Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Year in Review: Successful School Safety and Equity in School Discipline (Part II)


Putting Politics Aside to Protect our Kids—A Review of the Federal Commission’s School Safety Report

[CLICK HERE for the full Blog message]

Dear Colleagues,

Introduction

   Happy New Year !!!  I hope that everyone had a great Holiday. . . filled with relaxation, relatives, reflection, and renewal . . . especially as we now gear up for the rest of the school year.

   And so, as we turn to 2019, I decided to review some of the educational “themes” discussed in my Blogs during 2018.  I do this because I truly believe that, while imperfect, we can learn from history. . . avoiding the mistakes of the past, while building on the successes that can positively impact our future.

   Part I of this year-end “2018 Review” was posted during the week of Christmas.  I hope you had a chance to read it.  It was titled:

The School Year in Review:  Choosing High-Success Academic and Behavioral Strategies (Part I).  Committing to Educational Excellence by Learning from Hattie’s and SEL’s Limitations


   In that Blog, we discussed and analyzed the following themes:

  • Theme 1: Choosing High-Success Initiatives.  Here, we discussed the importance of schools doing their own science-to-research “due diligence” so that they adopt and implement defensible and high-probability-of-success initiatives and programs on behalf of their students and staff.

We also critically reviewed the research of John Hattie—detailing the strengths and limitations of meta-analytic studies, and emphasizing that schools cannot take Hattie’s effect sizes and move directly to implementation.  Indeed, because meta-analysis statistically pools many separate research studies together, these studies often have different methods, procedures, strategies, and implementation sequences. 

Thus, in reading Hattie’s different results, schools would not know exactly what to implement in any one area without critically evaluating the separate studies that were pooled together.

  • Theme 2: The Selling of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).  As a specific example of Theme 1, we encouraged schools to critically look at the history and foundation of the Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) “movement”—especially as led through the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). 

More specifically, schools need to understand the money and politics behind the CASEL movement, and recognize the serious flaws in the research that it often cites as the backbone of its practices. 

Our primary recommendation in this area is for schools to “step back” and reassess how to use more effective science-to-practice approaches to improve students’ social, emotional, and behavioral skills and self-management abilities.
_ _ _ _ _

   In today’s Part II, we will discuss and analyze the second set of 2018 themes:

  • Theme 3: Preventing School Shootings.  Here, we will encourage schools to go “Back to the Future” by reviewing past recommendations from previous years’ school shooting analyses when re-evaluating their current school safety systems and approaches.  Clearly, this is especially important given the rash of school shootings during 2018.

This discussion also will critically review—in the most depoliticized way possible—the Federal Commission on School Safety’s Final Report released less than four weeks ago on December 18, 2018.

  • Theme 4: School Discipline and Disproportionality.  Here, we will review the importance of proactive, scientifically-based, and multi-tiered school discipline approaches, as well as how to realistically, comprehensively, and pragmatically address the issue of disproportionality. . . especially with students of color and/or with disabilities.

This theme will discuss the implications of the U.S. Department of Education’s December 21, 2018 rescission of the Obama-era guidance aimed at reducing racial discrimination when students are disciplined.  This was done officially by Secretary DeVos just three days after the release of the Federal Commission on School Safety’s Final Report which included this in its recommendations.
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Theme 3:  Preventing School Shootings—Going Back to the Future

   During 2018, at the Kindergarten through Grade 12 levels, there were 24 school shootings with injuries or deaths.  Two elementary, four middle, and 18 high schools were involved.  Twenty-eight students and seven adults or school employees were killed.  And, 79 others were injured.

   The youngest victim was 14.  The oldest victim was 64.

   The shootings occurred from Alaska to California to Pennsylvania to Florida. . . and multiple states in between.  Of the 35 deaths, 27 combined lost their lives either at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, or at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

   Of the 13 shootings that occurred in schools during the school day, 10 had police officers or SROs assigned to their schools, and approximately 19,965 students were exposed to the violence.

