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Districts Using Grant Programs To Meet Budget Needs

Bulb In Grass

Dr. Jill Gildea, formerly the superintendent of Freemont School District, a largely rural district northwest of Chicago, considers herself to be a “teacher first” type of superintendent. After spending nearly a decade teaching at the beginning of her career, Jill focuses on making a difference in the lives of children through student-centered practices.

Jill has been awarded a National School Public Relations Association Golden Achievement Award of Excellence for her communications work concentrating on the common core. She has been presented with the International Association of Business Officials Meritorious Budget Award and hosted three Board of Education panel presentations in 2014.

I took some time to talk to Jill at the AASA national conference in March 2017. I was impressed to learn that $1.3 million dollars in her district budget arrive from alternative revenue sources. Energy grant money and additional profit-making activities have bolstered school programs tremendously. The outside funding sources have helped Jill and her district balance the budget for the last seven years running, a notable accomplishment.

Jill was named superintendent at Greenwich Public Schools in Connecticut shortly after the conclusion of AASA Superintendent conference. I’m sure she will continue to excel in Connecticut as she did in Chicago and I look forward to catching up with her soon to hear of her accomplishments.

Listen to the interview below:

Audio: Dr. Jill Gildea

About Dr. Jill Gildea

Dr. Jill GildeaDr. Jill Gildea is currently superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools, CT after most recently serving as superintendent of Fremont School District 79, a large rural district in southwest Lake County, Illinois. The beginning of her education career was spent with ten years in the classroom at Lincoln Junior High School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. She has administrative experience at all levels in rural, suburban, and urban environments.

She was Principal/Curriculum Director at Evergreen School in Union, Illinois, and was later promoted to Assistant Superintendent. She earned her Superintendent endorsement in the rural Marengo-Union School District #165. Jill served as a curriculum leader at suburban Libertyville 70 before taking the role of Superintendent of the Harrison School District in Wonder Lake, Illinois.

Jill has a B.A. in Education/English from Bradley University. Her doctorate, from Northern Illinois University, centered on Curriculum & Supervision. Her career in education includes grant writing and public presentations at local, state, and national levels on a variety of topics, such as parent engagement, curriculum development, and staff professional learning.

Jill is an active participant in the National Association of School Superintendents, EdLeader21, Illinois Association of School Administrators, Illinois Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Horace Mann League, Education League of Illinois, Northern Illinois Roundtable Study Club, Suburban Superintendent Association, and Illinois Women Educational Leadership.

Follow Dr. Jill Gildea on Twitter

About Dr. Rod Berger

Dr. Rod Berger is a global education media personality and strategic influencer featured in The Huffington PostScholasticAmericanEdTV, edCircuitEdTechReview India and Forbes.

Audiences have enjoyed education interviews with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Sal Khan along with leading edtech investors, award-winning educators, and state and federal education leaders. Dr. Berger’s latest project boasts a collaboration with AmericanEdTV and CBS’s Jack Ford.

Follow Dr. Rod Berger on Twitter

Creating Student Interest in Public Schools Through Directing Marketing

Feature-Pointing
Dr. W.L. “Trey” Holladay III, Superintendent of
Athens City Schools in Alabama, has seen it all in public education. The 30-year education veteran has spent time as a system-wide administrator, high school principal, elementary principal, assistant principal, athletic director, classroom teacher, and head football coach - all within the state of Alabama.

In his current role as superintendent, Trey has similar budgetary concerns to other superintendents but separates himself in his creative approach to outside funding. Holladay prefers to use outside funding strictly for extracurricular activities and sports programs to avoid the appearance of having outside money compromise the integrity of his academic program. Most funding management is handled through an educational foundation, furthering the implementation of his belief in the “separation of church and state.”

Communication and marketing is a large part of Trey’s job, in no small part because of the open enrollment nature of the schools. There is a pronounced effort to actively market homeschool and private school students to boost their numbers, increase funding, and provide additional resources to bring the best possible education to the students of Athens.

Trey sees the future of education shifting in the direction of personalized learning. Presently, five to ten percent of students are on a personalized learning track but the district is making a concerted effort to increase the numbers over the next 10 - 20 years.

Technology is part of the process, and Athens City Schools has made it a point to merge technology with instruction. Like so many other districts throughout the U.S, as digital citizenship takes hold, the need to differentiate technology from curriculum may very well disappear.

Sunset

Interview

Audio: AASA Trey Holladay

 

About Dr. W.L. “Trey” Holladay III

Dr. Trey HolladayTrey Holladay is a thirty-year veteran public school educator with twenty-seven years spent in educational leadership. He holds an undergraduate degree from Athens State University in social science, a master’s degree from The University of West Alabama in educational leadership, a specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University in educational leadership and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Strategic Change from Lipscomb University. He is in his third-year as superintendent of the Athens City Schools system. His previous experience includes system-wide administrator, high school principal, elementary principal, assistant principal, athletic director, classroom teacher, and head football coach within the state of Alabama.

Trey has been a frequent speaker on best practices in continuous school improvement and special education on both the national and state levels: he has spoken at the Consortium of School Networking in Atlanta, Georgia; the National Association of State Special Education Directors in Williamsburg, Virginia; The American Society of Quality in Education in St. Louis, Missouri; and the Alabama State Department of Education’s Mega Conference and Alabama Transitions on best practices in special education models. He has served as a mentor for new principals and assistant principals throughout the state. In the past, he served as the president of the state principals’ association and was selected as the Alabama Secondary Principal of the Year.

Follow Dr. Trey Holladay on Twitter

About Dr. Rod Berger

Dr. Rod Berger is a global education media personality and strategic influencer featured in The Huffington Post, Scholastic, AmericanEdTV, edCircuit, EdTechReview India and Forbes.

Audiences have enjoyed education interviews with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Sal Khan along with leading edtech investors, award-winning educators, and state and federal education leaders. Dr. Berger’s latest project boasts a collaboration with AmericanEdTV and CBS’s Jack Ford.

Follow Dr. Rod Berger on Twitter

Game-Based Learning And An Educator's Perspective

Feature- Digital Perspectives
Karl Kapp, a longtime industry leader in the world of gaming and education, recently spoke with me about the state of the union in gaming and the steps necessary to alter the perception of game-based learning in the eyes of educators. There is a growing interest in the ways game mechanics can inform pedagogy to make learning more authentic and engaging.

Our conversation follows a panel I moderated in which I was intrigued by Karl’s insightful points. The event, titled “Game-based Learning in Higher Ed: Interactive technology drives new ways of learning,” took place at the DeVry University Freemont Campus in Freemont, California and was hosted by Adtalem Global Education.

The panel included Karl Kapp, Gamification Analyst and Professor at Bloomsburg University; André Thomas, the founder of LIVE Lab at Texas A&M University and CEO of Triseum; and Jim Kiggens, the Director of Engage Learning Technology at Adtalem Global Education, whom Ipreviously interviewed as well.

Audio: Karl Kapp

Interview

ROD BERGER:  Karl, a couple of weeks ago we had the privilege of spending time out in California as part of the Adtalem Global Education panel on an event around game-based learning. You were part of quite a stellar panel and discussion. For me, it was just nice to play part in facilitating some of that conversation. Let's just start with that.

What surprised you in that conversation? What was uplifting to you? What solidified some of your perspective?

I think that when you have thought leaders like yourself ─ and we'll talk about your new book and your LinkedIn course ─ you can be zoned in on all the elements that you're doing. To rub shoulders with the other Karl Kapps of the world can be a good thing for advancing ideas that you may or may not know inside your own mind.

KARL KAPP: Absolutely. The exciting for me from that event was the different perspectives. You had André, whose perspective was “Hey, I've got this company. I'm creating learning games. I'm out there trying to prophesize about learning games to colleges.” Then, we had Adtalem that was actually doing some learning games and implementing them.

It was really great to both confirm a lot of what I've been thinking about games and what I've discovered in the research, and also learn new ways or techniques that they're trying to use get into the courses and trying to get people to use. To be with people who are pushing the envelope in game-based learning was really exciting.

Gaming 1

RB: Do you think that there's a need to beef up on the knowledge for those who develop and innovate around games so they understand the culture where they're trying to disperse their games? So that there is awareness?

A topic that came up in that discussion in San Francisco was “How do we help folks understand that it does take money to build incredible and immersive learning experiences through games? It takes the collaboration of curriculum providers and creators.”

There are a lot of people at the table and we get so excited about the technology that we miss a very key component. Where are you on that?

KK: When you think about educating people on using games for learning, people tend to follow the same educational path and have the paradigms that they grew up with.

A lot of people grew up with lecture-based learning from kindergarten all the way up to college and beyond. Our job as innovators trying to push game-based learning is to remember that it's not just about the game. It's about the culture. It's about how to implement it into a system. It's about making sure that the instructors are comfortable with it. It's making sure that parents are comfortable with it. It's making sure that even the learners are comfortable with it. Just because you're a millennial, it doesn't automatically mean you're going to love learning from games.

RB: It's not in their DNAs specifically.

KK: So we have to say, “Look, here's what you're going to learn when you encounter this game. Here's why game-based learning is important. Here are some things and some value that you can do.”

And the other important thing to think about is that, a lot of times, people see a game like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune and they say, “I know what learning games are all about. It's pretty simple. Just ask questions and you get points.”

To move the needle, you need games that really engage the learner at higher levels than just recalling knowledge. We need them to make critical and important decisions in that game environment. I think that part of the problem is that people say, “Yes, I know what a game is. It's Jeopardy.”

