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Featured Articles Leadership Focus
A New Vision: From Concept Level to Leadership Action and Successful Implementation
Discusses the TASA Visioning Network (TVN), a statewide initiative that focuses on the development of innovative, next-generation learning, assessment, and accountability standards for Texas public schools; and the New Vision Implementation Guide, an online district-level companion tool
TASA Academy for Transformational Leadership: Developing Future-Oriented Organizational Architects
Gives an overview of the yearlong, four-part academy, offered in cooperation with the Schlechty Center, which probes four inter-related themes tied to transformational leadership to help participants gain an understanding of what is required to build district capacity for change and joyous student learning
The Use of Culturally Relevant Teaching to Close the Achievement Gap
by Julia Ballenger Supports the belief that to engage students, teachers must construct pedagogical practice in ways that are culturally relevant, racially affirming, and socially meaningful
Before the Beginning and After the Endâ€” The Eternal Communication of Your Strategic Plan
by Julie Jerome Offers a list of five steps in the strategic planning process and suggestions for breathing life into it through communication
Departments President’s Message Executive Director’s View
Officers Rod Townsend, President, Decatur ISD Jeff N. Turner, President-Elect, Coppell ISD Darrell G. Floyd, Vice-President, Stephenville ISD John Fuller, Past President
Executive Committee Scott B. Owings, Sharyland ISD, 1 Paul Clore, Gregory-Portland ISD, 2 Robert Mark Pool, El Campo ISD, 3 Alton L. Frailey, Katy ISD, 4 Philip Welch, Orangefield ISD, 5 Eddie Coulson, College Station ISD, 6 J. Glenn Hambrick, Carthage ISD, 7 Diane Stegall, Chisum ISD, 8
TASA Headquarters Staff
Associate Executive Director, Administrative Services
Assistant Executive Director, Communications & Information Systems
Tom Woody, Vernon ISD, 9
Johnny L. Veselka
Todd Williams, Kaufman ISD, 10
Paul L. Whitton, Jr.
Wayne Rotan, Glen Rose ISD, 11 Kevin Houchin, McGregor ISD, 12
Ann M. Halstead
INSIGHT is published quarterly by the Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas, 78701-2617. Subscription is included in TASA membership dues. © 2011 by TASA. All rights reserved. TASA members may reprint articles in limited quantities for in-house educational use. Articles in INSIGHT are expressions of the author or interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of TASA. Advertisements do not necessarily carry the endorsement of the Texas Association of School Administrators. INSIGHT is printed by 360 Press Solutions, Cedar Park, Texas.
David Shanley, Johnson City ISD, 13 Shane Fields, Albany ISD, 14 Leigh Ann Glaze, San Saba ISD, 15 Mike Lee, Booker ISD, 16 Deanna Logan, Ralls ISD, 17 Kevin Allen, Iraan-Sheffield ISD, 18 Lorenzo Garcia, El Paso ISD, 19 Kevin Brown, Alamo Heights ISD, 20 Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD Legislative Committee Chair
At-Large Members Steve Flores, Harlingen CISD Lolly Guerra, San Marcos CISD Karen G. Rue, Northwest ISD Sharon Shields, La Vega ISD
Editorial Advisory Committee Rod Townsend, Decatur ISD, Chair Eddie K. Coulson, College Station ISD Shane Fields, Albany ISD Alton L. Frailey, Katy ISD Lolly Guerra, San Marcos CISD Deanna Logan, Ralls ISD
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Moving Beyond the 82nd Legislature
President’s Message As we kick off the new membership year, I want to say “thanks” for the opportunity to serve you and your districts. It is truly an honor and privilege to serve as your president.
t’s a little early to grasp the full ramifications of what the 82nd Legislature did to public schools, but it’s obvious we have our work cut out for us. Thanks to the hard work of Johnny Veselka, Amy Beneski, Casey McCreary, Ramiro Canales, Jenny Caputo, and the whole TASA staff, the sting of the 82nd legislature is certainly less than originally feared. Every superintendent and administrator across the state is eagerly looking for quality support and advice as we struggle to keep our schools moving forward. It’s during times like these that we can really appreciate our TASA membership. I take whatever opportunities I can to encourage new administrators to join TASA. We are one of the best-informed and best-represented education groups in the state. We all rely on TASA Daily and Capitol Watch, two of the greatest resources around, for keeping public school administrators in the know on a daily basis.We also clearly benefit from TASA staff representing our interests at various state agency hearings and meetings throughout the year, and our legislative program is second to none. In fact, TASA’s 2011-13 Legislative Committee, chaired by Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD, is already hard at work preparing to monitor interim activity as well as begin planning for the 83rd Legislative Session. Shrinking travel budgets and sheer distance combined limit our ability to network face to face but, at the same time, our need to share ideas and solutions has never been greater. TASA has come up with a promising new resource called TASA Connect, a private online community and support network. Slated to open later this summer, TASA Connect looks like an ideal way for us to share resources and discuss issues without the time and costs associated with traveling to meetings and conferences. Another milestone for the association is the establishment of the TASA Visioning Network. This is an exciting expansion of the original Visioning Institute, providing every district in the state the opportunity to truly engage in the visioning work.This is an important opportunity for TASA members to bring about dramatic, meaningful change in how we educate our young people. I urge you to read more about the network in this issue of INSIGHT and give serious consideration to joining this important effort. As we kick off the new membership year, I want to say “thanks” for the opportunity to serve you and your districts. It is truly an honor and privilege to serve as your president. I am particularly proud of the association’s continued emphasis on reaching out to the state’s small school districts. I had the privilege last year of chairing TASA’s first-ever Small Schools Advisory Committee, and I can assure you that the concerns of small and rural districts are taken very seriously by the association and have an important impact on it’s planning and course of action. I wish you, your staff, and most importantly your students every success in the coming school year. I look forward to seeing you at the TASA/TASB Convention in Austin!