   Thirteen of the 25 perpetrators were students themselves, 9 attended the school where the shooting occurred, and 19 of the known 21 shooters were male. 
_ _ _ _ _

   We mourned for those who lost their lives.  We pray for a return to health for the injured.  And we dedicate ourselves to taking the definitive actions needed to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

   Below are the 2018 Blogs written in this theme area. . . with their titles, dates of publication, and web-links to the original messages.

[CLICK on the Date below to link to the Original Blog]

February 24, 2018   School Shootings:  History Keeps Repeating Itself. . . What We Already Know, and What Schools, Staff, and Students Need to Do (Part I)

March 10, 2018   School Shootings, Comprehensive Prevention, Mandatory (Mental Health) Reporting, and Standardized Threat Assessments:  What Schools, Staff, and Students Need to Do, and the Help that They Need to Do It (Part II)

March 25, 2018   School Climate, Student Voice, On-Campus Shootings, and now Corporal Punishment???  Listening to Students—When They Make Sense; and Not Listening to Students—When They’re Ready to Kill (Part III)

September 8, 2018   Preventing School Shootings and Violence. . .  States Not Waiting for the Federal Commission on School Safety Report:  The Guidance You Need is Here and Available
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The Blog Take-Aways

   When writing the Blogs above, I took both an historical and an applied perspective.  The goal here is to prevent (or at least minimize) more school shooting fatalities and casualties, the broader impacts of any shootings that occur—as well as to prevent other incidents related more broadly to school violence.

   Significantly, I know the history.  And I have worked with schools in this area for over 35 years.

   Indeed, I was on the writing team for the Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools document that was commissioned and distributed nationwide by the U.S. Department of Education to every school in 1998 after the Jonesboro, Arkansas school shooting.

   Here are the brief Blog take-aways:

[CLICK HERE for the full Blog message that expands on this Theme’s key Take-Aways and provides details from additional, recent reports on the number of children and adolescents who die each year from gun-related incidents.]

  • Take-Away #1.  Virtually all of the recent school shooting re-analyses have confirmed what we have known for almost 15 years:  there is no single “profile” to predict a school shooter; the shooters had different motives—including some whose acts were random; many of the shooters had no diagnosed mental health issues; and there were “warning signs” in some, but not all, of the events.

Thus, the factors related to school shootings are complex, and the ways to prevent them must be layered and overlapping.

More specifically, districts need to balance the physical and technological “hardening” of their schools, with their social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health-related “softening.”  This latter area includes an increased focus on school safety and positive school climate, prosocial relationships and conflict prevention, classroom management and student engagement, and students’ social, emotional, and behavioral self-management.
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  • Take-Away #2.  After analyzing existing (largely state) gun control and related access laws—due to post-school-shooting calls for federal legislation—we concluded that the potential to successfully impact our nation’s laws in this area already exists... because many states have already passed significant, successful, and impactful legislation.

Critically—and non-politically—the goal is not to abolish individuals’ gun rights.  The goal is to control what weapons are available, to limit children and adolescents’  access to guns, and to improve the accountability to and protection of others.
_ _ _ _ _

  • Take-Away #3.  In addition to the points in Take-Away #2, two related recommendations were suggested:

*   We need to establish federal laws, similar to the existing child abuse laws nationwide, that require professionals and others to report individuals (including students) who are suspected of potentially committing school violence. 

*   We also need to develop and require, at the state or federal level, a standardized threat assessment for any individual reported as immediately above.
_ _ _ _ _
  • Take-Away #4.  Finally, in my September 8, 2018 Blog, I predicted that the forthcoming Federal Commission on School Safety Final Report would (a) reflect more of a political agenda than an objective school safety agenda; (b) not include any recommendations for gun control; (c) not break new ground relative to the school safety recommendations advanced; and (d) depend largely on frameworks or programs (e.g., PBIS) that have been historically funded and singularly promoted by the U.S. Department of Education—even though they have never demonstrated broad, data-based, and field-implemented success.
   Unfortunately, my September, 2018 predictions regarding the Commission’s Report largely came true.  What was surprising (but predictable) was that the Commission did not release its Report until December 18, 2018—at a time when most schools were closing for the Holiday break, and most news agencies were focused on other critical news events.
_ _ _ _ _

A Brief Analysis of the Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety. . . With Recommendations on What Schools Need to do Now

   The Federal Commission on School Safety consisted of four Cabinet Secretaries: Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education (chair); Matthew Whitaker, Acting Attorney General of the United States (replacing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions); Alex Azar, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Kirstjen M. Nielsen, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.