But that's not really what it can be. That's one element, but what it can be is so much bigger. And our job is to educate lots of people ─ administrators, faculty members, students, parents. The whole ecosystem needs to be moved in a direction more toward understanding and appreciating game-based learning.

Brain

RB: Karl, tell me if you agree with this. If we look at education, the real drivers are often the publishers of the materials in which we all experience education, be it K-12 or higher ed.

Do we need to bring to the table the publishers with game-based learning creators and innovators to have something that is a little bit more than a five-yard gain in a football game?

If we're going to proliferate the market with materials that demonstrate and illustrate the benefits of an engaging style of learning ─ game-based learning ─ do we need to leverage their market share in that way?

We know that behind closed doors they're looking to be relevant as well, because we're not in a paper-based society anymore.

KK: I think you've got two options. One option is to usurp the publishers and try to do an end around. It's interesting that if look at that panel, there weren’t publishers involved.

So Adtalem is doing its own thing. André is doing his own thing with his company, trying to find publishers but not really working with them. I think if we really look at it, there's this disruptive opportunity to go around publishers.

Having said that, getting into schools is a large mountain to climb. And the publishers have already done it. They're in schools. They've got the textbooks. They've got the relationships. They've got the resources.

So it would be ideal if they would take the baton of game-based learning seriously and really put that forth as a way to get that concept into more and more schools, more and more areas, more and more relationships.

A little bit in the defense of the publishers, they're selling what sells, right? So, textbooks still sell. Online learning modules don't sell. So they're going to keep up with those until they find something else. And that's why there's this disruptive path. At least get them to wake up and say, “Oh my goodness, you're right. We need to also publish games for learning and here's how we can do that.”

I think there's a two-pronged approach to that happening. If you can get publishers in a room and talk to them and get them on board to understand the value, it could work really well.

It reminds me a little of the pharmaceutical industry, where a lot of pharmaceutical companies no longer research for drugs. They buy these startups and then they integrate the startup into the organization. I think that would be a smart move by the publishers.

Gaming 2

RB: Let's talk a little bit about the content. I think for people who aren’t knee-deep in it or experts in the field, their question is always around the rigor and relevance of a game. And if we're talking about publishers and content, give us the ten-thousand-foot view on where we are in integrating in the education field into the components of a game beyond the technology or the UI or the UX?

KK: One of the interesting things is that the gold standard of instruction is this classroom lecture thing. We know from a lot of research that classroom lecture doesn't work. In fact, the amount of time people spend in problem solving and lectures is less than five percent. It's pretty scary what we use as the gold standard.

Having said that, games ─ if they're designed correctly ─ can help you with lots of different things.

Certainly, knowledge is one thing but we can get into problem solving. We can get into critical thinking with games. We can get into trading off of resources. We can get in adaptive learning, the freedom to fail, the understanding of alternative methods of coming to your end goal. There are a lot of different instructional values of games beyond just content.

Content is really important but we live in a world where we don't need to memorize anything. We get that with Google. We can look up anything that we want to.

So what's really critical now is critical thinking. Is it real news or is it fake news? We need to be able to understand, “I only have so much time in a day or so many resources. What am I going to do?” And games allow you to explore those types of avenues as they’re related to the content.

For example, Adtalem’s doing something with a crime scene investigation. In order for a student to go to a crime scene ─ that's not really done very much. It's not comfortable. But you can do a virtual crime scene and you can log the evidence. You can look for clues. You can talk to certain people.

So all those kinds of experiences that you can take to your actual situation, then, and that experience translates into actually using that knowledge in other areas.

So you don't have to just be constricted to knowledge. You can get to higher levels of thinking. And if we think of what colleges need to do in the future to remain relevant, they need to provide learners with really rich experiences so that when they go into the field and they can hit the ground right away. They can’t say, “Yes, theoretically, in class, we discussed how you would handle a crime scene.” They could say, “Look, I was at a crime scene, a virtual one, and here's what we did.”

I think that really provides the element of authenticity that's often lacking in some educational experience.

RB:  You've got your new book that just came out. You've got a new course up on LinkedIn Learning. Talk about how you think ─ we're making you a bit of a forecaster here. But how is the audience?

The people who are going to be picking up your book today, the people who are going to be signing up for your course, how have they changed and how has the change in your mind in the audience impacted the way in which you share your own knowledge?

Students Gaming

KK:  That's a really great question. When I first started talking about games and gamification for learning over a decade ago, the questions were “Do games work? Is this really a good way to teach? Do people really learn this way?”

And what's happened over the years was people were no longer asking does-it-work questions but “How do I make it work?”

We've seen lots of research about games compared to classrooms but what we really need to talk about is “When a game really works well for learning, what makes it work? Why is it so effective? And how do we integrate it into our instructional design?”

The book and the course on LinkedIn Learning really are about “how to.” How do you make this work? How do you make it happen? We know it will work. We know it can happen.

But when you really look at how to make a higher-level game work or even taking a commercial game like Pandemic or Sim City and using that in a classroom to help students understand tradeoffs and resource management. All that kind of stuff really can be valuable.

And so, what has changed is the thinking away from “It doesn't work” to “How do I make it work effectively and how do I integrate it into my teaching?”

RB: You always make me think, Karl. I appreciate that. Let's let the audience know where they can find your book and your course.

KK:  The book is available on Amazon. Go on Amazon and search for Play to Learn by Karl Kapp. And if you go to LinkedIn Learning or Lynda.com and search for Gamification of Learning or Gamification for Interactive Learning ─ I have two gamification courses on there. One just came out. This is Level 2 so you have Level 1 then you reach Level 2.

Those are some good places. You can see me on my website at karlkapp.com or at Twitter @kkapp. Follow me there. I love to have people follow me.

About Karl Kapp

Karl KappKarl Kapp, Gamification, is an analyst, published author and assistant director and faculty member at Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies (IIT).

Karl M. Kapp, EdD, is a scholar, writer, and expert on the convergence of games, learning, and technology. Karl received his doctorate of education in instructional design at the University of Pittsburgh, and is an award-winning professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University, in Bloomsburg, PA. Karl consults with learning technology companies and advises Fortune 500 companies on the use of gamification and game-based strategies for transferring knowledge to employees.

Karl has consulted with public and private organizations and has worked internationally on several serious games and gamification projects. He was co-principal investigator on two National Science Foundation grants and is a board member of several start-up companies. Karl has written six books, including the best-selling learning book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction and its accompanying how-to book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Theory into Practice.

 As a grant writer, Karl has written grants worth millions of dollars, acting as both an individual lead grant writer and as part of a collaborative writing team working together to create a winning submission. He’s secured funding from Federal agencies, state agencies, universities, foundations and corporations.

Karl has been interviewed for, and published articles in, Training, ATD’s T&D, Knowledge Management, Distance Learning, PharmaVOICE, Forbes Online, Mashable, Huffington Post and has appeared on television and radio programs concerning his work with learning, technology, and game-based design. He blogs at the popular Kapp Notes website and is a frequent international keynote speaker, workshop leader, moderator, and consultant. He has been called a “Rock Star” of elearning by eLearn Magazine.

Follow Karl Kapp on Twitter

About Dr. Rod Berger

Dr. Rod Berger is a global education media personality and strategic influencer featured in The Huffington Post, Scholastic, AmericanEdTV, edCircuit, EdTechReview India and Forbes.

Audiences have enjoyed education interviews with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Sal Khan along with leading edtech investors, award-winning educators, and state and federal education leaders. Dr. Berger’s latest project boasts a collaboration with AmericanEdTV and CBS’s Jack Ford.

Follow Dr. Rod Berger on Twitter

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post by Dr. Rod Berger

Understanding Access Is The Key To Equity In Education

Feature Leaf

Dr. Jim Vaszauskas has been Superintendent of Mansfield Independent School District in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in Texas since 2013. Running Mansfield ISD is a big task with more than 40 campuses serving over 33,000 students covering the city of Mansfield and portions of Grand Prairie, Arlington, and Burleson. Focusing on data-driven instruction and individualized pathways for college and career readiness, Jim and his leadership team have made Mansfield ISD one of the fastest growing districts in the region.

I was lucky to have Jim carve out some time from his busy schedule to chat with me about topics surrounding education. Starting with the subject of equity, Jim made an immediate association to levels of access. Many kids have limited access to transportation options for new STEM or fine arts academy programs. Jim and his team tackle the transport issue head on by adding transportation experts to the discussions from the beginning planning and construction phases of projects.

Rigor in education is another hot topic that Jim believes needs very specific standards and parameters. Mansfield ISD adheres to strict rigor guidelines, including the required Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards (TEKS) that the district follows. The focus on rigor guidelines has increased the percentage of students reading at or above grade level significantly in the course of a year.

 

Audio: AASA-Vaszauskas

Interview

Dr. Rod Berger: Jim, I’ve appreciated having conversations with superintendents around the country recently and hearing about their growing focus on equity and rigor in their districts.

I want to start with that, getting an understanding of where you place equity. If you’re looking at prioritizing district initiatives, how do you look at equity and improving the experience for your students, as well as the faculty and teachers who are supporting their learning.

Dr. Jim Vaszauskas: When I did my doctoral work, social justice was a real push by the professors. We learned that you really can’t have equity unless you include access. In Texas, where I work, we can’t really have a conversation about equity if we don’t allow access.

For example, school choice is something that we’re hearing quite a bit about. For us, that would mean taking one of our buildings and making it a STEM academy or taking one of our buildings and having it be a Fine Arts academy.

