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B.Y.O.T Bring Your Own Thoughts

K-12 Education Resources

The latest on all student-centered models, leadership development, strategic planning, teacher retention, and all things innovation in K-12 education. We answer questions before you think to ask them.

Blog Feature

Crisis Management  |  Leadership

Cultivating Resilience through Daily Wellness Practices

During this time of uncertainty and rapid change, the students, families, educators, and broader communities that we support and belong to need our strength, encouragement, and bold leadership more than ever. In order to be the calm, responsive, and joyful leaders we need to be to best support our loved ones through this challenging time, it is essential that we prioritize our own wellness so that we have the energy and resilience to bring our best selves to this work.

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Crisis Management  |  Remote work  |  Team Habits

Best Practices for Positive and Productive Remote Work for Educators

Schools across the country have closed their doors to protect students, employees, and communities from the spread of COVID-19. While schools may be closed, district and school leaders, teachers and students are doing their best to maintain momentum and learning.  This means many people across the country are suddenly remote workers.

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Interested in Personalized Learning But Don't Know Where to Start?

Subscribe to the blog to get your free copy of our Personalized Learning Playbook. A Playbook that will help you make the case for personalized learning, and reflect on the important elements to take in consideration.

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Blog Feature

Crisis Management

Addressing Virtual Learning Equity Issues As Schools Close Due to COVID-19

I’ve written several blog posts and admittedly, this has been one of the harder ones. On the one hand, it’s important to share strategies at a time like this. On the other hand, I haven’t found a ton of equity strategies to share. I struggled with this dilemma and even considered shelving the post entirely. However, that struggle led to (1) a recognition that this conversation is just as critical as ever to have and (2) some important understandings, including:

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Crisis Management  |  Virtual Education

Best Practices For Digital Learning & Virtual Meetings

Many school districts are closing to keep their communities safe from COVID-19. While we believe safety is the priority, we know that loss of classroom time could further achievement gaps due to paused learning. Since we are an education organization of primarily remote workers, we have a few tips we think you can utilize to maximize your time for those meetings or courses that cannot afford to be paused.

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Crisis Management  |  Online Learning

Four Ways to Facilitate Virtual Learning if Schools Close

As the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak spreads, more school districts have been asking us about virtual learning. This is an important topic to consider as schools have begun closing their brick and mortar doors and turned to virtual learning. This is the second in a series of articles related to virtual learning that we will publish in the upcoming weeks.

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Blog Feature

Teaming

3 Leadership Lessons From Netflix Culture

I had the opportunity to attend a webinar with Lynn Carter, Director of Talent Acquisition at Netflix. Many of you know Netflix as the first company to ship a DVD straight to your home (my mom still loyally queues up movies to be delivered to her Oregon home every week). In the past decade, Netflix has also gained recognition as a leader in organizational design and culture. Having had the chance to learn from Carter, I listen to Netflix Founder and CEO Reed Hastings on Reid Hoffman’s podcast, Masters of Scale. From these two interviews, I discerned three key lessons from how Netflix thinks about building and evolving their organizational culture that I think are relevant to any leader who wants to strengthen their own organizational culture.

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The Giraffe Award: How a Small Celebration Can Change Your Team’s Culture

As a first generation college graduate, I recognize daily the impact my investment in a quality academic experience has had on my life. This understanding drove my passion to provide a similar opportunity to as many young people as possible; leading me across the graduation stage, diploma gripped tightly in hand, right back into the classroom. Except this time, it was my classroom. Being on the other side of that teacher table was a role that I did not take lightly, and I engaged in my work each day operating under the belief that any slip ups in classroom management or poorly executed lesson plans would result in the loss of precious moments for my students to learn and grow. I singularly considered my work to be “serious”, and very quickly found this disposition to be exhausting. The vision I had upon entering the role, one that many new educators have, was fading fast, and I was fortunate to be on a team that understood this reality and had a support system in place to address it. 

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Leadership

An Open Letter to the K-12 Community and a Love Letter for Education Elements

Dear K-12 Education Community, With just a few days left working at Education Elements, I am penning my last blog post (my 45th to be exact!) and this one is both an open letter to the education community and a love letter to my team. To be honest, I couldn’t choose between the two and decided this could serve as both.

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Classrooms  |  Crisis Management  |  School Districts

Amid COVID-19 Concerns, Planning for Learning As Schools Close

As the coronavirus outbreak spreads, more school districts are asking us how they can prepare to continue teaching and learning in case of school closure. This is an important topic to consider as school districts around the world have begun closing their brick and mortar doors and turned to virtual learning. We believe with the right preparation and communication every school has the capacity to meet this challenge. We reached out to technology experts and educators who have been teaching and leading schools in China from the United States to learn more about how they’ve been facilitating virtual learning over the past month.

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Professional Development

The Anatomy of a Great Professional Development Music Playlist

I walk in, dragging my feet a bit, set down my coffee, click on the speaker and with the first few notes of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” I get energy in my feet. I start to glide around the room as I spread out my Sharpies, hang the large Post-Its, and set out the candy. I know it’s going to be a good day.

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Teacher Retention

What Does Teacher Agency Look Like in a School?

One of the beautiful things about having a career in education is that you have something in common with everyone. No matter where you go, you will find someone who went to school or has a relative in school, and in many parts of the country, the school district is one of the largest employers in the region. Recently, I sat next to a friendly salesperson from Western New York on a flight that was thrice-delayed. We joked about not turning our phones to airplane mode until we were wheels-up, lest we tempt fate and delay the flight again, then we started chatting about our reasons for traveling.

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Leadership

Teacher Leaders Creating Change in Kenai

The team was sitting together after the final workshop for the final wave of schools jovially enjoying the moment with a sense of accomplishment. We did it. Teams and plans are in place and the momentum is palpable. As we focused on the task for the next hour we had set aside for strategic planning, the question surfaced immediately…What now? The flood gates opened and the previous celebratory moment became distant somehow as we stood staring at the warp speed status…warp 8, warp 9. What did we need to maintain a steady-on course at warp 10? We are a rural, Alaskan district the size of West Virginia with an impressive amount of diversity within our realm. Our challenges are significant, but this point in our growth is not unique to us. Our Education Elements partners had seen this before. In the Kenai, we navigate our waters with practiced skill, but we are talking about changing our paradigm…We are now operating under the belief that everyone in our organization deserves their learning and growth to be personalized. Can we personalize professional development for teachers? Is it possible to build leadership opportunities for teachers who don’t want to leave the classroom? Can teacher leadership impact the culture of professional growth in schools? Yes! This IS possible! 

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Leadership

I Have Found My People – at the National Leadership Institutes!

“I found my people!” “This is like church!” “I feel so energized!” “Can we do this in our district?” These are just a few of the exclamations we heard at our National Leadership Institutes in 2019. We envisioned these events as a place to bring together leaders from across the country focused on similar problems of practice, but never imagined the depth of collaboration, learning, and friendship that would result.

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Leadership  |  new school rules

3 Steps to Become a More Responsive Leader

There are many avenues you can take when making change in your organization. Change can be made at the structural level by redesigning the way teams are organized. Change can be made at the team level by refining the way collaboration happens. Change can be made at the individual level by evolving personal habits and practices.

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My New Journey With a Mission-Driven Organization

Erica Williams Simon, founder of Snapchat’s Creator’s Lab and one of my favorite millennials on a mission, wrote in this tweet that the best career advice she can give is to never attach yourself to a person, place, company, or project, but rather a mission, a calling, or a purpose. I’ve been a teacher, a policy researcher, and an EdTech leader, and my purpose guiding me through each of those roles was to create equitable experiences and opportunities for all learners.

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Leadership  |  Personalized Learning

Bringing Personalized Learning to Scale in a Large Urban School District

Personalized learning has captured the attention of many education reformers. Much of the conversation is around utilizing a personalized learning approach to enhance student engagement, and thereby, increase student achievement. I believe that many school districts are confusing personalized learning with offering programs that constitute personalized pathways. Pathways can be viewed as magnet programs, innovative programs, career technical education programs, debate, dual enrollment, international and global studies, dual language programs, and advanced placement. Although these programs provide school choice to students, by offering them a wide array of schools to attend where they can pursue a passion or program of interest specifically to them, this does not address the necessary changes in instructional practices inherent in personalized learning.

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Equity

You Can Coach for Equity Anywhere, with Anyone

To create the schools children deserve, we must coach educators and leaders for equity. It isn’t an option for coaches to be neutral on issues of justice — and there are injustices occurring in almost every school, every day. It’s our moral and professional obligation to lead and coach in a way that surfaces and interrupts these inequities.

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Leadership

Unlocking Your Potential With An Identity Shift

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that my life is a day-to-day journey to reach my full potential. Whether it’s reaching my full potential in my health, my income, my relationships, or really anything I put effort into. The harsh truth is that a lot of us consistently fall short of that potential, despite making an effort. Sometimes it’s even us giving everything we have only to find out it wasn’t good enough. So how do we finally win? How do we stay motivated to keep giving more?

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Leadership

Reflections on School Leadership Inspired by the GOATs

In a world hyper-focused on influencers and celebrities, it is no surprise that professional athletes are often a top feature of our news or social media feeds. The news we hear about athletes may be rooted in their record-breaking accomplishments, their broader impact on our society or culture, controversial behavior, or even experiences with an unexpected setback or tragedy. And, whether you consider yourself an avid sports fan, follow a few particular sports, teams, or individual athletes, or only engage in sports conversations when they are forced upon you via workplace metaphors, undoubtedly the presence of some leading athletic competitors have at times entered your thoughts.  Regardless of your knowledge, appreciation, or perception of elite athletes, as school leaders there is much we can learn from other professionals who have been leaders amongst their peers and achieved greatness in their craft. I wanted to explore some of the mindsets, habits, and commitments of a handful of professional athletes who are widely considered the GOAT (greatest of all time) in their particular sport, and how intentionally embodying some of these ideas can strengthen our impact as school leaders. As you read, I invite you to consider the lessons you can apply to your own role as leaders striving to impact the lives and futures of students, families, communities, and educators you serve.

