Mixed Emotions About Standardized Testing

The author of the Speaking Out article in the January/February issue of Principal feels conflicted about high-stakes testing because although NCLB requires it and principals are expected to use the resulting data to inform their decision-making, the process adds undue stress to students and the data from a single achievement test are not representative of a student’s abilities.

The Unintended Consequence of Suspensions

In the November/December edition of Speaking Out, the author expresses her belief that out-of-school suspensions do little to discourage future student misbehavior and that principals should instead implement in-school suspensions, during which students are taught the desired behavior.

Elementary Schools to Blame for STEM Decline?

SeptOct_cover In the September/October issue of Principal magazine, author Bill Costello addresses science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and the disparity between American and non-American students’ interest in these su

Bring on the Competition!

Here’s a question for you: Win or lose, it’s how you play the game—right? 
The authors of “It’s Time We Teach Competition” cite research that concludes, “Put groups in competition and you create tension, anger, and hostility.” However, this article’s authors say the “most profound” purpose of teaching competition to students “is to cultivate an appreciation for the positive role of contests in promoting excellence and enjoyment.”
Read this month’s Speaking Out article, then think about the spelling bees, baseball games, and science fairs at your school. Do you agree with the authors, who believe that competition should become a vital part of our educational mission? How have your students reacted to participating in your school’s various contests?

Shying Away From Instructional Leadership

The author of the latest Speaking Out article purposefully leaves instructional leadership in the hands of his teachers to allow those “in the trenches” to have decision-making abilities about curriculum content. “I am the first to admit, and proudly, that I am not the instructional leader of the school,” veteran principal Don Sternberg wrote. “I never have been nor will I ever be that person. I am, plain and simply, the instructional manager.”
He goes on to write: The last time I was in a classroom teaching for an entire school year was more than 28 years ago. How could I possibly be the instructional leader when I have not been in the trenches for 28 years? I have charted our course and manage the day-to-day functioning via the feedback from those who have contact with students every day.” 
Do you agree with this concept? Based on the author’s distinction, are you an instructional leader or an instructional manager?

Teacher Incentive Plans: Good or Bad?

Read the latest Speaking Out article from Principal magazine. In it, Samuel Hardy III admits, “I am about to deviate from the status quo by suggesting that providing incentives for teachers can improve their productivity—and that of their schools.”
Hardy believes that teacher incentive plans work if handled properly, and that we can create an effective system of free or inexpensive rewards for achieving goals set by the principal. “Your investment in a teacher incentive plan will pay off if you can align their goals with yours,” he writes.
Do you believe incentives improve teaching performance? Do you feel incentives would hurt the morale of teachers who choose not to participate? What’s been your experience in using incentives for your teachers?

To Skip a Grade or Not To Skip

Marty Nemko, author of the November/December Speaking Out article, writes that high-ability students are better off skipping a grade than remaining in the same grade in which the teacher would need to offer differentiated instruction. “Grade skipping instantly gives high-potential students a much more appropriate education without imposing more work on teachers than they’re likely to do,” the article states.
Are you more likely to encourage grade skipping or differentiated/gifted instruction in your school? What do you believe are the pros and cons of grade skipping?

Ambiguity in the Assistant Principal’s Office

In the Speaking Out article published in the September/October issue of Principal magazine, author Tamera Moore, an assistant principal in North Carolina, raises concerns about the inconsistency of the assistant principal’s role from one school to another. “I believe establishing more uniformity among our positions, especially within the same district, would increase productivity and establish more consistent norms,” Moore writes.
Is this feasible given the differences between the needs of various schools? What are the specific responsibilities of the assistant principal in your school? It would be interesting to read your responses about how the role differs from school to school and state to state.

What Does It Take to Become a Principal?

The May/June issue of Principal magazine includes a Speaking Out article that reveals the type of preparation the author believes a teacher needs to become a principal.
The author insists that aspiring principals should “earn their stripes” as successful teachers before becoming school administrators, and that extensive teaching experience is a requisite for effective instructional leadership. “How principals acquire the skills they need to become accomplished leaders is dependent on their experiences as teachers,” the author wrote.
Do you agree? How many years of teaching do you feel are appropriate?

Are They Really Your Teachers?