   Released on December 18, 2018, the Commission Report consists of 19 chapters, 180 pages, and 100 policy recommendations.  Significantly, with its focus on “local solutions for local problems,” the Report proposed no new federal money—especially for mental health services, and it leaves implementation largely up to states and school districts.

   Take-Aways.  An Education Week article published almost immediately after the Report’s release cited seven Take-Aways:
  • Take-Away #1.  The Commission wants school districts to take a hard look at arming "specially selected and trained" school staff.
  •  Take-Away #2.  There's not much in the report when it comes to restricting access to guns.
  • Take-Away #3.  The Commission has lots of love—but proposes no new money—for mental health services.
  • Take-Away #4.  The Commission wants districts to make schools "harder" targets.
  •  Take-Away #5.  It's mostly going to be up to states and school districts to implement these policies.  
  •  Take-Away #6.  The report contains a Christmas tree of recommendations on everything from cyberbullying to psychotropic drugs.
  • Take-Away #7.  As widely expected, the report recommends scrapping the Obama administration's discipline guidance that directly address disproportionality.
_ _ _ _ _

   Beyond this Education Week article, I have reviewed other analyses of the Commission’s Report, including those from a number of national educational publications and associations, respectively.  In general, virtually all of these analyses conclude that the Report (a) broke very little new ground, (b) passes the buck (no pun intended) to the states and the districts with no recommendations for new funding, and (c) completely ignored the issue of gun control.

   But rather than rehash a Report that disappointed most educators, I would like to do two things.  First, point you to the Report’s Appendix B which provides a well-organized summary of past findings and recommendations from key school safety reports.

   Second, I want to call your attention again to a section from my September 8, 2018 Blog which detailed the steps that schools and districts should take to create a Targeted Violence Protection Plan.

[CLICK HERE for the full Blog message that quotes the Learning First Alliance’s specific “take” on the Report, that provides an overview of Appendix B, and that details the most-essential information from my previous September 8, 2018 Blog.]
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Theme 4:  School Discipline and Disproportionality:  Research to Practice

   Many of my Blogs over the years have focused on helping districts and schools to establish and sustain sound and effective science-to-practice school discipline, classroom management, and student self-management approaches.  These approaches are essential to creating safe schools and classrooms, prosocial and collaborative student interactions, positive learning environments, and student engagement and achievement.

   But embedded in this process is the issue of the disproportionate rates of office discipline referrals and school suspensions experienced by students of color and those with disabilities.

   Indeed, the most-recent federal data on student discipline (from the 2015-2016 school year) shows that, while approximately 2.7 million students were suspended at least once during that year (about 100,000 fewer than during the 2013-2014 school year), the racial disparity gap in discipline referrals did not close.

   More specifically, during the 2015-2016 school year, African-American boys and girls each made up just 8% of enrolled students.  Nonetheless, African-American boys made up 25% of all students suspended at least once, and African-American girls accounted for 14% of the total.
_ _ _ _ _

   Numerous Blogs addressed all of these issues during 2018.  Below are their titles, dates of publication, and web-links to the original message.

 [CLICK on the Date below to link to the Original Blog]

April 15, 2018    New Federal Government Report Finds that Disproportionate School Discipline Actions Persist with Black, Male, and Special Education Students:  Manipulating Policy, Buying Programs, and Following Federally-Funded Technical Assistance Centers Do Not Work (Part I)

May 5, 2018    Decreasing Disproportionate School Discipline Actions with Black, Male, and Special Education Students:  A Roadmap to Success.  Taking a Hard Look at Our Practices, Our Interactions, and Ourselves (Part II)

May 23, 2018   Solving the Disproportionate School Discipline Referral Dilemma:  When will Districts and Schools Commit to the Long-term Solutions?  There are No Silver Bullets—Only Science to Preparation to Implementation to Evaluation to Celebration (Part III)

