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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.

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Data  |  School Leadership

Starting and Sustaining a Data Habit in Your School

Knowledge is Power! Measure what Matters! If our cliches are an indicator, we all know that data collection, review, analysis, and understanding is important. We all hear of data-driven decisions, and the importance of data in education and educational systems, but we are often challenged to incorporate data review and the next steps into our everyday lives. In some cases, schools may have deeply embedded practices where data are used only superficially to check a box. Data use may be inconsistent across the organization or only occurs in silos. Some school districts may even have beliefs and norms – a culture – that actually diminish the potential benefits of assessment and data collection. The truth is that the work to dismantle bad habits and unhealthy systems is really, really hard. As we built the Essential Elements of a Data Culture, we considered how an organizational culture can shift from a culture in which data is in the periphery, pulled to the center for high stakes discussions and decisions, to one in which data is an integral part of every day, informing the small moves that reinforce the vision, clarify decisions, and advance progress. This is where our love of habits comes in…

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Data  |  Surveys

Comparing the 7 Best Survey Tools

Surveys should be a part of every school’s planning. As a former school district administrator responsible for surveys, I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. Above all else, creating a listening culture in your school or district can transform your next initiative and your overall results in supporting student success.

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District Leadership  |  Innovative Leadership  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Superintendents

How to Effectively Manage Large-Scale Change in School Districts

Why is change so hard? Navigating change in schools isn't just a leadership challenge—it's a personal journey for every educator and administrator involved. Educators often find themselves adapting to new standards, implementing new initiatives, or integrating innovative tech, which can feel like steering a ship through stormy seas. In this blog, we will dive into some of the reasons why people and organizations are resistant to change and what we can do to effectively manage large-scale change to achieve our goals.

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District Leadership  |  Innovative Leadership  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Superintendents

Navigating and Building Your Leadership Team: A Guide for New Superintendents

“Congratulations!” This is a common note sent via email and shared on LinkedIn as so many of my friends and colleagues transition into the first year of their superintendency on July 1st. As I reflect on my 10+ years having the privilege of working alongside district leaders and observing what works and where some have experienced pitfalls, I want to share some thoughts on the importance of building your leadership bench.

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District Leadership  |  Innovative Leadership  |  Teams & Culture

Three Types of Leaders Every Learning Organization Should Have

One of the best things about living your professional life in education is the assumption implicit in the field that everyone has something valuable to contribute, and there is always an opportunity to level up. Over the past few years, we have seen this belief confirmed in classrooms, schools, and districts all over the country as teachers, counselors, campus administrators, and district leaders have taken on numerous challenges and endlessly changing demands and limitations in the wake of the pandemic.

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Blog Post  |  Enrollment Marketing

Save your budget, create an enrollment marketing plan

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Science of Reading  |  Teachers

Science of Reading: Putting the Systems in Place to Support Literacy Instruction

Anyone who follows education news and trends across the country will agree that there continues to be no bigger buzzword than “science of reading”. As we noted earlier in the year, over 35 states have committed formally to implementing the science of reading. Let’s look in more detail at what this actually means and some of the systems that will help with successful implementation.

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District Leadership  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership  |  Teachers  |  Teams & Culture

Why Teachers Stay: Building Inspiring, Responsive Leaders to Improve the Learning Experience for All

In one of our recent blogs, we noted that some teachers list “weak or uninspiring leadership” as a reason they are leaving their positions. Those who feel strongly that they are not supported by their school administration are at high risk of calling it quits. If we are relying on school leaders and building administrators to reverse this trend, we need to make sure we are equipping them with the skills they need to recognize, develop, motivate, and support teacher growth and development. For many district leaders, summer offers a perfect window to focus on aspects of their own growth and development.

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District Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership  |  Teachers  |  Teams & Culture

Opening Doors: Collaboration Brings Personalized Learning to Life

Implementing personalized learning across an entire school district is an ambitious undertaking. It requires a dedicated investment of time and resources, but the potential benefits for student learning are undeniable. One of the biggest challenges is prioritizing thoughtful professional development for educators amid many competing priorities in districts. Our team faced this challenge while partnering with the Manchester Shortsville Central School District in New York. Manchester is a rural district located near Rochester, serving approximately 700 students across PK-12th grade. We had been working with a dedicated group of teachers for over a year, and their team was eager to expand the program to a wider range of educators. In closing feedback, one teacher wrote, “I found the time we had to bounce ideas off each other to be beneficial. Learning about what my colleagues are doing in the classrooms was eye opening. I am always looking to learn from them.” As a result, the Red Jacket team engaged our Education Elements (EE) team to work with the whole middle and high school teams. Unfortunately, finding dates that worked for everyone proved difficult.

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District Leadership  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership

Leading Change in Education: How Responsive Leadership and Teamwork Transform Schools

In a time where there is a heightened focus on education, it is essential that leadership development not be forgotten. Educational leaders serve as the guiding force behind school communities, shaping the vision, culture, and direction of the schools they serve. Providing educational leaders with resources and support empowers them to inspire positive change, implement effective teaching practices, and cultivate a culture of continuous improvement. Effective leadership drives collaboration among educators, fosters a supportive learning environment for students, and promotes equity and inclusivity, strengthening the educational system and quality of learning. Ultimately, by prioritizing the development of educational leaders, we ensure that schools are equipped with the visionary leadership needed to navigate complex challenges, adapt to evolving needs, and empower all learners to reach their full potential.

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Education Elements  |  School Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

15 Ways to Recognize Teachers: Teacher Appreciation Week & Beyond

Teachers have a tremendous impact on the learning and lives of their students and communities, and planning a unique and powerful teacher appreciation week is one way to celebrate their incredible contributions. School and district leaders can use the strategies below as a starting point to plan meaningful ways to recognize all that they do, every day.

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District Leadership  |  Education Elements  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership

Strong Planning, Coaching, and Implementing with Fidelity– A Blended Learning Success Story

As soon as you enter Vogel Elementary School, you are greeted with large smiles. It is no secret that students are excited to show up to school every day and teachers are ready to embrace their kiddos as soon as the bell rings. The reason? Students are at the heart of all choices made at Vogel– a blended learning campus in Seguin Independent School District. In the 2021-2022 school year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) identified Vogel Elementary as a campus that qualified for a school action. Historically, Vogel Elementary has received D accountability ratings from the state, although they earned a C rating based on 2022 Accountability results. These results made them eligible for the School Action Fund (SAF) Cycle 6 grants. As part of the school action plan, the school selected a blended learning redesign model. This model was the best fit with existing campus and district initiatives, including the implementation of high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) in Math and ELAR classes. At Education Elements, we partnered with Seguin ISD on this work, collaborating on three key steps which led to an increase in student-driven outcome data.

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District Leadership  |  Education Elements  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership

Unlocking Literacy for All: How Clear Creek ISD Planned and Executed Instructional Change

Nation-wide, building literacy in our children is a persistent challenge. So much of a challenge that according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more than 60 percent of American fourth graders are not proficient readers. Other research has shown that 95% of students are cognitively capable of reading proficiently, which indicates that lacking literacy isn’t the result of students’ capabilities; it’s the consequence of instruction failing to access and amplify students’ potential as readers and writers. The implications of this are serious. It’s often said that reading opens doors. For students who can’t read proficiently, many of those doors remain closed and the paths behind them go unexplored, so further opportunities to learn, grow, and achieve are rendered inaccessible.

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7Cs Teaching Resources  |  Education Elements  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership  |  Surveys  |  Teachers

The Impact of Student Voices on Instructional Leadership: A Case Study

At Education Elements, Personalized Learning reflects many of our core beliefs about how people and organizations grow. This is why we continuously improve our services in this area to support schools and districts in their efforts to personalize learning for students. We know that in and outside the classroom, learning is rarely one-size-fits-all. Every individual can thrive if their unique needs are met. Often the first step to supporting student growth and development is getting to know your people and understanding their needs.