If we do that, how do we provide access for our students who may have transportation needs? That’s a real question that we’re having in our district right now because we’re doing those very things. We’re opening a STEM academy this year and one of the things that we discussed was how to provide access to the kids who may not have the financial wherewithal to provide their own transportation.

For us, equity means that you have equal opportunity, but access is a real key part of that.

Lock

RB: Tell me about the communication with the district and, more importantly, the community members. I imagine that it is a challenge to try to be all things to all people and also be progressive in moving education within your district in a way that we hope for in a 21st century environment.

Tell me about the thought process around the communicating and the messaging regarding why you’re doing something as a district and the impact of it. Then how you will support those that you know you can’t serve because of some inherent challenges within the lives of those students and what you want to do to help solve and bridge those challenges.

JV: We’re building an early literacy and numeracy center for our children. In our district, literacy is a big thing for us. One of our guiding statements on our strategic plan is that all of our students will be reading on grade level or higher by the time that they enter the third grade.

We were at 82% at the end of last year. We’ve increased that to 86%. That means that 86% of our kids right now are reading on grade level or higher. We have some that are reading right on the second-grade level right where they need to be. We also have second graders who are reading on the eighth-grade level.

What we know about that 14% that we still haven’t reached is that they come to us with unique challenges, with pretty consistent challenges. One of those challenges is mobility. We might be their third school in three years. We might be their third school this year.

We also know that there’s such a poverty gap for students who live in poverty with a number of experiences they have. This is really more about experiences.

We can’t provide those exact services on the far western side of our district or on the far eastern side of our district. So what we’re trying to do is provide opportunities for these kids to come and experience that facility once it’s up and operational. We’re in the design phase right now.

As we’re having our discussion with parents about what this facility looks like, we’re listening to their desires about how they can be a part of this. We’re also involving our transportation people in the discussion about how to get kids to the school to experience it.

The discussion can’t just be the superintendent and a couple of people in a room. It has to be parents, principals, transportation people and the construction manager all in a room all talking about the very thing that you just mentioned.

We’re trying to broaden the conversation to hear from different stakeholders so we can try to meet the needs of our kids.

RB: We’re seeing a lot of transparency in the way we’re trying to understand student learning in the classroom, and increasing engagement and understanding. We’re seeing transparency with the parents and caregivers of these students in classrooms, and then the ways in which they can complete that feedback loop with their teachers.

What role does that play in the efforts that you’re making to provide an opening into what is going on in the classroom in a positive and engaging way that can support all the other initiatives that you have? People feel that they understand the beat and the pulse of the district in a way they hadn’t in the past.

JV: So much of our conversation is about trying to get and understand an operational definition of the topics. For example, when we started this conversation, you mentioned rigor. I love to have conversations with people and ask them, “What does rigor mean to you?”

ABCs

What you will find is that it’s a very qualitative definition and what you define as rigor as may not be anywhere close to what I define as rigor.

It’s important to give a clear operational definition of what rigor means to our teachers and to the people in the room so we can come at it from a very logical standpoint. Mansfield has defined rigor as being the TEKS, which are the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards that we’re required to teach.

We consider rigor to be three things:

It’s on-grade level or slightly higher content. So if you’re a third-grade teacher, you should be teaching third-grade content or higher.

It’s taught in the way that it’s assessed. Math is a great example. If you’re teaching 2 plus 2 equals 4, you’re just teaching the numbers on the page. But, it’s being assessed in a manner where it’s a word problem: If Jim has two basketballs and Amy has two basketballs and Billy has three footballs, how many basketballs do Jim and Amy have together? You have to choose the operation there. You have to eliminate extraneous information and we want it to be taught like it’s tested.

Finally, in every TEKS there are verbs which are action words which drive us. We want to teach the verbs.

Those three things are content taught in context and taught to the cognitive level.

It’s important that when we’re having conversations with teachers and administrators and parents, we have an operational definition of the topic we’re talking about. What is access? What is equity? What is rigor?

Part of my job is to have those conversations. Let’s have the same target. And if we can define it and make it easy to know we’re certainly more likely to get there.

RB: Is part of it educating the parent base in how to identify it themselves? If they’re going to be advocates for you and for the teachers who are working with their children, they need to understand what we’re all looking at. To understand that, they need a general understanding of what rigor is in your district and schools. This is what teachers understand it to be and how the students experience that, and here’s what we want you to see from a parents’ perspective.

JV: That’s absolutely the truth. I was born and raised in West Texas and back in those days, we used to take long driving trips. I can remember looking out the front window and seeing what appeared to be water on the highway miles and miles in front of us. And we never got to that water because it was just a mirage. As we got closer, it moved further away or it totally disappeared.

If you don’t have a clear operational definition of rigor, how do you know when you get there? Is it just a mirage?

At some point, you have to be able to look at something and go, “This is rigorous. This is acceptable. I don’t need to change this.” That’s the key to the operational definition.

In our conversations with parents, we’re saying “Yes, this is rigorous. We don’t need to make this any harder because it’s already there for where your child is right now in his or her development.” Parents are relieved because there’s pressure that it might be a mirage. That you just never get there.

I believe that rigor has to be definable and you have to know when you’re there. And when you’re there, that’s a good thing.

RB: It’s that repeated exposure over time. If we can expose parents to what good learning looks like and what the experience of learning looks like, they will be more engaged and they will have a better understanding of that.

When you and I were growing up, districts thought that the less they speak to parents the better. Parents just wanted to know they’re doing things. And so, they checked in quarterly or sent home a flier.

But it’s a different day and age in education and it seems as if we cannot communicate enough. I have two little children who are not even kindergarten age. At their daycare school we get updated every day on what’s going on. If something looks amiss or they’re using something that’s outdated, we’re on top of that.

There’s a new culture of parents entering in K-12. We want to know all the time what’s going on, not because we want to be overlooking the process but because we want to be involved. We want to understand our kids’ education in a way that is different than what we experienced as children.

JV: I would agree completely with what you’re saying. I would tie it back to the Internet age, the social media. It’s funny for someone of my generation who grew up when there were rotary dial phones on the wall. To catch somebody, you had to dial the number and hope that they were home and were willing to talk to you.

Now, there’s instantaneous communication. That’s one of the things that I think we need to be doing a better job of, and that’s why I’m having conversations with Steve (Wandler). It’s about clearly communicating and engaging parents.

How do we do that in the age of the Internet and how do we that in the age of Facebook or Nextdoor or those powerful social media platforms? And how do we do it with people who have grown up in that social environment of immediate feedback. That’s a real challenge for public schools.

That’s what’s exciting to me about the direction some businesses and organizations are going now. They’re providing platforms for us to really meet the parents where they’re most comfortable. That’s critical.

RB: I know you’re talking about Steve Wandler, co-founder of FreshGrade. So that begs a question: When you’re thinking about that in a world where your students are actively communicating their learning, what do you think the benefit is to the educator?

I think back to my work in education. The ability for an educator to have that real-time personal relationship with a student where you’re capturing these amazing moments and tying it to the rigor that you spoke of earlier, that would make me feel more engaged as an educator.

Digital Clock

JV: To me, the power of this platform that we’re talking about with Steve is giving the student the ability to reflect on her or his own learning and explain to their parents where they are and the direction that we need to go.

Parent conferences used to be where the teacher would explain where the student was. The teacher would have to have tons of data and pieces of work and artifacts that they could share with the parents. Many of these artifacts might have occurred six weeks ago or eight weeks ago.

In today’s world, eight weeks ago is ancient. Now, we have that immediate ability to reflect. The student reflecting on where she or he is in their learning and what the goals are.

That’s what’s exciting about where we’re going with parent and student engagement and conferences. I think it will be less work on the teacher because instead of the teacher preparing for 22 or 24 conferences ─ or if it’s a secondary teacher, 120 conferences ─ the teacher is going in as the facilitator where the student is leading the discussion about his or her own learning with the parent. That’s very exciting.

It will be less work on the teachers and it will be more meaningful to the parent. It forces the student to reflect and set goals, and those are two huge skills.

RB: When you were a student growing up, could you have ever envisioned that you would be the steward of a district or a school at this level? Was this part of the original dream for you? And what was it about your educational experience that suggested that “I really want to do this” or “I want to go in and make changes that I wish would have occurred when I was in school”?

JV: I knew at a very early age that I wanted to be a teacher and a basketball coach. I was really impacted by my high school English teachers; and my coaches had a tremendous impact on me.

I knew when I was 19 years old that I wanted to teach and coach. And I did that for 20 years before I moved into administration. I had some friends who were administrators who encouraged me to move into administration.

The opportunity to serve as the superintendent in Mansfield, which is such a progressive district, is a dream come true. We’re moving forward in a lot of really unique and interesting ways and I’m excited about the potential. Our kids are phenomenal and I’ve never been more bullish on education than I am right now.

The bottom line is that we have to do a better job as a profession of engaging our parents with real-time information. That’s the world we live in and that’s the direction that I want to move this district.

RB: I talk to a lot of superintendents and there are a lot of pressure points on leaders like you. You’ve displayed a poise and a calm confidence that I’m sure the district benefits from. I’m sure that the audience can feel that as well.

It’s really needed. There are a lot of different things going on in education. To be able to take all that in and understand where the value propositions are and where they are not is really needed in district leadership.

Star

About Dr. Jim Vaszauskas

Dr. Jim VaszauskasDr. Jim Vaszauskas joined the Mansfield Independent School District, located south of Dallas and Ft. Worth, in May of 2009 as the associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction. In February 2013, he was named Interim Superintendent. The board promoted him to Superintendent of Schools that next July.