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Personalized Learning

Flipping Formatives and Structures in your New Personalized Learning Classroom

As we count down to this year's Education Elements Summit, we asked presenters from last year's Summit to share more of their innovative thinking with us. Kelsey Brown, a teacher in Loudoun County Public Schools, led one of the most popular Personalized Learning Simulations last year, and shares with us her thoughts on classroom structures!

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When Empowered Teachers Drive Their Own Development

There’s a school in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas, TX that brings a one-size-fits-one approach to every learner in their community, including their teachers. Personalized Learning Preparatory at Sam Houston is a PreK-5 campus where instruction is facilitated in a personalized learning model from classroom to classroom. As a school founded on the principles of personalized learning, their instructional philosophy aims to “tap into each student’s strengths, needs, and interests to customize learning and support student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn to ensure that all students achieve their greatest potential.” In the spirit of their vision, the team at PL Prep looks to align all that they do to their four pillars: compassion, reflection, intentionality, and empowerment. 

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Blog Feature

Strategic Planning

Newburgh Schools Prepare to Go Beyond 2020

Located along the Hudson River and just 60 miles north of New York City, Newburgh Enlarged City School District is no stranger to strategic planning. With the adoption of Vision 2020 a few years ago, Newburgh reflected on successes from the current strategic plan including the creation of more options for secondary students, the launch of two new high school campuses, the increased focus on technology integration, and recognition from the state for their Certified Nursing Assistant program. They also celebrated increased student proficiency across core subjects. With Vision 2020 set to end in the next academic year, however, the district aims to capitalize on these successes and continue to align on a district direction in their new strategic plan, Beyond 2020. 

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School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

What Does it Cost You When You Don’t Set a Strategic Direction?

The foam on the edges of the waves grazed the outside of my foot and I felt the sand catch my heel with every step. I was intently focused as I walked along the beach outside of my home in Jacksonville, Florida, considering my intention for 2020. It had been a few years since I had abandoned new year's resolutions in exchange for yearly intentions, which has proven to be a great decision. Gone are the days of abandoned gym memberships, replaced by a sense of wonder for new ways to move my body and build strength. This year, my intention has been to “be gentle,” to myself and others.

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Leadership

Tic-Tac-Toe or Checkers - What Rules Do Your Teams Follow?

Take a look at your calendars and consider the number of meetings you have each week. Can you say that you go through most of those meetings and 100% finish on time and in each of those meetings you get 80%-90% of the agenda items covered? While getting all this done, can you say that 100% of all meeting attendees get a chance to participate? I can. Just tweaking a few things about your meeting will make a significant difference in your organizational culture.

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Personalized Learning

Mythbusters: Breaking Down 10 Common Misconceptions of Personalized Learning

Since 2003, Discovery’s show Mythbusters has been a smash hit. Though Adam & Jamie stopped hosting in 2016, the reruns and spin-offs continue. Why? Because rumors, myths, and curiosity are a part of what it means to be human. Finding answers to questions we’ve wondered about helps us process and move on with new knowledge. Sometimes the myths they would bust were fun and quirky – like, is there truth behind the 5-second rule for food? Or can you really shoot a scuba tank and it’ll explode? Spoiler alert – NO to both. But sometimes there are myths that aren’t fun and quirky, and don’t end up on TV. Some myths have depth and need to be addressed in order for progress to be made. This is true for advancing the work of personalized learning.

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Blog Feature

New School Design

Designing School for Human Flourishing & Thriving Democracy

After interviewing hundreds of parents, teachers, and students across the country, we’ve found almost everyone wants the same things for the kids they care about. We want “our” kids to flourish – to have productive work, meaningful relationships, creative self-expression, good health, and to participate civically in their communities.

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Personalized Learning

Slowing Down Before Going Fast in Forest Hills School District

In Forest Hills School District (FHSD) there have been pockets of innovation and personalized learning (PL) for some time. However, when the district came to Education Elements, they sought to scale PL in each and every classroom, district-wide. To accomplish this goal, the district strategically slowed down in year one. They spent the first year focusing on establishing a shared definition of PL and letting teachers generate a clear vision for PL in each school across the district. They’ve done this because they’ve seen how confusion and uncertainty can influence a program in their district. To ensure the success of their PL implementation, they’ve used a grass roots approach - creating conditions and structures for teachers to provide input and drive this work forward.

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Leadership

How Successful Districts Continue to Navigate and Grow

In the early month of December, Anthony Kim and I had the opportunity to visit Mason City Schools outside of the city of Cincinnati to ask the question, “How might we use responsive practices to know we are on track to exceeding our goals?” The initial relationship between Education Elements and Mason City Schools started over a casual conversation of the sharing of what books they were reading. One book being Measure What Matters by John Doerr. As a learning organization, we are always on the quest to learn from others who are impacting the educational landscape, and our hope is to help connect them to other innovators, and to share what they are learning with partners in our network. Christine McCormick, Innovative Systems Officer at Mason City Schools, is a disruptor, dreamer and visionary of what the potential of what a school district could look like. 

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Blog Feature

PL Summit

The Top 7 Education Conferences That Weren’t on Your Radar

The best conferences are generally those that expand your thinking, reframe a current problem, provide practical recommendations, and encourage networking. At Education Elements, we not only attend conferences on a regular basis to expand our thinking, but we also keynote, and host our own regional and national events as well as our Summit in May – all of which get outstanding reviews. That makes us a bit of an expert on which conferences rise to the top. 

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Blog Feature

Leadership

7 Reasons Courage is Mission-Critical to Innovative School Leadership

Every team meeting we have at Education Elements begins with a check-in question. Sometimes it takes me a while to come up with my answer, but on a call recently it was a no-brainer: “What trait do you most value in a leader?” To me, that’s simple – it’s courage, for two key reasons. First, because courage in leadership is rare, or at least more rare than it should be. And second, because courage is a superpower when it comes to leading innovation, building culture, and enabling transformation. My colleagues and I do a lot of work with leaders, and our framework for innovative leadership is built around a set of competencies that directly feed, strengthen, and enrich leaders’ courage, a mission-critical element of their leadership. While the list could go on and on, here are seven leadership superpowers that courage can activate.

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Leadership  |  Team Habits

The Decade for Innovation in Education

What is the definition of innovation? It turns out that most people can’t agree. I’m not surprised! It’s one of those words we use so much, but we rarely pause to think about what it really means. Now that I’ve read over 100 different definitions of “innovation,” I’m going to lean on this one: 

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Blog Feature

The Season For Giving

Just a few weeks ago I found myself in the North Pole. No, seriously, this nice Jewish girl found herself up in the North Pole because when we say Education Elements supports districts across the country, we mean it.  So in the middle of November, I found myself at 101 St. Nicholas Dr., in line to meet Santa and Mrs. Santa* after spending a great day working with Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. I didn’t sit on his lap and ask for anything, but it did get me thinking a little about what I might want this holiday season and a lot about what I want to give others. Because while many of us celebrate different holidays this time of year (and not all focus on giving gifts) I always find myself looking back, looking forward, and focusing on being grateful for what I have while thinking about what more I can give to others.

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Classrooms  |  School Districts

Considering Collaboration? Answer These 4 Questions First

A few years ago I found myself in the middle of an aisle at the home improvement store acquiring some tools I needed for a job around the house. In the moment, I didn’t make the connection to my classroom, but I later realized how I don’t usually go to the store to buy tools that I don’t need. When a home repair presents itself I am willing and motivated to go find the tools I need to solve the problem at hand. This is typically the exact opposite experience that students have in our classrooms. Our students come to school every day and are sold tools they don’t see the need for in the current moment. As I was realizing this, I was beginning to implement project-based learning experiences in my classroom. I’ll admit I was struggling to get students to put forth the effort to solve real-world problems in addition to those skills built into my curriculum.

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Curriculum  |  School Districts

Detroit Teachers Serve As Models For Resilience And Results

A few years ago, Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) took a big bet on talent. Despite the city’s legacy of divesting in educators, the District’s new leaders believed that Detroit teachers have the power to chart a new future for the city’s children. As part of an ambitious five-year plan, leaders sought to forge a new legacy for the District: one where teachers received the trust, compensation, professional development, and resources to achieve their highest aspirations, and to deliver the learning opportunities students need to succeed.

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Strategic Planning

Building the Connection Between Home and School — How Family Empowerment is Transforming Education

In an economically disadvantaged part of Charlotte, N.C., there is a public school with the highest percentage of Title 1 students in the district. Less than a mile away is a charter school that could have become its competition, luring away students and leaving the district school with fewer funds to tackle the same set of challenges. Across the country, that’s how district and charter relationships often play out. They are competitive, rather than collaborative. But that’s not what happened in Charlotte.

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Strategic Planning

How a Prioritization Matrix Can Help Your School District (and Your Next Home Renovation Project!)