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Education Elements  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Teacher Retention  |  Teachers

Six Ways Instructional Leaders Can Support Curriculum Implementation

As an Instructional Leader, I remember sitting at my desk before the start of each semester, turning my wheels about how to make each day longer so I could prioritize the competing needs of my dozens of teachers and maybe have time for lunch. I supported five new teachers, all in different content areas with different curricula (or none) which added to this stress. I began to shift my mindset to discover that natural breaks in the year—such as new quarters/semesters or the beginning and end of the school year—hold significance. These times created an opportunity for a mini-reset to reimagine and prioritize our work. Here are six tips for leaders looking to adopt a new curriculum:

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District Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Teacher Retention  |  Teams & Culture  |  school climate

Retaining Teachers Requires a Belonging Strategy

Post-pandemic data shows that teachers are leaving the profession in higher numbers than they were before the pandemic and for reasons other than retirement or inadequate performance. These high turnover rates have many impacts on the school community, not the least of which is a detrimental effect on student growth and achievement. Why are teachers quitting, and what can be done to stop this troubling trend? Aside from compensation, teachers say they are leaving their positions due to frustration and even exhaustion from managing unreasonable expectations while feeling overworked and undervalued. Some cite weak or uninspiring leadership as a factor while others point to political pressures interfering with how they do their jobs and serve their students. This level of dissatisfaction is contributing to the unhealthy state of the teaching profession overall.

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Blog Post  |  Enrollment Marketing

Six Steps to Increase Student Enrollment

Superintendents have so much on their plate from addressing teacher retention, to learning loss, school improvement plans, and community culture wars. And they also must stave off the nationwide enrollment dropping and stabilize district budgets. Losing funding through lower enrollments can ruin a school district's culture and operations. The consequences of decreasing or unstable enrollment include program sunsetting, school closures, layoffs, and dilapidated facilities.

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District Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

Reimagining Education to be Responsive, Representative, and Data-Informed: 3 Phases to Rochester’s Transformation

Picture this: sunrise in Rochester, NH, where the promise of a fantastic day starts with the aroma of fresh coffee and the delightful sight of pastries from the local gem, Potter's House. If you haven’t visited, you're missing out on a slice of Rochester's personality—hard working, welcoming, curious, and determined. During a recent trip, while gearing up for one of our sessions, we made sure to kickstart the day with something sweet. Chatting in line with a local Potter's House patron, she asked why we were visiting Rochester. Her response was heartening: "I love our schools, and our students are amazing. I am so excited for the strategic planning that we are doing with you." Being part of Rochester's dedication to nearly 4000 students is a true privilege.

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District Leadership  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership  |  Teachers

Rising Student Absenteeism: We Need to Change the Way We Do Things

Schools across the country are grappling with fewer students in classrooms, causing a ripple effect on learning, funding, and engagement. Research shows that the number of chronically absent students has nearly doubled, from about 15 percent in the 2018-2019 school year to around 30 percent in 2021-2022. Millions of students miss 10% of the school year or more—whether excused or unexcused—and substantial increases in chronic absenteeism were prevalent across every state that captures this data. The research results imply that an additional 6.5 million students became chronically absent in the ‘21-’22 school year, on top of the millions of students who were chronically absent before the pandemic. Because of the correlation between attendance and learning, this uptick in absenteeism has grave consequences for student growth. In states like Texas, where school funding is tied to attendance, it also creates financial constraints.

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District Leadership  |  Equity  |  Innovative Leadership  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership

An Investment in Equity Is an Investment in Positive Student Outcomes

Did you know that New York State has nearly 800 public school districts? (Source: nysed.gov). This ranks New York in the top 10 states with the highest number of school districts per state (Source: nces.ed.gov). Within those districts exist some of the largest and smallest in the country. In a small village between the Shawangunk Ridge and the Catskill Mountains, Ellenville Central School District (CSD) serves 1,475 students in seven different communities. On the drive to Ellenville, you will face highways that bleed into long, windy roads, and just before you approach the village, seemingly out of nowhere, you will be greeted with a beautiful view of a mountain in which Ellenville sits at the base of. When you talk to an Ellenville Blue Devil, there is no shortage of pride and love for their sprawling community. This district is committed to its students and bettering itself to create more equitable outcomes.

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Innovative Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

Community 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 community members 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, community engagement can be a paralyzingly large task.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Teachers

Racing to Implement the Science of Reading: Setting a Pace for Achieving Success

During speeches in January, several state leaders kicked off the year with strong commitments of money and resources to improve literacy in their schools through the immediate implementation of evidence-based reading instruction, often referred to as the “science of reading.” The governors of New York and Massachusetts offered guidelines, not mandates, for school districts to focus on adopting reading instruction practices and materials that are evidence-based. The Maryland State Board of Education approved a resolution declaring that all public schools must be aligned to the Science of Reading effective School Year 2024-25. With this resolution, Maryland joins over 35 other states and the District of Columbia that have committed to full alignment with the science of reading over the past ten years. These states’ goals are overarchingly the same, but their plans, timelines, and benchmarks differ. What do they need to consider and include to be successful in improving student reading outcomes?

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Equity  |  Innovative Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

5 Tips for Building a Profile of a Graduate

Graduate profiles are becoming increasingly popular in districts and can function in a multitude of ways. From formulating the basis for an instructional vision to getting started with performance based grading, graduate profiles clearly articulate outcomes for learners and provide critical guidance for staff and leaders. What is a Profile of a Graduate? A graduate profile may also be referred to as Portrait of a Graduate, Profile of a Graduate, Journey of a Graduate, or Journey of a Learner. The precise term is not as important as the way in which it was created, and how it functions within your district or school community. At Education Elements we believe in the importance of building and creating a profile collaboratively; that the process of creation is, in fact, just as important as the end product. We also believe that when designing a graduate profile, it is important to do so with a student-centered approach. Read the following five tips for planning that will lead to an impactful and relevant graduate profile that your community is excited about.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

How a $5 lesson can help districts avoid a multi-million freefall when ESSER funding expires

In 2009, Professor Tina Seelig looked over her class of Stanford business students and assigned a simple challenge. Working in groups, the students were given $5 and 2 hours to make the highest possible return on their money. They had a week to plan their strategy with almost unlimited creativity. At the end of the challenge, each group gave a 3 minute presentation to share their process and results with their peers. Most people faced with a similar challenge would follow one of two logical routes to secure a return on investment (ROI): Focus on the money and try to “flip” it - buy an item for $5 and sell it for $10 Focus on the time allotment of 2 hours and try to “side hustle” - engage in “gig economy” jobs to make additional income

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District Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

Aligning Your District’s Initiatives: How to Achieve Coherence & Impact

Our schools operate at a rapid pace as they are dynamic environments with a number of moving parts. As leaders, we are continually attending to matters of teaching and learning, making sure our curricula are rigorous and standards-based, checking in on culture and learning outcomes using data to measure results…and much more. Undeniably, there is a long list of priorities. To execute these work streams well and to best serve our students, we must engage in responsive strategic planning. Too often, districts create multiple plans that don’t guide or prioritize the needs well, creating chaos, resulting in a lack of a true roadmap. Many districts benefit from developing a comprehensive 3-5 year strategic plan. By establishing a robust planning process, you can deepen your understanding of stakeholder needs, build coherence across district initiatives, prioritize efforts to maximize value for students, and define success metrics. It is important for other school-based or district-wide plans to fit well with the overall comprehensive and responsive strategic district plan.

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Classrooms  |  District Leadership  |  EdTech  |  School Districts  |  Teachers

5 Reasons Why Education Leaders Need to Consider AI

Imagine a new educational paradigm: virtual tutors provide real-time assistance, ensuring no students are left behind. Interactive simulations and virtual reality experiences engage learners in immersive educational adventures, making lessons come alive. Teachers collaborate to analyze student performance data, enabling targeted interventions and fostering a supportive and dynamic learning environment. The synergy between educators and Artificial Intelligence (AI) enhances academic outcomes and nurtures a generation empowered by limitless possibilities!

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Classrooms  |  Teachers

Another change!?!?: Three Considerations for Selecting High-Quality Instructional Materials

When asked what my favorite story is, one of the first titles that pops into my mind is Hamlet. But Hamlet is not my favorite story - not even close. I like it, sure, but the reason it pops into my head is because it was one of my favorite units in high school. The brilliant educator Ms. Nelson thoughtfully designed the unit, and the experience still resides in my mind twenty years later. As educators, we are obsessed with the content we put in front of our students. A thoughtfully crafted and rigorous curriculum can transform lives, and our lessons can make waves decades into the future. Because of its impacts, we must be thoughtful when considering changes in the curriculum we put in front of our students. Education Elements supports the implementation of High-Quality Instructional Materials (HQIMs), and our previously published guide provides a comprehensive view of HQIMs. If your organization is thinking of implementing a new curriculum, here are three things to consider:

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Classrooms  |  District Leadership  |  School Leadership

6 Major K-12 Education Predictions for 2024

Take a casual stroll through the past predictions I made about education, leading up to 2024. You'll see they were pretty spot-on. Over the last few years, I've called several major trends in education that hit the nail on the head. Digital skills? They've become a big deal in classrooms everywhere, just as I anticipated. Hybrid learning – a blend of online and traditional classes – really took off, especially when the pandemic stirred things up. I was also right about schools taking mental health more seriously, with unprecedented support now for students' emotional well-being. Career and tech education received a major upgrade, equipping students with cool tech skills for the future job market. And, oh boy, did AI and machine learning make a splash in education, personalizing learning experiences and reducing administrative burdens.