July 7, 2018    Elementary School Principals’ Biggest Concern:  Addressing Students’ Behavior and Emotional Problems.  The Solution? Project ACHIEVE’s Multi-Tiered, Evidence-Based Roadmap to Success

August 18, 2018   Students’ Mental Health Status, and School Safety, Discipline, and Disproportionality:  An Anthology of Previous Blogs.  Integrating Successful Research-to-Practice Strategies into the New School Year  (Part II of II)

September 22, 2018  The U.S. Department of Education Wants to “Rethink Special Education,” But Is It Willing to Look at Itself First?  The Department Needs to Change at the “Top” in Order to Successfully Impact the “Bottom”
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The Take-Aways

   If anything, the disproportionality issue has become more complex during the past few weeks. 

   Despite calls by national education associations, organizations, experts, and others to “leave things alone,” the Federal Commission on School Safety Report recommended that the U.S. Department of Education and Justice’s joint guidance, crafted during the Obama administration, on the disproportionate discipline rates for students of color and with disabilities be rescinded.

   And—not surprisingly—even though this recommendation had virtually nothing to do with the primary mission of the Commission, this recommendation was enacted by Secretary of Education DeVos (who chaired the Commission) on December 21, 2018. . .just three days after the release of the Commission’s Report.

   By way of history, this guidance was released in 2014 as a Dear Colleague letter that—according to a December 5, 2018 article by Mark Keierleber of the74million.org:

“. . . put districts that disciplined students of color and those with disabilities disproportionately on notice that they could be in violation of federal civil rights laws. The letter targeted discipline policies that didn’t explicitly mention race but had ‘a disproportionate and unjustified effect on students of a particular race.’

While acknowledging that a range of factors contribute to racial disparities in discipline, the Obama administration said the differences couldn’t be explained by more frequent or serious misbehavior among students of color, adding that ‘unexplained racial disparities in student discipline give rise to concerns that schools may be engaging in racial discrimination.’”

   But. . . despite the current Administration’s rescinding of this Guidance, the disproportionality issue does not really have to become more complex. 

   This is because most states and districts nationwide have been working hard (albeit not quite successfully—see the 2015-2016 school year data above) to address this issue since even before 2014. 

   And so, the question is, “What if these states and districts simply ignored DeVos’ action, and continued working to close the disproportionality gap?”

   Indeed, I just don’t see states and districts nationwide using the rescission of this Guidance as “permission” to treat different students in inequitable ways.

   At the same time, we have got to do better in closing the disproportionality gap.  Below, we summarize the most important Take-Aways in this area from the above-cited 2018 Blogs.
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Why Disproportionality Outcomes Haven’t Changed

   In our April 15, 2018 Blog, we reviewed six primary flaws to explain why most of the disproportionality “efforts” in our schools have not worked to date:

Flaw #1.  Legislatures (and other “leaders”) are trying to change practices through policies.

Flaw #2.  State Departments of Education (and other “leaders”) are promoting one-size-fits-all programs with “scientific” foundations that do not exist or are flawed.

Flaw #3.  Districts and schools are implementing disproportionality “solutions” (Frameworks) that target conceptual constructs rather than teaching social, emotional, and behavioral skills. 

Flaw #4. Districts and Schools are not recognizing that Classroom Management and Teacher Training, Supervision, and Evaluation are Keys to Decreasing Disproportionality.

Flaw #5.  Schools and Staff are trying to motivate students to change their behavior when they have not learned, mastered, or cannot apply the social, emotional, and behavioral skills needed to succeed.

Flaw #6.  Districts, Schools, and Staff do not have the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to implement the multi-tiered (prevention, strategic intervention, intensive need/crisis management) social, emotional, and/or behavioral services, supports, and interventions needed by students.

[CLICK HERE for the Original Blog message]

   By understanding these flaws, we encouraged districts and schools to evaluate their current school and schooling outcomes, as well as their school discipline and classroom management practices—especially with students of color and with disabilities (SWDs).

