auto Show. .. operated from a license-plate-mounted camera in the trunk that transmitted a mirrored image to an in-dash (7-inch) LCD screen. It was available as optional equipment upon North American market launch in March 2001. The 2002 Nissan Primera introduced the RearView Monitor backup camera system to territories outside Japan and North America.
In addition to the artificial intelligence “seeing” possible safety issues and “taking over” the automobile preventing accidents and injury (and being really cool technology); there is something powerful from a leadership perspective as well.
From a leadership perspective, the rearview camera can be a metaphor about being able to learn from the past (behind) to guide us with confidence. The camera let’s the driver see behind himself in order to guide and direct his actions and behavior. The rearview camera allows a driver to back up into a parking spot safely, accurately, with confidence and with more safety than the mirrors or eyesight (vision) of the driver (leader).
Philosopher George Sanatayana is credited with the quote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Think about it: the past is represented by the rearview camera- images and sometimes hazards looking behind us/the camera guides are actions and driving with accuracy, with guidelines, with support—the rear view camera is a powerful invention & metaphor for leading. Be sure to look back in order to guide your forward! As we lead our organizations forward and as we forge new and better futures for those we serve, it’s incumbent upon us to honor the past and learn from and seek guidance from the experiences of the past (as guidance) so we learn and create new future realities!
Technology is not always new (first back up camera 1956) and our ideas are not always new (stay in education long enough and the pendulum swings back and forth). The juxtaposition of looking back to move forward resonates with me just like the accuracy and confidence of backing up into a parking spot using only the camera and the screen (technology and not my mirrors); and the accuracy and confidence we can lead forward is in front (or in back) of us with support. New and better is innovation.
Innovation is the greatest invention of the present – the gift we leaders provide to those we serve.
Modern technological advances can represent efficiencies that reflect the past, explain or define the present, and help support our leadership for the future.
I welcome your feedback, comments, ideas, reactions!
“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.” – Winston Churchill
In the Deerfield Public Schools, District 109, we have decided to make a change to mathematics program delivery models starting in
the 2017-18 school year in the 6th grade. We are going to eliminate “regular math” and offer “accelerated math” for all.
We engaged in a comprehensive review of our own student performance (status, growth, standardized test results) data and decision making processes. We also consulted with our research analytics partners, the ECRA team, as well as board members, we are confident that the right steps moving forward involve changing the math delivery model in 6th grade. We also made this decision after speaking with district and building administrators and a comprehensive review of research and data.
This equitable math curriculum delivery model change is based upon a substantial body of educational research, two years of our student performance data analyzed by professional psychometricians, and our unified, ongoing desire to create and sustain the most effective and proven structures for student learning possible.
This decision is also supported by emerging themes of needed differentiation stemming from the input and analysis of the strategic plan information (from more than 1700 people’s input).
Strategic Planning Update: Board of Education President Nick Begley commended his fellow Board members and the administrators for a productive strategic planning meeting on Saturday, January 21. Dr. Lubelfeld reported that the District gathered input from more than 1,700 people as part of the process. He explained that the strategic planning process is an opportunity for stakeholders provide guidance to the Board to set the path of the District. The District 109 Board reviewed all the input and worked with ECRA in a half-day workshop to develop a draft plan that includes the mission, vision, portrait of a graduate, guiding principles, goals and objectives. The administrative team will meet on January 31 to review the objective statements as they begin to plan the action plans to meet the objectives and goals. At the February 13 Committee of the Whole meeting, the Board and administrative team will meet to bring together their work. The final plan will be presented to the Board for action at the March 20, 2017 meeting.
As district and building and community leaders,we feel it’s incumbent upon us to design instructional structures that meet the needs of all children and provide equitable educational opportunities for all students. The current delivery model is providing barriers to access for some students, denying them the best opportunity to successfully master grade level standards.
The fact that less than 27% of 6th grade students enrolled in regular math for the past two years met minimum standards is simply unacceptable. We are not assigning blame to any teachers, of course, yet we are also not willing to make excuses for these results or overlook these results.