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Classrooms  |  Teachers

Strategies for Supporting English Language Learners

Having worked in Title 1 schools for almost a decade, I had the privilege of being surrounded by language learners in all my classrooms. It proved to be a humbling, eye-opening, and fascinating experience in many different ways. Because state laws required my classrooms to be conducted only in English, I prioritized creating spaces where students of color and from varied cultural backgrounds could share the best of their communities through experiential learning, project based units, and narrative writing. In challenging political and educational climates, educators hold the power to create classrooms which allow students to shine in ways that are true to themselves, their families, and their communities and to support them in developing their unique identities. Students are the greatest assets to diverse learning environments, and they bring many experiences, cultural backgrounds, and languages to their classrooms. While it is up to the educator to provide space for these students to bloom and grow, one of the greatest and most common challenges in facilitating these spaces is in supporting English language learners (ELLs). Providing these students with the tools and resources they need can be daunting, especially when working to personalize learning and differentiate in other ways. While a bilingual classroom is preferable for language learners of all kinds, this blog offers support for teachers delivering instruction in English in classrooms with ELLs.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership

If You Build It, They Will Create: Designing Maker Mindsets in Our Classrooms

As a kid, I loved designing and building things! All my dolls had their own custom- made furniture and Lego cars. I recently had the opportunity to design and build a maker space for educators to implement making and tinkering in their libraries and classrooms. Talk about a dream project-it was easy to get caught up in the fun of purchasing new equipment, gathering supplies, and designing experiences. The most important thing I learned is the vital role a maker mindset can have on students in stretching their critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration skills. Maker spaces provide students with a platform to learn academic content while honing important life skills.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership

The Importance of Science of Reading for Our Students and Their Futures

Getting Off The Bench If you are anything like me, you know that the “Science of Reading” is a lightning rod in the world of education right now, but feel more comfortable sitting on the sidelines and letting the experts engage. I decided it was time to jump into the conversation and wanted to share a few things that I learned along the way. As it turns out, I have a strong opinion on the matter, given my experience as an elementary and middle school educator and my dedication to building more equitable learning environments for all students. I now understand from my research and exploratory conversations that the Science of Reading promotes stronger reading and literacy skills. It also plays a central role in developing positive student identities when school districts support the implementation of DEI and SEL curricular tools. The magic potion for cultivating the most positive impacts for students includes the implementation of explicit phonetic instruction together with a culturally responsive curriculum. This language-rich and holistic learning environment sets students up to fully engage with academic material and grow to reach their full potential.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership

The Three Principles of Effective Implementation

In a previous blog, “Implementing the Best in Imperfect Conditions” Chelle Minnihan and I skimmed the surface of three essential conditions for effective implementation. Now, we venture deeper into these crucial aspects and how they can help you achieve your district’s goals.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Teachers

3 Strategies for Leading and Living With a Gratitude Mindset

I recently returned to work from parental leave after adding a healthy and happy baby to our now family of four. My parental leave included a multitude of experiences, ranging from the tranquility of morning stroller walks to the inevitable sleepless nights, and from supporting our toddler in adapting to the arrival of the new baby to the constant rhythm of diaper changes. This period also included the adventure of a 6-state road trip, bringing forth a spectrum of emotions including joy, love, frustration, overwhelm, and sheer exhaustion. As my family and I enter this new phase of our lives, we are navigating unfamiliar, and at times, choppy waters. Amidst the shifts, trials, and uncertainties that accompany change, I have consistently sought solace and steadiness in a mindset grounded in gratitude. In order to ensure that thankfulness has staying power, regardless of what life has in store, consider applying one of these three strategies to lead and live with a gratitude mindset.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Surveys

How to Get Results with Your School Improvement Plan

Too often, schools are trapped inside cycles of belief that they are working on school improvement when in reality very little changes year-over-year. Does this sound familiar? It is time to shift this paradigm. School transformation efforts often fail because the typical school improvement playbook does not fully consider and appreciate what levers can actually drive transformational change. The approach to school improvement is often overly-complicated, compliance-driven, and based on outdated or inaccurate data. Instead, schools can rely on evidence based research demonstrating what does work to improve schools. At PLC Associates, we offer a robust research base on “what works in schools” and practitioners with pragmatic experience who deeply know the work. This is exactly why our models and strategies have such solid results.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Surveys

5 Things School Improvement Leaders Do: What to Do When Your District or School is Placed on the School Improvement List

Your organization has just been officially placed on the school improvement or district accountability list. As a leader, this likely comes as no surprise to you. In fact, you may have already taken steps over the last several months to make significant improvements around climate, instruction, curriculum, and leadership. However, for your staff, and likely the rest of the community, this announcement can be jarring and bring a range of emotions - embarrassment, discouragement, and even anger. That said, it is critically important that you actively take steps now to set the foundation for future success – for your students, staff, and community. Moreover, you should be mindful about how you engage with your community, how they perceive your ability to manage your organization through the improvement process, and how they might take ownership of an improvement process that will build critical momentum. To that end, here are five concrete actions you should take within the first 45 days.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

Leading the Way: Insights on Successful K-12 Implementation

One of the most important roles of a leader is the development and implementation of a plan. How good a job one does at that vital step can make all the difference in the plan’s success or failure. Effective leaders know how to create opportunities for change, opportunities for collaboration, and how to measure progress to fuel success. During the edLeader Panel “The Art of Implementing Well,” Anthony Kim, Chief Learning Officer at Education Elements, a Scholarus Learning Company, talked with superintendents, Dr. Rick Robins and Amy Creeden, about how they used the Art of Implementing Well to fuel success in their districts and successfully implement strategic plans.

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7Cs Practices  |  7Cs Teaching Resources  |  Data  |  District Leadership  |  School Leadership

Amplifying and Listening to Student Voices Leads to Academic and Cultural Improvements: A Success Story

In their 2nd year as a campus, South Texas ISD Virtual Academy saw very strong academic results - outperforming both their region and the state of Texas on end-of-year testing. However, they lacked insight into their students' perception of their experiences at school. Did students feel cared for, or academically challenged in their classwork? Reflecting on research that shows more positive student perceptions contribute to continued academic growth, principal Maribel Valdez decided to conduct three versions of Tripod’s 7Cs Survey throughout the 22-23 school year. The Tripod 7Cs was used as one of the key metrics in the MET (Measures of Effective Teaching) Project which found that teachers who had higher scores on the survey were more likely to have students who scored higher on state assessments and generally had higher academic outcomes.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership

Well-being of School Leaders Matters

Burnout rates are high among principals. How can we promote self-care? The past few years have been tough on school leaders. Principals have been putting out fires and coping with unexpected situations. Many principals admit that their careers have become very stressful with work overload, breakdown with communication, and values conflicts. Principals are challenged to handle pressure, student achievement, and working harmoniously with diverse stakeholders. They are also expected to maintain a positive school environment. These demands can lead to exhaustion when principals devote too much time to their work and develop a very poor work-life balance. So what can we do to better prepare future school leaders and promote their well-being? Here are a few suggestions.

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District Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

Implementing A Strategic Plan Well To Define Your District’s Legacy

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, implementing initiatives can make all the difference between thriving and merely surviving. The art of implementing initiatives well is a skill that requires a combination of strategy, systems, and responsive leadership. Whether you're a district leader, a campus administrator, or a classroom teacher, mastering this art is essential for achieving your goals and driving positive change within your learning community. In this blog post, Amy Creeden, Superintendent of Schools for the Enlarged City School District of Middletown, about 65 miles northwest of New York City in Middletown, New York, shares three lessons her district learned through the first year of implementing their five-year strategic plan.

