Archive for the ‘Administration’ Category

Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS)

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Lauralee Pankonien, Sr Coordinator: Certification Administration

Although change seems to be a constant in public education, it is rare that a new initiative reaches most Texas classrooms in the same school year. We are on the cusp of that unusual occurrence as the new Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) will be rolled out for initial implementation during the 2016-2017 school year. Thousands of administrators and teachers across the state will receive training in this new system over the next months. The great majority of Texas teachers appraised during the 2016-2017 school year, regardless of content area, grade level, specialization, experience level, rural/suburban/urban assignment, or student population served will be evaluated based on the T-TESS standards-driven rubric.

The introduction of this system will create unprecedented opportunities for statewide school improvement. T-TESS is designed to acknowledge the responsibility of every educator to consistently hold themselves to a high standard for individual development and performance and to support each teacher in those efforts. On campuses where the evaluation process truly leads to improved instruction and student performance, continuous improvement is an accepted norm and teams establish structures to support a community of learners. The comprehensive T-TESS rubric includes specific dimensions, descriptors and performance levels. An in-depth understanding of how their performance will be measured using this rubric is essential for teachers to thoroughly engage in T-TESS. The T-TESS Rubric includes four domains.

Four Domains of the T-TESS Rubric

  • Standards and Alignment
  • Data and Assessments
  • Knowledge of Students
  • Activities
  • Achieving Expectations
  • Content Knowledge and Expertise
  • Communication
  • Differentiation
  • Monitor and Adjust
Learning Environment
  • Classroom Environment, Routines and Procedures
  • Managing Student Behavior
  • Classroom Culture
Professional Practices and Responsibilities
  • Professional Demeanor and Ethics
  • Goal Setting
  • Professional Development
  • School Community Involvement

T-TESS implementation involves multiple points of communication between the appraiser and the teacher: Collaborative Goal Setting for the teacher to establish measurable individual professional growth targets; Pre-Conference meeting prior to a formal classroom lesson observation; Post-Observation feedback conference, and End-of-Year summary of annual progress. There are standard protocols for T-TESS Post-Observation Conferences. Every teacher receives feedback on an area of demonstrated strength, or Reinforcement, and an area to target for improvement, or Refinement. The system is designed to formalize what highly effective teachers do, and support all teachers in developing habits of self-assessment, reflection, and adjustment through the creation of collaborative, relational, supportive cultures in which educators receive timely, formative, and ongoing feedback through a series of communication points and conferences throughout the school year.

With T-TESS, clearly school leaders will be investing more time engaged in meaningful conversations with teachers focused on improving instruction. These important interactions provide each campus an opportunity to leverage the appraisal process in order to create a growth mindset that is deeply embedded in the school.

Reflections from an EOC Parent, Part 2

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Author:  Collections compiled from a team of Education Specialists

 Our first InSight Newsletter for 2012-2013 introduced this new series focused on sharing voices of EOC parents with the hope that educators remember to take a moment and reflect upon the point of view held by one of education’s most important stakeholders, the parent.  As we learn and respond to our new state assessment program, we must remember to extend the line of communication and empathy beyond our campus walls. Some of our parents have experience with TAKS, some have no experiences with Texas’ assessments and most are simply trying to keep up with profession-specific jargon and various media reports in order to remain informed and make the best decisions for and with their students.

As with our first reflection, the entry shared remains as originally captured, changing only identity information.  It is important to listen to the author’s intent and emotion rather than dwell on any particular word or phrasing.  While the words themselves are chosen by just one, it is imperative to remember the sentiment is likely shared by many. By doing so we can then choose our information, sharing, discussions, and planning on the basis of the information receiver, the “end user” as it were.  Use the questions that follow the entry to guide this thinking and planning as we navigate this change and assist our stakeholders in doing the same.


“Scared, frustrated, nervous, anxious, and overwhelmed” are only a few words to describe how my daughter and I are feeling about her being an STAAR EOC student. Not only has the STAAR exam scared us from the jump, but it’s more frustrating to me as a parent to see how unprepared some of our teachers and districts really are.  

As a parent I would love to be able to sit with my district administrators and/or my child’s teacher to receive information regarding the details of being a STAAR EOC student, but if the information is not there how am I to obtain the information and ensure my EOC student all will be ok? Perhaps more trainings on the district and parent levels are needed in order to “calm” the fears of everyone involved. If not, the next round of STAAR testing will have the same amount of “panic” as it did when first administered.

 As with anything, we will come to adjust to what is required for our STAAR EOC students, but in that adjustment guidance on all levels would help with the fears and uncertainty of the districts, parents, and STAAR EOC students.


  • What is this parent really telling us; what concerns can be heard?
  • Can you identify with or empathize with the parent?
  • How well do you think ________________________?
  • How well do we consider those parents with additional challenges, such as language or education level barriers?
  • How can we be more purposeful in helping our communities learn and grow with us in today’s educational environment?