After selling our D.C. area home and looking for more than a year to buy what we would call our “forever home,” my husband Mike and I finally closed on our dream piece of property. It checks off all of our boxes. More than an acre of flat, usable yard space for our kids. A pool with a diving board (my 4-year-old’s only requirement). A Harry-Potter-esque cupboard under the stairs for our dog (my 3-year-old’s only requirement). And room to grow. It’s perfect. It’s also stuck in the 1990s in terms of decor and layout. So minutes after closing, we did what any couple who watches way too much HGTV would do: we began making our list of renovation projects. 

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Blog Feature

Team Habits

Giving Thanks To Teams

As Thanksgiving approaches and 2019 nears an end, I’m taking some time to reflect on what I’m grateful for this year. When I zoom out and think about the past 11 months, I realize that I am especially grateful for all the ways that teams have shown up in my life this year.

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Blog Feature

Leadership

New Environment Sparks New Learning

Education Elements and Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) came together to design an experience for adult learners that would make a difference in their lives as innovative leaders. Both organizations wanted to create an experience that would inspire them, that would change mindsets and drive different results. 

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Personalized Learning

Our Journey to Personalized Learning

Why Pursue Personalized Learning? In October 2017, AdvancEd conducted our five-year district accreditation review. At the conclusion of the review process, we received a couple of recommendations that were spot on and aligned with our district comprehensive needs assessment’s (CNA) overarching needs. Two specific recommendations the review team provided really hit home. First, we needed to strengthen and monitor our professional learning communities in an effort to evaluate, interpret and utilize data for personalized learning and differentiated instruction to increase learning and growth. Secondly, we had to identify and implement professional development strategies that focus on the utilization of digital resources as an integral component of content delivery. With the AdvancED Review Team’s recommendations validating our district and school improvement needs and the focus on student use of technology in classrooms, we believed personalized learning would be an effective improvement strategy to pursue.

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Leadership

Diminisher Dad Defined – “What are you thinking…?”

Our experience, past success, and hard won wisdom can cloud our perspective on others, especially when they seem to think like we do… Even with a good deal of experience being fortunate to work with and for smart leaders on Multiplier topics for years, I fall into the same trap: thinking those who think like I do actually do. Rather than amplify the intelligence of those around me, I shut down their thinking by assuming my similarities will provide answers for their issues. Unfortunately, I’m quite good at this both at home and at work. 

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Blog Feature

PL Summit  |  Personalized Learning

Why You Should Incorporate SEL and DEI through Student Reflection & Ownership

During the Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit 2019, one of our keynote speakers, Principal Baruti Kafele, discussed the achievement gap, the attitude gap, and the role all educators play in addressing both. I was familiar with the achievement gap, but I was unfamiliar with the attitude gap. Principal Kafele defines it as, “the gap between those students who have the will to strive for excellence, and those who don’t.” We all know that it’s nearly impossible to change the will of our students, I had plenty of teachers try and fail when I was a student. But the notion that our students need to develop socially and emotionally in order to reach their full potential resonated with me. And not just in the context of when we have them in our buildings – ideally, we want our students to take the academic and non-academic lessons they learn while with us, and apply them to life and the outside world. As we prepare students for their futures, it’s imperative that we prioritize their social-emotional development. We can equip them with a lens to view the diversity the world has to offer as a way to build bridges to solve the problems we couldn’t. At Education Elements, we believe that Student Reflection & Ownership provides a framework for supporting the social-emotional development of students and ultimately, creates an environment that empowers them to become happy, successful, agents of change.

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Blog Feature

Team Habits

Breaking Out of the Habit Loop of Working Inertia

Have you ever caught yourself working deadline to deadline without coming up for air? I have and I’ve sworn to myself it would be the last time, only to return to that place and wonder, how did I get here again? Inertia is a property of matter by which it remains in uniform motion within its existing state. I’ve seen many versions of “working inertia” in my time in education: teachers planning lesson to lesson, coaches jumping from PD to PD, leaders thinking from meeting to meeting, schools operating from year to year. While the scale of this phenomenon varies, the pattern is consistent: over time, our repeated habits slowly mold us into ways of working that don’t leave room to step out of ourselves, reflect, and question our approach. Wondering ‘how did I get here again?’ now signals to me that my working inertia has built up a disconnect between how I want to work and how I am working. It is in those moments that I can feel trapped in a habit loop of working, where I lose sight of my purpose and my pursuit of innovation.

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Blog Feature

Teacher Retention

A Year on the Road: 3 Factors for Successful Educational Change

“What’s it like in other schools? In other districts? In other states?” After eight years in the classroom as a math teacher and another seven as a school leader, I transitioned into a role at Education Elements just over a year ago in part because I wanted answers to those questions. The field of education has that head-down, just-keep-digging quality to it, where we’re so far down in our trenches that it often feels impossible to pause, lift one’s head, and get a sense of the landscape. I wanted to see what factors were supporting successful innovation, reform, outside-the-box thinking, and school change around the country, even if doing so meant leaving a school I loved and had helped build. A year in, I’ve worked directly with teams from close to a hundred schools and visited dozens of their campuses. In just 12 months I’ve collaborated with ten districts in six states. I certainly can’t pretend to have anywhere near a complete picture or complete answer, but as I think about what drives successful future-focused education, some factors are abundantly clear. The districts and teams I’ve seen doing it well seem to have certain approaches in common.

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Blog Feature

Team Habits

What We Learn About Building Team Habits from Ripples and Basketball Movies

The start of a new school year often brings with it discussions about new vision statements, improvement plans, yearlong initiatives and sweeping changes in the name of increasing student success. Yet in our work with school districts across the country, we’ve learned that it’s the smaller, individual leadership practices and team habits that lead to larger systems changes.

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Blog Feature

Equity

Making Pay Parity Non-Negotiable at Education Elements

We all experience the world in different ways. I know that, as a white person, my experiences are different than those of a person of color – in ways both big and small – such as a feeling of belonging and safety, or the knowledge that I am implicitly trusted by others. As a woman, my experiences are different than those of a man; yes, sometimes physical doors are opened for me, but I also know my male friends have metaphorical ones often opened for them. So then when, a few months ago, a teammate shared an article about the pay inequities that often exist for both women and people of color, it gave me an opportunity to reflect, think, and discuss with others how we, at Education Elements, might need to change.

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Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

Want to Improve Teacher Retention? Create a Pipeline of Growth Opportunities

In a 2018 study conducted by TINYPulse, a company specializing in employee engagement, it was reported that the top 5 reasons employees choose to leave their jobs are: poor performance management, lack of recognition, feeling overworked, company culture isn’t a priority, and lack of growth opportunities. 

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Blog Feature

Leadership

How Responsive Practices are Transforming the Student Experience in Mayfield City Schools

Late August is a lovely time to visit Northeastern Ohio, and as educational leaders around the country are asking, “How might we transform the learning experiences for all students in our district?” a visit to Mayfield City Schools is a must-do if you find yourself in the Cleveland area. As a learning organization, we seek out innovators who are impacting the educational landscape, and our hope is to help connect them with each other, and to share what they have learned with partners in our network. Dr. Patrick Ward, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at Mayfield City Schools, is one such innovator. 

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Blog Feature

Leadership  |  School Districts

My Team Has a Habit of Reading Books About Habits

Standing in line at Starbucks ready to order my Venti black coffee, I pull out my phone and tap on Twitter even though I just checked it one minute ago. It’s a bad habit that I have, mindlessly opening the app without thinking, and pulling down the page in hopes that it will refresh with new content. Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is drink two glasses of water with fresh lemon juice, organic apple cider vinegar, or a pinch of Himalayan salt. I’ve been doing this for several years, after reading about the benefits of drinking water in the morning to start the day. At first, it was hard. I started with half a glass. Then moved to a full glass. I eventually added apple cider vinegar. And now I’m up to two glasses. These are examples of bad habits and good habits I reinforce every day.

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Blog Feature

Team Habits

How 1% Change Adds Up to a Big Impact for Schools and Districts

I was on a phone call with two principals earlier this week who shared a concern I hear often in working with school districts through large change management initiatives. Three years into their personalized learning journey, there are still at least a few teachers in their building who are resistant to the instructional shifts necessary to make learning personalized for each child. If you are a leader facing a similar situation, here are four key strategies for moving forward.

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Blog Feature

Leadership  |  Professional Development  |  School Districts

Reframing a Paradigm for Professional Development and Learning

How does professional development get labeled in your school or organization? Too often, I hear: boring, unproductive, compliance-driven, not based on my needs or interests.  Research on professional development shows that the “drive-by” workshop model does not meet the needs of teachers. No two people learn the same way, though many leaders do not change the way they provide instruction for professional development. Just like education should be personalized for students, professional learning should be personalized for adults. Effective professional development or learning (semantics to me) needs to improve educators’ professional knowledge, competence, skill, and effectiveness. No matter if you are a teacher, school leader or district leader, below you will find ways you can reframe professional learning in your school or district.

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School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

Designing School Systems of the Future - Today

How do we design the schools of the future, today? Designing innovative structures and systems takes a similarly innovative approach, otherwise, we’d design the same systems we already have all over again. In a series of blog posts, we have described the steps to creating a responsive strategic plan. We’ve taught you how to assemble a superhero team and how to identify and collect data from your stakeholders. Now, what do you actually DO to design a responsive strategic plan that won’t collect dust on your office shelf? Even if you are not going through a strategic plan redesign but are working towards implementing your current plan or designing the rollout of a new initiative within your plan, we want to show you how to plan for change and not perfection.