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School Leadership  |  Teachers

Embracing Wellness: Starting the School Year with a Focus on Well-Being

As schools and school districts strive to foster academic excellence and student achievement, teachers and school leaders often set aside their personal care. However, educator well-being is vital to the health and success of any educational environment. Educators who are well-supported can focus on what they do best – inspiring and guiding students. By fostering healthy and supportive environments in schools by prioritizing the implementation of practical strategies for self-care and stress management, you can achieve transformational positive impacts for educators and students.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership

Advancing Educational Equity in Times of Political Crisis

The Polarization of Education: As consultants at Education Elements, my teammates and I have the incredible opportunity to support districts around the country as they solve some of their toughest challenges. These challenges range from “How do we change our practices to increase students’ agency over their own learning?” to “How do we use quantitative and qualitative data to determine our priority areas over the next five years?” Within each of those challenges, we encourage districts to use their resources strategically to advance educational equity, providing each child with what they need to develop to their fullest potential, regardless of their identity. Equity is a choice–a choice that individuals and collective communities make to put students’ individual and unique needs first.

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District Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

Transforming How One School District Approaches Strategic Planning: A Collaborative Journey between the School District of Newberry County and Education Elements

As students and districts around the country begin the new school year, we are excited to share an inspiring story of how the School District of Newberry County, South Carolina, in partnership with Education Elements, is launching this school year with a powerful new Strategic Plan. There are two key lessons worth sharing which helped drive purposeful change and set a course for a clear and coherent journey ahead.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership

8 Skills to Become an Effective Responsive Leader

Picture this...You are a Principal conducting a classroom observation, witnessing a teacher skillfully utilize data to drive instruction, and form small groups tailored to individual student needs. Suddenly, a crackling voice interrupts through the walkie-talkie, demanding your attention.You are needed in room 203 for a discipline matter, then in the girls' 5th grade bathroom for a busted pipe, and finally, to join an IEP meeting. Maybe this scenario also sounds familiar: You are a district leader, and you are in a strategy meeting to discuss the implementation of a new curriculum, yet you don’t have all of the key players in the room or a clear timeline to make decisions yet you continue to meet and get nothing accomplished.

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District Leadership

Instructional Frameworks Are Vital to School District Success

Imagine a school district as a ship navigating the vast and ever-changing ocean of education. Just as sailors rely on the North Star to navigate across uncharted waters, school districts can best stay on course with their own guiding light, an instructional framework.

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District Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

Prioritizing Teachers' Growth and Passions: Creating a Sustainable and Engaged Teaching Team

The constantly evolving education landscape makes nurturing educators' development a crucial priority. The success of schools and districts depends on designing successful, meaningful, and innovative professional development experiences that ignite teachers' passion for continuous improvement.

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District Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

Increasing Teacher Agency Leads to Better Decisions & Happier Teachers

As students across the county prepare for the start of a new school year, conversations about how to address our national teacher shortage are becoming more frequent and urgent. Many educators are calling for this conversation to be rebranded as a “teacher walkout” to highlight that teachers are leaving the field as a way to protest a system not built to empower them as decision-makers and innovators. This shift in language – from “teacher shortage” to “teacher walkout” – illuminates a key design element that districts can leverage proactively to respond to retention challenges: teacher agency.

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Education Elements  |  Personalized Learning  |  Strategic Planning

Cross-walking the Danielson Framework with the Personalized Learning Core Four

As school districts actively pursue the goals of their strategic vision, they tend to look outward for a spark of innovation. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the amount of “new” a system can take. It is common, within a single district, there can be multiple initiatives happening at once. Over-indexing new initiatives can lead to information overload, miscommunication, and burnt-out educators. That is why the most impactful approach is often to look inward to seek alignment on existing innovations.

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District Leadership  |  Education Elements  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

3 Key Strategies to Improve School Performance

Schools across the country work tirelessly to provide positive educational experiences for their students, staff, and the larger community. Yet, there are times when they fall short of this goal. They may experience high teacher turnover, a poor school climate, and low student achievement, just to name a few challenges. In our work, we see that with the right support systems in place, we can collectively improve school performance and meet the needs of students and educators. Here are three valuable strategies you can leverage to achieve transformative improvements:

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Education Elements  |  Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning With Students, For Students

I support school teams nationwide through the process of unpacking survey and focus group data from their communities. One consistent trend across school districts is that most adults overestimate their ability to understand and empathize with their students’ experiences at school. Even teachers who regularly work directly with students and have the best intentions tend to misrepresent students’ feelings and beliefs about their academic and social experiences at school. This trend is particularly problematic when a district’s strategic plan, the framework that guides decisions impacting students most, is written solely by adults. Nearly every school district strives to write a student-centered strategic plan, but how student-centered can your plan be without actively including student voice throughout the planning process?

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Education Elements  |  Enrollment Marketing  |  Strategic Planning

3 Essential Tips for Increasing Student Enrollment in Your District

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically shifted the culture of learning in America and the issue of school enrollment is a current topic of repeated conversation. Remote learning created the option for students to learn outside of the school building and the shifts from remote, to hybrid resulted in a noticeable decline in school enrollment. Many students simply struggled to return to school. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a drop in K-12 public school enrollment of 1.2.million students. This indicated that no school district was immune to the enrollment challenges happening across the nation.

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Education Elements  |  New School Design  |  School Leadership

Building a Dream School: Reflections of a Principal's Journey and the Impact of Collaboration

I have always aspired to open a new school that cultivates a school atmosphere centered on learning and student achievement. One that recruits and retains the best teachers and staff, meaningfully engages with students, families, and the community, and utilizes research-based and culturally responsive curriculum. I have not yet fulfilled that dream, but I had the opportunity to work alongside James Hopkins, a school principal in Durham, North Carolina, who has done just that. James opened Lyons Farms Elementary School during the 2022- 2023 academic school year.

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District Leadership  |  Education Elements  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

Addressing Teacher Burnout, Post-Pandemic Learning Environments, and Public Mistrust through Strategic Planning

Last year, I relocated to my home state of Tennessee from New York City, and I had to secure a car for the first time in many years. As luck would have it, my first winter back in Tennessee was one of the state's coldest on record. Just enough snow fell in late December to make driving, especially up my steep driveway, a daunting experience. As I slowly crept up the hill toward my house, my tires spun in place. Decisions needed to be made. Would it make sense to keep spinning my tires in place hoping to gain enough traction to move forward, or would it be better to stop, reflect, and rethink my approach? It was clear that what I was doing wasn't working. I took my foot off of the accelerator, stopped the car, reversed slightly, and attempted a different path on the grass adjacent to the driveway. In a few moments, I was safely parked in my house’s garage. Sometimes we need to pause and create new strategies when the ones we have in place are not working. This applies to school districts today who are facing very challenging circumstances with a record number of educators leaving the profession, math and reading levels at a twenty-year low, and public trust in education eroding.

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District Leadership  |  Education Elements  |  School Leadership  |  Social and Emotional Learning

Social Emotional Learning: 5 strategies for success

As we reflect on the past school year and prepare for next year, it is helpful to evaluate the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) practices and how they served to shape the culture of learning and development in your schools. According to the CASEL’s (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning ) framework, “SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions." SEL “advances educational equity [and] can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.”

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District Leadership  |  Education Elements  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

The “Victory Points” of Strategic Planning: Three Quick Tips

One of my family’s favorite pastimes is playing the board game The Settlers of Catan. The winner is the first player to earn ten victory points. There are a variety of ways to earn victory points, which means that winning the game is a matter of both luck and strategy. The last time I played Catan, I started the game “lucky” by rolling the highest number and getting to place my settlements first. However, my husband’s strategy of waiting until the end of the game to build the “longest road” turned out to be more fruitful than my strategy of obtaining a two-for-one lumber port to gain the resources that I needed. (If none of this makes any sense to you, go play the game after you finish reading this blog post.)

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Blended Learning  |  Education Elements  |  Personalized Learning

Cultivating Student Ownership: 3 Small Ways to Start

When students take ownership of their learning, it can transform the school experience for both students and teachers. Cultivating academic agency among students is not a quick process, but by implementing a few small practices consistently over time, educators can foster a culture of student-led learning. Here are some simple yet effective ways to build your students' investment in their own education, one step at a time.