A Historical Perspective on Educational Transformation
I Executive director’s VIEW …we now have legislative sanction to continue the important work of transforming Texas public schools through the development of “innovative, next-generation learning standards and assessment and accountability systems.”
n the fall of 1946, the TASA president, Dr. R. L.Williams, superintendent, Sweetwater ISD, formed a Committee on Educational Policies and appointed Dr. J. W. Edgar, superintendent of the Austin public schools, to chair the committee. Following a series of meetings, and after considering the views of TASA members across the state, the committee adopted several policy statements regarding the restructuring of Texas’ public school system. Ultimately, in 1947, the committee’s work was transmitted to the Legislature and gave birth to the formation of the Gilmer-Aikin Committee. The Gilmer-Aikin Committee produced a set of recommendations for the Legislature in January 1949 that led to the passage of Senate Bills 115, 116, and 117, reorganizing the state system and establishing the Minimum Foundation Program. Following the session, Dr. Edgar, a past president of TASA, was named Texas’ first Commissioner of Education, serving for 24 years until his retirement in 1974. Exactly 60 years later, in the fall of 2006, 35 Texas superintendents, under the auspices of TASA with significant support from SHW Group LLP, formed the Public Education Visioning Institute to learn from one another by challenging conventional thinking to improve their leadership capacities and their school systems, and to explore ways to create more meaningful educational opportunities for their students. Their goal was to explore innovative ways of using available resources, digital learning, more appropriate assessment systems and accountability mechanisms to realize a new vision for public education by 2020.Their deliberations led to the publication of Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas (2008) and a continuing focus on this vision by our association. In the recent legislative session, in the midst of sometimes contentious debate about school funding, spending cuts, and state mandates, we achieved passage of SB 1557, establishing the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium. SB 1557 is closely aligned with the work of the Visioning Institute, and we are especially grateful to Senator John Carona and Representative Mark Strama for their sponsorship of this important legislation.With the passage of this legislation, we now have legislative sanction to continue the important work of transforming Texas public schools through the development of “innovative, next-generation learning standards and assessment and accountability systems.” TASA continues to advance the visioning principles through our new Visioning Network, leadership academies, and statewide conferences. From SB 115 to SB 1557 much change has occurred in public education, and the demands for high levels of performance are greater than ever. Without doubt, the transformation that occurred in 1949 was of a different era, and far different from the transformation we envision today. Yet, there are striking similarities between these two periods in our history. Texas superintendents stepped forward in calling for change in the late 1940s, and are doing so again.We welcome and appreciate the participation of TASA members throughout the state in this important work.
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A New Vision: From Concept Level to Leadership Action and Successful Implementation Background A group of Texas school superintendents met over a two-year period in facilitated dialogue during 12 two-day sessions to discover the assumptions underlying the present public education system and how it might be transformed to meet the needs of students in the 21st century.The superintendents concluded that the present system does not have the capacities to develop the knowledge, attitudes, skills, creativity, and rigorous thinking that students need to meet the challenges brought about by powerful new digital, social, and economic forces now common to everyday life around the world. The result of this original work was Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas—a “work in progress for conversation and further development.” Creating a New Vision outlines a powerful set of ideas and premises for transforming our schools and districts, embodied in its six articles and their statements of principle (see page 12). Since the publication of Creating a New Vision in 2008,TASA has continued to advance the work of the Public Education Visioning Institute at various meetings and conferences and through expansion of this work to districts throughout the state. Superintendents and other education leaders have actively participated in the dialogue and shared the key visioning concepts and principles with staff, board members, and their communities. In addition, TASA continues to use the principles stated in Creating a New Vision as a lens for the association’s planning, program development, and member services.