   Our ultimate point then was:

During the past ten-plus years of trying to systemically decrease disproportionality in schools, we have not comprehensively and objectively identified the root causes of the students’ challenging behaviors, and we have not linked these root causes to strategically-applied multi-tiered science-to-practice strategies and interventions that are effectively and equitably used by teachers and administrators. 

Moreover, we have not comprehensively and objectively identified and addressed the root causes of staff members’ interactions and reactions with African-American students, boys, and students with disabilities. . . reactions that, at times, are the reasons for some disproportionate Office Discipline Referrals.

And, we have not comprehensively and objectively identified and addressed the root causes of administrators’ disproportionate decisions with these students as they relate to suspensions, expulsions, law enforcement involvement, and referrals to alternative school programs.
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Solving the Disproportionality Dilemma

   We continued the discussion by emphasizing that—in order to establish effective, multi-tiered systems that address disproportionality—schools need to strategically implement effective school discipline, classroom management, and student self-management systems, strategies, and (as needed) strategic and intensive interventions.  We then reviewed the five interdependent, science-to-practice components needed to accomplish this task.

   These components involve services, supports, strategies, and interventions that establish:

   * Positive Relationships and School/Classroom Climate
   * Positive Behavioral Expectations and Skills Instruction
   * Student Motivation and Accountability
   * Consistency
   * Implementation and Application Across All Settings and All Peer Groups

   Although the goal is the same for all students, the ultimate goal here is for students of color and with disabilities to learn, master, and be able to apply—from preschool through high school—social, emotional, and behavioral self-management skills.  More specifically, these involve interpersonal, social problem-solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and emotional control and coping skills. 

   But all of this must be accomplished in a systemic way. 

   That’s where the Commission seems to have missed the boat. 

   In an Appendix to the 2014 Dear Colleague letter (“Recommendations for School Districts, Administrators, Teachers, and Staff”), the U.S. Department of Education provided a very sound blueprint for districts and schools in how to strategically evaluate and “personalize” their approaches to address disproportionality.

[CLICK HERE to see a detailed outline of this Appendix in the Original Blog message]
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Summary

   As we enter 2019, we hope that our Blog discussions during 2018 will help you to be more successful at the student, staff, school, and systems level.  While some of the four themes (especially those related to school shootings) will hopefully fade into the past, virtually all of the themes are continually present in our everyday lives as educators.

   Once again, we discussed and analyzed the following themes during Parts I and II of these “Review of 2018” Blogs:
  • Theme 1: Choosing High-Success Initiatives.  Here, we discussed the importance of schools doing their own science-to-research “due diligence” so that they adopt and implement defensible and high-probability-of-success initiatives and programs on behalf of their students and staff.
  • Theme 2: The Selling of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).  As a specific example of the Theme above, we encouraged schools to critically look at the history and foundation of the CASEL/SEL movement, and to “step back” and reassess how to use more effective science-to-practice approaches to improve students’ social, emotional, and behavioral skills and self-management abilities.
  • Theme 3: Preventing School Shootings.  Here, we encouraged schools to go “Back to the Future” by reviewing past recommendations from previous years’ school shooting analyses when re-evaluating their current school safety systems and approaches. 
  • Theme 4: School Discipline and Disproportionality.  Here, we reviewed the importance of proactive, scientifically-based, and multi-tiered school discipline approaches, as well as how to realistically, comprehensively, and pragmatically address the issue of disproportionality.
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   As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments.  I am always available to provide a free hour of telephone consultation to those who want to discuss their own students, school, or district needs.  Feel free to contact me at any time if there is anything that I can do to support your work.

   And. . . . HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!

Best,

Howie

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The School Year in Review: Choosing High-Success Academic and Behavioral Strategies (Part I)


Committing to Educational Excellence by Learning from Hattie’s and SEL’s Limitations

[CLICK HERE for the full Blog message]

Dear Colleagues,

Introduction

   The holidays. . . the New Year. . . a time of reflection. . . a time of hope and joy and renewal.

   I would love to say I am feeling nostalgic.  But. . . I’m not.