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Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Teacher Retention

Attract and Retain Teachers with Effective Methods Using Data to Define Needs

Teaching, often considered one of the most noble professions one can pursue, has been a consistent driver of the innovation and ideas that progress society forward. Great leaders, creators, and thinkers have been fostered in some way by a teacher who engaged, mentored, and motivated them to achieve their goals. Yet though the demand for talented, caring educators has never been higher, the pool of applicants continues to dwindle. Teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers with complaints of burnout, and young people are deciding to pursue careers in fields that are perceived to be more lucrative and stable.

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Classrooms  |  Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

The Power of Responsive Practices in Schools and Districts Across the Country

This summer I had the pleasure of working alongside my Education Elements colleagues to reflect on the incredible work our partner districts have accomplished in the past year. We had the opportunity to interview four districts, survey over 100 district leaders, and analyze thousands of data points. We also got to reflect on our own practices to see how we can improve. 

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Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Team Habits

The NEW Team Habits: Fostering a Culture of Belonging Through Meeting Check-Ins

How are you? What is bringing you to this blog post today? What is top of mind for you as you’re reading this? Would you rather have the ability to fly or read minds?   Did those questions interest or engage you? Are you now mulling over your current feelings or intentions? Or did you stop reading entirely to properly dedicate your attention to choosing between superpowers? Regardless of your actions, the questions I posed required you to pause for a moment, consider your thoughts, and engage with your imagination. These abilities are vital to our roles as educators - we are consistently tasked with keeping calm through perceived chaos, being conscientious of the numerous needs of others, and maintaining a level of creativity to capture the attention of students. Yet in schools and districts across the country, very little time – our most precious resource as educators – is dedicated to the exploration and development of those skills.

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Classrooms  |  School Districts  |  Teacher Retention

Minute to Win It: Practices for Impacting Teacher Retention Through Consistent Celebration

At Education Elements, we believe that sparking learning through creativity, reflection, and play is key to adult learning. So, let’s start here by playing a game. The rules are simple. Read this list of things that real people have done and determine what these actions have in common. Ready? Go! Eat 65 M&Ms with chopsticks Travel 100 meters while seated and hopping on a large bouncy ball  Complete 98 ‘around the world’ soccer ball juggling tricks Clap your hands together 1,103 times (apparently this is a phenomenon known as speed clapping) Run nearly half a mile (if you are Usain Bolt) So, what do all of these impressive and/or bizarre human talents have in common? Each has been completed in 60 seconds or less. Before you reach for the M&Ms and chopsticks, there are important steps that you can take as a leader right now to impact teacher retention in 60 seconds or less. That’s right – in under 1 minute today, you can impact teacher retention at your school. 

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Classrooms  |  Equity  |  Personalized Learning

Why Unpacking Biases is Critical When Personalizing Learning

I had a middle school science teacher once tell me she was surprised that I did well on a test because she assumed I was bad at science. She pointed to one of my classmates and said, “Her, I assume she’ll do well, but you’re just not very good at science.” I remember being deeply hurt by that statement but not understanding why it hurt. Years later, I would try and remember that moment when I found myself making assumptions about which students I expected would do well on my tests. Why was I expecting some students to do well but not others? Past academic performance was one part, but I realized I had biases that were also impacting those assumptions. 

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Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

Four Steps to Incorporating and Responding to Stakeholder Feedback in the Strategic Planning Process

So, you’ve completed a round of stakeholder engagement activities. You clarified your ‘why behind engagement’ and have identified a group of stakeholders to target. Maybe you hosted forums, sent out surveys to various stakeholder groups, conducted interviews, and even shadowed students. With the rich data sources at your disposal, you may be wondering – how do I pull trends from my data? How do I elicit feedback and input from my community throughout to ensure I’m making the right data-driven decisions?  How do I honor my community’s perspective and my own insider knowledge as I continue to build my strategic plan? Keep reading for a few suggestions on how to do just that.

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Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

Three Steps to Selecting Your Superhero Strategic Planning Team

“One bag of peanut butter M&Ms, please.” It’s the first step I take as I enter a movie theater before selecting the perfect middle-center seat – a ritual I began with my mom as a child. On this day, instead of rushing to the front of the line, I took a moment to look around. There was a buzz in the room as kids and adults of all ages lined up to see the first black superhero. There is no doubt that Black Panther was a major milestone for the United States and the world. Throngs of people viewed the film multiple times, relishing the opportunity to be represented in such an empowering way. A couple of years later I noticed a similar sense of pride at the release of Captain Marvel, a film featuring a female superhero. I knew the Avengers was a well-regarded team but it was clear that these additions were crucial. It’s difficult to imagine a complete team without the most recent additions because of the unique perspectives they bring. It is the first step in a longer commitment to inclusion and empowerment.

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Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

8 Elements For Improving Teacher Retention

As we work with hundreds of school and district leaders, we often hear that staff recruitment, training, and retention are among the greatest challenges they face. Leaders want to create environments that attract and inspire staff but often don’t know where to start changing their work culture. The Education Elements team is committed to supporting these leaders by sharing concrete practices and practical advice for improving their teacher retention.

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Leadership  |  School Districts

What Donuts Can Teach Schools and Teams About Lasting Change

“And we both hit our goal weight!”  “That’s amazing! So how did you celebrate?” “We ate an entire box of donuts! And then gained all of it back.”  On an August visit with a group of teachers I’ve been partnering with for over a year, our conversation steered toward the idea of setting goals. In the education world, goals are set all the time, and often displayed or communicated prominently. A teacher may set the goal of 10 consecutive perfect attendance days, 90% of students showing mastery on an upcoming unit exam, or 100% of students growing 1-2 reading levels in a single year. Outside of the education world, too, we set goals all the time. Many of these are health-related – eat more greens, lose weight, drink more water, get more sleep. Some are financial goals – get a raise, save for a vacation, make a million dollars. And still others are achievement-based goals – write a book, buy a house, run a marathon. As the teachers I spoke with this summer shared, they set a goal to lose a set amount of collective pounds, and they did! But there was a huge problem with their apparent success. Two weeks later, they had gained it all back...and then some. They had hit their goal, but had failed to build a habit. 

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Leadership

10 Reasons We’re Excited to Attend the Responsive Conference

This year, four of us from Education Elements (Megan Katie, Jill, and Keara) will be attending the Responsive Conference, September 13-14 at Zappo’s Headquarters in Las Vegas. We sat down with conference founder Robin Zander to lay out the top ten reasons why we are so excited for this year’s conference.

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Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

Stakeholder Engagement and Change: 4 Steps to Effective Engagement During Strategic Planning

At Education Elements, we pride ourselves on being a responsive organization. Like many organizations, we can fall short of true responsiveness, but we are proud of how nimble, engaged, and positive our team is as a result of responsive practices. Our true north lies in seeking feedback to best understand the experiences of our community members. Feedback, in every way it is offered, allows us to make improvements suggested by those who have a stake in the work. Obvious, right? This may be an easy concept to grasp, but the gathering and processing of feedback from all relevant stakeholders can be a complicated, time-consuming, and confusing process – and that’s in a small company with a team aligned around the idea. For schools and districts looking to implement change, whether it be by the introduction of new or additional technology, shifting pedagogical approaches, curriculum adoption, team reorganizations, or strategic planning, stakeholder engagement can be a paralyzingly large task.

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Personalized Learning

The First 20 Days of Personalized Learning: Laying the Foundation

The back to school season is upon us. While teachers are busy setting up, and students are anxiously awaiting the news of teacher assignments and class schedules and being welcomed into classrooms, Design Principals at Educations Elements are gearing up to support over 140 districts in the 2019-2020 school year with the rollout or continued implementation of Personalized Learning. We are eager to get back into schools and see the innovative ways that teachers are personalizing learning for their new students. Last year we published the First 20 Days of Personalized Learning, an infographic accompanied by a blog post with tips and tricks for implementation week by week within various instructional models. We had many teachers share with us throughout the first twenty days how they used the tool and the impact that it had on instruction and learning all year round.

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Classrooms  |  Personalized Learning

How to Successfully Personalize Learning in Secondary Schools

Last year, a group of educators sat down with engineers from a well-known technology company. The first question the educators asked was what the engineers look for in potential candidates. Adaptability was their immediate response. The way these engineers code today is different than how they coded ten years ago and will be different ten years from now. Discrete knowledge isn’t important because it will soon be outdated. The ability to learn and grow in an ever-changing world is what defines the very best candidates.

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Leadership  |  School Districts

Leading Change? Start by Talking About What You Value

As any great leader pursuing innovation in education knows, having a clear “why” for pursuing the “what” of change is critical to success. But equally important, often less emphasized, and incredibly hard is the “how” of making and managing that change in a classroom, school, or system.  At The Learning Accelerator (TLA), a national nonprofit that learns alongside educators and system leaders at the forefront of blended and personalized learning, we’re often asked about common change management pathways and learnings about how to do it well. Our team has compiled a series of illustrative case studies of district stories and practices, but we wanted to learn more to help answer these questions. We conducted a deep study with 100 leaders from 60 systems across the country to understand how they are making decisions about how to lead innovation work in their communities. Through interviews and a national survey, we asked them to tell us about the most important decisions they had to make when taking innovations to scale. We published results in both a white paper, Look Both Ways, and series of strategy modules on our Blended and Personalized Learning At Work site.

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Leadership  |  School Districts

A Superintendent's Quest to Marry Equity and Personalized Learning

Equity and personalized learning share quite a bit of common ground. They each require an ongoing commitment from all stakeholders. Both are built on the premise that each person’s needs are unique, and both recognize that no one set of tools and responses will support everyone. Peter Olson-Skog is drawing these connections concretely through his work as Superintendent at District 197 in West St. Paul. We recently interviewed him to learn more about how he connects equity and personalized learning in his district.