He served as an English teacher and coach for the first 20 years of his career and then moved into administrative roles including positions as assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, associate superintendent, and superintendent.

Dr. Vaszauskas earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from Baylor University, his Master of Arts from Texas Wesleyan University, and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Stephen F. Austin State University. He holds lifetime State Board of Educator Certification in English, health and physical education, is certified by the State of Texas as a principal and as a superintendent. He has also completed the National Superintendent Certification through The School Superintendents Association (AASA).

Follow Dr. Jim Vaszauskas on Twitter

About Dr. Rod Berger

Dr. Rod Berger is a global education media personality and strategic influencer featured in The Huffington Post, Scholastic, AmericanEdTV, edCircuit, EdTechReview India and Forbes.

Audiences have enjoyed education interviews with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Sal Khan along with leading edtech investors, award-winning educators, and state and federal education leaders. Dr. Berger’s latest project boasts a collaboration with AmericanEdTV and CBS’s Jack Ford.

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This article was originally published on the Huffington Post by Dr. Rod Berger

Winning Leadership Blending Sustainable Practices with Student Learning

Virginia Beach Superintendent

The education industry in the U.S. could use a lot more leaders like Aaron Spence, Superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools. Aaron is a powerful leader and visionary who is candid and forthcoming about his ideas. Plainly put, he is not afraid to openly discuss what is and is not working in American education.

Aaron Spence took over as school chief in Virginia Beach in 2014. He recalls coming to Virginia Beach for the first time and touring 16 schools that weren’t fully accredited. Today, the number stands at five.

Spence speaks passionately about his belief in a well-rounded education. The somewhat robotic “drill-and-kill” teaching style that has been popularized to help kids pass standardized tests, remains a false indicator of real student achievement. Aaron believes in a more personalized approach to learning that incorporates a strong sense of student ownership.

People are starting to take notice of Aaron’s fine work. In May of 2017, he was named Virginia’s top school superintendent after already being named a top regional superintendent.

Enjoy the interview below.

AASA Aaron Spence

Interview

Dr. Rod Berger: Aaron, there are a lot of conversations around the superintendency position in the U.S. and the ever-changing nature of the role. Take me back 15 to 20 years. Could you ever have imagined that you would be sitting in the office that you occupy today?

Dr. Aaron Spence: No. Candidly, I don't know that many superintendents who knew or thought they were going to start and end their career as a superintendent. I think a lot of times, when we get into the work, we have a real calling and a love for children and a heart for children. And, circumstances along the way convince us that we need to take a broader leadership role.

Things have changed rather dramatically. I think the superintendency today really calls for a pretty wide range of amazing skills. And so, I'm pleased to be able to do the work but I cannot say that I thought I was going to be doing the work.

RB: I'm always fascinated by email signatures. You have a number of phrases that are either your personal mottos or those of the district. One of them is “Be open to change.” Tell me about that approach and how you make that live on in more than just words but in actions within the district.

AS: Actually, those are the district’s core values. Being open to change is a core value that we share, that our board shares. I think the idea is that our job is to get kids ready for their future. And that future is a moving target. One of the things that I think we have to be really good at in education is looking around corners and identifying those new opportunities that our students are going to need in order to be successful. If we continue to try to prepare students for life ─ what's coming up in the next decade of this 21st century ─ by trying to teach them in a 20th-century box, we're never really going to be successful with that work.

So we're always thinking of what's next for us and how to transform the learning experience for children and how to identify new skills they might need that we haven't thought about.

RB: I like when you talked about sort of peeking or looking around the corner. One corner that I'm finding more and more districts are being proactive about is in alternative resource methods in ways to bring in resources that encompass the private sector, whether it's funding or human capital connecting education to the working world.

But I am keenly interested in the funding side of that. Globally, people look at the U.S. and say, “We shouldn’t have problems because our per-people expenses are astronomically higher than other countries around the world and yet we still continue to struggle.”

But I know that superintendents are sitting there looking with their business officers and saying, “We are struggling. We don't have the configuration to meet all the needs that we would like in the growth of the children of our district.”

How do you look at incorporating the private sector within your community in Virginia Beach in that fashion?

AS: It's a great question. First of all, let's just clear up the funding questions. 85% of the dollars that we spend are on people. One of the reasons we spend what we spend is because of our efforts to retain high-quality teachers. And I don't think there are too many people in the world who would argue that our teachers are not paid at the high-professional level that we probably should pay them at.

So I think there is a shortage of funding that continues to be an issue that plagues us all. That said, I do think it’s really important that we continue to be innovated and think about how we bring private partners and other public partners into the conversation in our classrooms, and really bring our classroom conversations into their world and their work.

And you hit on the most important thing, which is that our students have the opportunity to really experience what it is that they're going to be doing when they leave here before they leave here, in these safe learning environments.

Partnership_building

I think that's where the real power and potential of those partnerships exist. I'll give you a great example. We have a wonderful partner in a local manufacturer ─ Stihl. You probably know Stihl. They're the organization that makes chainsaws. Their manufacturing facility for Americans here in Virginia Beach.

One of the things that they came to us, that they're really interested in, is the need to develop skills around robotics. They are a very automated factory. What they need are people who can both work beside the robots that they have, but also program the robots to be effective in the factories.

They have an apprenticeship program where they train people to do that. And so, we worked with them to develop a set of college-level course work that our kids could pursue through our local community college along with some preparatory career and technical education classes in our schools.

And if they complete those sequence of courses, they're taking a few of those kids, at the high level, into the apprenticeship program. And so, before they graduate from us, they've already had a year of apprenticeship with Stihl.

It's a partnership. We could never afford to pay for the kind of apprenticeship learning they have but, at the same time, they're getting really skilled students coming out of our schools who are ready, willing, and capable of going right down to the floor and doing the work that they've asked us to help prepare them to do.

One of the things that’s a North Star, relative to the students, is the idea of literacy instruction. We think we can always do more in terms of preparing students to be better readers, writers, and thinkers.

We have engaged our city in some incredible partnerships around literacy instruction. As we're looking at early childhood education, how do we continue to grow access to that? That's where we've really focused a lot of our time and energy on building partnerships.

As I've said, some of those are civic partnerships ─ the idea of leveraging the resources your city does have ─ so working really closely with our library, working really closely with our GrowSmart Program, and reaching out to the public charity sector.

We have a great relationship with United Way under the umbrella of United for Children, and just multiple examples of partnerships like that with some of the local museums that help us teach children to read, in ways that we could not do without.

RB: That integration is key. And one of the things that I think we're getting better at ─ I don't think we're there yet ─ is in understanding how to really document student ownership of learning and communicating that, whether that is in experiences inside the school or outside of the school but in partnerships with the community. It's really in understanding what that looks like.

I think we all went through a period of sort of fear-based communication where we didn't know it was numbers and standards and percentages and “Where do we fit or don't fit?” I think on both sides of the aisle, there was concern about what we were communicating.

But it seems like districts and technologies are doing a better job to understand what does matter about the student ownership of learning and students as creators, not just consumers.

Do you feel like we've made improvements in that area? Have you heard from your own community in the ways in which they would like to be able to share in the learning of their children?

AS: Yes. I think not only are we making improvements but we also have a long way to go.

We're on a journey that we talk about as a journey towards this transformational learning. And transformational learning is just as you've described it. It's the idea that students take agency and that they have ownership. Certainly, we have a rich conversation about what our students need to learn and. What are the things that we think are most important that our students learn?

But the question is about how they learn those things, how they access what they want to learn, and then how they demonstrate mastery of those learnings.

Digital_production_school2

That's where the real exciting part of education is today. As you've mentioned, we have technologies now that really enable students to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways; to publish that learning; to do so creatively but also collaboratively; to engage with experts in the field; to engage with students across the city; to engage with students across the country and across the world; to share ideas; and to develop concepts that they can then present to authentic audiences.

There are so many amazing opportunities. And how do you capture all that in ways that become meaningful?

I think there are two pieces of that: One is the idea of the digital portfolio. I think that the more work that goes into developing digital portfolios for students through the course of their K-12 career with us, can really capture how they've grown and how they've demonstrated their learning.

There is real potential for how that can be used to present a picture of themselves, not only to our community, but to employers and colleges as they're thinking about what they do next.

On the other side of that, I think there's a real conversation that has to happen at the state and federal level. What drives what we report is what's legislated and what our colleges are asking for. So if colleges are asking for SAT scores and standardized test results, then, unfortunately, it's hard to have a conversation with the community to say, “Those aren’t the most important measures of what it means to be a successful learner.”

Can you imagine if we said to our communities, “Hey, we're no longer going to worry about SAT scores because we don't think they actually measure the things that are important. And, those state tests are really important but we're going to ignore the results and we're just going to focus on what we think is important.”

I think that would be a very difficult conversation to have with our community. But if we can advocate for and be partners in a community conversation, we say, “Okay, let's talk about Accountability 2.0 ─ measuring what really matters.”

We hear all the time that we need our students to be not just critical thinkers and problem solvers, but to really even be able to identify the problems that we're going to be facing and how might they go about solving that.

One of the greatest aspirations of educators ought to be that children never ask why they're learning something. They always know. And in order to do that, it has to be connected to kind of authentic experiences and authentic challenges. How do we create a conversation where we're actually measuring those things?

For example, here in Virginia Beach, we're really interested in and focused on sustainable practices and teaching children sustainable practices.

Why?

Because we sit on the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean and we are one of the most threatened cities in America with regards to sea level rise.

We think those are some significant challenges that our students are going to have to solve. How do we report that they are thinking about those challenges and solving those challenges when what our state wants us to report is a score in an earth science exam?