The Power of Reflective Practice

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Lauralee Pankonien, Senior Coordinator for Certification Administration


“If only I had time to think!” This sentiment may sound familiar to all of us as busy educators, but research shows that in order to be effective in our work we must treat time for reflection not as a luxury, but as a necessity.  Adults can develop the habit of mind that engages in reflective practice in order to make more informed decisions.  If teachers and school leaders are more reflective, they will be better placed to make good judgments about appropriate instructional leadership, accurate evaluative criteria and useful responses to group problems and other matters.  Therefore, informed decision making can be considered essential to effective leadership (Brookfield, 2002).

Reflective practitioners check their assumptions about good practice against the insights gleaned from colleagues, examine their colleagues’ perceptions, unearth and challenge their assumptions, and use their own autobiographical experiences and reading of educational research to help them view their practice from different, and helpful, angles (Brookfield, 1995).  These leaders are interested in understanding and questioning their own work because they take their own practice seriously.  Although today’s school leader does not enjoy an abundance of down time to kick back and mull over the situations encountered in a given day of work, it is possible to develop habits of reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action.

Reflection-in-action is sometimes described as “thinking on our feet,” and involves looking to our experiences, connecting with our feelings, and attending to our theories in use, which causes us to build new understandings to inform our actions in the situation that is unfolding.  Following any given situation in their work environment, educators may write up recordings, talk things through with a supervisor or colleague and so on.  The act of reflecting-on-action enables us to spend time exploring why we acted as we did (Smith, 2001) in order to consider questions and ideas about our activities and practice.

Decades of education research have helped us recognize that meaningful learning occurs through reflection and resolution of cognitive conflict.   Time used to reflect critically on one’s work can lead to new understandings, important new questions, improved coping skills (who among us doesn’t need a little help coping?) and innovative approaches to problem-solving (Hirsh & Sparks, 1997, Peterson, 2001).  It may be a rare leader who has built complementary personal habits of thinking on their feet when necessary and deliberately creating time for personal collaborative examination of their own practice when possible. That balance, which best represents the true power of the reflective practitioner, is a worthy pursuit for us all.



Brookfield, S. Using the Lenses of Critically Reflective Teaching in the Community College Classroom. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2002.

Hirsh, S., & D. Sparks. A New Vision for Staff Development. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1997.

Peterson, K. “The roar of complexity.”  Journal of Staff Development, 22, no. 1 (2001): 18-21.

Smith, M. K. “Donald Schon: learning, reflection and change.” (2001)  The encyclopedia of informal education, (accessed October 8, 2012).

Transformational Leaders Institute: A Systems Approach to Transforming Schools, Classrooms, and People

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

“…we need to examine the institutional forces and traditions that prevent us from having an unimpeded view of our current reality and thus form a barrier to constructive improvement. (9)”

 Schmoker, M. J. (2006). Results now. Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Mike Schmoker’s relentless persistence to transform schools shines through in his book, Results Now: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning. His succinct prose articulates a call to action for leaders unlike any other school improvement resource.

Using Schmoker’s work as a foundation, the Transformational Leaders Institute offered at Region 13 provides an opportunity for campus and district level leaders to engage in meaningful, research-based professional development focused on school improvement efforts. During this institute, leaders will focus on systemic change for educational systems and will hone in on five specific aspects of such change, including:

  • Envisioning Greatness: Creating Urgency in Exemplary Schools
  • Empowering Change: Focused Acts of Improvement Through Meaningful Conversations
  • Unlocking Potential: High Performance is Achieved through Powerful Communication and Collaboration
  • Experiencing Excellence: Reaching New Heights Through the Art and Science of Teaching
  • Leading and Trailing Indicators: Becoming an Information Rich School

In addition to receiving a personal copy of Mike Schmoker’s book, Results Now, participants of the Transformational Leaders Institute will also acquire Leading School Change by Todd Whitaker. We’d like to extend an invitation to all campus and district leaders to register via e-campus by October 23, 2012 (#FA1224857) for what we expect to be a fruitful and meaningful institute. The first of five sessions throughout the 2012-13 school year begins on October 30, 2012.

Reflections from an EOC Parent, Part 1

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Collections compiled from a team of Education Specialists

Educators in the state of Texas have undergone quite a few transitions as of late, none-the-least of which was the implementation of STAAR, the new state assessment program.  STAAR arrived with its own unique set of acronyms, characteristics, rules, guidelines, training modules, passing labels and much more. The implications from STAAR reach to graduation plans, course selections, grade point averages, instruction and even course grades (sooner or later).  Along with all of these new details surrounding the assessment itself, we can also add the need to learn new grade level or course TEKS; to revisit the TEKS to be sure our teaching is at the proper depth and complexity; to implement the ELPS and CCRS; to adjust to changes in Special Education, 504, local policy and perhaps even the most pressing: moving into a new classroom. No one is arguing that all of this comes easily; on the contrary, we readily admit our profession can seem overwhelming at times and changes can be clear as mud.  However, as professionals we approach these changes armed with our educational background, varied resources and profession-specific jargon.