Getting Practical The superintendents and TASA leadership involved in the Visioning Institute over the past three years quickly recognized that in order to be successfully implemented in schools, the transformational themes developed in Creating a NewVision needed to be moved from concept level to leadership action and successful implementation in schools. A team of instructional leaders from across the state, supported by TASA, worked to develop a set of tools in the form of a “field guide” to assist districts in the implementation process.The result of their work is the New Vision Implementation Guide: From Vision to Results.This Web site functions as a district-level companion tool that delves more deeply into each of the vision’s transformational themes, applied directly to the core work of teaching and learning and the structures and systems that support the core work. The online guide is designed to provide an accessible practitioner’s guide to understanding the New Vision premises and principles, to provide a set of best practice tools and processes to guide district staff through the New Vision principles in support of district transformation, to build cross-district support systems and training tools for sharing best practices, and to serve as a “roadmap” for going to scale across all district instructional and support systems.
Six Articles and Statements of Principle I. The New Digital Learning Environment—Digitization and miniaturization of information processing power are expanding exponentially and are changing the world, our lives, and our communities at an overwhelming speed. To be viable, schools must adapt to this new environment. We must embrace and seize technology’s potential to capture the hearts and minds of this, the first digital generation, so that the work designed for them is more engaging and respects their superior talents with digital devices and connections. II. The New Learning Standards—The new digital environment demands new learning standards for students so that they will have the values and the capabilities to live, learn, and earn in a free society surrounded by a world that is truly global, connected, and increasingly competitive in scope and character. III. Assessments for Learning—Appropriate and varied types of assessments are essential for informing students about their level of success in ways that affirm and stimulate their efforts and for informing their teachers so that more customized learning experiences may be provided in a timely way. Well-conceived and well-designed assessments should also be used to reveal to parents, the school, the district, and society at large the extent to which the desired learning is occurring, and what schools are doing to continuously improve. IV. Accountability for Learning—Comprehensive accountability systems are essential to achieving minimal personal and organizational performance only. They are necessary for weeding out the incompetent and reconstituting unproductive schools, but such systems serve to create compliance and mediocrity at best. Excellence and sustained exceptional performance come from a commitment to shared values and a clear vision that encourages collaboration and teamwork. Creating organizations that foster commitment requires superior moral leadership and responsible use of authority. V. Organizational Transformation—The digital revolution and its accompanying social transformations and expectations dictate a transformation of schools from their current bureaucratic form and structure that reflects the 19th and early 20th century factory after which they were modeled, to schools that function as learning organizations.We believe that a learning organization can create the conditions and capacities most conducive for leaders, teachers, and students to perform at high levels and meet the expectations of new learning standards. VI. A More Balanced and Reinvigorated State/Local Partnership—A more balanced, reinvigorated state/local partnership can generate the public involvement and community support needed to meet the demands of new learning standards essential to the success of the 21st century learner.The present state-dominated partnership is inherently incapable of creating the type of schools that can provide the learning experiences most needed by students in our schools today. New levels of trust and reciprocal arrangements, including a return of significant authority and responsibility to local communities, are the only hope.
In addition to Creating a New Vision, the components of the Implementation Guide Web site include: • Self-Analysis Survey—designed to assist districts and/or campuses in determining their current level of implementation of the “New Vision for Public Education in Texas.” • New Vision Implementation Matrix—illustrates progressive “levels” of implementation for New Vision articles and premises. Included in the matrix are links to tools and real-live exemplars of the New Vision in action, including research links and district exemplars that provide examples of how districts across the state are realizing the NewVision. • Online Collaboration—supported by TASA and SyfrSpace and may be accessed via an e-link at the end of each article section in the implementation matrix. The guide is posted publicly, available to anyone who would like to further their understanding of the New Vision and explore implementation in their own district.
TASA Visioning Network The next step in our journey is to inform and move all districts in Texas toward the dream of being “next-generation” school districts. To that end, TASA has established the TASA Visioning Network (TVN). This statewide initiative will focus on the development of innovative, next-generation learning, assessment, and accountability standards for Texas public schools. The work of the original Visioning Institute will be expanded through the TVN, which will consist of a collaborative network of districts bound together by their desire to connect and learn more about realizing the “new vision” in their own local districts. Participating districts will pay a nominal annual subscription fee of $500 to join the Network.
A Design Team consisting of superintendents who are currently engaged in this work will provide the initial leadership for the TASA Visioning Network. Dr. Jeff Turner, superintendent, Coppell ISD, and TASA 2011–12 president-elect, has agreed to chair the Design Team.
six visioning articles and their statements of principle will guide the work of the legislatively authorized consortium.