In our local situation, we discovered that sixty two students were enrolled in regular math (over the past few years) yet they had similar historical achievement levels to 32 students in accelerated math. The 32 students in accelerated math grew at higher rates than the 62 students in regular math.
In considering changing the model of 6th grade math offerings, members of the administration have reviewed and studied an abundance of research related to tracking, ability grouping, and instruction. In addition, the partnership with ECRA Group has allowed us to review and analyze multiple points of local student performance data over the past few years in each “program.”
Sharing one of many videos about ability grouping – causing us to pause, think, and “unlearn” for children – ALL children!
Our 6th grade math model moving forward calls for four sections of accelerated math on each middle school team with TAP (our gifted ed and high achieving track) still remaining separate. We understand that this will be a change for our current sixth grade math teachers.
However, it is worth noting what will not change: 6th grade teachers will move from teaching 4 sections of 6th grade math to 4 sections of 6th grade math with the curriculum map standards (as the “floor” for all students, but the “ceiling” for none) remaining identical to what they are now. The expectation for differentiation is not new, it’s done every day in every K-5 classroom across the district, and it has been happening in our middle school classrooms as well for decades.
We believe children must be allowed to show competence and mastery of their grade level standards, and when they do, the teacher must allow them to move beyond in an effort to remove the limits on our students.
Finally, this entire change process directly relates to the PLC (professional learning communities) work in which we have been involved. There are four basic questions we all must continuously ask and reflect upon every day:
What do we expect our children to know and be able to do? (As mentioned before, with this change the answer will be the same: the 6th grade CCSS for mathematics will be the floor for all students and the ceiling for none).
How will we know if they learned it? (Again, largely nothing will change; we will continue to use MAP, PARCC, DCA, and ongoing daily formative assessment data to monitor our results)
How will we respond when some children do not learn? (Our answer to this question, based on all available data the past two years, is the “why” of this whole movement. This is something we’ve examined extensively and–having done so–determined we must now respond systemically; something must change to determine if we can get better results moving forward)
How will we respond when some students already know/can do? (We want to spend more time on answering this question next year with the acceleration for all model, in which we insist on 6th standards as floor for all, yet the ceiling for none. How can we individualize/personalize 6th grade math instruction to make sure the ceiling is limitless for kids)
Internally we shared some of the following background information and resource collection:
There has been a lot of discussion, thinking, review and reflection about the administration’s goal to reduce tracking at the sixth grade math level next year. Our aim is to raise expectations and remove limits to student growth by making all or just about all math (except TAP/gifted) accelerated. Our “acceleration for all” philosophy is driven by research, best practices, literature, experience, professional judgement, resources available to us, and the performance on the achievement test of children in the “regular” class for the past two years. One hypothesis for the poor performance is the ill effects of ability grouping/tracking as has been in place. In addition, the past few years offers us incredible gains and growth – never before seen or experienced in the district. Our student performance K-5 is impacting needed changes in models at grades 6-8.
Please see these videos for perspectives from experts on tracking and ability grouping:
This is a complex and multifaceted issue that tracking alone does not explain. We believe that raising expectations for all students in the current “regular track” will improve student performance.
Additional literature/research information on this well researched topic:
According to Mary Fletcher, there are many benefits to expect when instructional staff are conversant with and dedicated to differentiated instruction and detracking:
Differentiation allows more students to feel invested in the lesson, thereby decreasing behavioral problems. Students who previously opted to be viewed as “bad” rather than “stupid” will have their learning needs met and other talents explored, allowing them to drop the “bad” act and become instead a valuable member of the class.
Students who might have been considered less intelligent because they learn in a nontraditional way become invaluable contributors to the heterogeneous classroom.
Differentiated instruction encourages flexibility. Teachers thus become adept at adapting lessons to fulfill each student’s individual needs.
Detracking removes the limits that come with rigid thinking about how learning should and does occur. Fair does not always mean “the same.” For example, allowing a student who struggles with the physical act of writing to type his notes can benefit that student and the rest of the class. Not only does the student get access to the material, but the entire class has a reliable set of notes that can be used for those who were absent. This student now becomes an expert—and essential—note-taker who takes pride in his responsibility and sees himself as a member of the class.
