What does the superintendent do all summer? #Engage109

“Make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you”
– John Wooden

What is going on in #Engage109 this summer?  What do we do all summer is a common question I have been asked for most of the 25 years I’ve been in education! Well it’s official – we are in school year 2017-2018! We have a guiding Strategic Plan, we have many new leaders, we will have a new board member on the way – it’s a whole new year. Aside from running summer school with more than 500 students, overseeing major summer construction projects approaching $5Million dollars, and the on-boarding of nearly 10 new leaders, we’re also making sure we have plans for meetings, workshops, professional development, curriculum development and other milestone events for all administrators.

As far as we’re concerned, it’s time for 2017-2018 to start (Ok … we’ll wait a few more weeks …).

In addition, we’re reaching end of life for hundreds of nearly 10 year old Promethean Boards, so the Technology Team is rolling out new projection and whiteboard systems to replace the Promethean boards in all six campuses.  Our Director for Innovative Learning, Marcie Faust and many of our outstanding iCoaches have trained nearly 64 teachers in summer workshops thus far and expect another 57 on the scheduled dates in July and August!  This is in addition to widespread learning sessions in the multiple classrooms at each building that we had set up last spring as a “debut”.  

We also continue to close the fiscal year that ended on June 30, and we prepare for the annual auditors who are scheduled to come spend two weeks conducting field test at the end of the month.  

In addition, the Director of Buildings & Grounds, Charlie Privett, and the B&G team are exceptionally busy working on a variety of projects throughout the district, including:  

Caruso & Shepard Locker Rooms, Security Projects (throughout the district), Casework at Kipling & South Park, Parking Lots at South Park, Walden, Shepard, & Wilmot, Roof Project at Wilmot, Flooring Projects & Painting Projects Throughout the district, and more!

In addition, I published an article in the IL ASCD Summer Journal and I’m working on a few other writing projects.

So … while the students are enjoying much needed recreation time, the leadership team is busy making sure everything will be ready for them in August!

I always smile when folks say “It’s easier in the summer, right?” – nope – but I would not want it any other way.


Inspiring a Shared Vision in DPS109 – #ENGAGE109

“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.”
– Indira Gandhi

b8077f18-ce80-4257-b717-ea878b099ad9In this blog post I am highlighting the great work of the teachers, students, parents, support staff members, administrators, community members and the Board of Education of the Deerfield Public Schools District 109. Our leadership team has been following the research of Kouzes & Posner. In their book The Leadership Challenge they share decades of leadership research across industry and they proffer that the five practices of exemplary leadership are: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart (MICEE). The focus of this post rests with the Inspire a Shared Vision Practice, and at the end of the post I share a recently published journal article about our District’s shared vision and its direct connection to actions.

From an August 23, 2013 post:
Leaders build relationships. I believe that each person is a leader in one way or another. Some are leaders by nature and talent, some are leaders by situation or role. Leadership is both an art and a science, and there are many books, articles, research reports, and findings about what leadership is and leadquotewhat leadership can do. Two great books on school and district leadership are: School Leadership that works and District Leadership that works. One of the main charges that I have as the superintendent of schools is to support leadership so that leaders emerge in all parts of the organization to Engage, Inspire, and Empower. While I am visible in the schools, and while the classroom is the most important “place” in the school district, I also work very closely with the administrative team in an effort to support their work and their leadership.

This year [2013-14] as a leadership team (district center administrators, and building level administrators) we are working on a book study with The Leadership Challenge. The authors of this classic and highly regarded leadership book Kouzes and Posner detail and describe Five Main frameworks for leadership (Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart).

Our Leadership Challenge is to fulfill our district mission every day in every classroom and in every interaction. One tangible, observable way in which we can guide our leader’s work is found in the Five Main frameworks.

Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart (MICEE)

The Mission of the Deerfield Public Schools, DPS109:

Provide educational experiences of the highest quality that engage, inspire and empower each student to excel and contribute in a changing world.

Our Vision: District 109 students will excel and contribute when they have the knowledge and skills to be: • Lifelong, self-directed learners, • Critical and creative thinkers, • Effective communicators,
• Collaborative team members, • Respectful and responsible members of society

This month (March 2016) Deerfield Public Schools District 109 Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Operations, CSBO Greg Himebaugh & I published an article in the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) Journal UPDATE (see below). This article is about how WE in DPS109 have been inspiring a SHARED vision that has lead, leads to, and will continue to lead to ACTION and LEADERSHIP on behalf of students, staff, and community!