   On a professional level, I’m dismayed.  I’m disappointed.  I’m determined.  And I know there is a lot of work to do to improve our schools in 2019.
_ _ _ _ _

   In preparing this piece, I read through all of the Blogs that I wrote this year.  I did this to “Review 2018” because—when you are preparing and writing two major messages each month, while maintaining a national consulting business (with almost 200 days per year “on the road”)—you tend to lose sight of what happened in January. . . never mind September or October.

   My Blog review revealed the following themes:

  • Theme 1: Choosing High-Success Initiatives.  Here, we discussed the importance of schools doing their own science-to-research “due diligence” so that they adopt and implement defensible and high-probability-of-success initiatives and programs on behalf of their students and staff.

We also critically reviewed the research of John Hattie—detailing the strengths and limitations of meta-analytic studies, and emphasizing that schools cannot take Hattie’s effect sizes and move directly to implementation.  Indeed, because meta-analysis pools many separate research studies together, these studies often have different methods, procedures, strategies, and implementation sequences. 

Thus, schools would not know exactly what to implement without critically evaluating the separate studies.

  • Theme 2: The Selling of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).  As a specific example of the Theme above, we encouraged schools to critically look at the history and foundation of the Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) “movement” (including “mindfulness” practices) so that they understand its political history and motivation, recognize the flaws in its research and practice, and “step back” to reassess how to effectively improve students’ social, emotional, and behavioral skills and self-management abilities.
  • Theme 3: Preventing School Shootings.  Here, we suggested that schools need to go “Back to the Future” by reviewing past recommendations from previous years’ school shooting analyses. . . when re-evaluating their current school safety systems and approaches.  Clearly, this is especially important given the rash of school shootings during 2018.
  • Theme 4: School Discipline and Disproportionality.  Here, we reviewed the importance of proactive, scientifically-based, and multi-tiered school discipline approaches, as well as how to realistically, comprehensively, and pragmatically address the issue of disproportionality.
 _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Theme 1:  Choosing High-Success School Initiatives

   My very first Blog this year (January 13, 2018) focused on what we know about school improvement—based on evaluations from the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) years, and what districts and schools need to know about school improvement—from the science-to-practice approaches embedded in strategic planning.

   From an NCLB perspective, published studies consistently conclude that there are lots of school improvement strategies, but most educators do not know how to comprehensively analyze their school’s current strengths, weaknesses, and gaps so that they can strategically and systematically implement the most effective and efficient strategies that will build their school’s capacity—resulting in sustained student outcomes.

   We added a critical point to this first conclusion—that school improvement is contextual. 

   That is, some schools want to go from “great to greater.”  Some schools from “good to great.”  And some schools need to go from a Targeted or Comprehensive Support and Improvement level, respectfully, to a point where they are simply providing a consistent, foundationally sound level of good instruction.

   In addition, we emphasized that, in order for continuous school improvement and (especially) school turn-around to succeed, it needs to be done at each involved school and district site using coordinated and sustained activities that include: 

  • Ongoing local needs assessments and strategic planning science-to-practice processes; 
  • Local resource analyses and capacity-strengthening science-to-practice processes; and
  • Local and on-site organizational, staff development, consultation, and technical assistance science-to-practice processes.

   These “keys to success” clearly require professionals both employed at each school site, and in- or out-of-district consultants—all with the shared ability to use the strategic planning processes cited above to select the best services, supports, strategies, and interventions at the district, school, staff, and student levels to facilitate ongoing and sustained success.
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   Below are the 2018 Blogs written in this theme area. . . with their titles, dates of publication, and web-links to the original message.

[CLICK on the Date below to link to the Original Blog]

January 13, 2018    Every School is in “School Improvement” Every Year:  Preparing for ESEA/ESSA–What Effective Schools Do to Continuously Improve . . . and What Ineffective Schools Need to do to Significantly Improve [Part I of II]

January 28, 2018   How Strategic Planning and Organizational Development is Done by Every School . . . Every Year:  An Introduction to Successful School-based Strategic Planning Science-to-Practice [Part II of II]

June 26, 2018   Learning from Another Gates Failure:  It’s Not Just the Money–It’s What You Accomplish with It.  How to Spend ESEA’s Title IV Money Wisely