Eliminate the Lowest Track First
There is little doubt that tracking does the most harm to students who are consigned to the lowest track. According to the National Research Council (NRC), low-track classes have an especially deleterious effect on learning, since such classes are “typically characterized by an exclusive focus on basic skills, low expectations, and the least qualified teachers” (Heubert & Hauser, 1999, p. 282).
The preponderance of research regarding low-track classes was so overwhelmingly negative that the NRC concluded that students should not be educated in low-track classes as they are currently designed (Heubert & Hauser, 1999). It makes sense, therefore, to begin by eliminating the classes that do the most harm to students.
Other changes need to happen as well. Mathematics teachers need to stop frequent, timed testing; replace grades with diagnostic feedback (Black et al. 2002; Boaler & Foster 2014); and deemphasize speed, so that the students who think slowly and deeply are not led to believe they are not capable (Boaler, 2014). Perhaps most significantly and most radically, schools should also remove fixed student groupings that transmit fixed mindset messages and replace them with flexible groupings that recognize that students have different strengths at different times (Boaler 2009; Boaler & Foster 2014).
“Great organizations demand a high level of commitment by the people involved.”
– Bill Gates
Vision (eyesight) is one of our five senses, eyesight is how ‘sighted’ people get input from the world around us. Eyesight is something that I do NOT take for granted, especially due to personal circumstances over the past six months. In this blog post I am going to draw parallels to my personal experiences with my vision and the concept of Vision in terms of organizational growth and change.
For 35 years I wore eyeglasses to correct my vision – correct as in meaning to improve sight. Sight in terms of what I could see with focus, distance, depth, perception, etc. I could still “see” without glasses, but my “vision” was distorted. With a distorted vision, I was not able to fully “see” or take in the world. The change I needed to make in my life was the change to wear glasses to “correct” my vision.
Often our vision needs to be corrected so that change and new methods can be embraced for improvement
Last year I started to lose my clear vision in my left eye (even with the change I had made 35 years prior) – even with glasses, the vision in my left eye was deteriorating. Again, I had to make choices: 1. let my vision deteriorate and accept a new limited reality; or 2. embrace change again to “correct” my sight.
During the period last year when my vision was departing from my left eye I discovered I was developing cataracts. A cataract “grows” on the lens of the eye and impedes sight. During this experience the first change method I used to correct my vision, eyeglasses, was no longer sufficient.
For 35 years one method of correction worked and I was able to “see”. All of a sudden, out of nowhere I had two options: 1. live with limited vision or 2. have cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is not Lasik surgery; lasik works on the cornea (see the image at the left). Cataract surgery requires the removal and replacement of the lens in the eye. I also discovered during this process of stress, uneasiness, chaos, dissonance, “cheese moving” so to speak – that I needed to replace the lens in both eyes not just in my left eye. So … for a guy who is queasy with “health” stuff … I had to make a choice to confront my fears, confront risk and uncertainty and depart with the habits I had developed over a 35 year glasses wearing period.
So, after two surgeries – successful thankfully – my vision had not only been improved, but I did not need glasses anymore. My brilliant opthamologist inserted a distance lens in my right eye (still 20/20) and a reading/mid range lens in my left eye (20/20 reading and mid range). Wow – change was awesome! Wow – surgery and recovery was not so bad after all.
A change model I use in graphic form is the Virginia Satir change model (depicted in the image to the left). Applying this model to my personal health changes, the discovery of cataracts equate to the foreign element (by red triangle) introduced in my life.
Initially there was resistance (step 2). I was scared, angry, resentful, concerned, confused, and uncomfortable. The chaos, step 3, was the surgery, recovery and my experiences in those settings.
The Transforming Idea (red triangle at the bottom of the image) was the fact that after two surgeries I had better eyesight than I had ever had. NO more glasses! NO reading glasses! The ability to wear sunglasses! No limited night vision. This all led to “integration”, step 4, and a new status quo. The change was fantastic and the new status quo was far better than the old one!
Change is a process, change is part of life, change is inevitable. Few of us seek change but in the end, many changes are far better than “that’s the way we have always done it” mentality.