The consortium will begin its work during the 2012–13 school year, following the selection of consortium members by the commissioner on or before July 1, 2012. On a broad scale, TVN will complement The consortium will report to the state and support the work of the Texas High legislature and the governor prior to the Perfor mance Schools Consortium next legislative session on its performance authorized by SB 1557, passed during the and progress, including submission of a plan 82nd Legislative Session and already signed for an effective and efficient accountability by the governor. Sponsored by Senator John system for consortium participants. Carona and Representative Mark Strama, this legislation creates the opportunity The TASA Visioning Network itself will for up to 20 school districts and open- play a role in developing closer connections enrollment charter schools selected by the among distr icts and br inging key commissioner “to inform the governor, instructional leaders into the discussion of legislature, and commissioner concerning how to use the New Vision Implementation methods for transforming public schools tools. Network members will be able in this state by improving student learning to communicate and share best practices through the development of innovative, and ideas for transforming the vision into next-generation learning standards and reality through TASA Connect,TASA’s new assessment and accountability systems.”The online professional networking community;
participate in special seminars on “New Vision” topics; and collaborate with other network members through regional consortia.
An Invitation from Dr. John Fuller, TASA Past President We hope every superintendent in the state will choose to engage with us on this journey by becoming active participants in the TASA Visioning Network.We believe that many of the principles and premises stated in Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas are achievable if we have the courage to act on our convictions. Working together, we can gain support, learn from best practice, increase our districts’ capacities, continue the lifelong learning that the Visioning Institute championed, and even learn from the mistakes we will invariably make along the way. In the end, our districts will be better, our district teams stronger, and nobody will be able to say that we did not attempt to keep the dream alive for the five million students in Texas public schools. n
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TASA Academy for Transformational Leadership: Developing Future-Oriented Organizational Architects In January 2010, eight superintendents of districts that participate in the Schlechty Center’s Standard-Bearer Network met to discuss their strong desire to ensure the sustainability of their efforts at transforming their school districts into learning organizations through the work of future leaders. Superintendents participating in the meeting were Ray Lea (Azle ISD), Steve Waddell (then with Birdville ISD, now with Lewisville ISD), Scott Elliff (Corpus Christi ISD), Gail Siller (Fort Sam Houston ISD), Kelli Moulton (Hereford ISD), J. D. Kennedy (McKinney ISD), Barry Haenisch (Pampa ISD), and John Fuller (Wylie ISD).The superintendents suggested the possibility of TASA and the Schlechty Center forming a partnership to create and develop a Learn more about the Academy for pool of talented leaders who would be prepared to assume important leadership positions in Transformational Leadership by the districts involved in such an initiative.They mentioned that these leaders might assume new visiting us online at positions, as they become available, in their “home” districts or in other districts with “likewww.tasanet.org or contacting minded” leaders who are pursuing a similar direction. Susan Holley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
in the TASA office, 512.477.6361 or 800.725.8272.
TASA and Schlechty Center staffs responded to this discussion by creating the TASA Academy for Transformational Leadership, to be offered in cooperation with the Schlechty Center. While many leadership programs choose to train leaders to be excellent spokespersons for and managers of the status quo,TASA and the Schlechty Center purposely designed the academy to attract educational leaders who are passionate about: • Nurturing joyous student learning • Creating inspiring workplaces for teachers and all staff • Envisioning school districts that are less like factories and more like organizations designed for learning The academy offers a customized professional development experience specifically tailored for Texas leaders who want to learn more about transforming school districts so that students and district staff, as well as the entire community, realize the benefits of a healthy and vital public education system.These leaders share a vision of what could be for the children of Texas—a vision in keeping with the one articulated by the Public EducationVisioning Institute in Creating a NewVision for Public Education in Texas. The underlying conceptual base and assumptions about leadership that are inherent in the academy come from the Schlechty Center frameworks and encompass the six articles developed by the Visioning Institute (The New Digital Learning Environment, The New Learning Standards, Assessments for Learning, Accountability for Learning, Organizational Transformation, and A More Balanced and Reinvigorated State/Local Partnership) as a lens for the work of the academy. In four two-day sessions, participants probe four inter-related themes (see Key Concepts and Resources, p. 16) tied to transformational leadership by reading, deepening their thinking through structured discussions and activities, exchanging ideas with invited speakers, and applying new ideas in their workplaces. In doing so, participants come to understand what is required to build district capacity for change and for joyous student learning, and become future-oriented organizational architects who understand social systems and their critical function in shaping public education. “The questions that guide us are why is transformational leadership crucial for public education today, and how do we know if we are prepared to provide that kind of leadership,” said Susan Holley,TASA associate executive director, Instructional Support and Leadership Development.
Participants are expected to read and apply ideas from the four sessions to their current roles in their districts.The academy content, activities, and discussions are designed so that by the end of the academy experience, participants will have compiled a portfolio reflecting their learning in the following areas: • Commitment to and capability for leading Texas school districts into the future • Actual artifacts of their individual or collective work pursued in their roles as transformational leaders
them with invaluable insights into what it means to be a transformational leader and strategies to apply that learning into implementation. The success of the first academy and the enthusiastic response from its participants encouraged TASA and the Schlechty Center to offer the academy again in 2011–12. The yearlong academy is open to any superintendent, district, or campus leader who is passionate about The first academy took place in 2010–11. the transformation of public education in Academy cohorts were unanimous in their Texas. Through its continuation, we hope belief that the academy had redefined their to positively impact the leadership of our personal concept of leadership and provided public schools in the years to come. n • New understandings and strategies for sustaining the direction of their districts and innovative work that supports that direction • Answers for themselves and others to the questions: What are the moral responsibilities of a transformational leader? What must a transformational leader know and be able to do?