Now, let’s consider our parents. 

As we throw around language such as allowable accommodations, EOC, AYP, TEKS, Readiness and Supporting standards, cumulative scores, scale scores, minimum scores, Advanced Performance and myriad other related terms, we sometimes even confuse ourselves. After all, it is similar to learning a new language.  With this in mind, we must be that much more diligent in helping our students and parents understand what is going on and what it means for THEM.

While it takes a village to raise a child, when it comes right down to it most parents, understandably so, are concerned with THEIR child.  Have you found yourself on the delivery side of an explanation sounding something like this yet?

“Well, your student met minimum… but no, that does not mean that they passed the EOC.  No, they are not required to retake the exam even though they did not pass the exam.  However, they may need to retake it in two years. Yes, meeting minimum can be beneficial because if they do well on the next two EOC exams and reach an appropriate cumulative scale score they will not have to retake this exam.  The scale score, however, for your eldest child is this value but your scale score for your next child is actually going to be this. “

Similar conversations will play out in many different ways for many different students and many different circumstances.  Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? We all have the best of intentions and are doing our very best to communicate relevant information in a timely fashion.   In doing so, however, are we certain we aren’t presenting based upon what WE know and the language WE use in our profession more than what may actually be received by those without the same background?

With this in mind, we wondered what the unique point of view of a 1st time EOC parent might be.  This InSight series, “Reflections from an EOC Parent,” aims to offer a glimpse into the minds of those outside of our daily jargon. This, in turn, may offer some insight to help us guide our communication as well as travel this path and learn together.  While all identifying names and institutions have been altered to protect the author’s anonymity, the pure reflection remains the same.  Additionally, the length of the article will vary as a result of the actual parent submissions. Here is the first of our parent reflections on STAAR.

“Initially, I didn’t think that the STAAR/EOC changes this year would impact my family any differently than state testing has in the past. However it did and upon reflection, we are left with question and concern.

First, let me share that my family is made up of three teenage kids. Our oldest is a girl and will be a senior for the year 12-13. We have two 15 year old twin boys who will be sophomores for the year 12-13. With this dynamic, we get to experience navigating school through our daughter two years prior to preparing our sons for what is to be expected. This has been to everyone’s benefit as our daughter is pretty responsible and motivated in school. She doesn’t need a lot of parental guidance to meet the demands of a teenage student. She is for the most part independent. The same cannot be stated for the boys. They are much more reliant on outside support from us as parents to make sure that they are meeting all of the school requirements to be a good student. Due to this pattern, we as parents try our best to anticipate the needs of the boys. Another note worth knowing is that my daughter and one of the twins do very well on the state assessments. However, the other twin struggles in his classes as well as on the state assessments. He skims by most of the state passing criteria in most subjects and has failed the state math (TAKS) every year since 5th grade. He finally passed the math TAKS his 8th grade year on the 2nd attempt.

This year was more difficult because we were not able to follow the lead that our daughter had experienced in STAAR/EOC/TAKS. Since the changes were made after her, we didn’t know what to expect, resulting in more confusion than usual and less ability to support the boys from a parental perspective. The school and district have provided information about the STAAR/EOC assessments on their web pages and through email. However, these are usually copy and paste narratives from TEA or links to the TEA information. This is not “parent friendly” reading in my opinion. When we ask our boys what they know, it is very difficult for them to share any information with us outside of… “I will be taking a test in Math.” They say they were told that the tests were going to be more difficult and they would have to solve more multi-step problems. As far as being able to help the boys study, we were at a disadvantage. We had no way to figure out what they needed to study and what they didn’t. Benchmark tests results were not shared with us (that may be because the boys didn’t share them) so we didn’t know where to spend any study focus. At this point we were left to trust that the school and the teachers were making sure things were in place at school. When I would call and visit to discuss extra tutoring opportunities for the twin that struggles and needed more, I was given dates for\ the week prior to the tests. Since we knew that he needed more than that, we had him tutored privately after school once a week for the entire 2nd semester. I had to come up with my own curriculum of study that I aligned to the TEKs that I knew he would be tested on.