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Classrooms  |  Personalized Learning

Feedback for Every Teacher to Boost Student Engagement

Take a look inside a high school physics teacher’s classroom. In her fifth year, Ms. Valdez is popular with nearly all of her students. They appreciate her energy and sense of humor. Her ambition is to engender in her students the enthusiasm for and wonder about physics that motivated her to devote her career to teaching the subject. She has told you that she wants to teach her students to think like physicists. Unfortunately, your observation reveals that Ms. Valdez is far from her goal. Students will do the work, but except for a few particularly eager participants, most seem to be soldiering through the course hoping to get good enough grades to get into the college of their choice. With student engagement and communication at the center of Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, you ask yourself, “How can Ms. Valdez take steps to get more of her students truly engaged in physics?”

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Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

What Exercising 6000 Miles Taught Us About Strategic Planning, Leadership, and Habits

I released my body weight and fell to the ground. My aching shoulders wouldn't let me complete one more rep, but as I looked over at my workout partner, who would have to complete every rep that I did not, I felt a surge of energy and picked myself up once more. In that moment, inspiration struck me. What we do will only give us so much momentum, but a community invested in why we do it will help us accomplish things that previously seemed impossible. This reminded me of the work districts engage in to achieve their own strategic direction: no one person can do it alone. How could we apply this concept to a greater philosophy of change management? It became my mission to find out! Since we are in the business of building strong responsive habits in schools and districts, we practice habit-building through company-wide monthly challenges. In the past, we have challenged ourselves to go plant-based, meditate daily, and practice moments of gratitude. We have learned a lot about how we operate based on the success and participation in each challenge. This seemed like the perfect venue to try a new, ambitious experiment: virtually travel from our headquarters in San Carlos, CA  to our DC office (with a few stops to some remote teammates on the way)! Our goal? Collectively travel a total of 3,070 miles. 

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Leadership

10 Leadership Development Books to Read Before School's in Session

We are big readers here at Education Elements, with book clubs and recommendations flying back and forth across our team. You can catch us reading on the plane, in the office, listening to books on our walks or runs, and – when we're lucky – by the pool! We like to share our favorites with you when we can, in the hopes that you'll find something inspiring and useful just like we did. It can be hard to decide exactly which books to share since there is no end to amazing ideas and excellent writers – this list is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive. It is, however, a roundup of just some of the books our team has enjoyed on the topics of leadership and various leadership competencies.

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Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

The 4 Biggest Questions You Need to Ask Before You Start District Strategic Planning

In The New School Rules, Anthony Kim and Alexis Gonzales-Black write that every district has experience putting together a strategic plan, and most follow the same process.  “We labor over these plans—sometimes over the course of 12 to 24 months—dreaming up the path ahead and detailing the resources we’ll need...Unfortunately, once we’re set to go, we find the situation has changed before we’ve gotten started. Technology programs or platforms may have changed or been discontinued. People have changed—in districts with a high number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, teacher turnover can be over 22 percent (Di Carlo, 2015)—and the new team isn’t up to speed. Policies have evolved and buy-in has dropped off.”  And with many strategic plans expected to expire in 2020, and many districts reporting that they did not hit their previous strategic-planning intended outcomes, we recommend you bring in different considerations for your next 5-year strategic plan. 

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Leadership

The Principals' Journey to Personalized Learning

We are Personalized - This was the number one goal in our new District Strategic Plan. It was not, “We are moving towards personalization”, or “We are learning about personalization”. It was simply WE ARE, and this opened the door to panic and excitement and an immediate call to duty. We quickly turned to the Ed Elements learning cycle for development and direction.  Looking at our implementation from a learning, practicing, reflecting and owning standpoint has not only allowed us to dig deep into the progress of our work, but has encouraged us to pivot when needed. And pivot we have! Our journey has blossomed into an undeniable excitement that we have not seen in our teachers and administrators in years. One Principal even stated, “providing a vision, and working alongside Principals to develop strategies and tactics to support implementation has made me feel like a better instructional leader than at any other time in my career.” 

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Leadership

Avoid the 49 Degree Rule: 4 Ways to Put People Before Policies

Sometimes, the really thought-provoking stuff just lands in your lap...or in the seat next to you.  On a recent flight, I was lucky enough to sit next to an employee of one of the major airlines, who shared anecdotes about the culture change she experienced after the airline she worked for was acquired by another carrier. The most compelling anecdote she shared: the “49-Degree Rule”. Apparently, the airline she’d originally worked for had been very focused on the notion of employee autonomy and empowerment, but the acquisition came with a host of new rules and policies, including one that said employees were only permitted to wear their jackets at work when the ambient temperature was at or below 49° Fahrenheit. What??!!

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Leadership

Redefining Professional Development: Educators as Leaders and Learners

It’s mid-May at Baychester Academy, a public elementary school in the Bronx’s District 11. Like all schools across New York City, the school day draws to a close with a ritual exchange: teachers usher students out of classrooms to meet their parents, patiently waiting by the school’s main office. But then something unusual happens: Educators from across the district begin to arrive.

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Leadership  |  Team Habits

The “It” Factor with Running Team Meetings

Think back to a recent meeting you were in when you pondered why you were a part of the conversation. Or better yet, you thought about the 10 items in your inbox that needed your decision-making power but instead, you were stuck in a meeting where it wasn’t clear what you were making a decision about. We have districts this year that have created the “it” factor for running meetings that tap into everyone’s energy in better ways than ever. While it may seem like these district teams “just have the right people,” they have actually taken on a methodical approach to how to run team meetings. Based on The NEW School Rules, written by Anthony Kim, CEO of Education Elements, we have found over the last eight years that every leader wants to effectively make changes and create environments in team meetings that celebrate growth, excitement, and decision-making. 

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School Districts

Do You Need an Education Consultant?

“Working with consultants isn’t cheap - how do we know if it’s what we need?” We hear that one a lot as we talk to districts considering whether they should hire a consultant to help them personalize learning in their schools. There’s no right or wrong answer as to whether you should seek support or go it alone, but there are some questions that are worth thinking about as you consider your path.

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Classrooms

The Future of Classroom Technology Tools

Predicting the future of classroom technology trends empowers teachers and school districts to stay at the forefront of “the next big thing” in education. When you have an idea of which trends are sure to increase in popularity and functionality in the upcoming years, you can make informed decisions about the tools you should invest in and the trends that are likely to lose momentum.

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Competency-Based Education

Getting Personal About Competency-Based Education

When I tell friends and family about the types of projects I’m working on with Education Elements, I throw around terms like “personalized learning” and “competency-based education” like they’re the titles of new Beyoncé albums. Usually, they smile and nod politely, but sometimes they ask further questions. Recently, I had a conversation with an educator friend who had some confusion around the difference between PL and CBE. So I decided to set the record straight.

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Classrooms

How Do You Shift the Role of the Teacher as a Leader?

During the last 100 years in the workforce, we needed farmers and factory workers; which is why our classrooms replicated the workforce, designed to have a teacher at the front of the room and desks in rows. Times have changed, and we must make shifts to the role of the teacher in order to prepare today’s students for a different workforce. To succeed, students will need a different set of skills such as creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. They will also need to be able to adapt to change, be resilient, and to work effectively in a variety of environments – which is why we need to change the traditional role of teacher-as-expert standing and delivering content from the front of the room to a facilitator who designs customized approaches for students.

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PL Summit

PL Summit 2019: Where We Built Networks to Transform Education

It's been almost exactly 2 weeks since the 5th Annual Personalized Learning Summit came to an end, and our team still misses the biggest and best PL Summit we've had so far. We were left inspired and engaged – and we know many of you are, too – to continue the hard but meaningful work to reshape education in schools and districts.

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The Lucky Generation: Why So Sad?

Never before has a generation had so much and seemingly wanted for so little. An expanding middle class has provided access to a family budget which young people use to spend 14X more on food (compared to adults); 8X more on books and clothes (up to 79% have purchased online); and twice as much on entertainment. This is a group highly connected, with PEW research noting 95 percent of teens (12 – 17) use the internet, and 81 percent of them use social media sites.

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Leadership

Casting a Shadow that Creates a Winning District

Behavior counts. How employees and students are treated and whether they feel respected begins at the top. From their first interactions with employees, students, parents, and the community, superintendents cast their “shadow” onto their district. This shadow is a reflection of everything a superintendent does and says – it may be weak or powerful, but it always exists. With this in mind, ask yourself, “Is your shadow one that will invite, include and inspire others to join you?”

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5 Ingredients that Spark Joy and Productivity at Work

I am a newlywed who has just returned from a glorious 2.5-week vacation for my wedding and honeymoon. The past few months leading up to my big day & honeymoon have been spent on wedding planning (no wedding planner) and moving into a new place as a couple (consolidating two people’s life belongings into a 600-sq ft apartment is not an overnight task), while working at a hyper-growth company called Anaplan (which I am not yet a full year into). So guess what I did right after I put up that “out of office” email: I physically shipped my laptop from Georgia (where I worked remotely before getting married) to California (where I work and live) in order to fully focus on becoming a “Mrs.” — and it was absolutely wonderful.

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Classrooms  |  School Districts

How School Leaders Can Empower Every Teacher to Be a Leader on Campus

Imagine a school in which every classroom you enter, you’ll find curious, joyful students engaged in meaningful learning, and teachers who are responsive to the needs of all learners. All teachers are instructional and cultural leaders of their own classrooms, and students are safe and cared for in their classrooms. Sounds pretty great, right? Now imagine the same school, with the same high levels of rigor, engagement, and psychological safety, with the added element of teacher leadership that extends beyond the walls of individual classrooms. While this may seem like a subtle change, the potential impact is tremendous. In order to provide an excellent education for all students, we must develop excellent schools, not just strong individual classrooms. And in order to achieve this ambitious and important goal, school leaders must view and support all teachers to serve as true leaders within their school communities.

