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 No doubt, there’s plenty of blame to sling around: bad measurement systems, lousy technology, outdated tests, under fed students, poor legislation…well, you get the idea.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

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

The Hard Way to Elevate Classroom Learning


There’s little argument that becoming––and then remaining–– a classroom teacher can be a rewarding career. But the sacrifice of long hours, sometimes difficult conditions, and an increasing number of changes means teachers must be incredibly adaptable.

Boosting learning for every student has also been a challenge—taken on largely by the individual classroom teacher. In a few cases they may receive extra help from a student, parent volunteer, a foundation grant to purchase supplies and perhaps even some additional technology. Which one of these factors makes the biggest difference to learning––and what inhibits creating better learners?

Dr John Hattie tackled this issue decades ago; his work is titled “Visible Learning.” The body of work and his supporting research is enormous––but for the most part he answers the fundamental question: “What works best for learning?” It’s worth knowing that in our world, he uncovers many misconceptions about students and learning.

And it’s fair to say that until educational leaders––including teachers––get 100% on-board and implement his scientifically-based recommendations, elevating learning will continue to be an uphill battle.

Selling to Schools: Trouble Ahead?


The business of selling to education is complicated and many times loaded with organizational, bureaucratic obstacles. For those companies that are willing to deal with delays and glacially shifting requirements, the rewards offer substantial opportunity to profit. But this comes at a price: The best solutions can be easily overlooked. The result is too often the acceptance by schools of mediocrity in place of something better.