Key Concepts and Resources In four two-day sessions spread throughout the calendar year, academy participants explore four Key Concepts and Resources: n
Transformation and the Learning Organization
The changes in schools that are most likely to have an impact on learning are those that require transformation. Organizational transformation involves changes in the social systems—particularly the Directional System, Knowledge Development and Transmission System, and Recruitment and Induction System. When these social systems are changed, conventional sources of power and authority are threatened and members of an organization are asked to rethink all the norms that define their roles and the rules by which they do their work. Many school districts choose the easier, though less effective, path—implementing innovations that only require superficial changes that do not get at the essence of what a district is about, how roles are defined, and what will be the focus of everyone’s work. Many current programs are just such innovations, requiring only good management and asking much less of all members of the organization. As programs, they may ask teachers to learn new teaching strategies or to implement new classroom procedures. However, these strategies and procedures are based on existing assumptions about the roles of student and teacher and about the core business of school, and, therefore, do not require leadership and moral commitment—as does transformation.
Directional System and Superordinate Goal
The Directional System refers to the social system through which goals are set, priorities are determined, and, when things go awry, corrective actions are initiated. Leaders who wish to transform their schools into learning organizations must be attentive to superordinate goals. In contrast to strategic goals, operational goals, and action goals, superordinate goals are direction-setting goals that provide overarching meaning and guidance to members of an organization. Leaders in bureaucratic schools may not be interested in superordinate goals and other issues related to direction because they are pursuing an externally set direction dictated by others, most likely state and federal regulators. Sometimes in bureaucratic schools, leaders are not even conscious of their lack of self-determined superordinate goals.
Continuity of Direction
An organization’s core business is what it busies itself doing, what it does to pursue its superordinate goals. The core business involves all the most important things members of an organization do. If a school system aspires to make student engagement central, it will have to transform itself and become a learning organization. Leaders who desire to sustain a direction will be required to understand the capacity needed to sustain a focus on its core business.
TASA Fall 2011 Calendar September 14–15
First-time Superintendents Academy, Session One
Experts in the Field
30–Oct 2 TASA/TASB Convention
Austin Marriott North Hotel, Round Rock, TX Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
Leadership Development Process
TASA Headquarters, Austin, TX
TASA Academy for Transformational Leadership
Austin Doubletree Hotel, Austin, TX
50 Ways to Close the Achievement Gap
TASA Headquarters, Austin, TX
Level I Curriculum Management Audit™ Training
TASA Headquarters, Austin, TX
Experts in the Field
Austin Marriott North Hotel, Round Rock, TX
First-time Superintendents Academy, Session Two
Texas A&M University/TASA Administrative Leadership Institute (ALI)
Hilton Hotel and Conference Center, College Station, TX
Texas Association of Suburban and Mid-Urban Schools (TAS/MUS) Fall Conference
The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, The Woodlands, TX
“Read to Lead” Book Study Series Engage in digital learning and improve teacher quality with your own leadership team! TASA has partnered with Syfr to offer Read to Lead, a staff development service featuring online book studies designed around topics that have been shown to impact and improve student learning. The 2011–12 Read to Lead series specifically focuses on improving teacher quality through neuroscience. Books in the series include Drive (Daniel Pink), The Talent Code (Daniel Coyle), Talent Is Overrated (Geoff Colvin), and The Genius in All of Us (David Shenk). Participate in in-depth book studies with collaborative conversations, podcasts and transcripts, and related books and reading materials. For nominal set-up and per-person fees, districts can engage their central office and/or campus staff in professional learning anytime, anywhere. All activity takes place in SyfrSpace, an online professional learning environment specifically designed to further the principles articulated by TASA’s Visioning Network. TASA is an approved provider of Continuing Professional Education for Texas educators. Teachers and administrators have the opportunity to earn a minimum of 20 CPE hours through participation in TASA’s Read to Lead program.
Read to Lead: improving teacher quality through neuroscience For more information go to TASAnet.org, Services and Subscriptions. summer 2011
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The Use of Culturally Relevant Teaching to Close the Achievement Gap by Julia Ballenger
Our public schools work well for the students for whom they were designed. However, schools have been unsuccessful with many students, primarily those from racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse and poor families. This lack of success has resulted in the phenomenon known as the achievement gap. The achievement gap is historical and it is demographic. The history of the achievement gap dates back to the 1960s (Jencks & Phillips, 1999; Perie, Moran, & Lutkus, 2005).The achievement gap was actually closing during the 1970s to the 1990s (Grissmer & Flanagan, 2001). Likewise, Haycock (2001) reported that the achievement gap between African American and White students from the 1970s to the 1990s was cut in half, and the gap separating Latino and White students declined by one-third. Since the 1990s, the gap between African American and White students has remained relatively stable.Although reading scores of African American students continue to improve, they no longer grow fast enough to close the gap with White students. See Table 1.