It’s Not My Job? – Yes, Actually It Is! Education For ALL by All #HourOfCode

“Being a leader is not about you. It’s about the people that are on your team and how you can help them be successful.”
– Susan Vobejda

Last year in December I wrote about the Hour of Code; this followed up from a post the previous December as well. This Hour of Code is held during Computer Science Education Week. Here is a link to an article about White House support for Hour of Code.

Here is a video about the Hour of Code from Computer Science Education Week:

All across District 109 students and teachers and administrators are experiencing Computer Science by participating in the Hour of Code! So much energy was devoted to this endeavor that our town made the Leader Board (as of 2:50 Central time on 12/9/2015):

hour of code leaderboard 250pmCT 129

One of the main leadership tenets under which we operate in DPS109 is “MICEE” from Leadership Challenge.

Model the Way
Inspire a Shared Vision
Challenge the Process
Enable Others to Act
Encourage the Heart

To that end, today we Modeled the Way during our Leadership Team Meeting (see Periscope video) The video runs 24 minutes, so you may want to watch parts … the point is we leaders in DPS109 (superintendent, assistant superintendents, executive directors, principals, associate/assistant principals), as part of our leadership development we participated in the hour of code.

The blog post’s title: It’s Not My Job? – Yes, Actually It Is! Education For ALL by All #HourOfCode is meant to show how educating our children, supporting the growth of one another and our teachers, is the job/responsibility of each of us. Education is often referred to as a calling, leadership is a set of practices and a foundation of service, together we can best serve our students.

Kudos to the students, teachers, and leadership around the world, and in DPS109 for living the Leadership Challenge exemplary practices of leadership! It’s fun to be on the “Leaderboard” but the real fun is experiencing computer science, coding, problem solving and problem based learning. Through real life experiential learning our students will continue to be engaged, inspired, and empowered – our Vision and our Mission – each and every day!

It is incumbent upon us to “get out of the way” in terms of modern approaches to student learning. Students are bright, they have the ability to collaborate and create and think critically and communicate. Students have voice, agency and power. Schools are designed for student learning. School systems support student, staff, leadership, and community learning. It’s a time of change and energy in public education. It’s time to bring back problem based learning experiences tied to the 4C’s linked to standards and student interest. Passion projects, genius hour, excitement and energy is what school should be all about. It’s affirming and rewarding to serve in a community dialed in to what’s right about schooling!


More on Hattie and Marzano – We KNOW what works!

“The experience of others is the best classroom you will ever find.”
– Warren Buffett

From time to time I share information about relevant and timely educational research. in this post I am reprinting excerpts from an earlier post regarding the powerful and influential research findings from John Hattie. The excerpt is from a post on January 2015 about my own connections educationally with the constructivist philosophy as well as some powerful findings of impact/effect from John Hattie’s meta analytical research. Following the excerpt, I’m reprinting a blog post from Shaun Killian that shares commonalities from Robert Marzano’s findings and Hattie’s findings. So much information about impact and effects of instructional methods rests at our fingertips – it’s exciting to have multiple mediums to share and communicate and inform!

As early as in 1995, I experimented with U.S. History Workshop where students were given voice and choice – with guidance, support, and direction – as they learned about U.S. History. I published an article in “The Councilor” (the official publication of the Illinois Council for the Social Studies), Volume 56, pages 11-25, title: “Planning Powerful and Engaging Social Studies: The U.S. History Workshop for Students”

Looking back at past blog posts I shared about Hattie’s research and in commentary where I have read and written about Hattie’s meta analytical research, I found that the effect size of student expectations also referred to in his writing as self-reporting grades is 1.44, for more on Hattie, there are books, articles, publications, and links from my blog. The main points are for us to keep our eyes on the prize so to speak, raise our expectations – remove limits and obstacles – teach better, create more active learning spaces and allow our students to soar – using what we know and using what we believe -there are no limits!

It is incumbent upon us – public education leaders – to learn from research findings, apply interventions in the ways enumerated in the syntax of the research – and to cede some control to the students as we activate their learning and as we support their limitless growth and success!


From Shaun Killian’s Blog Post: Reprinted and shared with permission

8 Strategies Robert Marzano & John Hattie Agree On

Robert Marzano and John Hattie have both reviewed research into what teaching strategies make the biggest difference to students’ results. While they used different methods and terminology, they agreed on these 8 powerful strategies.


Strategy 1: A Clear Focus for the Lesson

focusJohn Hattie highlights how important it is for you (and your students) to be clear about what you want them to learn in each lesson. According to Hattie, teacher clarity is one of the most potent influences on student achievement. Robert Marzano agrees, including lesson goals in his top 5 list of factors that affect how well students do at school.