In the Deerfield Public Schools, District 109, we are engaged in a Strategic Planning process. Strategic means change, improvement, new, different. Strategic Planning means that the Satir Model of Change will now be applied to our organization.
In strategic planning organizations (in our case as a public school district) the Board of Education sets the mission, vision, values, and goals, and the superintendent and leadership team works to develop objectives for each of the goals. Each objective aligns to a goal.
Each goal is also aligned with the values or guiding principles. Those principles are aligned to the portrait of a graduate (beginning with the end in mind).
The portrait of a graduate is aligned to the vision and mission. I’m deliberately stating all of this to set the stage for how vision and change are coming to the Deerfield Public Schools! Our past 3.5 years have been filled with completing plans made by previous boards and leaders – we are proud of these plan completions and I have penned a number of blog posts about the impact of these changes. Now, the stage is set for the next few years to be guided and directed by and grounded in the new Strategic Plan.
In terms of strategic planning, setting the stage for what we hope to become, or setting the vision, is a complex process of input, review, soul searching, input searching, and hope.
Visionon in an organization refers to an aspiration — or hope about the future.The vision describes what the future will become. It describes how the organization will lookin its future. The visions that get actualized are those that are based upon shared values and ideals.
A shared vision is powerful because members of the organization synthesize their hopes and aspirations in support of the common cause – or SHARED VISION. As a leader my aim is to inspire a shared vision. My aim is to generate ideas and synthesize multiple points of input into coherent action plans. My aim is to plan for change that is powerful, meaningful, and that becomes all hands on deck change.
Kouzes & Posner, authors of the Leadership Challenge, have found through extensive research across industry, that the 5 Exemplary Characteristics of leaders are:
Model the Way/Inspire a Shared Vision/Challenge The Process/Enable Others to Act/Encourage the Heart
By Inspiring a Shared Vision, when the “foreign” element is added into the mix, and the old status quo is challenged (challenge the process is another of the exemplary practices of a leader) the resistance is lessened and the pain is diminished when large numbers of stakeholders are engaged in the planning, vision creation, and planning!
In the Deerfield Public Schools we received more than 1,700 people’s input into our Strategic Plan – our district has 3000 students from 1,850 families, so the 1,700 voices helping guide our work give me great comfort that all voices are on the table as we prepare to make our system better – and as we prepare to make changes in our system.
Just like my personal experiences with change have had painful and uncomfortable moments, and just as I did not control elements of what happened to me, our organization is on the path toward meaningful change!
For another post at another time, I’ll explain how my perfect vision and my revised status quo was once again challenged as a torn retina became yet another foreign element in my life creating chaos, and change. As I march towards my new status quo I’m proud that my medical team, family, friends, co-workers, and employer have all helped inspire a shared vision in me — quite literally and figuratively!
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius
From time to time people ask why I strongly and frequently advocate for the leader’s use of social media so often. Others inquire as to why I share so much about my district and professional views publicly on Twitter, via this blog, and in other communication media. Still others ask how does this use of social media tools improve learning for students and staff.
For the first blog post of 2017 I decided to concentrate on the “why” – the why I blog; this year I plan to write about the why I lead, the why I advocate for all children, the why I do what I do and I believe what I do.
Communication is an evolving process reflective of the needs of the community, and as such, this blog and the district’s methods of communication – pushing and pulling – speaking and listening – are likely going to change and evolve as a result of needs and actions of the district and the superintendent’s office. I welcome and encourage your comments and input!I am grateful to be a part of the educational system and the community! I am grateful to work with an outstanding group of educators, community members, parents, students, etc. I am grateful to learn and grow and support the learning and growth of others as the chief educational leader in the community!
Continuing on the subject of why I blog I consider other social media tools that support my growth as a leader. First I look to blogging and next I look to #suptchat, the international monthly Twitter chat I co-facilitate with Nick Polyak. From #suptchat I learn many leadership tips and ideas and I gain access to resources from a large PLN (personal learning network).
In addition, from other social media sources and through personal professional relationships, I continue to learn so much from contemporary leaders, like Chris Kennedy in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Joe Sanfelippo in Fall Creek, WI (#gocrickets), Jeff Zoul right here in Deerfield, and so many other leaders and educators featured in and through AASA, NASSP, NAESP, and many other professional communications.