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Blended Learning  |  Education Elements  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Leadership

Implementing Blended Learning: A Success Story at Hall Success Academy

As school leaders, we know how difficult it can be to change the culture and reputation of a school. It takes dedication, hard work, and a team of educators who are committed to making a difference. These ingredients were in place to achieve transformational success at Hall Success Academy (HSA) in Aldine ISD. We can all learn important lessons about how to implement successful shifts by learning about the story of the HSA campus redesign team, including teachers, school principal, assistant principal, working alongside our Education Elements team.

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District Leadership  |  Education Elements  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Strategic Planning

5 things that surprised me about strategic planning

The concept of Strategic Planning can be intimidating at first glance. If you haven’t gone through the process yourself, you may be familiar with the concept but have questions like “What does strategic planning mean? What does it entail? Isn’t that normally done by the CEO or the leadership team?”

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District Leadership  |  Education Elements  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Strategic Planning

Constants Amidst Change: Ensuring COVID Recovery Plans Turn to Actions

Over the past few years, State Education Agencies (SEA) and Local Education Agencies (LEA) have been tasked with creating Covid 19 recovery plans. These plans were a way to recognize interruptions with academic progress and mental health for our students and think through how to best support them. During this time, Education Elements partnered with the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) to ensure districts across the state have the essential information and resources to holistically assist students. This involved not only creating cohesive Academic Recovery Plans, but also initiating action and progress monitoring support to ensure plans become actions and actions become progress.

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Blended Learning  |  Education Elements  |  Personalized Learning  |  Teachers

3 Things I Wish I Knew About Personalized Learning As a Teacher

Prior to becoming a consultant for Education Elements, I served as a Middle School Math Teacher. It was a tough but rewarding job, and I absolutely loved it. Math is a passion of mine, and I adore the raw, sarcastic, hilarious moments that often come from interacting with middle school students.

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Blended Learning  |  Education Elements  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Leadership  |  Teachers

How Student Centered Learning Supports Learning Loss Recovery Efforts

More than three years after the onset of the global COVID-19 health pandemic, researchers are only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding how acute the long-term effects of the shuttering of schools and a shift to virtual and hybrid learning environments are having on students. Recent data suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic halted more than two decades of momentum in math and reading achievements. Another nationwide survey indicates that K-12 reading skills across the country have dropped to a thirty-year low on average. Educational inequalities were also exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among students with limited access to financial, social, health, and technology resources, many of whom were already struggling academically before the pandemic. One effective method for combating learning loss created by the COVID-19 pandemic is for teachers to implement Personalized Learning in their schools and classrooms.

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Education Elements  |  School Leadership  |  Teacher Retention  |  Teachers  |  Teams & Culture

A Day in the Life of a Teacher: All The Things Teachers Do

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! This time of year is truly special to me. For 7 years, I worked as a classroom teacher. It was the hardest job I ever loved. Supporting my students academically, contributing to a positive school culture and communicating with families and community members, all made teaching such a wonderful professional experience. In my role as a Design Principal at Education Elements, I no longer work in the classroom, but I use the skills to support school leaders and districts.

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Education Elements  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

Three Keys to Successful K-12 Strategic Plan Implementation

I’ve gotten into strength training recently. I never thought this would be the path for me, a cardio lover, but after a recent foot injury, I needed to step away from running and try something new. I explored apps and training plans, trying to find the right fit for my schedule and preferences. As a consultant who has helped dozens of districts design and implement strategic plans, I also knew I could apply some of the principles we use when supporting districts to my weightlifting journey. In our work, we’ve found that the successful implementation of a strategic plan comes down to three key areas:

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Blended Learning  |  Classrooms  |  Education Elements  |  New School Design  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

How Blended Learning Implementation Supports School Improvement Goals

The bright morning sun floods in through the yawning glass windows and casts long shadows in the front of the classroom. My colleague and I and about ten-odd teachers sit huddled at the desks near the back; some of them are poring over resources on their screens, others using markers, pens, and paper cutouts on small chart paper. INDEPENDENT PRACTICE, the text underneath one of these cutouts proclaims. The teacher draws an arrow to the right, as though to sequence the steps, and then draws a sort of three-step cycle that takes up most of the space. THREE STATION ROTATION, the teacher then proclaims in green marker and proceeds to describe in small writing what students are expected to do in each station during her 9th grade English class.

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7Cs Practices  |  7Cs Teaching Resources

Seven reasons to include Tripod 7Cs in your Texas Teacher Incentive Allotment

School districts face an increasingly competitive market as districts grapple over teacher talent. In Texas, the state implemented a grant system called the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA), where districts create criteria for designating “Master” teachers to reward their top performers.

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Education Elements  |  School Leadership  |  Teacher Retention  |  Teams & Culture

How it Was vs How it Could Be: Reimagining Hiring Season Best Practices

It’s the time of year when hiring managers and principals are gearing up to recruit and onboard their staff for the upcoming school year. As we prepare for this hiring season, most of us have team members who were promoted, or have pre-existing vacancies, and newly retired staff which creates additional open roles to fill. Undoubtedly, there are some big shoes to fill, but where are the people? As education evolves, we have the opportunity to redesign how we view hiring. Whether by leveraging technology to maximize time and optimizing the interview experience or by rethinking how the interview experience looks, here are 4 key moves to upgrading your organization’s hiring process.

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Education Elements  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

More than a new logo: the deeper layers of change management in a mascot change

It’s hard to believe, but we’re approaching the three-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown in our schools. We’ve all been through a great deal of disturbance over these past three years. One of my coworkers recently shared this article on the hidden toll of “microstress” and it resonated with me. In my work with community members across the country (teachers, staff, families, school and district leaders), I’m finding that people are tired. I have a 2 year old y’all -- I’m really tired. On any given day, change is hard. Right now, it’s really hard.

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Education Elements  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Teacher Retention  |  Teachers

The Next Gen of Retaining Teacher Talent

Raise your hand if you are still trying to fill teacher vacancies, even though it’s the end of the first semester. How about if you’ve had teachers start the year, but they’ve since exited? Maybe you’ve heard this: “I’m considering not staying another year because even though I love my students, I no longer feel connected to the work.” These experiences represent an aspect of our current educational landscape. Teachers are conflicted about leaving the classroom and pursuing roles outside of education. School leaders are struggling to retain strong talent and hire new members. These are pressing challenges.

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Curriculum Strategy & Adoption  |  Education Elements

Implementing the “Best” in Imperfect Conditions: Tips for Making Changes to Instructional Practices at Scale

Recently I attended an event called, “Synergy in the Sciences to Support Literacy Instruction” hosted by Lexia Learning. It was a small round table discussion, including higher education leaders, researchers, politicians, policymakers, and district administrators. As the Chief Learning Officer of Scholarus Learning, I was there to provide inputs on how change might be implemented since Scholarus works with thousands of schools providing consulting, surveys, and custom curricula. Scholarus is currently assisting a state implement a certification program for over ten thousand teachers each month on the Science of Reading, so we are seeing impactful approaches at a state level and at the individual teacher level.

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Education Elements  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management

5 Major K-12 Education Predictions for 2023

I don’t know about you, but I definitely feel a shift in how we live in this world. Day-to-day life feels a bit slower. Receiving Amazon deliveries the next day seems the norm, and whether or not your favorite restaurant will be closed due to staffing or delivery limitations is increasingly common. It’s not rare for apps on your phone to be buggy with the latest release, or for the remodeling of your home to take twice as long or cost twice as much as it did pre-pandemic. As I write this, there’s daily news about the fallout from the failures of FTX in the crypto markets, and the war in Ukraine has continued for almost a year.

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Communication  |  Decision-Making  |  District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

The Room Where it Happens: 5 Reasons Leaders Make Decisions Behind Closed Doors

“I want to be in the room where it happens...” There are so many powerful scenes in the award-winning musical, Hamilton. The moment Aaron Burr laments being left out of the decision-making process is not only a turning point in the story but a great depiction of how many feel when it comes to the all-important “rooms” where decisions that affect their lives are made.

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District Leadership  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  School Leadership  |  Teachers

Maximizing Time During a PLC Meeting, To Keep Students at the Center

More than ever, teachers need connections and opportunities to talk about student learning, celebrate progress and discuss overcoming challenges. The welcome and standard structure of PLCs in schools is an obvious route for these professional conversations. It is easy for meetings to be eaten up with personal stories, professional questions, and school concerns. It distracts from the intention of this time, which is designed to ensure students are at the center of teaching and learning.