Table 1: Average reading scores of Black and White students, 1971 and 2008 Year 1971 2008 1971 2008 1971 2008
Age 9 years 9 years 13 years 13 years 17 years 17 years
Average reading score Score gap Black White 170 204 222 247 239 266
214 228 261 268 291 295
44 24 39 21 52 29
Data source: NAEP 2008 Trends in Academic Progress, p. 14â€“15. The NAEP report shows a similar achievement gap between African American and White students in the area of mathematics. In addition, a similar but smaller gap between White and Hispanic students exists in reading and mathematics. In spite of the numerous reform efforts, policies, and practices implemented to improve the education system for all children, students of color and poor children consistently lag behind White students in the United States (Rampey, Dion, & Donahue, 2009).
The Achievement Gap The achievement gap persists in urban, suburban, and rural schools (Lee, 2002). According to Lindsey, Graham, Westphal, and Jew (2008), the achievement gap has a face. It is the face of our African American, Hispanic, and poor students. The achievement gap is more about racial-ethnic demographic disparities than it is about
economic differences. Rather than blaming these students and placing the responsibility for school success totally on their shoulders, these authors posited: We must examine what it is that affects our ability or inability to provide quality education to certain student groups…The first steps we can take are to stop blaming underserved communities for their lack of progress, and to understand the conditions that are barriers to the education of many of our children. (pp. 8–10). One area to examine in our schools is the demographic makeup of our teachers compared to the student population. The demographic makeup of the schools today is qualitatively different from what I faced as a new teacher in the 1970s. The national statistics revealed that the student population of the United States is becoming more ethnically diverse but the teaching force remains mostly White, female, and middle class. Urban and rural school districts are beginning to serve a growing number of immigrant students from Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia. When examining students for whom race/ethnicity was reported in the 2009–10 school year, 54 percent were White, 22 percent Hispanic, 17 percent Black, 5 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent American Indian/ Alaska Native (Chen, 2011). When faced with the heterogeneous mixture of students in their classrooms, teachers must be prepared to teach all students.
Culturally Relevant Teaching Almost a decade ago, Howard (2003) acknowledged, “Because teachers and students often come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, in order to connect with and engage students, they must construct pedagogical practice in ways that are culturally relevant, racially affirming, and socially meaningful” (pp.195–202). In schools today, a need exists for teachers who know the students they are teaching, what to teach, and the methodologies to 20
effectively teach students of color (Kea & Utley, 1998).Teachers need quality researchbased pedagogy that meets students’ needs and facilitates their learning so that they attain their fullest potential. Culturally relevant teaching is one such pedagogy that is responsive to the academic, emotional, and social needs of all students, including culturally and linguistically diverse ones (Kea, Campbell-Whatley, & Richards, 2006). Gloria Ladson-Billings (1992) coined the term culturally relevant teaching and defined it as “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (pp. 17–18)
include but are not limited to (a) ineffective, disengaging instruction; (b) under-qualified teachers; (c) limited preschool attendance, (d) low teacher expectation, (e) poverty, and (f) high mobility (Lindsey, Graham,Westphal, and Jew (2008). However, multicultural education theorists/researchers believe that the difference between the home cultures of students of color and the school culture is a major reason for the low academic achievement of these students (Banks, 2006). Is anyone listening to these multicultural education theorists and researchers?
During the last three decades, researchers have investigated ways in which teachers can make use of elements from the cultures Culturally relevant teaching involves of students to increase their academic educators’ use of diverse students’ cultural achievement (Banks, 2006). For example, knowledge, pr ior exper iences, and Lee (1993) found that the achievement of learning styles to make learning more African American students increase when appropriate and effective (Gay, 2000). they are taught literary interpretations Culturally diverse teachers provide inclusive with lessons that use the African American educational programming that respects verbal practice of signifying. Signifying is cultural differences and relates learning to “a genre within African American speech students’ cultures. When teachers exhibit that involves ritual insult—as in playing an affirming attitude toward students with the dozens. In addition, researchers diverse backgrounds, they greatly affect their have described the ways in which verbal learning, belief in self, and overall academic interactions differ in the school and in the achievement (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). homes of Navajo students (Philips, 1983) and how language differs among White Culturally responsive teachers provide middle-class teachers, the White working connections between students’ prior class, and the Black working class (Heath, knowledge and what they need to know 1983). Other studies found evidence to (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). They learn about support the idea that when teachers use their students’ past experiences as well as culturally relevant teaching, the academic their home and community cultures in order achievement of students of color increase to establish relationships and incorporate (Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1994). students’ experiences in teaching and learning contexts. These educators use I concur with Banks (2006) and other a constructivist approach to facilitate all multicultural theorists and researchers who students’ critical thinking, problem solving, believe that culturally relevant teaching is collaboration, and multiple perspectives a form of equity pedagogy and that when (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). teachers modify their teaching in ways that will facilitate the academic achievement of students from diverse groups, the Conclusions Many explanations have been given for the achievement gap will close. n achievement gap between White students and students of color such as African Julia Ballenger, Ph.D., is an E. J. Campbell Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Native Distinguished Professor at Stephen F. Austin Americans. Some of those explanations State University.