Hattie states that lesson goals:

  • Clearly state what you want your students to learn
  • Can focus on surface or deep learning (or both)
  • Must be challenging for the students relative to their current mastery of the topic
  • May be grouped (i.e. a single lesson may have more than one goal)
  • Need to be shared with the students

Marzano also found that posing questions at the start of a lesson is an effective way to focus students: For example:

  • How do you add mixed fractions with different denominators? That’s what you must know by the end of this lesson.
  • What is the difference between elements and compounds? …
  • Why is Persuasive Essay A better than Persuasive Essay B? …
  • When (what period) were Egypt’s great pyramids built? …

Hattie suggests using questions a slightly different way:

  • What are today’s lesson goals?
  • What do I already know that will help me achieve these goals?
  • What actions will I need to do to ensure I achieve these goals?


Strategy 2: Offer Overt Instruction

Robert Marzano claims it is important to explicitly teach your students the things they need to learn. His review of research actually revealed it was the most important factor (teacher controlled) affecting students’ success. You need to tell them what they need to know and show them how to do things they must be able to do for themselves.

John Hattie did not review explicit teaching per se, but he did find that Direct Instruction was very effective. Direct Instruction involves explicitly teaching a carefully sequenced curriculum, with built in cumulative practice.

Furthermore, Hattie highlighted the power of giving students worked examples when explaining how to multi-step tasks. Marzano also highlights the importance of giving examples and non-examples (similarities and differences) of the concept you are teaching. For example, when teaching prime numbers it would be useful to highlight 2 as an example, and 9, 15 and 21 as non-examples to avoid confusion with odd numbers.

Marzano also found that you can explicitly teach deeper levels of understanding by using graphic organisers You should use graphic organisers to show how different ideas were related to each other (e.g. steps, cause-effect, hierarchy, lists, comparisons, etc.).

Neither Hattie nor Marzano believes that great teaching is nothing more than standing out the front of the class and imparting knowledge. However, both agree that telling students what they need to know and showing students what they need to be able to do are essential aspects of teaching.


Strategy 3: Get the Students to Engage With the Content

While it is essential to actively teach students what they need to know and be able to do, it is also important to get them to actively engage with the content.

Marzano and Hattie agree that this starts with students actively linking your newly provided information with their prior knowledge of the topic. Students need to engage with the content as soon as they hear it by:

  • Adding it to what they already know, or
  • Using it to clarify some of the faulty assumptions they currently hold

Your students can then engage with your information in other ways. Hattie talks about the value of getting kids to take notes. Marzano also found there was great value in having your students take notes, and getting them to work with physical manipulatives.  Also, he found that the simple act of asking students to recall information that you have just taught them (i.e. asking basic questions) had a substantial impact on how well they mastered the material. All these strategies are useful, but they only allow students to engage with the material at a surface level.

vennRobert Marzano also found several ways for students to engage with the material in ways that help them deepen their understanding beyond surface knowledge. These include the use of graphic organizers that show how information is connected (e.g. steps, cause-effect, in comparison to, hierarchical classification). It also includes the use of analogies, such as:

  • Persuasive devices are to a writer what tools are to a tradie, or
  • The Magna Carta offers citizens what a referee offers a game of soccer.

These are practical strategies that exemplify the higher levels of the SOLO taxonomy (an alternative to Bloom) that Hattie also advocates.


Strategy 4: Give Feedback

It is important that you give your students feedback after they engage with any new material. This:

  • Highlighting what is right and wrong, or good and bad about their work
  • Helping students to see how they can improve

Robert Marzano highlighted that students need to be given feedback while there is still time to improve (i.e. before finishing a topic or assigning a formal assessment task). John Hattie agreed with this but went further, showing that novice or struggling students need immediate feedback, while more experienced students do better when they receive delayed feedback. Hattie also discovered that different types of students need distinct types of feedback (see How to Give Feedback: The Advanced Guide).

Hattie also highlighted that feedback is a two-way street, where student results tell the teacher the degree to which their efforts are working (or not). When teachers see feedback this way, it has an even larger impact on their students’ subsequent results.


Strategy 5: Multiple Exposures

If you want students to internalize new information, you need to expose them to it several times.

When exploring how to enhance students’ vocabulary, Robert Marzano found that it was critical for teachers expose students to the same word multiple times. When each exposure was coupled with an explicit comment about the word and its meaning, students’ vocabulary acquisition doubled.

John Hattie picks up on the significance of multiple exposures by revealing the critical importance of techniques such as rehearsal and review.  Put simply, rehearsal means going over material until you can remember it, while review involves going over things you have learnt previously.