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District Leadership  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Leadership  |  Teachers

The Research Behind Personalized Learning

At Education Elements, we define personalized learning as an instructional approach that empowers students to build ownership of their learning. And, as students transitioned back into schools in the wake of remote and hybrid learning, our district partners across the country emphasize that this student-centered approach to teaching has never been more needed. With buzzwords floating around like “learning loss,” we are at risk of losing the full story of how educators have always endeavored to meet students where they are. At this moment, personalized learning is emerging as a critical process that equips educators with the practices to support students in getting the instruction they need, when they need it.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

Honoring Teachers: an Underused Tool in Retaining Talent During the Teacher Shortage

The stories, run in newspapers across the country each week, paint a desperate picture: a Pre-K teacher in Texas juggling two classrooms alone; classes across the country led by a recurring series of long-term substitutes with no formal training; a school district in Pennsylvania forced to shorten school days due to lack of staff; districts in North Carolina reporting hundreds of vacant teaching positions even as the school year begins. In the words of National Education Association (NEA) union leader Becky Pringle: “The educator shortage is a five alarm crisis.”

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Curriculum Strategy & Adoption  |  District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

Creating an Instructional Vision Can Connect a Community

The creation of a shared instructional vision brings many benefits to a school or district. An instructional vision can provide a shared understanding of what instructional excellence looks, feels, and sounds like. It aligns classroom practices to a clear set of principles and expectations. It can also bring instructional unity to any district plagued with uncertainty about instructional practices. There is a common misconception that a superintendent should create an instructional vision in isolation and only rely on the most current research and best practices. And that once an instructional vision is in place and shared, then it will be easily understood, accepted, and adopted by district leaders, school leaders, teachers, staff, and students.

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Five Ways to Center Equity when Celebrating the Holidays in Your School or District

And just like that, summer has ended, and pumpkin spice lattes are back. It’s that time of year: the Winter Holidays are among us! Like other times during the year, this is a great moment to pause and be intentional about centering educational equity in your school and district. Consider these 5 tips as we head into the holiday season.

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Curriculum Strategy & Adoption  |  District Leadership  |  School Leadership

What Principals Need to Know About High Quality Instructional Materials

The most successful school leaders we work with understand that high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) improve student engagement and are a key resource in addressing schooling loss. They also know that materials, while a critical lever, are only one piece of the necessary elements for shifting teacher practice and improving student outcomes. In this blog post, we provide a brief list of things principals should know about high-quality instructional materials as they get started with adopting or implementing new materials.

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Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning - From start-up to fully scaled

Gaps. Learning loss. Interventions. All of those words represent important topics that existed pre-pandemic yet were magnified when students returned to in-person instruction. But in true educator fashion, resilience prevailed. Many districts and campuses found innovative ways to meet students where they were. We saw organizations revisiting their missions and visions to determine if what students now needed matched their organization’s statements. We saw tweets and posts of teachers sharing or seeking help in creating voice and choice in instruction. One key trend - an increase in the commitment to personalize learning. We saw districts investing more time and resources into developing their teams and aligning them on how to personalize learning for their students.

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School Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

The Key Three of Teacher Retention

The teacher attrition crisis in US education has been in the headlines a lot in recent months. Many districts and schools started the 22-23 school year woefully understaffed, leading districts to implement drastic stop gap measures just to open their doors. Some districts opened this fall with armies of substitute teachers, shortened school days, and were forced to implement confusing and sub-optimal alternative schedules.

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Communication  |  Surveys

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing a School Survey

Feedback has the ability to strengthen your new initiative or culture. But give a lousy survey, and you can set your school or district back in terms of trust, and you may lose the ability to gather important input in the future. Don’t turn a positive opportunity into a negative.

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Curriculum Strategy & Adoption  |  District Leadership

A Simple Guide to Adopting a New Curriculum

As more and more high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) become available, we have noticed a tension with districts across the country between being excited about the opportunities for new, rigorous materials, and the concern about when and how to get started. While some district-level decisions are guided by state policy and timelines, there are five components that we have found that will help to shape any district’s academic strategy, regardless of where it is during a curriculum adoption window. These components include:

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Instructional Coaching  |  School Leadership

Supercharge Your Teachers: 3 actions instructional leaders should take now

Educators are often described as superheros; this includes instructional leaders. Here's our superhero-inspired, 3 simple actions that instructional leaders can take in the next month to ensure that teachers and students marvel at their own growth this year. (See what we did there!)

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School Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

5 Reasons Why Investing in School Leaders will Retain Teachers

Teacher turnover is an issue that has impacted school districts all across the country. Teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers while not enough are entering it. Therefore school districts are scrambling to fill vacancies with qualified educators. Teacher retention is a complicated issue. It is a challenge that has many facets, none of which seem to have simple solutions. It is in times like these that we turn to our leaders for guidance. Fortunately great leadership has proven to be a key lever in retaining our nation’s teachers.

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Communication  |  Crisis Management

Tough Stuff: How to talk to your students and children about difficult topics

School leaders, teachers and parents have had to navigate difficult conversations in the last few years. During the panedemic, they explained to students that the learning will be shifting again to virtual, that collaboration will look and feel different, that although “sharing is caring,” let’s pause on the sharing of supplies for now. The skill it takes to navigate these discussions with students and children is already complex; but add the sensitivity needed to when students are grappling with schooling and social loss, and we can appreciate that our leaders, teachers, and parents have had a crash course in communicating through disruption.

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Data  |  District Leadership  |  Surveys  |  Teams & Culture

8 Questions to Consider when Designing a School Survey

When working on surveys for a large school district, I heard it all. We don’t trust you with our survey data. What did you do with last year’s survey? This survey takes too long. What am I supposed to do with this survey data? Often when these responses arise, it’s due to poor survey design, poor follow through, and a less-than-authentic approach – all of which can erode trust and lead to unsupported claims.

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District Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

4 Tips to Design a Visually Compelling Strategic Plan

You have just spent months engaging your community, identifying your priorities and getting your wording just right. It feels like you are inches from the finish line as you think about rolling out your final plan to the community. This is certainly a huge feat and worth a celebration but you are not quite done yet!

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Teacher Retention  |  Teams & Culture

Strong Teacher Retention Starts with Onboarding

During the next few weeks, districts and schools will begin the process of welcoming and onboarding their new teachers for the 22-23 school year. When done effectively, new teacher onboarding can allow new staff to gain clarity on their specific roles and feel welcomed into their school community.

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District Leadership  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  School Leadership

Creating & Maintaining Community with Teams During Tough Times

March 2nd is a day that will never be forgotten in Putnam County, TN. Our small community woke up to the sirens of an EF4 tornado that rocked our community and two weeks later our school system closed when the COVID pandemic hit home all across the state of Tennessee.

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District Leadership  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  School Leadership

Preparing Leaders for the Upcoming School Year

Across the country, educators and educational leaders have celebrated their graduations, held their end-of-year promotion ceremonies, and cleaned out their classrooms. After another unpredictable year, many are eager to get some well-deserved time away this summer. As a leader, you likely want for your team to be able to really unwind and enjoy the summer. Consider setting aside some time for your team to officially close out SY 2021-2022, and to prepare for a strong start when they return to start SY 2022-2023.

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Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Surveys  |  Teacher Retention

6 Strategies to Create a Staff Culture of Listening - Starting with Surveys

Addressing the staffing shortage in public schools may seem like running a marathon barefoot, uphill, and in the sweltering sun. When faced with an ever-expanding school and district improvement checklist, it’s human nature to pick the seemingly more manageable task first. Why not run the morning mile on the padded track instead of the impossible race?

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Personalized Learning  |  Professional Development

How We Grow When Times Are Challenging

To meet the needs of an ever-changing tomorrow, school districts must continue to grow and evolve. At its most desired state, a classroom is a laboratory of innovation and its teacher, a "mad" scientist - working everyday to make connections between students and the content. Unfortunately, the chaotic uncertainty of the last two years have left educators fighting to survive, leaving little time for experimentation. This reality leads us to an important question: how can we measure growth and innovation during these challenging times?

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Personalized Learning  |  Teachers

Guided Practice: Building the muscle of civil discourse in the classroom

If you lead a district, school, or department, or if you are a teacher yourself, then you may have seen that civil discourse that relies on evidence is increasingly under attack. We might experience this, at times locally in our Board meetings, and nationally in the broader conversation.