The Speaking Out article from the March/April issue of Principal presents an interesting issue—referring to your school’s faculty as “my teachers.” Author Eric Glover contends that principals should move away from using the term because it is inappropriate in most cases. “‘My teachers’ is shorter and quicker to say than ‘the teachers with whom I work,’ or ‘the teachers in our school,’” Glover writes. “The problem is that rather than serving as a title of respect, ‘my teachers’ may be interpreted by teachers as a symbol of the power that a principal holds over them.”
Do you believe that using the term “my teachers” is condescending to your faculty? Are teachers being too sensitive, or is this a valid argument?

Stop Making Assumptions!

In the latest edition of Speaking Out, the author argues that educators should not disenfranchise their students—even those labeled “at-risk.” Take a look at the article and let us know what you think.
Do you agree that many educators’ assumptions about, and the labels given to, young students impede their ability to be effective in the classroom?

Good Teachers Don’t Need Research-based Programs

Have you read the latest Speaking Out article in Principal magazine? Author Carolyn Bunting argues that principals should rely less on the use of research-based programs in the classroom and instead allow good teachers to simply teach. “Good teaching is too diverse to be captured in prescribed programs, no matter what the research may say,” Bunting writes. “A better alternative is to give teachers the time and resources to find their own way.”

She adds: “The process begins with principals trusting their teachers and themselves. Then begins the slow and careful work of giving teachers the breathing room they need to develop independently.”

Do you agree with Bunting? Are your teachers locked in to research-based programs? Do you believe classroom instruction would improve if teachers were allowed to use their own methods?

Common Sense and Homework

The author of the September/October Speaking Out article argues that educators must change the way they look at homework. “Homework isn’t a single thing and its applications are far from consistent,” the author writes. “While proponents and opponents of homework battle, little is being done to bring widespread and beneficial change.”

Read the article for yourself and let us know what you think. What conversations have you had with your teachers about giving, and grading, homework? Do you agree with the author that teachers should count summative assessments more than formative ones?

The Courage of Educational Leaders

Have you read the Speaking Out article from the newly released May/June issue of Principal magazine? In it, author Mike Connolly argues that principals should be more forthright and talk more openly with their colleagues about the tests of courage they’ve had to face. “It is not hubristic to recognize and celebrate courage in education; it is inspirational,” Connolly writes.

Why don’t many school leaders recognize and celebrate more often the courage demonstrated by their colleagues? Is courage truly an important quality principals should have? Let us know what you think. Do you agree or disagree with Connolly?

Educators Ought to Act Like Soldiers

The author of the March/April Speaking Out article believes the title of this entry is spot on. Christopher Myers, a distinguished veteran of both education and military service, writes that educators should try to be like soldiers by putting aside other issues to focus on preventing what he calls “academic death” of at-risk students. What do you think? Can a military mind-set overcome traditional obstacles to speedy action?

Should Zeros Be Permitted?

The January/February 2008 Speaking Out article addresses whether or not to give students a zero grade for an incomplete or missing assignment. The author of the current article believes that students should never receive zeros because it results in loss of learning, lower motivation, and, ultimately, failure. As such, she helped implement a school program in which students are given after-school opportunities to complete missing assignments, requiring them to earn a grade on all their schoolwork.

Do you agree that zeros should be eliminated from grading scales? What methods have you found effective in decreasing student failure while maintaining integrity of student grades and learning? Speak out and let us know what you think!

Environmental Education: What Is Our Responsibility?

The author of the Speaking Out article in the November/December 2007 issue of Principal magazine has “a renewed sense of urgency” about environmental education and believes that it’s the responsibility of school leaders to integrate it into the curriculum. In her article, Kendra Kecker asks, “If we are in an environmental crisis—which is becoming harder and harder to refute—doesn’t it make sense ... to start educating children at a young age and instilling behaviors we’re currently trying to change in adults?”

Do you think it’s necessary to incorporate an environmental education program at your school? What kind of environmental projects and activities do your students do? Is it even a school’s responsibility to teach students about how to care for the environment?

Computers in the Classroom

In the September/October 2007 issue of Principal magazine, authors Richard P. Lipka and Thomas M. Brinthaupt argue in their Speaking Out article that schools should think twice before implementing laptops—or other technology—in the classroom. The authors describe the downside of introducing technology into schools, such as hidden costs, operational malfunctions, and managing students' differing technological knowledge.

What problems has your school faced in integrating computers and other emerging technology in classrooms? Do they do more harm than good to the school in the long run?