And so, what we need to do is figure out a more meaningful way to assess student’s learning, a way that's really driven by their own sense of how to assess that ─ having talks about kids in self-assessment being one of the most powerful predictors of student achievement.

Beach_save_sustainable_practices

And if we ask our kids, “Okay, how would you tell us that you've integrated the concepts of earth science and biology and chemistry and engineering to design some solutions to our stormwater challenges in Virginia Beach?” They would tell us a way they could do that. If we could convince our state legislature and our colleges to look at those demonstrations of mastery as examples of that apex of learning that we're looking for from these kids, I think we would really be onto something exciting in our schools and in our states.

RB: Given your candid approach, I want to take it a little bit of a turn because I'd be curious as to how you look at something that I think we don't talk about publicly, which is those schools within our given districts that are turnaround candidates or struggling schools.

There's already enough negative press about education as an industry in general, that it's natural that we want to share some of the really good things that we're all doing and the amazing people.

I wonder why we don't also share some of the challenges so that we can lean on each other ─ sort of the “lean in” concept ─ and learn and find resources and best practices to be able to improve those schools. If we're sort of being honest with ourselves and we're looking at our spreadsheet as a district and we're saying, “We've got three schools that really struggling here” whether or not to the severity of some schools we've heard in the press and districts or just economic challenges.

How do we talk about that? How do you look at that whether or not you have schools like in Virginia Beach? As a leader, how do you think about the conversation that I'm putting out there that I think needs to happen?

AS: We do have those schools in Virginia Beach. When I arrived in Virginia Beach, we had 16 schools that weren’t fully accredited; and if you were to overlay the map of poverty with those 16 schools, you’d see that they coincided precisely.

I think it's not an either/or conversation. In our division, what we talk about are floors and ceilings. I think you have to have ─ for every child ─ an aspiration that you have this solid, concrete floor for children to stand on, so they have the fundamental skills that are going to be necessary to be successful in life.

And I think, at a very basic level, our states have tried to define these fundamental skills through the accreditation process. I don't have a problem necessarily with that baseline proficiency standard that says every kid ought to be reading on grade level, every kid ought to have numeracy concepts that will allow them to be successful later in life.

That's really hard work that we have to do, but it's not either/or. So in those most challenging school environments, I think the one thing that we do that is most damaging is that those are the schools that have the highest need to actively engage kids and really raise the bar in terms of expectations for learning and really help those young people see that education is a way out of the cycle of poverty and it's a way to a future that's exciting and interesting.

And yet, in those schools, we tend to do the most drill-and-kill work: “Let's get them ready for these tests and try to get them over the hump.”

And so, in our school division, we talk about ceilings and the analogy is this: If you go into a cathedral, you're appreciative that there's a solid stone floor that you're standing on but nobody walks into the cathedral to look at the floor. Everybody is looking up at the ceiling and trying to figure out, how high can we go?

In our schools, what we're looking for in all schools for all children is this idea that we can push higher and further and be the things we were talking about earlier for children. We can be the schools that provide these transformative learning experiences where kids are really passionate and interested in the learning; and they're owning the ways that they demonstrate that mastering and that passion and that enthusiasm for learning.

And so, one of the critical challenges that you're pointing out is that we can't ─ in these schools that struggle ─ just become test factories trying to get kids over the hump.

We have to embrace the idea that learning is supposed to be fun, that it's supposed to be filled with joy, that it's supposed to be filled with inquiry. We have to give those schools permission to both create that solid floor but, then, explore that ceiling.

We're doing that work here and that's how we talk about it.

RB: When you talk about the drill-and-kill approach in those schools, why do you think that is? I hate to think that we do that because either we don't trust the very students within those schools to be able to hold on to the creative control that we do in higher functioning schools.

Help me understand just what your thought is. I don't think that there's probably a perfect answer to it, but it's worth exploring, I would imagine.

AS: I think it's a response to the accountability system that was created. So if the system that's been created is one that's punitive, that labels our schools as failing schools, that says that teachers in those buildings are the problems with public education, that says, “Hey, listen, the solution to you all not being an accredited school is to create schools of choice where we'll just take kids out of these schools,” I think that all of those things create a response that says, “By any means necessary, get kids to pass the test.

And it's a response to that system.

RB: It's short-term thinking, is it not? Not to be critical, but it feels very short term. It's like a parent that says, “We're just going to do this because the toddler is sort of acting out but we don't really care that this sets a precedent that, now, they're going to manipulate down the road.”

AS: I think it's incredibly short-term thinking and I think that the accountability model that existed under No Child Left Behind, although metaphorically a great idea was a short-term thinking model. They even put a date on it ─ “By 2014, we were going to have a 100% of our kids passing tests.”

RB: That didn't happen.

AS: Not only did it not happen but it fell far short of the mark of achieving what I think the intent was ─ not that children would pass tests but that all children would be educated in a way that was meaningful and relevant.

If we want to design systems that move us past test prep, we've got to create systems that measure the things that we think are more important. We're getting what we're measuring.

What gets measured gets done. And if you create a system that just says, “Hey, 70% of your kids have to be minimally proficient,” what gets measured gets done.

And so, I think we've got to create meaningful assessment systems, have rigorous, real dialogue about what that looks like and acknowledge the fundamental realities that you have to be able to do that at scale and efficiently, in a way that's cost effective.

States can't pay half a billion dollars for a testing system that would get at what we're talking about. They've got to find ways to do it. The technologies are emerging that allow us to do that with artificial intelligence and some of the other things that are happening.

I think it's an exciting time to be thinking about it. But, yes, I totally agree that it was short-term thinking.

The conversation here in Virginia Beach is that that's not who we're going to be. We're not going to be test factories. We're going to lift all of our schools up to a place where they're fully accredited. And as they're fully accredited, we're going to be exploring what we really expect to see in our classrooms which is this fully engaged process where kids are understanding how disciplines connect and how they can use the learning and the disciplines to engage the problem solving in our community.

RB: What do you want your legacy to be when you're done? The kind of thing that you might share with a family member down the road ─ it might not be suited for a press release or anything but it's just something you say, “People might not realize it but this is what I'm so proud of or most proud of about my work in that role.”

AS: I have six children. I talk about this with our faculties and with our leaders all the time. There are three things I want for my kids when they go to school. When they get on the bus and they go to school, I want them to everyday be cared for. Are we taking care of their needs? Are they fed? Are they clothed? Are they safe?

I want them to learn something every day. I don't think that's too high a bar to set for our children.

And I want them to be loved. I really feel that kids who are loved, who have a relationship with the adults in their schools, connect to their schools in meaningful ways; and they want to learn and to be successful.

To the question you asked earlier about communities with incredibly challenges, I think when I leave this work, I'm not leaving this work until I feel like those three things are happening for every kid in our city. No matter what the color of their skin is, no matter what's in their parents’ wallets, and no matter where they live, they get the very best everyday and they get those three things.

And they come out of here understanding that education has a transformative power for them and it can change the course of their life forever.

At the end of the day, if I could say, “Look, I did my very best to make sure that was happening ─ not for 67,000 students in Virginia Beach but for one student 67,000 times a day ─ I'd feel like I did my job.”

RB: Virginia Beach is very lucky to have you. I'm still stuck on the six kids. You are a brave man, Aaron. You have your own school at home, right?

AS: Yes ─ basketball.

RB: That's right ─ your own basketball team. It's just been a great pleasure to get to know you. As I've said earlier, echoing just the candid nature, I think that that's needed in leadership today. I think superintendents today are very different ─ thankfully ─ than they were when you and I were growing up going from city managers to visionaries and best practitioners. And best practice, I think, is really important in our districts around country.

About Dr. Aaron Spence

Snip20170608_12Dr. Aaron Spence assumed the leadership of Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) June 23, 2014. As superintendent, he oversees the operation of 86 schools (serving almost 69,000 students) as well as all administrative support functions for the school division. Dr. Spence is a proud graduate of Green Run High School in Virginia Beach.

Before his Virginia Beach appointment, Spence served as Superintendent of Moore County Public Schools in North Carolina. During his tenure there he launched a division-wide digital learning initiative designed to put a digital device, such as a laptop or tablet, in the hands of every student and teacher.

Additionally, Dr. Spence was chief high school officer of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the eighth largest school district in the country. He helped decrease HISD’s drop-out rate and increase the graduation rate to an historical high.

Dr. Spence began his career in Virginia as a French teacher and photojournalism teacher. Prior to leaving Virginia, he served as an assistant principal and later as a principal in Henrico County Public Schools. He also served as chief academic officer and director of curriculum and instruction for Chesterfield County Public Schools.

Follow Dr. Aaron Spence on Twitter

Dr. Rod Berger, a respected leader in education communications, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten and others.
 
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This article was originally published on The Huffington Post by Dr. Rod Berger

 

 

A Perfect Marriage Between Universities and K12 Public Schools

Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift discusses opportunities for Ann Arbor public schools

By Dr. Rod Berger

I sat down with Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift at this year’s AASA conference in New Orleans to learn about the unique advantage of running a public school district that resides alongside one of our nation’s most prominent universities. The University of Michigan provides the district of Ann Arbor with rich partnerships that lift the learning experiences of the children in the community. Kerr Swift is delighted to have the enthusiasm of not only the University but the business community in reaching out to the students of Ann Arbor.

The implementation of real world projects matches University of Michigan scientists with teachers and students to enrich school learning environments. One example is the Woven Wind program that provides real life wind turbine applications. Students learn, and teachers have their classes bolstered by the input of advanced experimentation. Project Lead the Way is another example that is providing modules for classroom learning.

