Snapshots: March/April 2015

Fast Fact:

Children who participate in preschool are 32 percent less likely to be placed in special education by third grade.

Educational Evaluation and Policy, February 2015


My Two Cents:

#naesp15 will focus on what’s next in education. What new initiative are you excited to implement at your school in the future?

Wendy Garr Oleksy: Utilizing technology from kindergarten on up. It is ever-evolving and education needs to keep up. Access to it needs to be a right, not a privilege.

Doug Elmendorf: We have to start teaching coding in an engaging and meaningful way.

Rachelle Jennings: RAK: Random Acts of Kindness. Can’t wait to see how it grows and changes to be even bigger next year!

Dineen Gruchacz (@PrincipalG_CP): We are implementing dual-language immersion this fall at Community Park Elementary School [in Princeton, New Jersey].


Q&A: The Quest to Modernize Learning

Heidi Hayes Jacobs explores key shifts to update curricula and reinvigorate classrooms.

It’s time to leave antiquated, old-school teaching in the dust, and instead design more contemporary approaches, says author Heidi Hayes Jacobs. At the 2015 NAESP Annual Conference in July, Jacobs will present The Future of Education: Mapping the Big Picture, examining how schools can transition to create timely, relevant, innovative learning experiences for students. “If our students are becoming self-navigators, social contractors, global citizens, and innovative designers, then each educator needs to cultivate the same in ourselves,” she says. Here, Jacobs, founder of Curriculum 21, shares strategies for principals.

Q: The theme of our conference is “what’s next” in education. What are three concepts that you’d say are the “next big things”?

A: First, modern classrooms. Around the world, strikingly new physical settings and architectural plans are emerging. These have a direct impact on teaching and learning. Second, responsive and engaging management systems. These are key for organizing non-graded learning patterns in real time. Asynchronous virtual environments are critical to personalized learning opportunities. Third, multiple literacies. Being able to access the Internet and apps does not make a person literate. Cultivating the three literacies (digital, media, global) and distinguishing them from one another is now a necessity.

Q: You’ve spoken about how schools need to replace dated practices with new ones that will better prepare kids for the future—like swapping oral reports for video presentations. Can you give a few more examples of these upgrades?

A: Upgrading, which I examined in Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World, is a starting place, but it is clearly insufficient. Modern content is probably the biggest challenge, along with how to determine what merits a quality inquiry. What I am working on now is a new model to assist learners in plotting out what I call Contemporary Curriculum Quests. I believe the real upgrade is to modernize content so that students are diving into timely issues, problems, themes, topics, and case studies. I hope to share this model at the NAESP Conference.

Q: How can schools help students become more globally focused?

A: Start with the four global competencies developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Asia Society: investigate the world; recognize perspectives; communicate ideas; and take action. Then, consider these five basic instructional approaches to reinforce them: use digital apps (like Gapminder or Newspaperman); make point-to-point connections via Skype or Google Hangouts; use social media to connect with global hashtags and networks; and refer to global projects such as those of the Pulitzer Center, Out of Eden, 100 People Portrait, and Flat Classroom.

Discover more ideas at NAESP’s 2015 Annual Conference in Long Beach, California. Heidi Hayes Jacobs will present the closing general session on July 2. Register at


3 Quick Fixes for Staff PD

Who says staff meetings have to be a snooze? Try these three tips from 2015 NAESP Annual Conference presenters Todd Whitaker and Annette Breaux. The duo’s presentation covers ideas on short, practical, professional learning sessions from their book, The Ten-Minute Inservice.

  1. Keep your eye on the prize. When planning and executing professional development workshops or inservices, remember that one goal should be for all teachers to walk out more excited about teaching and more effective tomorrow than they were today.
  2. Schedule both short and long sessions. Some topics (notably, data analysis), write Whitaker and Breaux, are too complex to tackle in a quick, ten-minute inservice. But plenty of teaching tactics—establishing classroom procedures, for instance—can be covered in short, focused trainings.
  3. Begin with questions. In their sample inservice on securing students’ attention, for instance, Whitaker and Breaux suggest first asking teachers, “What’s the most important procedure a teacher must have?” Then, in discussions, introduce another question to spur discussion: “What is your procedure—one thing you consistently do—to secure students’ attention?”

Spotlight on Best Practices: Schoolwide Recognition

One of our staff’s goals is to create a culture centered on recognizing student, staff, and parent excellence. We regularly recognize students with academic, character, and peer awards, given out at bimonthly character assemblies. We acknowledge staff members during staff and PTA meetings for accomplishments in and out of the classroom, and we also award them gift cards or a free lunch. Our parents are recognized monthly at PTA meetings; part our Friday eblast is reserved for appreciating parents’ work at school functions or in the classroom.

Michael Gray, principal of Race Brook School in Orange, Connecticut, and a 2014 National Distinguished Principal

I have always had a yearly theme to help rally and motivate staff, but now I choose themes that motivate students and families, too. This year’s theme is “Explore and Soar,” an outer space theme. Yearly themes create anticipation and excitement, and rally students, families, and staff around our mission statement of, “Do Well [high academic expectations] and Do Good [high social expectations].”

Bill Salonen, principal of Morningside Elementary in Great Falls, Montana, and a 2014 National Distinguished Principal


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