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Leadership  |  School Districts

Becoming An Innovative Teacher Leader With Innovative Leader Competencies

In 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that educators were leaving the teaching profession at the highest rate on record. As teacher protests about fair wages and adequate resources are on the climb, districts aim to staunch the flow of the teaching exodus. And while pay and resources are certainly worth prioritizing, a 2018 Gallup poll shared that teachers who left the classroom cited one overwhelming reason as to why: lack of career advancement. If you ask teachers about opportunities to forge a career path in education, most would share that you either stay in the classroom, or you move into administration. Yet, not everyone wants to be a school principal.

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Personalized Learning

Flexible Content & Tools: Part 4 - An Interview With a Design Expert for Google's Education Tools

Personalized learning represents a shift in how we teach students, a reflection of our changing educational landscape, and an acknowledgement that the world we must prepare our students for is different than the one we grew up in. One of the biggest ways education has already changed is in the content and tools students engage with. This blog series is made up of interviews with education leaders who work with digital content, curricular resources, and instructional tools. It is meant to highlight ideas and perspectives we aren’t normally exposed to. In doing so, this series is meant to spark new ideas, discussions, and ultimately empower teachers and leaders.

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Classrooms  |  School Districts

Appreciate Teachers Year-Round by Developing a Culture of Innovation

It’s that time of year again. Wildflowers are blooming (at least here in Texas!). The sun is setting later. Winter jackets are being retired. The season is changing around us, just as it is in our schools. Around the country, test prep and standardized testing season are in full swing. End-of-year projects and field trips are approaching – and teacher appreciation week is coming up in the second week in May! As a teacher, it warmed my heart to receive kind words and tokens of appreciation from students, families, and administrators during teacher appreciation week, and I especially valued these thoughtful expressions as my emotional gas tank was running on empty during this stressful time of year. As a school leader, I organized massage chair appointments and sweet treats delivered to classrooms with the goal of making sure our teachers knew how much their work and contributions mattered to our school and community. While these gestures are important, thoughtful, and uplifting, one week of appreciation is simply not enough to propel the kind of lasting culture that truly highlights and amplifies the profound work of our teachers year-round.

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Personalized Learning

Flexible Content & Tools: Part 3 - An Interview With an Elementary Educator

Personalized learning represents a shift in how we teach students, a reflection of our changing educational landscape, and an acknowledgement that the world we must prepare our students for is different than the one we grew up in. One of the biggest ways education has already changed is in the content and tools students engage with. This blog series is made up of interviews with education leaders who work with digital content, curricular resources, and instructional tools. It is meant to highlight ideas and perspectives we aren’t normally exposed to. In doing so, this series is meant to spark new ideas, discussions, and ultimately empower teachers and leaders.

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Personalized Learning

Choice Boards, Playlists, Pathways...Oh My!

For many districts and schools, choice boards, playlists, and pathways are used interchangeably to describe instructional designs that provide students with a menu of options to guide and own their learning. Yet we ask educators to use these design practices very differently. We often define other terms, like the different blended learning models, and the different levels of student compliance. How is it that we have not created clear distinctions between choice boards, playlists, and pathways yet? We all want our students to have the best educational experience they can, and that starts with them showing ownership over their learning. But before students can engage with instructional design geared towards putting them in the driver’s seat, we as educators need to calibrate the differences between choice boards, playlists, and pathways to ensure we’re providing teachers with the right supports.

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Personalized Learning

Flexible Content & Tools: Part 2 - An Interview With an Instructional Coach at KIPP

Personalized learning represents a shift in how we teach students, a reflection of our changing educational landscape, and an acknowledgement that the world we must prepare our students for is different than the one we grew up in. One of the biggest ways education has already changed is in the content and tools students engage with. This blog series is made up of interviews with education leaders who work with digital content, curricular resources, and instructional tools. It is meant to highlight ideas and perspectives we aren’t normally exposed to. In doing so, this series is meant to spark new ideas, discussions, and ultimately empower teachers and leaders.

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School Districts

4 Things to Understand About Education Consulting

As Education Elements continues to grow, I’ve been privy to the hiring process. I think it would be helpful to explain what exactly Design Principals do...after all, a job description can only tell so much. For those interested in joining our consulting team, this article serves as a brief introduction to the role. For clients, this is a peek into the work we do both on and off-site!

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Personalized Learning

Flexible Content & Tools: Part 1 - An Interview With Newsela’s Chief Content Officer

Personalized learning represents a shift in how we teach students, a reflection of our changing educational landscape, and an acknowledgement that the world we must prepare our students for is different than the one we grew up in. One of the biggest ways education has already changed is in the content and tools students engage with. This blog series is made up of interviews with education leaders who work with digital content, curricular resources, and instructional tools. It is meant to highlight ideas and perspectives we aren’t normally exposed to. In doing so, this series is meant to spark new ideas, discussions, and ultimately empower teachers and leaders.

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It’s Not About Gaps, It’s About Educator Debts

I was at a professional learning session about learning design this week when I heard the instructor say something about achievement gaps that stopped me in my mental tracks. The conversation was centered around the constant challenge of growing achievement gaps that school educators face. There is a consistent conversation around how to help students close the gap, what can be done to enhance teaching and learning to assist in the problem, and who’s to blame (usually the student). As the conversation continued, I couldn’t help but pause to process the statement that caused an immediate mind-shift in me…

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School Districts

3 Pillars to Build On When Opening a New School

Planning and opening a new school is an exciting yet daunting task. As a leader of a brand new school, you are involved in every aspect of what the school day will look and feel like, and how it will be remembered. When you begin to design experiences that equip students with the skills to fulfill your school’s mission and vision, consider what your strategic priorities should be to get your goals accomplished. Think about yourself as a 6th grader on the first day of school: what carefully planned academic and non-academic experiences would you need to best prepare you for the rest of middle school? What instructional skills would your teachers need to engage you and your peers in rigorous work throughout the day? What type of environment would allow you to grow and reflect on your progress in a meaningful way?

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Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Teaming

Is Marketing Your School District a Thing? Part 3: Social Media

One of the major issues that schools face is engaging with parents, community, and stakeholders. It is not about educational changes and innovative initiatives, but about the everyday work such as field trips, after-school programs, counseling, volunteering opportunities, sports events, snow days, drop-off and pick-up, fundraisers, and more. Education is an ever-changing and ever-evolving landscape, and communications is no different. The ways in which we communicate have evolved, and many new ways to communicate effectively have emerged and improved over time. The way we access information today is very different from the way we used to just a few years ago: we read our morning news from our smartphones, we look up restaurant menus online, we keep up with our friends through Facebook Live and Instagram Stories, and we seek customer support from companies on Twitter.

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Leadership  |  School Districts

Personalized Learning and the Shift from a Pedagogy of Poverty to a Pedagogy of Plenty

A few months ago I attended ICLE’s Leadership Academy in Atlanta and heard Dr. Tyrone Howard speak. His talk was a powerful one, addressing the differences between equity and equality, the need to support all students, and a call to action to have difficult conversations, call out bias and microaggressions, and make sure that we see our students, understand and empathize with them, and educate every single one of them. One of the things that stood out the most was the idea of the Pedagogy of Poverty vs Pedagogy of Plenty.

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Leadership  |  School Districts

Takeaways for School Districts from the Latest Happenings at Harvard

Last August, my Education Elements “familEE” of consultants and district partners supported me on a new journey to the Technology, Innovation, and Education masters program at Harvard University. Through my experience so far, I’d like to share the following lessons and takeaways for K-12 districts.

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Leadership

Don’t Look Now but the 21st Century is Behind You!

Five years ago, our team partnered with the Economist Group to conduct a study where we asked business and industry leaders around the world, what were the most critical skills they wanted their employees to possess. You could say the results were more validating than surprising. The usual suspects were on the list – problem-solving, teamwork, communication, critical thinking, and digital literacy were among the skills mentioned. When I show the results of the study on a slide, I warn my audience that the most fascinating thing about the list is that it’s not fascinating at all. Everyone in the room knows what's on the list. We have been talking about how students need to develop these skills for so long, we actually call them “21st Century Skills," and we talk about them a lot! If you do an exact term search for “21st Century Skills,” you get about 4,170,000 results.

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Leadership

The Greatest Challenge to School Innovation

When school leaders want to bring innovative practices to classrooms, what's the greatest challenge that stands in their way? Lack of funding? Inadequate in-house expertise? According to the most recent SpeakUp survey, 46% of administrators point to one key factor above most others: teacher motivation.

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Leadership

3 Keys to Creating a More Agile School District

In 2012, Google began studying how workers can transform productivity by examining the perfect team. They scrutinized everything from how often they socialize together, to how regularly they communicate, to their personal backgrounds. Like many organizations, Google believed that putting the best people together would create the highest level of productivity. However, no matter what data they collected, they didn’t see any consistent patterns.

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Classrooms

5 Myths to Bust About Blended Learning, What It Is, and the Benefits It Has for Students

Over the past several years, more and more schools across the U.S. have been implementing blended-learning strategies for their students. What is blended learning? It is a formal education program that must have three components: It must be part online, with students having some control over the time, place, path, or pace of their learning; it must occur, in part, in a brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along a student’s learning path must be connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

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Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

Our Approach to Strategic Planning in Education

The year 2020 is shaping up to be a record year - Summer Olympics, a World Cup, a presidential election, and in the education world, the year many strategic plans expire. As districts gear up to write their next strategic plan, we have mixed feelings about the process. At best, the process provides an opportunity for district leaders to coalesce around a shared vision. At worst, the process consumes valuable hours and produces a document that does little to change individual behavior.