He also stresses the merit of giving students time to practice doing the things they have learned to do. When spaced out over time, Hattie found that having students practice things led to a 26 percentile improvement in their marks.

On a more cautious note, Hattie warned that practice without feedback can be dangerous as it leads to students internalizing the wrong things.


Strategy 6: Have Students Apply Their Knowledge

Robert Marzano found that helping students apply their knowledge deepens their understanding.

Knowledge application is a deductive process whereby students apply general principles to specific case studies or problems. Marzano found that teaching students how to think deductively and giving them guided practice in doing so helps them generalize their learning beyond the particular topic or task at hand. Hattie confirmed that deductive processes (i.e. general principle applied to specific situation) is much more effective than inductive teaching (i.e. asking students to discover general principles from observing specific situations).

Knowledge application also involves problem-solving. Robert Marzano’s synthesis of research revealed that problem-solving had a large effect (d = 0.54) on students’ understanding. Marzano believes that problems should require students to apply previously learned knowledge and skills – and Hattie agrees.  When problem-solving is used in this way, Hattie found a similar effect size (d = 0.61) to Marzano. However, when a problem is used to stimulate discovery learning, the opposite is true (d = 0.15). Hattie also emphasized the importance of teaching students how to solve problems, e.g. understand the problem  come up with a plan of action implement the plan  review the results.


Strategy 7: Get Students Working Together

group workRobert Marzano and John Hattie both agree that getting students to work with each other helps them to achieve better results. The use of cooperative learning groups adds value to whole-class instruction (d = 0.41) and to individual work (d = 0.59-0.78).

They also agree that inter-group competition can increase the effect of cooperative learning even more.

However, neither Marzano nor Hattie believes that cooperative learning should replace whole-class instruction or individual learning activities.

  • Hattie highlights how students need you to teach them topic-related facts and skills, so they can make genuine contributions to their group. If students haven’t gained sufficient mastery of the material, they cannot actively participate in cooperative learning tasks.
  • Marzano adds that it if students are to master what they are being taught, they also need opportunities for individual practice and feedback.

Finally, Marzano and Hattie agree that cooperative learning is only effective when you:

  • Structure it carefully
  • Keep groups small
  • Teach students how to work in groups

For further information, read Group Work That Works.


Strategy 8: Build Students’ Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to a student’s belief about their ability to successfully complete a task. It is situation specific. For example, a student may feel confident that they can dance well on stage but be insecure about public speaking.

Hattie & Marzano both found that students’ self-efficacy had a substantial impact on their subsequent achievement. Students who believed they would master fractions were more likely to do so, while students who saw themselves as poor readers were less likely to improve their reading.

Marzano’s review of research showed that you can build students’ self-efficacy through praise, and expressing your belief that they can do well. However, to be effective, such praise must:

  • Be genuine – i.e. only given when students have made real improvement
  • Refer to specific accomplishments related to the task

As Carol Dweck noted, if you praise lavishly and liberally, you end up praising mediocrity, which in turn sends a message that you believe that is all you think they are capable of.

Hattie highlighted the fact that the link between self-efficacy and achievement is reciprocal. That is, achieving genuine success has as much impact on subsequent self-efficacy, as self-efficacy has on subsequent achievement.

John Hattie and Robert Marzano have each conducted significant reviews of what works best in the classroom.

There are some clear differences in their work.

  • They use different terminology to each other
  • Marzano uses more isolated strategies, while Hattie combines strategies into broader approaches
  • Marzano’s findings are based heavily on teacher-designed assessments, while Hattie’s findings make more use of standardized tests

However, as you can see, there is significant agreement between Robert Marzano and John Hattie when it comes to what works best in the classroom.


Who Is Robert Marzano?

Robert Marzano conducts educational research, and is the co-founder of Marzano Research.

Robert Marzano has authored many books worth reading, and compiled a seminal meta-analysis on the effectiveness of various instructional strategies entitled, A Theory-Based Meta-Analysis of Research on Instruction

Who Is John Hattie?

John Hattie is a professor at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education. He is also chair of the board for the Australian Institute for Teaching & School Leadership.

John Hattie has reviewed over 800 meta-analysis of research studies exploring the degree to which various factors affect student achievement. It is the most extensive review ever taken.

About the Author

Shaun Killian is an experienced teacher and principal with a passion for helping students to excel. He believes that assisting teachers to adopt evidence-based education is the best way to make this happen. Shaun is committed to bringing you practical advice based on solid research.

