Paper Binders and the School Safety Plan


Most schools have an safety plan that consists of a detailed set of instructions bundled in a 3-ring binder. Updates occur during the school year occur, and are typically distributed via email or occasionally mass printed and shared at staff meetings. It then becomes the responsibility of the holder of the 3-ring binder to put the updates into the right tab–doing this presumably in a timely fashion..

Two decades ago, school safety consisted mostly of a few fire drills, safety patrols, observant staff and perhaps a tornado drill or two. This world has changed since Columbine and Sandy Hook and Katrina. We recognize that local law enforcement, school officials and even FEMA must work collaboratively and actively together to build a safe and effective plan—one that is less dependent on individual people and more dependent on systems. That was one of the key tragic lessons from Sandy Hook.

Let’s face it: To be most effective, schools must do more than print out pages and distribute safety binders. What’s needed are stronger, modern systems that include built-in communications, alerts, instructions, and guides for navigating emergencies. If you are still using paper—wake up to the 21st century. Your life––and the life of others––depends on it.

The Average Achievement of Mediocrity

I’ve been fortunate in my adult life to develop opinions which are well-reasoned, insightful and practical. The issue with everyone else is that very few people have this special gift. It is reserved for a select group, of which I am a member. And if I want your opinion, I will give it to you.

Whew! Got that out of my system. It took a lot of work to put that in writing; now that I’m re-reading it––it is amazing in its accuracy. Or it could just be that I’m simply a victim of public education, but that would be too rationale.

In my professional life, I get to visit lots of schools and see all kinds of classroom activity. Most schools are populated with all kinds of good people: principals, teachers, volunteers and more. But it is also rare that educational leadership wants to challenge the status quo to boost learning beyond the norm. In too many schools, having a failure rate, er, I mean “not meeting proficiency” of…say…30% or 40% in a subject or grade… is seen as part of the package. No doubt, there’s plenty of blame to sling around: bad measurement systems, lousy technology, outdated tests, under fed students, poor legislation…well, you get the idea. It becomes difficult to find a gutsy leader who stands-up to this—someone who is fed-up with doing the same-old, same-old. Why is that? What about trying something a bit fresher, newer and proven-to-work? As I gaze across the education landscape, it seems to me there are simply too many followers––and they look much like a group of people trying to make it through another day. Maybe I’ve just defined the achievement of mediocrity…

Posted in K12

Winning at the Big Dance

Watching selection Sunday can bring both heartbreak and excitement for any basketball fan. 66 teams start––but only team one finishes on top. It allows all fans to pick their favorite—including an alma mater, local team or a national powerhouse. Like a lunch great lunch buffet, the action continues until the tournament winner is crowned.

When I visit with organizations during these weeks, talking about the NCAA Tournament is a nice ice-breaker. We find out favorites and a few surprise selections. Whatever the outcome, the tournament is an exciting time in college sports and highlights incredible games from around the country. It highlights all kinds of winning programs and reinvigorates alumni to pay a little closer attention during the month on March.

Formative Assessment: a Pain in the #$%@!

Landmark research published in the 90s (see Wiliam and Black, 1998) points to the necessity of educators to understand what it takes to improve classroom instruction. They urge practitioners to embrace the use of formative assessment everyday, primarily because it is incredibly effective in boosting learning.

Formative assessment is a process that the best teachers use everyday. It is the idea of asking students a relevant question, waiting for their response––then providing feedback (direct or indirect) and encouraging students to process new information…simultaneously adjusting instruction, improving interaction and encouraging participation by all students. Since this research was published, numerous others have continued down this path and providing more validity to its use. Achievement in classrooms using formative assessment show dramatic improvements (see Hertiage, et al 2010).

In a classroom of 30 kids, how difficult is this to do? Using formative assessment requires teachers to plan better questions, encourage participation, accept real-time feedback, make adjustments in teaching and––above all––acknowledge that how they teach is not necessarily being processed by every student.

Formative assessment is oft-cited as creating a richer learning opportunity for both students and teachers. Teachers are reluctant to adopt this strategy for any number of reasons: proper training, leadership and fear-of-failure are a few that come to mind. But inviting students in on this process everyday seems a compelling argument to actively pursue this concept––and just might overcome a teacher’s inhibitions.

Posted in K12

“We’re all set,” makes me worry about safety

Safety is a big issue in schools. We’ve had major, national school tragedies in Colorado, New Jersey, West Virginia and Washington State. But everyday––and in every state––something happens that derails an otherwise normal day. Fears about violence, bullying, drugs, medical issues and more are prevalent.

Safety statistics indicate that as many as 7% of students in grades K-12 stay at home because of fears about violence and lack of safety.*

What are schools and administrators doing about it? Many administrators feel they are doing all they can. They train teachers and practice drills. At the first sign of a problem, many are instructed to dial 9-1-1. But when talking to district leaders—too often is the phrase, “We’re all set,” repeated. What this really means is,As a school leader, I’m so busy––I can’t think straight. After all, we already have a safety notebook and know how to dial the cops for help.”

That is the problem.

Schools talk about safety being a priority, but their approach is backwards. Looking at this issue from a teacher’s point of view––this would change an administrator’s perspective. With CrisisGo, we want to change “What do I DO now?”to “This is what I need to do NOW.” That’s the focus of our software;  it makes following safety processes easier, more accessible and clearly more manageable.

So forget the, “We’re all set.” Let’s move to, “We know exactly what to do.”

That’s what happens with CrisisGo.

*NCES, National Center for Education Statistics