July 21, 2018    Hattie Haters and Lovers:  Both Still Miss the Effective Implementation that Practitioners Need.  Critical Questions to Ask your “Hattie Consultant” Before You Sign the Contract

August 4, 2018   School Improvement, Strategic Planning, ESEA, and Multi-Tiered Services:  An Anthology of Previous Blogs.  Integrating Successful Research-to-Practice Strategies into the New School Year (Part I of II)

November 25, 2018  It’s Not Too Late to Change: The School Year’s Not Even Half Over.  Why Schools Fail to Act When their Students Fail

December 8, 2018  Reconsidering What Effective High Schools Do, and What Failing High Schools Miss:  Credit Recovery Programs Should be Strategic, Selective, Student-Focused, and Not the Only Game in Town
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The Take-Aways

   Relative to continuous school improvement and—especially— improvement at the Targeted or Comprehensive Support and Improvement levels, respectfully, our Blogs looked at recent national reports and other valid and previously-established science-to-practice strategies that create a blueprint for school planning and effectiveness.

Our School Improvement Blueprint included the following components:

   School Vision
      Establish and Communicate a Clear Vision
      Help Staff Understand and Embrace the Need for Change

   Improvement Goals
      Prioritize Goals and Focus Areas
      Make Action Plans Based on Data
      Identify and Achieve a Few Early Wins
      Reduce Time Focused on Nonessentials

   Data-based Decision-Making
      Establish the Expectations for a Data Culture
      Adjust Instructional Practice through Visible Data
      Use Data Continually to Solve Problems   

   Establishing a Culture of Change
      Focus on Successful Tactics, Discontinue Unsuccessful Ones
      Break Rules and Norms, Take New Action
      Change Systems and Structures

   Effective Teachers and Leaders
      Make Necessary Replacements
      Attract, Select, and Retain Top Talent
      Build and Lead a Team of Leaders
      Ensure Ongoing Professional Growth Opportunities

   Instructional Excellence
      Align Instruction to Assessments and Standards
      Monitor and Improve Instructional Quality
      Develop and Deploy a Team of Instructional Leaders

   Strategic Partnerships
      Gain Support of Key Influencers
      Enlist Partner Organizations
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   Critically, and as emphasized above, this blueprint should not be used as a static, one-size-fits-all menu.  Instead, needs and status assessments, resource analyses and coordination, and strategic planning and organizational development strategies are required to individualize the process for each district and school.

   For districts or schools in significant need of improvement, two questions are essential here:
  • With all that a school in improvement status needs to do, which of the possible strategies are the immediate, high-hit strategies that will begin the improvement process in a timely way? 
  • Once these high-hit strategies are identified; exactly what is the training, who and where are the targets; and what are the resources, implementation steps, and short- and long-term outcomes needed such that improvement begins, is established, and can be maintained over time?

[CLICK HERE for the full Blog message with the additional key Take-Aways from this Theme #1.]
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Theme 2:  The Selling of Social-Emotional Learning

   One of the most notable examples of Theme #1 above is the SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) movement as politically powered by CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). 

   While recognizing that most schools nationwide are doing “something” that they call “SEL,” this year’s Blog messages provided extensive information on (a) CASEL’s political and foundation-driven agenda, (b) the flaws and limitations in the research that it uses as a rationale for that agenda, and (c) the research-to-practice components of an SEL model that is focused on measurable and developmentally-sensitive multi-tiered social, emotional, and behavioral student skills.

   In the context of Theme #1, districts and schools are encouraged to take a “step back” off the SEL bandwagon, to critically review the research-to-practice multi-tiered components, and to reconfigure the strategies, resources, timelines, and training needed to effectively improve their student, staff, and school “return-on-investment.”

   Below are the 2018 Blogs written in this theme area. . . with their titles, dates of publication, and web-links to the original message.