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Innovative Leadership  |  School Districts

Four Actions to Make Your First Year As a Superintendent Count

Let’s just be clear: there is a very short honeymoon period for a new superintendent. From day one, people have expectations of you as the new superintendent. They want you to be exactly the same or completely different than your predecessor. They have their hopes pinned on you bringing new ideas or have their fingers crossed that you won’t. They are wondering how long you will stay and what you will do during your tenure. They both expect you to know everything about the district right away, and yet know that you don’t and are frustrated by it. They have so many things they want to say to you, and yet voice few of them, as if you can read minds.

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Narrowing the Focus when Selecting HQIM

When teachers don’t have access to strong materials, they search for them often online, leading to inconsistent quality and weak alignment to the standards. In fact, some have found that teachers spend 7-12 hours per week searching for and creating instructional resources.

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Data  |  Surveys

What are teachers telling us? Are we listening?

This spring, Merrimack College and EdWeek Research Center released a whitepaper publishing their findings for their Teacher Survey. One of the takeaways? Forty-three percent of respondents said they were somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their jobs. “The last two years have been fraught for teachers as their profession has consistently attracted public attention—much of it hostile—due to political and cultural battles over pandemic-related policies on masking and vaccines and new laws curtailing instruction related to race, racism, and gender,” the report says.

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Strategic Planning

From School Strategic Plan to Action: Reflections from a Superintendent

It's been a year since the school district surrounding Columbus, Indiana started their strategic planning process. The district team partnered with Education Elements, and during a time of increased uncertainty, chose to set a clear direction. Now, as the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation prepares to roll out their new plan this coming fall, we talk with superintendent Dr. Jim Roberts about how he is positioning the work with the community, so that together they can do the challenging work of reaching their goals.

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District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Teachers

3 Ways to Deliver Feedback that Drives Change

"Feedback is a gift." Most of us have heard this common phrase as educators, coaches, and professionals. But if feedback is a gift, why does receiving it sometimes trigger uneasiness, anxiety, and stress?

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District Leadership  |  School Districts  |  Teacher Retention  |  Teachers

4 Ways to Weave Teacher Appreciation Throughout the Year

We all know that teachers should feel appreciated every day. As a former high school science teacher, I was filled up by the positive notes from students, small gifts, and verbal affirmations received during teacher appreciation week. Recognition is an important way for teachers to feel appreciated; we believe that in our four essential elements of teacher belonging (Agency, Development, Equity, and Wellness), appreciation is relevant to all categories, especially Development and Wellness.

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Curriculum Strategy & Adoption  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Strategic Planning

Solving Curricular Challenges: Driving Change through a Clear Vision

In our work with districts across the country, we frequently hear questions about instructional materials–from how to select high quality programs that match their needs, to building processes that are inclusive of key stakeholders, to developing sustainable processes for regularly reviewing and refining curriculum, just to name a few. Oftentimes, we see teams wanting to jump directly into reviewing materials or selecting a new program. But where we have seen the most success is in beginning with a clear instructional vision and using that to drive future work with curriculum or academics.

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School Leadership  |  Teacher Retention  |  Teachers  |  Teams & Culture

Top 10 Teacher Superpowers that Put the Marvel Superheroes to Shame

If you’ve ever watched a superhero movie, you’ve probably wondered which superpower you would like to embody. Super strength or super flexibility? Invisibility or the power to fly? It may surprise you to learn that superheroes live among us and go about their lives, often unnoticed. If you look closely, however, you may spot them shopping at the grocery store, taking their pets for a stroll in the park, or, most commonly, shopping for treasures in the $1 bins at Target.

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School Leadership  |  Teacher Retention  |  Teachers

9 Ways to Recognize and Appreciate Teachers

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week. Although we at Education Elements believe that teachers should be celebrated on any day that ends in a “y”, we also are excited to join in the Nationwide celebrations next week. As a former teacher, a little “thank you” went a long way, a gifted morning coffee fueled me to empower my students through testing season, and a card highlighting my impact reminded me of my “why.”

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Instructional Coaching  |  Personalized Learning  |  Teachers

How Student Choice Helped Me Grow Out of My Perfectionism

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a kid, I always colored within the lines of my coloring book; not because I wanted to follow the rules, but because I enjoyed precision. As a teacher, I bought a laser level tool so that my posters would all be hung at the exact same height. Perfectionism can bring a sense of pride, especially when applied to a tangible outcome. I admired my coloring book pages in the same way I did my classroom walls.

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Classrooms  |  Personalized Learning  |  School Districts

Six Examples of What Personalized Learning Looks Like

Each year we receive hundreds of questions along the lines of, “Okay…so what does personalized learning actually look like?” We have a few answers to this question. One is that personalized learning always involves these core four elements - targeted instruction, data-driven decisions, flexible content, and student reflection and ownership. Check out our Core Four white paper for a more detailed description of these elements, as well as classroom examples.

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Blended Learning  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Teachers

Go Slow to Go Fast: Blended Learning at John F Kennedy High School

“When you drive up to John F Kennedy High School in Cleveland, OH, you are immediately taken by the sheer scale of the building. Set against a backdrop of single-family historic homes, JFK is an imposing and beautiful modern structure. The vision of the school was simple: to combine the staff from 3 previous high schools, including the “old” JFK, to create the New JFK. Inside, the hallways are wide and bright, natural light streaming in from every which way. It is a dynamic and inviting space, with collaborative spaces carved out of the hallways outside classrooms and across balcony walkways from the second floor.The classrooms themselves are spacious, with state-of-the-art tech, and an opportunity at every corner to support new and innovative instructional strategies, like blended learning.

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Equity  |  New School Design  |  Strategic Planning

Grading for Equity: One School’s Approach to Increasing Student Ownership and Success

This school year, Portland Public Schools (PPS) launched a multi-year strategic plan for educational equity, inclusion, and excellence with the core belief that the student experience needs to be reimagined. PPS’ district-wide focus spotlighted the middle school experience, where data revealed – regardless of metric – that students are not being adequately prepared for high school and beyond. Meisha Plotzke, Senior Director, Middle Grade Academics and Middle School Innovation and Redesign, partnered with Education Elements asking, “How do we redesign the middle-school experience so that every student, and in particular our Black and Native students, deeply engages in strong instruction, with grade appropriate assignments, grounded in high teacher expectations, and personalized, integrated supports?”

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Blended Learning  |  Instructional Coaching  |  Personalized Learning

Personalizing Learning: Getting it Right

I can’t remember how many times I have been asked “Am I doing it right?” I’ve heard this question so many times in my support of over 150 schools as they implement personalized learning that I no longer count. Teachers and leaders want to know, am I “doing” personalized learning right.

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District Leadership  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  School Leadership

Cultivating Leadership Effectiveness & Wellness

Every teacher has a purpose. Every teacher has a reason that they entered the classroom. For some, that purpose originated when they were a student in school. For others, it was an unbridled passion for their content area. Each teacher’s own “why” is what makes them unique and valuable members of their school. However when adversity strikes, purpose is often the first thing that a teacher puts down. In fact, what may seem noble in spirit, the selflessness of forgoing one’s purpose to serve others is often misguided.

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District Partners in the News  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management

Leveraging Students’ Strengths to Develop Student Leaders

Kate Sanders, Teacher: How do I empower more student leaders? This question had been circling my brain for months. As the adviser for the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) chapter at Sequatchie County High School, I have had the opportunity to facilitate unique opportunities for student leaders. However, much of the workload is placed on the shoulders of the FCCLA officer team. They plan and coordinate the monthly student service projects while participating in the organization's competitive event side. It was a heavy load. Not to mention, many officers are committed to various other organizations and after-school work. And, because most of my officers are preparing to graduate this year, I quickly recognized that I must find a way to empower our underclassmen to assume these leadership roles.

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Strategic Planning

Thank You Nintendo: Lessons learned that can help your strategic planning initiatives stick

As a product of the 90s I spent my late elementary school years like many of my contemporaries: playing Super Nintendo. I grew up with a large group of cousins and whenever we got together we approached video games as a group project. We took turns helping one another with the tough spots in the game; those of us who were older played a “leadership” role, determining who got to play, and – if we had enough lives left – when we would give a little kid a chance. In retrospect, we had a clear strategy: take turns in order to share a limited resource while achieving our goal - to get the highest score possible.