In addition, the social media connections and relationships are enhanced and humanized through conferences and workshops and from books and literature. I find great value in reading currently published and recently published books from members of my PLN (Sanfelippo, Zoul, Gustafson, Creasman, Burgess, and so many more!)
One of the ways I learn evidence based ways to support leaders in my organization is through reflection, review, study, connection, and learning from others through various connection modes. One of the ways I share reflection is through blogging!
Let’s begin with some definitions. A bit dry, we realize, but this is a necessary evil. First we’ll define the word this whole site is based around – blog.
A blog is a frequently updated online personal journal or diary. It is a place to express yourself to the world. A place to share your thoughts and your passions. Really, it’s anything you want it to be. For our purposes we’ll say that a blog is your own website that you are going to update on an ongoing basis. Blog is a short form for the word weblog and the two words are used interchangeably.
With this first 2017 blog post I’m also sharing my thoughts on what constitutes effective blogging from an article published this month in the January 2017 edition of the AASA Magazine.
What Constitutes Effective Blogging? By Michael Lubelfeld/School Administrator, January 2017
A superintendent plays many roles and wears many hats — chief educational officer, chief spokesperson and chief communicator to name a few essential and high-profile roles.
Social media as a communication medium has proven to be an effective tool for school leaders. In particular, blogging is an effective mode of communication, and something I have been doing since 2010 when I first became a superintendent in suburban Chicago.
Like other forms of social media, blogging allows for a blending or integration of professional and personal messaging. The district website and official e-mail systems are 100 percent work-related and represent the official statements and positions of the school district. A blog allows for the representation of the district while enabling the superintendent to be a person, a professional with human emotions and interests who can share using her or his own voice.
An effective superintendent blog is updated at least monthly. Blog posts should have links, photos and videos relating to the topic being discussed while showcasing learning and leading. Photos and videos showing the schools and communities tend to have a greater viewing impact than generic, nonrelated imagery.
The blog itself should be visually attractive and easy to locate and read with an ease for sharing comments. I follow several blogs because I find the communication timely, relevant and valuable, and I aim to improve my own craft as a blogger by learning from others. The blog should have compelling and well-written content that is fitting for the local audience as well as the profession. It should be a blend and balance of personal reflection and values while serving as a communication arm of the district.
Since the start of the school year, I’ve used my blog to comment critically on the failure of our state to adequately finance public schooling and to reach back to my 8th-grade teaching days to share a homemade vehicle for improving teacher-parent communication in the pre-electronic mail era.
I reflected in another recent post on a life-changing experience participating in a Lifetouch Memory Mission to the Dominican Republic. Several of my narratives attracted comments of followers.
Two superintendent blogs I follow and recommend are the Culture of Yes (https://cultureofyes.ca) by Chris Kennedy, superintendent in West Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Superintendent’s Corner (https://superintendent.hcpss.org) by Renee Foose, superintendent of the Howard County, Md., schools.
In the Culture of Yes, the reader will find timely and appealing posts relating to education, leadership and highlights of the West Vancouver district. I enjoy the 500- to 1,000-word posts that are easy to read, force me to think and allow me to apply concepts to my own practices as a leader. Foose’s blog is visually unique in that the posts appear as
blocks on a page with images. This distinctive look allows the reader to consider the intended message before reading the posts. Foose generally writes shorter posts than Kennedy and hers typically offer photos or other media capturing students and community.
A Public Journal
I blog out of a desire to share, from a balcony perspective when appropriate, and from the “dance floor” when apropos for describing what is happening in the 3,000-student system I lead. I believe it is useful for the superintendent to share publicly his or her in-depth educational philosophies. Reflection is a valuable skill for all, and blogging serves as a public journal for public reflection.
My social media use enables me to share deeper connections. Because social media drops barriers and boundaries, I am able to learn and grow and communicate with leaders all over the world. In addition, the stories of my schools are shared widely thanks to the ease with which one can connect using social media. My blog shows how professional learning of the superintendent relates to best practices in school leadership, instruction and innovation. The blog is another tool for communication in the modern school leader’s bag of tricks.