Are You Part of the Hunger Games?

This thought provoking article challenges educational leaders to reassess the value of standardized tests and the “one size fits all” mentality of student learning.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Bonnie Margolin, a teacher in Florida, remembers a time before No Child Left Behind. She remembers when politicians did not tell teachers how to teach. She remembers when teaching was far more and different from preparing to take tests.

We are now trapped in The Testing Games. Like The Hunger Games, the odds are never in your favor.

“The obvious comparison is the idea that education is some form of competition. We know this concept is a popular one, just based upon the fact that our own US President named his education reform, The Race to the Top. In this race, states are encouraged to create education policies based on test scores. Student promotion, teacher evaluations, and school grades are all based on test scores. Funding is then tied to the student achievement. In simple terms, how well the students race decides how much money the schools get in funding.

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Consider the Elephant When Leading Change

An excellent analogy for examining behavioral change is that of an elephant and its rider trying to follow a certain path, writeschange Chip and Dan Heath in their bestseller SWITCH. The elephant, being a powerful, stubborn creature, represents the emotional side of people, looking for a quick payoff rather than long-term benefits. The rider in turn represents the rational side that knows what should be done, and can tug at the elephant’s reigns to exert some small degree of control over it. Finally, the path represents the situation in which the change is to take place.

There are many components that influence whether change will be successful, whether progress along the path is made. From changing your own diet to influencing others’ behavior, your success will depend on your ability to direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path.

Consider the following when implementing new school initiatives:

  1. Use a “systems” approach to ensure that all aspects of the learning community are considered when planning and implementing change and develop a team of stakeholders throughout the change process.
  2. Share oversight with teachers and others to encourage the implementation of the change efforts.
  3. Make plans, but “hold your plans loosely.” Develop plans, but know that they will have to be adapted to change as needs change.
  4. Realize the tension between establishing readiness for change and the need to get people implementing new behaviors quickly. While getting people intellectually ready for change is something to be considered, don’t take so much time and effort that people lose interest and motivation.
  5. Provide training and staff development for staff.
  6. Choose innovative practices for and with teachers that are research-based and student centered. Picking approaches that have been used or researched can help the implementation.
  7. Recognize that change happens only through people. The emotional effects of change on educators need to be considered and understood by all involved in the change process. Understanding resistance and working with it is key.
  8. Be prepared for “implementation dip.” Fullan (1993) and others note that things often get worse temporarily before improvement begins to appear.
  9. Seek out “paradigm shifters” and “idea champions” who are interested in making substantial changes in practice.
  10. Take the long view; realize that change takes time and should not be forced to occur too quickly.elephant

Resolutions Vs. Goals

Many popular new year resolutions such as “lose 25 lbs” or “run a marathon” are actually goals, not resolutions. If there is a specific achievement it’s a goal. Permanent changes to your life are resolutions since you keep doing them every day and not just until a specific achievement is accomplished.digital_resolutions-100019466-large

Here are 10 resolutions I will focus on in 2015 as I consider the many exciting personal and professional opportunities that lie ahead.

1. I will encourage and challenge our learning community to take risks, to accept failure, that sometimes accompanies risk-taking, and to power ahead in an effort to do GREAT THINGS for kids.

2. I will listen more and talk less. My learning and understanding will include listening more to the needs of students, parents, staff and community AND getting into classrooms every day.

3. I will exhaust opportunities for improved communication. Social media, weekly and monthly newsletters, phone calls home, and our school website will be used more effectively.

4. I will strive for a healthier balance of my professional and personal life. My family always comes first. My professional community will benefit from this value.

5. I will seek to empower student voice. Students know what they need to succeed. Student opportunities for questioning, feedback, surveys, and decision-making will become greater.

6. I will renew and improve my decision-making benchmark of “What’s In The Best Interest Of Kids”.

7. I will work harder at cultivating and nurturing RELATIONSHIPS. This is where it all begins.

8. I will continue to seek out new and improved learning opportunities for my students to be highly competitive and prepared in our global society.

9. I will continue to improve upon ways to share my vision to our learning community (students, staff, parents and community).

10. I will model continuous improvement to my staff and students. I will seek opportunities to share and teach others about the value of Professional Learning Networks and Social Media for educational growth.

Resolutions1-712x378*This list will be visible to me in my work space for reminders and accountability.

Please share your list for 2015!

Top 9 Ed Reads in 2014

2014 has been a bountiful year for personal professional development. Here are 9 of my best educational reads in 2014 (I could list dozens more):


In this insightful book, Sheninger discusses a set of behaviors that leverages digital resources to create a meaningful, transparent, and engaging school culture.








 Peter DeWitt shares wonderful suggestions concerning:

  • Making the school community visible to parents.
  • Creating more authentic staff meetings.
  • Maximizing communication between parents and school.
  • Modeling effective use of technology.










The Change Leadership Group at the Harvard School of Education has developed a thoughtful approach to the transformation of schools in the face of increasing demands for accountability. This book provides a framework to analyze the work of school change and exercises that guide educators through the development of their practice as agents of change.  