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Surveys  |  Teacher Retention

Prioritizing Teacher Voice to Recruit and Retain High-Quality Teachers

The staffing crisis in K-12 education continues to zap time, energy, and resources for districts that are already stretched thin, exhausted, and steadfast in their commitment to ensuring students receive high-quality learning experiences. And while we know that it is important to find innovative solutions to address the complexities of teacher recruitment and retention, we also know that some of the potential answers already exist and are closer than we think.

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District Leadership  |  Innovative Leadership  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  School Leadership

It’s Elementary: Targeted K12 Leadership Development for Tackling Big Problems

As we write this, we are thinking back to the last “normal” month in 2020 before COVID-19 arrived in full force. A sampling of headlines from Education Weekly in February 2020 highlight social and emotional learning, the role of technology in education, and the importance of effective school leadership. With the benefit of hindsight, we can reflections of what we faced then, pre-COVID, in the complex challenges facing school leaders now. Now, with added urgency to prioritize and act on these problems quickly.

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Equity  |  Surveys

The Importance of the DEI Survey

In late May of 2020, as our country battled the coronavirus, the murder of George Floyd sent shockwaves through many communities, across the United States. In fact, his murder galvanized millions of Americans to examine structural and institutional inequities particularly for Black Americans, but also across race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status – a renewed focus not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

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Decision-Making  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  School Districts  |  Strategic Planning

5 Tips for School and District Leaders Starting Strategic Plans

These past three years have been very difficult for students, teachers, and school leaders. It seems that as life is getting “back to normal” there is something that comes in and disrupts the progress being made. What this time has shown us, though, is that this is the perfect opportunity to start fresh.

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Coaches  |  Instructional Coaching  |  Teacher Retention

Facing the Great Resignation? Support Instructional Coaches

A recent Forbes article said, “If the big challenge of 2021 was to get children back into the classroom, the challenge for 2022 is to keep teachers there.” With statistics showing a 66% rise in school-based departures and schools across the country scrambling to fill teacher and substitute shortages each week — all while working to bounce back from the pandemic — the need to support our teaching staff has never been greater.

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Curriculum Strategy & Adoption  |  Personalized Learning

Personalizing within the Curriculum: High Quality Instructional Materials as a Lever for Student-Centered Learning

Over the last 10 years, we have seen a significant shift in how educators access and leverage instructional materials to guide instruction. As many states adopted new, more rigorous standards, curriculum providers rushed to create materials that would prepare students for college and career and state assessments. Though it took time, the current market for high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) is strong and presents states, districts, and educators with a different set of challenges. With so many options, how do you select the best materials to meet your needs and context, and how do you leverage these materials to foster student-centered learning? Join us as we explore key issues and potential solutions through a series of blogs, webinars, and videos.

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District Leadership  |  Strategic Planning

Halftime for your Strategic Plan

This upcoming Sunday, many Americans will extend the yearly tradition of watching the last two NFL teams compete for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy. As a loyal Philadelphia Eagles fan myself, I am not too interested in the game this year, since it features the LA Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. What I am excited about most is the halftime show - this year featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar.

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Instructional Coaching  |  Virtual Learning

Shifts in Professional Learning: more microlearning and virtual courses

School district leaders face the enormous challenge of understanding and responding to how professional learning has been impacted by the global pandemic. This at a time when professional learning is so critical for educators who are navigating uncertainties around in-person consistency, increasing responsibilities, and shifting instructional modalities.

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Curriculum Strategy & Adoption  |  Personalized Learning

Using Local History to Increase Student Engagement

Erin Conklin’s eyes light up when she talks about the primary and secondary source student book she created for Duval County Public School’s African American Studies elective.

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Curriculum Strategy & Adoption  |  Personalized Learning

Relevant content makes personalizing learning easier

When I was a teacher in Washington, D.C. I taught a class on local history. Students got to learn about places they had visited and people they had heard about. I’ve never taught a class where students were more deeply engaged in the actual content of the class.

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District Leadership  |  Teacher Retention  |  Teachers

Three Strategies to Support Our Teacher Workforce in 2022

This past December, I found myself at home watching Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve on ABC. Across the variety of hosts, musical performances, and crowd interviews - one theme emerged through the night: everyone is hoping that 2022 will be better than 2021. 2021 will no doubt be remembered as a challenging year, not uniquely, but especially in the field of education. Year two of the pandemic caused countless school closings, brought social and political unrest to school board meetings, and further stressed an already fragile educator workforce. Adding to an educator labor shortage that started with the Great Recession in 2007, we witnessed a net loss of more than half a million education jobs this past year.

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Organizational Leadership & Change Management

A New Word for the New Year

I live in the Midwest, and if you could see my garden now, well…let’s just say, there is nothing but brown stalks, and wet muddy leaves beneath the snow. If I told you that in a few months, my yard would be resplendent with daffodils, hyacinth, bleeding heart and bee balm, you couldn’t tell from what you see now. But I know it’s coming.

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Teams & Culture

Team Habits with a Big Impact

We’ve all been there. The room, half empty. Little to no conversation happening between the seated rows. Most eyes fixed on laptop screens, phone screens, projector screen, likely checking email or “checking email.” Everyone waiting for the session to begin in hopes of getting a nugget of information that makes the workshop registration worth the investment. Sadly, this is the reality of many educational workshops and conferences from leadership to technology to a focus on instruction. I’ve experienced it and I’m guessing you have too. If only there was an experience that provided meaningful takeaways that could be implemented at your own pace in order to make much needed changes to your organization and culture. This was my experience with the New School Rules Leadership Institute.

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Education Elements  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management

5 Major Predictions for 2022

In 2021 we navigated a lot of change and ambiguity. Life felt at times, hectic and unpredictable, but there was also a slowing down. There were shortages; so we waited longer for everything from household supplies to PCR tests. We saw inflation creep up, and so we waited to buy things; and, we changed our purchasing habits. Stores and restaurants reduced hours due to staffing issues and lowered demand. So while there was great uncertainty, this slowing down also made many families question everything from where they wanted to live, to the types of jobs they wanted to have, to their values and how they want their children educated.

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Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  Strategic Planning  |  Teachers

Are you a goal-setter or a goal-getter?

While I was teaching 9th grade English Language Arts, one of my mentor teachers shared the concept of the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) with me. Beyond a SMART goal, it’s a goal that you might collaboratively set – that is big, important, and maybe even a little bit of a stretch. That terminology clearly stuck with me (I think it was the hairy part – sorry, it’s now stuck with you as well).

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Surveys

Student & Teacher Perception Surveys: Elevating Stakeholder Voice for 20 Years

In the fall of 2005, I sat down at my desk in Mr. Powers’ 11th-grade history class and was asked to complete a survey. This was an interesting and surprising development, as no one in my 12 years of schooling had thought to ask my opinion about anything. The survey instructions asked me to consider my experience in Mr. Powers’ class. A notoriously methodical test taker from kindergarten through graduate school, I thought long and hard about each item. I did think Mr. Powers cared about me. I did find his class interesting. He did not ask me to explain my thinking behind my answers.

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Strategic Planning

The Importance of Involving Stakeholders Throughout the Strategic Planning Process

To see students and community members in action - that is the stuff we, as educators, dream about. Most recently in a suburban school district outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. My teammates, Megan Campion and Briana Cash, and I got to host community gatherings over the course of two-days with two in-person and two virtual sessions. These experiences confirmed the belief that districts should bring groups of people together to discuss and define the next strategic plan whether it’s a combination of virtual or in-person experiences.

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District Leadership  |  Innovative Leadership  |  Organizational Leadership & Change Management  |  School Leadership

Why We Need Elements of Leadership

This past September, Education Elements conducted a Leadership Pulse Check Survey of school leaders throughout the country. The results indicated a collective and hopeful outlook, despite the fact that we are living in such challenging and unprecedented times, where our needs and constraints shift on a regular basis.

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Instructional Coaching  |  Personalized Learning  |  Professional Development

What Bonsai Trees and Wildflowers Teach us about Personalized Learning

To many in the gardening and plant world, bonsais are among the most impressive trees. Bonsai is seen as a blend of gardening and art – a way to create living sculptures. A gardener might spend decades pruning the tree, little by little, year over year, so that it grows to the gardener’s exact vision. For instance, a Coast Redwood tree that, in the wild might grow to 100’-200’, may only grow to 1’ under the curated, decades-long care of the gardener. Recently I was listening to a podcast, where Julie Lythcott-Haims – autho