According to Jeanice Kerr Swift, technology should support and strengthen learning, not stand in the place of person-to-person engagement. Devices are there to serve and enhance, not replace teacher-student collaboration and critical thinking. Kerr Swift believes there is a balance of the “Cs” to consider: collaboration, connection, and community. If all the “Cs” are listening and working together, then a school district can thrive.

Jeanice Kerr Swift certainly makes the balance look easy and enviable in Ann Arbor Michigan.

Interview

Rod Berger: Jeanice, it’s nice to spend some time with you. I think it’s interesting being up in Ann Arbor as you have the unique perspective of being in a public school system next to a prominent university.

How does that impact the opportunities that your students and teachers have being right next door to the University of Michigan?

Jeanice Kerr Swift: Rod, we’re very fortunate to share a beautiful community with the University of Michigan, and we have great partnerships with the university not only to have student teachers coming out of the school of education, but we also have partnerships with English second-language learners and a beautiful summer program. We have partnerships like an instrumental program with the University of Michigan.

We have some great fruitful and rich partnerships that are right in the community, and it lifts up all of us ─ and always with the focus on the children.

So I’m very grateful for that.

RB: Given the built-in relationship that you have ─ if we expand that a little bit ─ I’m finding that a lot of superintendents are looking at and challenged with resource issues and budget shortfalls. I’m also encouraged to see that there is a lessening of the fear of incorporating the private sector in offsetting some of those funding challenges and issues.

JKS: Right

RB: How do you look at it when we think about corporate America interfacing with public schools from a funding perspective to help support us?

JKS: We’re very grateful for all of our business partnerships, and we are rich with partnerships in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

We work with Toyota Corporation whose research and development center is in a little township next to us. We work with a wide variety of great business partners.

I think of not only the resources that they contribute but the relationship that we develop in keeping our focus on children and the children in our community and preparing for the next generation.

With Toyota, they are thinking about what kind of employees they want, and they’re helping us to develop so that we’re working in the direction of supporting all children and lifting children in our community.

RB: Speaking of children and the changing of the guard with students in the way in which there are learners ─ and very different than when you and I were growing up. We’re shifting from the consumer model to a creator piece from the student side of it, and I’m finding that what’s interesting is: How do we support teachers so that they are feeling up-to-date on how to interact with students who are now creators utilizing technology that allows them to take ownership of their learning?

How do you look at that?

JKS: We look at that in a variety of ways. We want our teachers to feel supported in taking those next steps to make changes and shifts in educational practice. We look at programs because, often, those programs will help teachers to move and help students to move.

With the implementation of Project Lead the Way in kinder through twelfth grade in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, that’s just a great way to get some of the teaching and learning modules in the classrooms; and teachers are able to learn right in their job-embedded setting and to say to themselves, “I love this. I want more of this. How do I apply this practice to other parts of my day?”

Another way that we look at it is through those individual partnerships.

We have a number of scientists at the University of Michigan who will come over and really do “ real world” with our kids.

 
There’s a great area called “Woven Wind, ” and they’ve helped us with wind turbines. They’re coming in and supporting that teacher and giving real-world applications

RB: You know, you’re going to make it. A lot of people are going to want to move to Ann Arbor now.

JKS: It’s a great place to be. And we really do benefit from those connections.

RB: Let’s talk about those connections and then communicating those connections out when it comes to students taking ownership of their learning and our ability to now document in a way that is both supportive and technologically based. How do you ─ in Ann Arbor ─ look at communicating that sort of daily dialogue of what students are doing that supports them? How do you see that

JKS: It is a challenge for children, teachers, and parents to stay right on the progress that students are making; and not all progress is immediately measurable.

It’s often in those moments that you catch a child doing or saying something and it’s like, “Where did you learn that?” and then you realize, “We really are making a difference in shifting what goes on between the ears and how kids think and interact.

But I think one of the most visible ways that I see is children working collaboratively.

I remember rows of chairs all facing the teacher.

RB: I do, too.

JKS: Our classrooms don’t look like that now. Our students are learning from each other as much as they’re learning from the teacher. And then, there is the third wall of the classroom - whether it’s on the Internet or it’s a program students are able to become owners of their own learning and their own learning is a real-world application.

So when they’re working with Woven Wind at the University of Michigan to erect a wind turbine that heats the chicken coop that they’ve designed where the chickens are laying eggs, nd they’re watching the chicks hatch, it’s all real.

RB: Learning becomes alive

 JKS: Oh, yes! The students’ level of engagement just goes through the roof. It’s a very different world from what I’ve experienced.

RB: One of the things I’m seeing in relation to technology are complaints from districts that technology companies are developing for the higher grades and that we have yet to fully mature in our ability to look at the younger grades - K to 8, specifically. How do we give technology that is built for them but also supportive of that learning over time, so it’s a path not only for the student but for the teacher.

How do you look at that in the decisions you make at a district level? How do you choose technologies to purchase or review that are actually conducive to the different levels?

JKS: A couple of things: One is that we do start our children early on technology in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. It was not long ago that I was with kindergarteners who had used their iPads to create videos.

RB: They’re on YouTube now.

JKS: Yes, that came alive. When you touch one of their drawings, the video would pop up. They’re learning from the very earliest days of school.

But the second thing I would point out is that we do have them in a developmental progressive model. From pre-K through 12, our commitment is that technology will serve the learning and not the other way around.

It’s very important to us that technologies support and enhance that learning, not stand in the place of person-to-person learning.

We’re very specific and careful.

For example, I was with pre-schools students not long ago and they were studying invisible forces; and, at first, I was like, “Really? How could they do this?”

I went with them through the centers and, one, they were painting water on the sidewalk with thick paint brushes and watching the wetness go away through evaporation.

And they moved over to the fan and the windsocks that they created that day and watched the windsock go in the air.

We have three and four year olds getting their brains around very high-level concepts and not a computer in sight.

In the Ann Arbor Public Schools, we really want to look at ways in engagement and ways of learning without necessarily always having a device in our hand.

The devices are there to serve us when it lifts the learning, not to stand in place of this relationship and collaboration in critical thinking.

RB: Jeanice, let’s close with this. How has the role of a superintendent ─ in your perspective ─ changed?

I think there are a lot of misnomers about who and what a superintendent is, what they do and their role in the community. And I think it’s changed for the better.

JKS: It has.

RB: How do you look at it now as a community member and not as a superintendent? How do you think about the role?

JKS: I think about the role with some C’s: One is collaboration - the idea that most of my work is to figure out what’s needed; connect ─ that’s another C ─ the resources and get out of the way so that really talented folks in my system and in my community get after this work and support children.

It is about community; that’s the other C-word that I would offer. We’re about connecting community to the excellent work of K-12 public schools and lifting that narrative.

This is the cornerstone of our democracy ─ free and quality public schools. It is a great cross world where all students meet regardless of their zip code, their socio-economic ethnicity, race, religion, position of parents ─ you name it.

They all connect inside the classrooms of the Ann Arbor Public Schools ─ classrooms where we see those opportunities to really lift all students.

RB: I would add E for energy. Your energy is infectious and they are lucky to have you, Jeanice. It’s such a pleasure.

JKS: Thank you, Rod. It’s great to meet you and to chat with you.

RB: Thank you.

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post by Dr. Rod Berger

Snip20170328_17About Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift: Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift is the superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools. She was appointed to the position in 2013. Before joining the district, she was the assistant superintendent of the Colorado Springs School District. She has worked in education for over 25 years in various roles such as teacher, coach, principal and district administrator.

Swift obtained a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Texas-Arlington. She went on to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Colorado and a doctorate degree in educational leadership from the University of Denver.

Follow Jeanice Kerr Swift on Twitter

Dr. Rod Berger, a respected leader in education communications, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten and others.
 
Follow Dr. Rod Berger on Twitter

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post by Dr. Rod Berger

 

Children Self-Managed Reading that Promotes Literacy

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I sat down with Suren Markosian, CEO, and co-founder of Epic! the next generation children’s digital media company, to discuss the success of creating an app company that is furthering literacy in children. Markosian's background in game development witnessed how children’s interest can change almost instantaneously, and he wanted to bring that similar immediacy to the world of reading.

Epic! has become one of the most popular apps in kids and education categories because of its unique ability to provide quick, streamable literature that is controlled by kids. There is a read-to-me feature that provides an audio reading experience to enhance early learners, as well as, quizzes that help educators provide assessment and learning while remaining fun for students.

Kids use technology, and they like engaging in games. The efforts of companies like Epic! bring a melding of education with entertaining technology. It's comforting to see that there are people like Markosian who choose to dedicate their entrepreneurial creativity to developing technology that benefits learning.

Interview

SurenAbout Suren Markosian (Co-Founder, Epic!)

Suren is the CEO and co-founder of Epic!, the next generation children’s digital media company. He is a successful, serial entrepreneur and founder of several consumer technology companies with several successful exits, including CrowdStar, which rose to become one of the largest social gaming companies with over 200M users, second only to Zynga. Among other companies Suren also founded List.am – the largest e-commerce company and the largest online destination and business in Armenia.

Having created and successfully scaled large consumer businesses to serve hundreds of millions of customers, Suren is an expert in product design, gamification, technology, scalability, consumer growth, and marketing. Suren holds a degree in Physics from Vienna University of Technology and fluently speaks German, Russian and Armenian.

About Epic!