References Banks, J. A. (2005). Democracy, diversity, and social justice: Education in a global age. In Gloria Ladson-Billings & William F. Tate (Eds.), Education research in the public interest: Social justice, action, and policy (pp. 141–157). NewYork, NY:Teachers College. Chen, C. (2011). Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment and Staff Counts From the Common Core of Data: SchoolYear 2009–10 (NCES 2011–347). U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved http://nces. ed.gov/pubsearch. Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching. NewYork, NY:Teachers College Press. Grissmer, D., & Flanagan, A. (2001). Search for indirect evidence for the effects of statewide reform. In Brookings Papers on Education Policy (pp. 181–229). Brookings Institution Press. doi: 10.1353/pep.2001.007. Haycock, K. (2001). Closing the achievement gap. Educational Leadership, 58(6), 6–11. Heath, S. B. (1983).Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. NewYork, NY: Cambridge University Press. Howard,T. C. (Summer, 2003). Culturally relevant pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection. Theory into Practice, 42(3), 195–202. Jencks, C., & Phillips, M. (1999). Aptitude or achievement:Why do test scores predict educational attainment and earnings? In S. E. Mayer & P. E. Peterson (Eds.), Earning and learning: How schools matter.Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institute. Kea, C. D., & Utley, C.A. (1998).To teach me is to know me. Journal of Special Education, 32, 44–47. Kea, C., Campbell-Whatley, G. D., & Richards, H. V. (2006). Becoming culturally responsive educators: Rethinking teacher education pedagogy. Retrieved from www.nccrest.org/Briefs/Teacher_Ed_Brief.pdf Ladson-Billings, G. (1992). Reading between the lines and beyond the pages:A culturally relevant approach to literacy teaching. Theory into Practice, 31, 312–320. Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). Dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Lindsey, R. B., Graham, S. M.,Westphal, R. C., & Jew, C. L. (2008). Cultural proficient inquiry:A lens for identifying and examining educational gaps.Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Lee, J. (1993). Signifying as a scaffold for literary interpretation:The pedagogical implications of an African American discourse genre. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers in English. Lee, J. (2002). Racial and ethnic achievement gap trends: Reversing the progress toward equity? Educational Researcher, 31(1), 3–12. Perie, M., Moran, R., and Lutkus, A. D. (2005). NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress:Three Decades of Student Performance in Reading and Mathematics (NCES 2005–464). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. Phillips, S. U. (1983). The invisible culture: Communication in classroom and community on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Prospect Heights, IL:Waveland Press. Rampey, B. D., Dion, G. S., & Donahue, P. L. (2009). NAEP 2008 Trends in Academic Progress. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U. S. Department of Education. Villegas,A. M., & Lucas,T. (2002). Educating culturally responsive teachers.Albany, NY: University of NewYork Press.
TSPRA VOICE TASA joins TSPRA in supporting the critical role of public information and communications professionals in Texas public schools.
Before the Beginning and After the End The Eternal Communication of Your Strategic Plan by Julie Jerome Strategic planning requires a lot of time, over a long time, from a lot of people. And communication should surround the strategic planning process from before the beginning until after the end. There isn’t a moment in the strategic planning process when the organization schedules a photo opportunity or certificate-awarding ceremony to signify the work is concluded. The insidious beauty of strategic planning is that, when done effectively, when it is part of the culture of a vibrant, dynamic organization, it can go on forever. And strategic planning really doesn’t exist unless it is communicated. From the climate assessment, to the gathering of the team, to the development and implementation of the plan, to the periodic updates, the dialogue between the district or organization and its constituents is what keeps the strategic plan living and breathing. What follows is a list of five steps in the strategic planning process and suggestions for breathing life into it through communication.
1. Assessment. Whether it’s a one-shot, online SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/ threats) survey; a formalized summit of community members, parents, and employees; or a yearlong climate survey through a variety of media, the first critical step in strategic planning is determining how the organization is perceived. If you’re going to draw a roadmap for the future of the organization, you have to depict an accurate lay of the land.The more people involved in drawing the picture, the more accurate it will be.
Communication: • Announce upcoming events, such as the summit, online survey, or meetings, to develop the climate survey through each campus newsletter/listserve. A lead-off paragraph by the superintendent could be followed by an invitation by the principal.