Highlights of success after two years – getting ready for year #3 – Engage, Inspire, Empower

“Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future.”
– Peter Drucker

We continue to embark on ways to improve learning opportunities for students, staff, leaders and members of our community. The upcoming school year will focus on full day kindergarten, enhanced science curricular resources for all students in grades K-5, completely renovated science lab classrooms for all students in grades 6-8, elective choice for 8th grade students, instrumental music during the school day, and so much more! Stay tuned as we highlight our continued innovative approaches to learning and teaching.

What have we done since July 1, 2013 – we’ve had a busy and productive first two years as we Engage, Inspire, and Empower in Deerfield, IL – School District 109 – We are proud of our teachers, students, staff, Board and administrative team! As a listing, we share highlights of success from the past two years as we embark on an exciting year #3!



  • Communication/Community Engagement
  • opened Twitter
  • established #engage109
  • increased usage of social media as part of strategic communications
  • School Facebook and Twitter and You Tube
  • Blogs, internet radio interviews, video/screencasts to the community
  • Let’s Talk!
  • Regular communication with the Village, Police, Park District, Library
  • Engaged in Emergency Training (twice) with Deerfield Police and Deerfield Bannockburn Fire Departments
  • Sucessfully applied for $76,000 IL FEMA grant for additional security
  • Revised Building Emergency Maps, crisis plan, student handbook
  • Food Allergy Management Plan
    Overhauled teacher evaluation and staff selection process
  • 2013-2014 – 1st Cycle for new STEP Procedures
    2014-2015 – 2nd Cycle for new STEP Procedures
    Updated Job Descriptions for DEA and Admin
    Updated and revised AP job descriptions & roles
    Complete Overhaul of Hiring Protocols
    Superintendent’s Task Force for Middle Level Education
  • Science Labs – middle school – Phase I and Phase II
  • alternative energy
  • STEM and CMA labs and revamped exploratory at middle school
  • Band/orchestra brought into the school day
  • tried out Rachel’s Challenge for social emotional at MS
  • gifted tracking changes
  • studied world language program
  • Piloted Botvin Life Skills for social emotional at ES
    1:1 Transformative Learning Environment:
  • 1:1 Innovation Grants – Pilot program 2013-14
  • 1:1 roll out 2014-15 including the purchase of 3,000 new tech units, supported by a robust wireless infrastructure
  • 1:1 Celebration/Information Nights at each school
  • parent tech training nights
  • Dev Heitner program for parents
  • Dev Heitner workshop for 5th grade students
    Professional Development
  • Mentoring program with the Illinois Principal Association
  • Deerfield College
  • Edcamp 109
  • Edcamp NS with 112, 113, 109
  • teaching and learning conference
  • Tom Guskey to DPS109
  • NGSS – Emily Alford
  • Discovery Education
  • iCoaches
  • Twitter/#engage109 for PD sharing
  • Multiple admin doctoral completion
  • Climate survey
  • Culture survey
  • Exploratory surveys
  • BrightBytes 1:1 roll out impacts /environment survey
  • EDK – pilot for extended day kindergarten intervention


  • Full-day kindergarten
  • Text-A-Tip social emotional partnership
  • Skyward Leader in Excellence District
  • IASBO….many awards
  • INSPRA Distinguished Service Award of Excellence (Task Force)
  • INSPRA Communication Contest Award of Merit (HR Communication Packet)
  • Meritorious Budget Award, Certificate for Excellence in Financial Reporting
  • PARCC Pilot 2014/PARCC roll out 2015, implementation of map and dca tests
  • Online registration/online summer school registration through Skyward
  • Increased leadership development – leadership retreat focus/book study/self evaluation
  • Principal /admin presentations at national, state, local conferences
  • Increased partnerships with local corporations (Takeda, Siemens)
  • New standards-based progress reports for K-5
  • Grade level PLC and develop standard based strands and habits of success at the middle school level
  • Classroom of the Future
  • Increased grandparent connections
  • Trained staff in facilitated IEP meetings
  • Redesigned the district special education programs
  • Implemented the new regulations for early intervention
  • Created and implemented K-8 Curriculum Maps ELA and Math
  • Deerfield Vertical Alignment committee with Deerfield High School and middle school teachers
  • Literacy Design Collaborative
  • $100,000 IL DECO grant
  • Had a successful audit of internal controls
  • Completed $18 million in capital projects with zero change orders or cost overruns including the $15 million
  • HVAC project, Caruso roofwork, Walden and Kipling casework, emergency backup generators, automated lighting, Kipling ceiling upgrades, elementary school restrooms, and new South Park parking lot