Founded in 2014 and based in Redwood City, CA, Epic! is a premium content and learning platform for kids 12 and under and 2016 recipient of the American Association of School Librarians’ Best App for Teaching and Learning and Best Website for Teaching and Learning. Epic! offers more than 20,000 e-books from leading publishers such as HarperCollins, Macmillan, Candlewick and National Geographic, and more than 1,500 educational videos from providers including Smithsonian Enterprises, Encyclopedia Britannica, the Columbus Zoo and many others.

Every piece of content on Epic’s platform is selected by a team of children’s content experts, and the company’s personal recommendation algorithms help kids discover new books and topics they will love. Epic! was founded by Suren Markosian, founder of several successful technology startups, and Kevin Donahue, former YouTube, Google and Disney executive, with the support of top-tier investors and veterans of the children’s publishing industry. To learn more about Epic!, visit http://www.getepic.com, or follow Epic! on Facebook and Twitter.

Dr. Rod Berger, a respected leader in education communications, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten and others.

Inviting the Community into the Classroom for Improved Achievement

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The following is an interview with Gail Pletnick Superintendent of Dysart Unified School District, a large district in Maricopa County in South Central Arizona. Gail is the President-Elect of The School Superintendents Association (AASA). The transcript portion was originally written for The Huffington Post. I've gone ahead and added the audio recording here on Scholastic. Enjoy.

Interview

Rod Berger: Well, Gail, I’m looking forward to this conversation. I get to speak to a lot of leaders in education, and your resume is very, very impressive and significant in this space - what you’re doing not only in your district and being a part of the League of Innovative Schools, but also with the AASA and now, the President-elect.
 
I can imagine that you have a lot on your plate. How do you balance all of that from a leadership perspective, especially now that people are looking to you for guidance, even the stewardship of education when we’re talking about bringing together superintendents that have a strong voice?
 
Gail Pletnick: I consider it a privilege to have this opportunity to network with leaders from across the United States. We’ve been engaged in this work for almost a decade here at Dysart. We’ve been on this journey of being a part of AASA and the League. We’ve had the opportunity to work with EdLeader21 and some other organizations, which provided a lot of support to the district and it also, in turn, gives me the opportunity to share what we’re doing and help others.
 
It’s about doing hard work every day. We get everything done for our students. We’ve been given opportunities to share our work and bring great minds together as we continue to move forward.
 
RB: Gail, I know a big part of what you’re doing in your district is integrating high school students with the local community. Talk with me a little bit about the real world challenges and the impetus behind programs that do that. I’m very fascinated in ways that we can provide real-world experiences for students. It goes to the larger benefit of what we’re trying to do as adults and connecting them to the world that they inhabit already.
 
GP: Absolutely. When we started down this path, it wasn’t about having a single program or initiative. It was about making certain that every student has the opportunities to prepare for the challenges and opportunities when they left our school. We’re very serious about saying students need to be career, college, and life ready as graduates.
 
That led us again to a number of different options and opportunities that we wanted to provide for our students, one of which is internships. It allows students to have real-life work experience and we’re very fortunate here. In our community, we have a number of retirement communities that are part of our city. These are experts that have a lifetime of expertise, and they provide resources for us so that our students can get their hands into the pathways they want to pursue.
 
It gives the students an opportunity to find out what that world of work is going to look like. It’s much more than the knowledge that we’re providing in the classroom. We understand that you have to have a strong core knowledge. But, what about work skills, people used to call them soft skills or perhaps 21st-century skills?
 
RB: Yes, they did.
 
GP: We’re living in the 21st century, and these students have to be prepared to utilize those skills, whether they go into a post-secondary opportunity or whether they’re going to walk right into a career. We go one step ahead and provide internships. We have learning experiences where students go out and visit the various workplaces. We also have our volunteers coming in and working side by side with our students. A perfect example would be our automotive program, a CTE program that we have. Retirees who restore cars and then race them come and work with students on our campuses. In the past, they’ve restored a car that then was raced. What a great opportunity.
 
RB: I bet that was well received by the students.
 
GP: Yes, it was. It was so exciting, and students got to track the progress they made. It was a wonderful way to bring those opportunities to our students.
 
RB: Gail, I’m glad you brought up the integration of the community. It’s a unique opportunity that you have there with those different communities of individuals that you’re talking about. One of the things in education that I find interesting is how we find alternative ways to balance the playing field with funding and how we do that by incorporating the local community and the region where our districts are.
How have you done that within your district and how can we be more progressive in looking at ways to be more thoughtful with our funding? We only have so much funding per student in our district, and often, that does not meet the minimum requirements.
 
GP: Absolutely. One of the great ways for us to be able to provide opportunities is to have volunteers. We have thousands of hours of volunteer work in our school district. Whether it’s partnering with people to provide real life experiences, whether it is having the support of our community to come in and do some fundraising in our schools with our students. That fundraising means we can invest in the technology that we need. It may be in the form of when we go out for an initiative in our district such as an override, making certain our community understands what we contribute to its growth and the importance of having a collaborative relationship.
 
There are a number of ways that we reach out to our community; many volunteer in our district and provide the additional support that we need.
 
RB: Yes, they did.
 
GP: We’re living in the 21st century, and these students have to be prepared to utilize those skills, whether they go into a post-secondary opportunity or whether they’re going to walk right into a career. We go one step ahead and provide internships. We have learning experiences where students go out and visit the various workplaces. We also have our volunteers coming in and working side by side with our students. A perfect example would be our automotive program, a CTE program that we have. Retirees who restore cars and then race them come and work with students on our campuses. In the past, they’ve restored a car that then was raced. What a great opportunity.
 
RB: I bet that was well received by the students.
 
GP: Yes, it was. It was so exciting, and students got to track the progress they made. It was a wonderful way to bring those opportunities to our students.
 
RB: Gail, I’m glad you brought up the integration of the community. It’s a unique opportunity that you have there with those different communities of individuals that you’re talking about. One of the things in education that I find interesting is how we find alternative ways to balance the playing field with funding and how we do that by incorporating the local community and the region where our districts are.
How have you done that within your district and how can we be more progressive in looking at ways to be more thoughtful with our funding? We only have so much funding per student in our district, and often, that does not meet the minimum requirements.
 
GP: Absolutely. One of the great ways for us to be able to provide opportunities is to have volunteers. We have thousands of hours of volunteer work in our school district. Whether it’s partnering with people to provide real life experiences, whether it is having the support of our community to come in and do some fundraising in our schools with our students. That fundraising means we can invest in the technology that we need. It may be in the form of when we go out for an initiative in our district such as an override, making certain our community understands what we contribute to its growth and the importance of having a collaborative relationship.
 
There are a number of ways that we reach out to our community; many volunteer in our district and provide the additional support that we need.
 
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RB: Speaking of a community, a lot of superintendents are talking about new ways to communicate with the community - specifically parents - in ways that we can build a better relationship that schools and parents used to have.
 
How are you looking at that, especially being in a position of leadership as a lighthouse district, to lead change in this crucial area?
 
GP: Well, one of the things that we do is reach out and find out from our community how they want to be communicated with. There isn’t a one-size fit all for communicating with parents and constituent groups.
We’re trying to personalize learning for our students, so we really have to personalize our communication with our constituent groups. We utilize some of the traditional ways. We’ll communicate through traditional media, whether that’s the newspaper or announcements that we make. But, we’re also active on social platforms like Instagram.
 
The other thing that we have is the Dysart video library. What we’ve done is produce clips - sometimes as short as one minute - which provides a look at what’s happening in our classrooms, with our programs, and with our students. It’s a perfect way for our students’ voices to be heard and for the community to understand our impact because we’re supporting the success of each and every one of those students.
 
The other thing that we do is invite our community into our schools. We’ve done some bus tours where they actually come into the classrooms, watch what’s happening with our programs and get to eat lunch with the students. Who wouldn’t want an opportunity to have a cafeteria lunch! Those are ways, too, that we engage our community with what’s happening in our schools.
 
It’s amazing because often, we’ll hear from people that take those opportunities. They say it’s so different from what they experienced when they were in school. They’re just amazed by the kind of skills our students have and the things that they’re accomplishing. It’s a great way to build that understanding and reach out to the community.
 
RB: Gail, let’s change gears a little bit and talk about superintendents - the position of a superintendent and how that has evolved over time. How do you think that today’s superintendent is challenged in ways that maybe they weren’t in the past? How does that impact those that we should be looking towards for future positions as superintendents?
 
GP: I have been in this business for about 40 years. I have seen a great deal of change, especially in the past decade or so. I think it’s representative of what’s happening in our world right now.
 
One of the challenges is about communication. There are so many avenues that we have and making certain that you have transparency. That you are able to provide accurate information, and when something is happening people have the expectation that they’re going to know immediately.
 
That can be a true challenge because we always want to make sure when we’re communicating something out, we have all of the facts, and we’re not putting something out that could really generate rumors or concerns. That’s a challenge that we’ve been working on and working with our community to try to build that understanding of what they can expect from us and when they can expect it.
 
Also, the resources. It used to be that you could buy a textbook and it was in place for 5 to 10 years.
 
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RB: Mark it off the list, right?
 
GP: Yes. The resources were there, and the worst that would happen is someone’s dog would chew up the cover and then you’d have to replace it. But other than that they were reliable for an extended period. Of course, that’s not the case now.
 
RB: Right.
 
GP: Now, we have to be able to provide students with experiences that are real and relevant. That means having tools that are being utilized in the real world of work or post-secondary opportunity. That’s another challenge, just making certain that we have the resources we need.
 
I wish we all had a crystal ball so that we would know what the world was going to look like in that next decade, but we don’t.
 