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Classrooms

Robots Are Not Taking Over Teachers' Jobs

There is a scene from the recent Star Trek movie reboot of a young alien named Spock at school. Spock and his classmates each stand in their own semi-circular pod, surrounded by screens while an automated “teacher” prompts them with questions. This eerie scene is what some fear will be the future of schooling. Students staring at screens, by themselves, while an artificial intelligence program delivers content and assessments. There is no doubt that digital programs, particularly adaptive ones, can be powerful tools in the classroom. However, that is all a digital program will ever be – a tool. A computer program can never replace a teacher. If anything, technology is making the role of teachers even more important and their job more complex.

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Leadership  |  Personalized Learning

7 Reasons You Can't Miss the Personalized Learning Summit 2019!

We're counting down the days to this year's 5th annual Personalized Learning Summit! We're so excited to gather together again this year and share the experiences and innovation we've all been developing since the last PL Summit. If you've never been to the Personalized Learning Summit before - or you're making the case to attend again - here are the top reasons to join us in Atlanta, GA May 14-16 this year!

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Classrooms  |  School Districts

5 Common Coaching Misconceptions

“Coaching" means something different to everyone. Many of us have had both positive and negative experiences with coaches in the past, which influence our definition of and expectations from coaching. Becoming an instructional coach is often seen as a natural next step for classroom educators. Unfortunately,  all of the skills that make one a good teacher may not be everything that makes a person a successful coach. Additionally, there aren’t always enough coaches to support all teachers. This limited capacity leads to some frequent misunderstandings of the role and accountabilities of a coach. We’re here to bust those misconceptions and encourage coaching to thrive.

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Leadership

A New Way to Think About Innovative School and District Leadership

What’s the most meaningful thing a district can do to support innovation in its schools? When my colleagues and I at Education Elements work with schools and districts, our approach to innovation and change involves a framework of 25 key factors, all of which are important. In the past year, though, we’ve been thinking a great deal about one of these – “roles to support teachers” – and the tremendous impact it has on innovation. Specifically, we’ve come to believe that there is a certain kind of innovative leadership, a set of skills and a way of thinking about innovation, that can enable district leaders, instructional coaches, school leaders, and teacher-leaders to have a transformative impact on their schools through the way they support teachers. We believe that one of the single most impactful efforts a district can undertake is to help their district leaders, school leaders, instructional coaches, and teacher-leaders learn to practice this kind of innovative leadership.

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Classrooms  |  Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

Not So Typical Personalized Learning Predictions for 2019

Every 4-5 years, I try to pick up a new activity and focus on it until I get to a level of intermediate competency. It started with scuba diving in 2003, snowboarding in 2008, swimming in 2013, and this year was surfing. I took a 3-day boot camp with a private instructor where it turns out I had a different instructor each of the 3 days. While the instruction was 1:1 and technically couldn’t be more personalized for me, I was surprised by how much each instructor met or didn’t meet my needs. So I wanted to break it down for you.

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Leadership  |  School Districts

Bridging the Gap in Rural Putnam County, Tennessee Through Personalized Learning

In Putnam County, Tenn., with 23 schools spread across 400 square miles, we share many of the challenges faced by our fellow rural school districts nationwide, including inconsistent attendance, long commutes, and a high "mobility rate" - the rate at which students are moving in and out of the district. Previously, Putnam County teachers had been using more traditional, often low-tech teaching methodologies. But starting eight years ago, we began to make a significant shift toward personalized and virtual learning with the goal of preparing students to be "future-ready," a term we use in Putnam County to encompass both college-and career-ready as a more flexible concept as students often work toward both at once.

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Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

What We Believe at Education Elements

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is frequently a time of reflection and introspection, writing lists, and making resolutions. In the spirit of the season, I've been reflecting on my time with Education Elements. I’ve been  a part of the Ed Elements team since 2013 - not quite six years - and in that time, I’ve seen quite a lot of change in the work we do and the work schools and districts ask us to do. But, I’ve also been surprised and proud at how much has remained the same in terms of our mission, culture, and how we think about these challenges.

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Classrooms  |  Curriculum  |  Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

The Top 10 Blog Posts from Education Elements - What We Talked About in 2018

Over the past year, we published 71 posts, and we’ll probably manage to sneak in a couple more before the year is done! Here at the Bring Your Own Thoughts blog, it’s always been our goal to create space for a wide range of perspectives and experiences so that as many educators as possible can find content which is useful and relatable to their own challenges and goals. We’re proud to say that every year, the B.Y.O.T. blog includes diverse voices – from teachers to administrators to coaches and consultants – and this year was no different. With thought leaders from schools, districts, and education organizations across the country, as well as our own team, we talked about everything from PL to equity to curriculum to leadership to organizational practices and beyond, in the form of blog posts and multiple new blog series, podcast episodes, downloadable tools and resources, and comments from our readers! You can learn more about our work over the past year in our reflection on 2018, and today, we’re sharing this year’s most popular posts on the blog.

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PBL  |  Personalized Learning  |  Project Based Learning

Reflections on Personalized Learning and Project-based Learning

Recently, I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop with our partners at Loudoun County Public Schools and the Buck Institute for Education to do some deep thinking about the connections between project-based learning  and personalized learning. I am very passionate about these two pillars of instruction, and I'm doubly passionate about their intersection.

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Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

Recruit and Retain the Best Teachers by Tapping into Teacher Agency

Are you a district or campus leader who struggles to find highly qualified or highly talented teachers? Do you find yourself losing out to other districts when it comes to attracting the best and brightest? Do you have a plan in place to recruit and retain those fantastic teachers who can not only impact student learning but help build the dynamic and innovative culture you desire in your district or on your campus? The National Center for Education Statistics reports 8% of the nearly 3 million teachers in the U.S. leave the profession each year. Additionally, over 41 percent of all new teachers will leave the profession within 5 years. Most alarming, 45 percent of all teacher attrition occurs in just 25 percent of all public schools: high-poverty, high-minority, urban, and rural. While attrition and staff turnover are common among all industries, the rate is noticeably higher in education than in other highly socially respected professions such as lawyers, engineers, architects, and several medical-related fields. Moreover, repeated staff turnover and teacher attrition can negatively affect a wide range of educational practices, including professional development, class assignments and scheduling, curriculum planning, and collaboration. Combined, these factors create a significant amount of disorder to schoolwide operations and potentially reduce student learning across a campus or district.

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Leadership

Coaching for Innovation: 10 Competencies to Maximize the Impact of a Coach

“I don’t think I would have made it through that year without her.” “His support and confidence in me helped me grow and achieve in ways I never had before.” “She pushed me to change the way I think about my work and my life, and I am a better person for it.” In a recent conversation with a group of district leaders, each individual reflected on key benchmarks in their careers that profoundly impacted their leadership trajectory. While there were many experiences, decisions, and opportunities discussed as moments that helped to shape their path, each individual credited a specific person, specifically a coach, as the most important contributing factor to who they are as leaders today. Based on the reflections each leader shared about a coach they have worked with, it is clear the impact that these coaches had is both powerful and lasting.

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Leadership

What Should We Expect from Each Other?

As a former superintendent and now consultant for a small startup tech company, I have experienced both sides of hiring a third party vendor. I have hired consulting firms and edtech vendors as a superintendent, and as a consultant, I have partnered with schools to employ a technology platform for growth and reflection.

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Leadership

Leading Blended Learning from the Front Row

Many people enjoy sitting in the front row while attending a movie they have not seen before. This is exactly how I would describe the experience of leading Blended Learning from the district-level. As a district administrator, you are expected to sit in the front row; and in many respects, Blended Learning is a movie that most in education have not seen before.

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Leadership

A Journey to Understand and Implement Personalized Learning

Several years ago, I was selected by the Lexington Institute for their initial leadership cohort, which focused on the implementation of personalized learning. It was a tremendous honor and a great learning experience for me. It is where I first met Anthony Kim and became aware of Education Elements. Over the next year, myself and a team of colleagues were involved in a series of phone conversations with districts from around the country and ultimately visited with other Lexington Institute Fellows in Juab, Utah. While the district team I led was well into its journey towards personalized learning for all students, this experience extended our thinking and mastery on the best ways to transform learning.

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Leadership

Innovative School Leaders Part 3: Leading with Intention

“The more senior you are, the more important listening becomes. Once a leader speaks, most people stop listening to one another and start positioning themselves. But when the leader doesn’t speak, then, just like a great choir, people have to listen and respond to one another. That’s how and when distinctive work emerges. Knowing you will be heard creates space for thinking.”  Vicki Abeles, Beyond Measure We have been on a journey that began with personal reflection and then expanded to thinking about the way we work with others and develop teams and communities. In the final installment of our three-part leadership series, we will discuss how to use the Innovative School Leader Competencies to take the reins and drive innovation.

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Leadership

7 Things We're Grateful For at Education Elements

I recently read Chip and Dan Heath’s new book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact and was struck by the impact that expressing gratitude and appreciation has on both the receiver of the message, as well as on the giver. According to research, the feel-good benefits of sending or saying a sincere thank you can last up to a month. So as I sit here, outside on a balmy evening on vacation with my family, I recognize how much I have to be grateful for and know that I should write about it more than once a year...for my own benefit as well as for the benefit of others. And as always, my potential list is long but I recognize our average attention span is short and getting shorter, so here it is - just 7 of the many things we are grateful for this season.