 [CLICK on the Date below to link to the Original Blog]

February 10, 2018   The Folly and Frustration of Evaluating Schools and Staff Based on the Progress of Students with Significant Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Challenges: Understanding the Student, Home, and Community Factors that Impact Challenging Students

June 2, 2018  Making Mountains Out of Molehills:  Mindfulness and Growth Mindsets.  Critical Research Questions the Impact of Both

October 13, 2018  Social-Emotional Learning:  Education’s Newest Bandwagon . . . and the History of How We Got There (Part I).  Why Most Schools are not Implementing Scientifically-Sound Practices—Wasting Time and Resources

November 10, 2018  The SEL-ing of Social-Emotional Learning:  Education’s Newest Bandwagon. . . Science-to-Practice Goals, Flaws, and Cautions (Part II).  Why Schools Need to Re-Think, Re-Evaluate, Re-Load, and Re-Boot
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The Take-Aways

   All students need to learn and demonstrate—at an appropriate developmental level—effective interpersonal, social problem-solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and emotional control and coping skills.  In the classroom, these skills are essential to maximizing their academic engagement and achievement, as well as their ability to collaborate and learn in cooperative and project-based learning groups.

   The “Good News” is that this is increasingly recognized across our educational communities. 

   The “Bad News” is that many schools are targeting (often due to CASEL’s advocacy), SEL goals and targets that involve constructs (instead of skills and behaviors) that are open to interpretation (hence, they are unreliable) and, hence, that cannot be measured or measured validly.

   The additional “Bad News” is that “SEL” has been “validated” by the popular press . . . using testimonials, “research” that would be rejected by the Editorial Board of virtually any professional publication, and data that will never demonstrate a causal relationship between school-based activities and student-based outcomes.

[CLICK HERE for the full Blog message with the additional key Take-Aways from this Theme #1.]
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Summary

   Obviously, my primary goal in writing these Blogs is to help districts and schools to maximize the academic and social, emotional, and behavioral skills and competencies of all students. 

   In a multi-tiered context, this means that some students will need remediation, accommodation, and/or modification services, supports, and strategies when struggling academically or presenting with behavioral challenges.  In addition, other students will need strategic or intensive interventions as identified through data-based functional assessment problem-solving processes.

   But another goal is to add a science-to-practice perspective to some of the national reports, approaches, and beliefs that are published and accepted by others. . . sometimes without a full understanding of their history or implications, and sometimes based simply on the perceived “expertise” of the author or the organization sponsoring the work.

   Thus, a final goal is to help educators to “stop and think” and “take a step back” from the premature acceptance of a framework or program that either will not work with their students or will not work with any students.

   Time and resources are precious commodities.  When it comes to our students, staff, and schools, we all need to make sure that these commodities are used well, and that they have a high “return on investment.”  This means that—before implementation—we have validated that they have a high probability of success, that they can be and are implemented with integrity and the correct intensity, and that we are sensitively evaluating their short- and long-term outcomes.
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   In Part II (coming in approximately two weeks), we will discuss and analyze the second set of 2018 themes:
  • Theme 3: Preventing School Shootings.  Here, we will encourage schools to go “Back to the Future” by reviewing past recommendations from previous years’ school shooting analyses when re-evaluating their current school safety systems and approaches.  Clearly, this is especially important given the rash of school shootings during 2018.
This discussion also will critically review—in the most depoliticized way possible—the Federal Commission on School Safety’s Final Report released less than four weeks ago on December 18, 2018.

  • Theme 4: School Discipline and Disproportionality.  Here, we will review the importance of proactive, scientifically-based, and multi-tiered school discipline approaches, as well as how to realistically, comprehensively, and pragmatically address the issue of disproportionality. . . especially with minority students and students with disabilities.
This theme will discuss the implications of the U.S. Department of Education’s December 21, 2018 rescission of the Obama-era guidance aimed at reducing racial discrimination when students are disciplined.  This was done officially by Secretary DeVos just three days after the release of the Federal Commission on School Safety’s Final Report which included this in its recommendations.

   Meanwhile, I hope that this information is useful to you.  Believe it or not, if you would like to discuss anything on an individual district, school, or agency level, I am (still) providing free one-hour conference calls even during this holiday season.

   Speaking of which, I hope that your Holidays were filled with happiness and joy.  Please accept my best wishes for the upcoming New Year !!!

Best,

Howie

[CLICK HERE for the full Blog message]