RB: It’s not on your desk there, Gail?
 
GP: I’ve been trying to buy one! I thought Amazon had everything but apparently not the crystal ball, that isn’t there!
What we have to do is be certain that we’re constantly looking at changes that are there and that the skills and the knowledge that students need to be successful are things that we are adopting. I talk about this all the time; we aren’t trying to revolutionize education. It’s not that we’re trying to throw out a system that’s broken - it’s not broken. It needs to transform because our world is transforming. We need to constantly be looking at data, looking at trends and making the adjustments that we need to make. It seems that we’re on a much faster pace than we’ve ever been before.
 
RB: Let’s close with this, Gail. Whether you’re talking to pre-service educators or those that are contemplating going into the education field, what is something that when you walk into a classroom or you get off the phone with a parent that you smile to yourself and say, “This is why this is so exciting!” Aside from the negative – this is just rhetoric that we hear in popular media that there are amazing people, there’s amazing progress being made. What is something that you would point to as a reflection of a potential talent that might be filling in these positions like we were talking about earlier?
 
GP: I think every time I walk into the classroom, whether it’s one of our preschool classes or whether it’s one of our 12th-grade courses, I know that we’re making a difference in the lives of children. That’s why we want to do what we’re doing. We need to make these changes because we’re providing students with opportunities that will be there for a lifetime. I do this because I’m passionate. I’m one of those examples of what happens when you have caring individuals working as hard as they can everyday so that you can learn and grow as an individual.
 
RB: It’s been a great pleasure to get to know you, Gail. I wish you continued success, and I applaud your ongoing efforts to impact students all the way through the leadership ranks. It was a great pleasure. Thanks, Gail.
 
GP: Thank you so much.
 
RB: You’re welcome. Once again, I’m Dr. Rod Berger.
 
Snip20170208_165Gail Pletnick is President of The School Superintendents Association (AASA), as well as, superintendent of Dysart Unified School District 89 in Surprise, Arizona. Gail was awarded the 2016 Arizona Superintendent of the Year and is a member of AASA’s digital and personal learning consortia. Pletnick is focused on reshaping the national public education agenda and empowering district leaders through advocacy, networking, and PD. Pletnick has been a member of AASA’s governing structure since 2008 and has served on the organization’s executive committee since 2013. She has also been a member of the Arizona School Administrators Association since 2002. Follow Dr. Gail Pletnick on Twitter
 
Dr. Rod Berger, a respected leader in education communications, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten and others.
Follow Dr. Rod Berger on Twitter
 

Mirrors of Society: Technology in Schools

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“Technology in itself is not the solution. Technology helps us mirror what is happening in society.” - Dr. Rosa S. Atkins

I sat down with Dr. Rosa Atkins, a finalist of the American Association of School (AASA) Women in School Leadership Award, to learn about her role as Superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, a division of more than 4,000 economically, ethnically, and racially diverse students.  Dr. Atkins emphasizes the importance of community, and how each member of a school district plays an equally important role in developing the educational and economic future of students.

Dr. Atkins takes pride in personally meeting with teachers in her district to not only mentor but help give educators confidence to take on leadership independently. It's the opinion of Atkins' that a superintendent's legacy is built on the strength and independent moxie of the teachers in the district. A core group of great teachers is the finest way to improve young people's lives.

The League of Innovative Schools has honored Charlotte City Schools with their distinction. Dr. Atkins is excited to be part of a network of like-minded progressive schools that share curriculum ideas and innovations to prepare students for a technological workforce that is advancing in skillsets. Atkins is proud of the League's recent promotion of E-rate programs that help schools throughout the country gain access to the highest level bandwidth allowing for the best use of technology. According to Dr. Atkins, what is the use of acquiring advanced technological hardware without sufficient infrastructure?

About Dr. Rosa S. Atkins

Snip20170207_162Dr. Rosa Atkins is Superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, a division of more than 4,000 economically, ethnically, and racially diverse students in nine schools. During Dr. Atkins’ tenure, Charlottesville City Schools has become one of the top performing school divisions in the state with a graduation completion index of 89% and one of the best Advanced Placement programs in the area. In 2011, she was named Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, as well as Virginia State University Alumnus of the Year for Professional Education.

In 2015-16, she served as President of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. Under her leadership, Charlottesville schools have been marked by innovation and collaboration. The creation of advanced manufacturing and engineering labs at Buford Middle School and Charlottesville High School – as well as new curricula and engineering pathways – have been made possible by a partnership with area businesses, school divisions, and the University of Virginia. Because of this commitment to innovation, Dr. Atkins was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 100 Future Ready Superintendents in 2014 and was invited to the American Association of School Administrators’ Digital Consortium at the White House.

Follow Charlottesville City Schools on Twitter

About Dr. Rod Berger

Dr. Rod Berger is a global education media personality and strategic influencer featured in The Huffington Post, Scholastic, AmericanEdTV, edCircuit and now Forbes.
 
Audiences have enjoyed education interviews with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Sal Khan along with leading edtech investors, award-winning educators, and state and federal education leaders. Berger’s latest project boasts a collaboration with AmericanEdTV and CBS’s Jack Ford.
 

A Superintendent's Promotion of Public Speaking in Schools

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Teaching Students To Stand Up To The Mic 

I sat down with progressive-minded, Dr. David Miyashiro, Superintendent of Cajon Valley Union School District and ACSA 2016 Superintendent of the Year to discuss new advances for his district and discover more about his path to becoming a superintendent. Miyashiro mentions frustration above all else, as the motivating factor behind every career rung up the educational ladder. Action rather than excuses and a belief that things can be done better has inspired Miyashiro to think outside the box, reaching out to an international community of best practice educators, as well as, top CEOs of Business. Technology has allowed for far greater influence, and Miyashiro is a believer.

A few years ago, Miyashiro attended a tour of the Google campus and was forever changed. Google obsesses over the livelihood of people who work for them; they want their workers to have easy access to everyday needs, and they have developed their campus around that model. Miyashiro asked the question, "Why not do the same for schools?" Why not put the same efforts toward teachers and make schools the very best place to work?

As Miyashiro set out to change his district's approach, he found himself drawn to Ted Talks and the motto "The best ideas in the community to improve the human condition."  After watching a Ted Talk by the highly esteemed Sir Ken Robinson, Miyashiro was hooked and became so inspired that he made it his goal for the kids in his district to learn the value of public speaking to a global audience, not to fear the "stage" and learn about presentation. The results have been astounding with one of his 1st graders already being flown to Ted Talk headquarters in NY to help polish his talk, "Math is Everywhere." Miyashiro is undoubtedly an inspirational superintendent preparing kids for success in the future.

Full-Length Video of this Interview with Thought Leader -  Dr. David Miyashiro

Additional Video:

About Dr. David Miyashiro

Dr. David Miyashiro currently serves as Superintendent of The Cajon Valley Union School District. David was named 2016 Superintendent of the Year by ACSA (Association of California School Administrators), Region 18. Cajon Valley has undergone a seamless transition to the digital age. Through inclusive planning, design, and an iterative approach, Cajon Valley has achieved system-wide success with blended and personalized learning for all students.  Cajon Valley has been dubbed "One to Watch" by The Classroom of the Future Foundation and has earned both local and national recognition for its leadership in transforming public education.  In 2015, The Cajon Valley Union School District was inducted by Digital Promise into The League of Innovative Schools, a bipartisan nonprofit, authorized by Congress in 2008 as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies through Section 802 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush.  This distinction ranks Cajon Valley in the top 73 US school districts for innovation and digital learning.  David believes the role and impact of public educators go far beyond the classroom walls. "In order to keep pace with the rapidly changing world, our systems of public education both in California and the United States must be in a constant state of evolution.”
 
In the spirit of TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) and “Ideas Worth Spreading”, the Cajon Valley Union School District launched the first district-wide TEDx and TED Ed Club in the United States.  David was invited by the TED organization to the first cohort of TIES (TED Innovate Educators)  This partnership has allowed all students in Cajon Valley access to a robust and personalized curriculum designed by the TED ED team that empowers kids to learn how to give TED-like talks. Cajon Valley brings the entire community together at its’ annual TEDxKids@ElCajon to celebrate children and “Ideas Worth Spreading” that may in some way, shape, or form...improve the human condition.  One of the most prolific ideas Cajon Valley has brought to fruition is the district-wide partnerships with Code.Org and Code To The Future to bring Computer Science to all students in the Cajon Valley Union School District.  All student in Cajon Valley Schools engage with Code.Org and computer programming beginning in Kindergarten.  Cajon Valley has also launched the first K-5 Computer Science Magnet Schools in the US.
 
David formerly served as the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for the Encinitas Union School District. In this role he designed and implemented a one to one digital learning initiative as well as a comprehensive yoga-based health and wellness program. David served as a Principal in the Fullerton and East Whittier School Districts. There he led two Title I schools with challenging demographics successfully out of program improvement status with a combined API growth of over 240 points. David completed his doctoral studies at UCLA, Masters of Education at Grand Canyon University, and Bachelor’s Degree at Long Beach State University.
 
Follow David Miyashiro on Twitter

About Dr. Rod Berger

Dr. Rod Berger is a global education media personality and strategic influencer featured in The Huffington Post, Scholastic, AmericanEdTV, edCircuit and now Forbes.
 
Audiences have enjoyed education interviews with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Sal Khan along with leading edtech investors, award-winning educators, and state and federal education leaders. Berger’s latest project boasts a collaboration with AmericanEdTV and CBS’s Jack Ford.
 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Down the Hall are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.