 Todd Whitaker shares countless ideas and strategies in this book THAT WORK in schools to bring positive climate change and growth in student achievement.








Wiliam explores in-depth the use of classroom questioning, learning intentions and success criteria, feedback, collaborative and cooperative learning, and self-regulated learning to engineer effective learning environments for students. A MUST for every educator.








 Professor Yong Zhao makes a great case for encouraging the development of additional strategies to develop creativity and innovation in the classroom. In the our global economy, the jobs that exist now might not exist by the time today’s students enter the workplace. To succeed, students need to be able to think like entrepreneurs: resourceful, flexible, creative, and global.








Dweck argues that……”In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it”






Visible  Learning  is the story of the factors that have the greatest impact on learning. This is a book of ideas that help practitioners understand the subtleties of research. It will take time to wrestle with some of the nuanced ideas – you can’t just say, “Oh, we need more feedback” and run with it, because you may end up lowering student achievement. You need to do a close reading of these ideas.









 In this book, Mark Barnes introduces and outlines the Results Only Learning Environment—a place that embraces the final result of learning rather than the traditional methods for arriving at that result. A results-only classroom is rich with individual and cooperative learning activities that help students demonstrate mastery learning on their own terms, without being constrained by standards and pedagogy.









Please share your top 2014 educational reads! 


7 “Must Reads” by Daniel Pink

I became a “die-hard” Daniel Pink fan a few years ago after reading “Drive“. Pink suggests that creative workers are at their most productive when they are intrinsically motivated. When it is made clear how each individual’s contribution is for the performance of the whole, each person feels their actions to be meaningful, and hence they become more committed. Rewards and sanctions are effective only short-term.

The following is from Ted Talks and author, Thu-Huong Ha.

In 1962, Princeton psychologist Sam Glucksberg performed an experiment based on the classic candle problem test. He presented two groups with the same task, but with different rewards: One would receive monetary rewards based on speed, while the other was told only to complete the task as quickly as possible. The results were counterintuitive. The latter group performed the task on average three and a half times faster than the first. Why?

As career analyst Dan Pink (Watch: The puzzle of motivation) has learned, traditional motivators like money can be far less effective than intrinsic motivators like autonomy, mastery and purpose. Indeed, productivity itself is a mystery we still struggle to unravel. Below, find seven must-reads (and a playlist) that look closely at how work works, provided by Pink for his TED Talk.

1. The Talent Code
Daniel Coyle
Arrow Books, 2010

“A savvy and snappy compilation of some of the best research on talent. I’ve given away more than a dozen copies of this one — including to my own kids.”

2. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008

“The classic book that introduced the idea of ‘flow’ — those delicious moments when the challenge we face is so exquisitely matched to our capabilities that we lose our sense of time, even our sense of self.”

3. Why We Do What We Do
Edward L. Deci and Richard Flaste
Penguin Books, 1996

“Edward L. Deci is a legend in the study of motivation, and this 1996 book offers a nice early introduction to his work.”

4. Mindset
Carol Dweck
Ballantine Books, 2007

“One of the most important books a parent can read. Seriously. Get it now.”

5. The Sports Gene
David Epstein
Current Trade, 2014

“A fascinating book that shows that in some pursuits, practice, practice, practice is more effective when you’ve got the right genes, genes, genes.”

6. The War of Art
Steven Pressfield
Black Irish Entertainment, 2012

“An essential read on overcoming resistance in the quest for mastery.”

7. Readings on self-determination theory

“Much of the work I write about in my book Drive comes out of the University of Rochester. You can find a great selection of academic papers on self-determination theory online.”

Authentic Change and Perseverance

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

-Calvin Coolidge

Are you looking for excellence in all facets of your school environment? Before you start any kind of short or long term game change, put your running shoes on and persevere. You cannot sprint and make lasting, valuable, internal change happen! It’s like running a marathon, so be prepared for a long, strenuous journey before feeling the satisfaction of finishing the race.

Having perseverance means starting from the beginning and collaborating with your colleagues. We cannot think about a building or district change as instantly moving individuals a thousand feet forward but, rather, about pushing a thousand people forward one foot at a time.

You can imagine persistence in change as waging a ground game instead of an air game in football. While an air game (lots of passing the ball) is a fairly quick and safe way to attack an opponent, it is rarely enough to defeat them. The consistent ground attack wins more games. This analogy implies that you need to invest time, manpower and resources to “conquer” (or move) each opponent.

Lasting change is rarely a singular, transformational event, but rather something simple, yet consistent, taking place over time. Change is not a singular decision; it’s a state of mind. It’s the simple decisions we make daily to be better. It’s a chain of decisions, defined as continuous improvement.

Authentic change is more than experiencing an awakening or spark of inspiration. Authentic change is action taken to move one’s heart forward. Authentic change requires consistency. Authentic change is a day-to-day struggle. Authentic change perseveres.

Growing Closer To Your Most Challenging Students

Growing Closer To Your Most Challenging Students By Dr. Allen Mendler. While stress caused by common core concerns has dominated the recent education landscape, dealing with difficult students remains the number one source of constant tension for most teachers.