Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What have you shipped lately?

"Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly." - Seth Godin

After reading Linchpin it has challenged me to produce and ship.  

In February, I will be presenting at the North Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals.  I will be giving a presentation on how to setup a Google Form for teacher walk-though's/observations for the iPad.  I am a little nervous but am looking forward to it.  I will be presenting three 45 minute sessions.  Over the next month I will be putting the finishing touches on it.  My hope is that everyone that attends will be able to walk out with working form and be able to put it to use.  

The main point of this post is, what are you doing to put yourself out there and take risks to help other colleagues?  Are you hoarding all those great ideas and successful strategies?   

What have you shipped lately?

If you are interested in the observation/walk-through how to video, you can view it here.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Traditional scheduling cannot address at risk students needs

An email came across our admin listerv in my state.  A principal wanted to see what other schools are doing in terms of giving zeros and dealing with students who are at risk.  Many people replied back with different styles of how they handle missing work.  Very few had scheduling systems that gave students extra time.  

I am a firm believer that we cannot address at risk students with a traditional schedule.  Most research says that ALL students can learn if we give them ample time.  

I heard this a while back from a speaker about separating students that "Can't" from students that "Won't."  With this in mind over the last three years, we have been continuously improving our system.  

Currently we are intervening with students that struggle in Math and English. We have made an effort using three forms of data to find if a student can't or won't do the work.  Lunch intervention is for students who won't do the work.  Students that can't do the work due to X,Y and Z will be placed in Math and/or English intervention during Block 5.  Below is it the current setup that we are using to address needs of students.  

Due to systematic changes such as these we have increased the graduation rate to 100% the last two years, and reduced the number of failed classes from 39 in 2008-2009 to five in 2010-2011 school years.  

How we use flexible scheduling: 
  • Block scheduling (A/B day setup - Blue Day/Gold Day) (90% of core classes take place blocks 1-3)
    • Block 1 (90 minutes)
    • Block 2 (90 minutes)
    • Block 3 (90 minutes)
    • LUNCH (45 minutes)
      • We expanded lunch hour to 45 minutes 
      • Students that are passing all classes have a normal lunch
      • Students that are failing spend Mon-Fri in lunch intervention as a working lunch - Teachers supervise these students
      • Students are notified on Monday of every week - if they are failing a class they spend the entire week in lunch intervention 
    • Block 4 (45 minutes)
    • Block 5 (45 minutes) 
      • AKA Student Responsibility Block (Students not in focused intervention - are able to move freely to work with teachers they need help from)
      • PLC Time (English/Social studies Wed/Thurs) (Math/Science Mon/Tues)
      • English/LA Intervention (Mon/Tues) 3 teachers and an aid work with these students 
      • Math Intervention (Wed/Thurs) 2 teachers and an aid 

We need to think outside the box to address students that struggle.  I believe this can only be done through flexible scheduling.  How have you created systematic changes to ensure learning for all?  

What is your system of separating the Can'ts from the Won'ts?

*It must be noted that some students can't and won't do the work.  These are the most difficult.  

If there is a schedule that works for you, please send it my way.  @mdmcneff

Monday, December 12, 2011

I am done pretending...

We have a great school, we have a lot of success in academics and activities.  My teachers work hard, my students work hard.  We have very few discipline problems.  So when it came to addressing some bullying issues, I felt as if we were doing well preventing bullying.  We addressed potential problems that we saw and heard immediately.  We are visible in the hallways and keep as many eyes on students as possible.  

The problem is, bullying does not happen around adults.  Barb Coloroso says, "A bully surveys the landscape and looks to the audience to see if any adult is paying attention." (p. 6) Don't get me wrong it is extremely important that we are visible, but bullies will find another way.  

So I am done pretending that we don't have a problem.  I have found that it is more prevalent than one would think.  The root of the problem is the bystander.  The bystander can either feed the power of the bully or decrease it greatly.  This video shows the power of the bystander.

Being visible in the hallways/lunch/bus/etc. and using harsh discipline will only get you so far.  How can we get the bystander to step up and change the cycle?

Check out the Bully, Bullied and the Bystander by Barb Coloroso for a great resource! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I have never officially been to an Edcamp, but have heard so many great things about them through Twitter.  I got to thinking why can't we make one happen in our state?  I contacted @cnansen and a few others from my doc cohort and we are getting the ball rolling with hopes of putting one together in our state this summer.

We have been been working together using Google docs, we plan to meet using the Google Hangout feature as well as using email.  We are hoping to draw people from the region that are interested in this idea.  We will have some updates coming very soon, including location and the date for this summer.

More to come!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Electronic Teaming to PLC

We are a small school in rural North Dakota.  Most of my elective teachers do not have someone to team with for a PLC.  I have combined most of them in a hodgepodge team to look at what our students should know and be able to do in the area of technology.  Working with a principal from another school we were able to form a partnership so that our Family and Consumer Science teachers could team together.  They are able to meet for a little over an hour every two weeks.

They meet over Skype and share their documents through Google Docs accounts.  They are able to have the same types of conversations as they would face to face, and be able to look at the same documents with ease. 

Here are some articles for schools that may be struggling to put together PLC teams with singleton teachers.  Two excellent leaders in this area!

Rick Dufour:

Bill Ferriter:

There are many ways out there for small schools or elective teachers to participate in the PLC.  We have to find ways to be creative to make it work.  I encourage you to work with other schools to create partnerships, it will be extremely beneficial and singletons will not be left on the outside looking in.