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Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

40 Ways to Celebrate Teachers and Impact Teacher Retention

Do you ever have trouble falling asleep because you can’t stop thinking about what you need to accomplish the next day? Maybe you’re one of those people that has your best ideas for solving a problem while washing your hair? Have you found yourself half-listening to a loved one while saying, “Let me just finish one more email…”? What do all of these experiences have in common? They are familiar territory for professionals who never truly stop working during their waking hours, which is especially true of passionate and committed educators.

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PL Summit  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

Your Network: Make it Bigger to Make Your School District Stronger

For many, being an innovator conjures a vision of being the one out in front, alone, and it can certainly feel that way at times. All at once it seems like a big adventure and a scary proposition with uncertain rewards, but known risks. You may have a lot of questions to ask about your path but worry no one else is on it. It feels like something you kind of want to tell everybody about, but also don’t want anybody to know. The teacher who is trying something new may purposely close his door and not talk about it in case it fails. The school leader who is working on new strategies may keep quiet about them in a meeting with others, in case her peers try to dissuade her. The superintendent who wants to make her district radically different may feel like she is the only one trying to do this big thing or if she isn’t the only one, not know how to find others who think like her. So at a time when the support and ideas of others would help the most, we often are the least likely to receive them.

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Leadership  |  Personalized Learning

Talk the Talk: Communications Planning for Innovation in Education - A Webinar

As we work with schools and policy-makers to successfully implement student-centered learning models, we often hear concerns around building community support. Time and again we come back to the idea that communicating to others the why, the how, the what, and the when is key to a successful and sustainable transition to new, innovative learning environments. We also nearly always come back to the challenge that knowing communications is important is one thing, but doing it effectively is another thing entirely.

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Blended Learning  |  Digital Content  |  Personalized Learning

Selecting Digital Content for Your School: A How-To Guide

As a learning organization, we are always improving and iterating  School leaders often ask us: “How do I select the right content for my blended classroom?” To help answer this question, we’ve developed an infographic and guide to "Selecting Curriculum to Support Personalized Learning".

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Personalized Learning

A Day in the Life of a Student in a Personalized, Competency-Based School

This blog post was originally published on the CompetencyWorks website, based on data from former Ed Elements team member Mike Wolking. Mike Wolking, currently completing an Axford Fellowship, sent me a summary of a short investigation he completed in how a student spends their day. He followed a student in a New Zealand secondary school for a day and tracked her activities. As I read through the summary, I thought it might be a helpful way to begin to think about the quality of personalized, competency-based education. This type of data could be useful for reflection and opening up conversations about where there might be opportunities for strengthening instruction, assessment, and learning experiences as well as identifying where operational policies or organizational habits are getting in the way. One would have to also consider the question: How do we think a student should spend their time in order to optimize learning and development?

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Personalized Learning

How Can Personalized Learning Support Educational Equity?

In his book Striving for Equity: District Leadership for Narrowing Opportunity and Achievement Gaps, co-author and former Arlington County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Smith provides the following explanation of educational equity: “You don't have equity in conditions in which all students are receiving the same amount of support, ... You are getting equity if you have a situation in which every student is getting the amount of support to be successful.”

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Personalized Learning

Bringing Vision Into Focus: Georgia’s Journey to a Statewide Vision of Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning. Two words that at the same time inspire hearts and minds, and leave our pragmatic minds wandering.   If you are anything like the educators and leaders in the schools and districts we at iTeach support, you are already a ‘believer’ in the promise of a learning experience that is personalized. You might even have your own working definition for what it looks like in your instance, and that definition may well be informed by the good work of organizations like Education Elements, iNACOL, Learning Accelerator, and other thought leaders. For us, here in Georgia, we were all so caught up in igniting the spark of this new paradigm, that we created some confusion, or at least some incongruence across the state. Some early-adopting districts spending money on redesign and consultation, create and communicate their own vision with their own language, leaving smaller or less-resourced districts unable to shoulder the financial burden of such work to pick at the bone and create Frankenstein models of their own.

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Leadership  |  School Districts

Education Elements’ Responsive Playbook: How We Built a Thriving, Learning Organization

As an education consulting organization we work with hundreds of schools and districts to improve the way teaching, learning, work, and collaboration happen. In projects with clients, we rarely ask leaders to try something we haven’t tried ourselves. In fact, when Anthony Kim and Alexis Gonzales Black published The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools, many of the lessons included in the book were drawn from our own teams at Education Elements. We are constantly seeking new learnings and ways of improving the way work happens at our company.

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Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

Tips for Educators: The Innovator in You and the Future of District Organizations

Everyone is an innovator Within the last two decades, the barrier to entry to be innovative has dramatically decreased. Today, people can have multiple careers and innovations within a lifetime. Innovation has become so frequent that it’s part of everyone’s vernacular and a topic in many industries including healthcare, auto manufacturing, and education. Who doesn’t want to be innovative? It’s cool to be considered innovative and disruptive. Clayton Christensen wrote several best selling books on innovation and Clayton and Michael Horn put out a seminal book which in many ways shaped changes we have seen in education, “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns”.  This book made innovation cool even in education. Inspired by the practices of responsive organizations in other industries, Alexis Gonzales-Black and I co-wrote the book, "The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools", to help schools and districts become more innovative and agile.

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Leadership

Innovative School Leaders Part 2: Involving Others To Create a Culture of Innovation

Ideas come to me at very random times: in a dream, on a walk, or during my commute. I think “Wow, this is it...this is the idea that will land me a TED Talk!” Following these inspirations, I usually text my colleague and warn her: “This is going to be big! We should carve out a whole hour to talk about it.” Within the first five minutes of our conversation, she has completely blown up my idea in all of the best ways. She preserves the spirit of the inspiration while somehow making it better. We then conference in another colleague who amps up our idea by helping us consider new perspectives. He encourages us to share it with our team to accelerate our learning. What we end up moving forward with is always beyond what I alone could have imagined!

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Personalized Learning

Design Parameters for Personalized Learning

As I meet with education leaders across the country, I am often asked questions about the best way to roll-out personalized learning within a district. I always struggle to answer this question since it entirely depends upon the unique needs and circumstances within each community. In some ways, it feels as if someone is asking me, “What’s the very best car I can buy?” Each vehicle option includes trade-offs, and the optimal vehicle will depend on the specific needs of the driver.

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Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

How Clear Communication and Defined Career Pathways Can Boost Teacher Retention

Teachers love their jobs. That statement may strike you as untrue, simplistic, or ill-informed, given the current state of the teaching profession, in which many teachers will leave the classroom in the first five years, and teacher retention is a crisis on the horizon for schools, districts, and state boards of education. I stand by it, though. In my fifteen years in education, working in and with schools and teachers, I have had many conversations with teachers about their job satisfaction. On balance, teachers I’ve encountered love their students. They talk about “their” kids with pride, concern, and (sometimes) exasperation. They seek professional development to improve their abilities to reach students, and they sacrifice their personal time (and often money) to ensure their students get what they need to succeed in school.

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Classrooms  |  Competency-Based Education  |  Curriculum  |  Personalized Learning

The Core 4 Elements of Personalized Learning

In some ways, creating a successful personalized learning classroom is similar to winning a basketball game. To give us direction, my high school basketball coach consistently focused on three key areas, which he called the Big Three:

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Classrooms  |  Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

The 10 Resources You Need to Head Back to School in 2018

September is in full swing, and it’s the time of year that we start heading back into the classroom - some of us are already in school, and some of us are still counting down our last few precious days of summer vacation. Setting the stage for a new school year is crucial, but it can also be a complex undertaking. So we decided to round up some resources to help you start the school year off right! There’s something here for everyone: whether you’re a teacher, a school leader, a district administrator, or a learning coach; if you’re exploring what personalized learning, competency-based education, or innovation in the classroom; if you are working on developing leadership, professional development, or strengthening communication and collaboration; and whether you need an overarching view of the education journey or help with one piece of the puzzle.

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Classrooms  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

How Might Schools Quantify “Personalized Learning”?

Measuring your personalized learning journey is now easier than ever with the new Kiddom + Education Elements partnership Personalized learning is a buzz phrase we hear often in education. This pedagogical style is inspirational, and may serve students well, but it often lacks direction. Many professional development sessions begin with: “Let’s define personalized learning,” because the term is thrown around so often. At Kiddom, we’ve had the privilege to witness many excellent strides toward personalized learning in different environments, but many haven’t yet seen it in practice. So how does an administrator or community measure the pursuit of this practice without knowing exactly how it looks or where to focus their efforts to improve?

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Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

Five Stories of Transformation from Our Fifth Annual Report

This week, we released our 2017-2018 Annual Report. The report marks eight years since Education Elements was founded, and our fifth such report. In the report, we highlight the incredible work of our district partners and share how our work is evolving to continue to build and support dynamic school systems that meet the needs of every learner, today and tomorrow.

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Curriculum  |  Personalized Learning

Strange Bedfellows: The Marriage of Personalized Learning and High-Quality Curriculum

Unexpected pairings are a common feature throughout history and culture; Dharma and Greg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, Frog and Toad, Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg. Opposites attract when they have a shared purpose and their strengths complement one another. They can approach problems with a greater set of ideas and a broader range of perspectives. At first glance, personalized learning and high-quality curriculum may seem like opposing movements. However, they both aim to deepen student learning and approach that task with a variety of strategies that, when paired, are a powerful set of tools.

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