• Provide a quick link on the home page of the district Web site for two primary purposes during this step: to announce summits/meetings/surveys and to offer opportunities for input.
2. The Team. TSPRA’s bylaws outline the makeup of the strategic planning team. Under the extraordinary system of Cambridge Strategic Services, a planning team draws up essential parts of the plan and then “action teams” create results statements and action steps to support the objectives of the plan. Under the Cambridge system in Hays CISD, the strategic planning stakeholders numbered more than 100. For school districts, the most effective teams comprise parents and community members who are not yet involved, because this experience gives them an understanding of how the district works and an opportunity to work toward accomplishing the goals. The team should comprise campus and district administrators, teachers, and paraprofessionals. It is important to note, however, that staff should be a part of the team but not overwhelm it. Staff ’s greatest role is resource and support.
Communication: • The purpose, time commitment required, and process for gathering the team announced through all vehicles— Web site, campus and district newsletters/ listserves, employee newsletter, and social and traditional media—would capture the broadest pool of candidates. The last thing you want in gathering the team is the perception that strategic planning took place in a closed room by a select group of internal participants. • Ease to sign up is important, as is a personalized letter by the superintendent
to those who expressed an interest but were not selected to serve on the team. Strategic planning takes a lot of work by a lot of people, and in this letter, the superintendent can offer other opportunities for involvement.
whether a draft or an iteration of the final plan, is taken public, communication should take place. This could mean a news release following a board meeting where the plan was rolled out, a Web site or newsletter/listserve brief about the planning team members and work, or an explanatory story in the employee 3. Building the Plan. Building a newsletter. strategic plan requires time. Depending • Announcements of and invitations to on the organization, the team, the need public forums and planning meetings, for and receptivity to change, and even surveys, and presentations of the plan the external climate, writing a solid should be distributed through diverse strategic plan can take anywhere from vehicles, such as Web site, campus and three to twelve months of work. The district newsletters/listserves, employee greatest risk is thinking the strategic plan newsletter, and social media. can be hammered out by a group of people in a daylong meeting. Because of the state-mandated district and campus 4. Implementing the Plan. As the improvement planning process, it is easy plan is handed over to administration, and common for educators to approach implementation begins. Another strategic planning this way. It is important, personality trait of district/campus however, to establish at the beginning of improvement plans that often spills over the plan-building stage those fundamental into strategic planning is the need to check differences between a district improvement off the initiatives or action steps according plan and a district’s strategic plan. to the timelines. Since strategic planning serves the long term, the discussion It is critical that members of the strategic surrounding the objectives and initiatives or planning team, as well as the community strategies is more powerful than delegating and constituents, have plenty of opportunity them and then checking them off. to give input. The final plan should be the culmination of weeks or months of public Communication: discourse, modifications, adjustments, and • Producing an appealing brochure that input. summarizes the process and the plan to distribute to employees, parents, and community members is effective because Communication: it maintains a consistent message and • The great challenge here is keeping the is portable and useful as background communication about the strategic plan, information for a presentation. The cost which in many minds is little more than of producing a brochure, particularly in a document, engaging and vibrant over lean budget times, should be considered several months. A common pitfall is to along with the limitations, such as its oneestablish a button on the home page of year shelf life, which is shorter than the the Web site, load the draft plan along plan, and keeping in mind that it validates with opportunities for input, and leave the flawed theory that a strategic plan is a it alone until the next meeting of the document. planning team. Each time the plan,
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• Implementation of the strategic plan should be a standing item on meeting agendas for the school board, superintendent’s executive leadership team, and principals. For a statewide organization such as TSPRA, it is a standing item on the quarterly executive committee agenda. The most effective way to communicate implementation of the plan is through open dialogue in these meetings with the stakeholders. • The link on the district Web site should be updated periodically as initiatives get underway. • In featuring initiatives, changes, or new programs, the strategic plan should be noted as the impetus or spark.
newsletters/listserves and the district Web site, validates the open process that keep the strategic plan alive and breathing. involves key stakeholders and reinforces They also offer opportunities to celebrate the district’s commitment to change. milestones and the work of the planning • A subject that often comes up in teams and to recruit new participants strategic plan development is whether in the planning process. Finally, updates or not to include a separate objective offer an opportunity to communicate the for communication. If communication changes that have taken place or are set to permeates, surrounds the process from take place as a result of the strategic plan. before the beginning until after the end, that is unnecessary. n Communication:
5. Updates. The periodic updates will
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• Internal communication of the updates, through the employee newsletter and standing meetings, reinforces the district’s commitment to change. • External communication of the updates, through the district and campus
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Julie Jerome recently joined Comal ISD as communications coordinator. A past president of TSPRA, she has served on the strategic planning teams of TSPRA and Hays CISD, where she worked from 2000 to 2010.
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