Frustration grew as we quickly figured out that the delay in test results would not be available until the last week of school and in some subjects after school was out. This is extremely difficult for a family because it impacts summer plans that may be interrupted by the potential of summer school, test study sessions, or test retakes. Not to mention, we won’t know if a student who doesn’t pass the STAAR or EOC could be promoted to the next grade. All of this was left up in the air causing anxiety and stress for a child that already finds school frustrating. We received a letter in the mail June 10th with test results for all three kids. Our daughter and one twin did very well. The other twin PASSED the math test. YAY!!! However, he did not pass the reading or geography tests. He failed two out of four tests. That letter also gave us a study session date for each test he needed to retake as well as dates for the test retake. We are still waiting to hear if he passed those test on his second attempt.

My perspective as a parent is that if all three of my children where typical learners, we would have felt that the experience of STAAR/EOC change was not significant. However, we cannot say the same for my son who is a struggling learner. It has been confusing and frustrating trying to make sure we provide what he needs to succeed in school. Even with a twin who experiences everything at the same time as he does, we are still left with questions. There were many times when I would ask questions and the school would respond with, “This is all new and we are learning the processes as we go.” Don’t get me wrong, they are very kind and want to help my son, but it is difficult when even they are not informed very efficiently. The last conversation that I had with the school is that my son will in fact be promoted to sophomore status and will not have to retake courses. However, they also stated that this can only happen this year because the test is new and the district approved promotion of failures. It is anticipated that will change starting next year.

I plan to continue to learn as much as I can about the processes of EOC so that I can provide the support my children need. I want to be clear that I am an advocate of state standards and assessments. I think they are worthy and important. I think we are on our way to creating an assessment system that works, but we are not there yet. It seems to me that the system is working for the average and above average students, but our students at risk and struggling learners are at a real disadvantage. AYP is more informative in my opinion and I would like to see more emphasis and attention in that area.” (Parent reflection, received July, 2012)

  • What is this parent really telling us?
  • Can you identify or empathize with the parent?
  • How well do we consider those parents with additional challenges, such as language or education level barriers?
  • Can we be more purposeful in helping our communities learn and grow with us in today’s educational environment?

Section 504 FAQ

Friday, August 24th, 2012

 Authors:  Susan Patteson and Judy Butler


What is the purpose of Section 504?

Section 504’s main emphasis in the schools is equal educational opportunity, which is mainly accomplished by providing appropriate classroom accommodations to eligible disabled students. Section 504 also requires that eligible students are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in school extracurricular and nonacademic activities.

Section 504 is a nondiscrimination statute. The results of the disability must be that the student is unable to achieve equal access or benefit from the school’s program and activities as compared to a nondisabled peer. The existence of a physical or mental impairment does not mean that the child automatically qualifies under Section 504.

Who is disabled under Section 504?

An eligible Section 504 student is one with:

  1. a physical or mental impairment
  2. an impairment that substantially limits learning or another major life activity

The major life activities that were previously provided as examples were breathing, walking, seeing, hearing and learning. Through the ADA Amendment Act, Congress has provided examples of additional major life activities including major bodily functions (immune system, normal cell growth) as well as sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating. The major life activities in Section 504 regulations have always been meant to be examples and not an exclusive or exhaustive listing.

Unlike IDEA, Section 504 does not list a few disabilities (each with strict eligibility criteria) which result in eligibility. Instead, a broad formula is used to include many more disabilities. Specific physical or mental impairments are not listed in the regulations “because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of any such list .”  “ Department of Education”, last modified 3/17/2011,

American Disabilities Act and the Amendments Act of 2008

A person is substantially limited if he/she is: “Unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform,” 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(j).(1)(i).   Within the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, 122 STAT.3554 Public Law 110-325-Sept. 2008, Congress found that the current EOC ADA regulations defining the term “substantially limits” as “significantly restricted” are inconsistent with congressional intent, by expressing too high a standard.  Additionally, 122 STAT.3556 Public Law 110-325 –Sept. 25, 2008 states that “substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures.”  Mitigating measures may be summarized to include medication, medical supplies or equipment, use of assistive technology, reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services, or learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.

What is the role of Section 504 in the public schools?

34CFR 104.33(1) of Section 504 requires schools to provide a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to eligible students and the Free Appropriate Public Education and related aids and services are based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the requirements of Sec  104.34, 104.35, and 104.36.  These sections of the federal educational code provide guidelines for how public schools (or recipients of federal financial assistance) will evaluate and re-evaluate, determine eligibility, placement and setting, and implement procedural safeguards.

It also requires non-discrimination in non-academic and extracurricular programs and activities (the non-FAPE activities) as well as compliance with Section 504 procedural requirements (notice, access to relevant records, opportunity for impartial due process hearings and a review process).

What is FAPE ?

A Free Appropriate Public Education is defined under 34 CFR 104.33.  In summary, this federal statute of Title 34 of the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that each qualified handicapped person residing in the recipient’s jurisdiction receives an education that is:

  • free, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s handicap
  • appropriate, either regular or special education and related aids and services, and
  • provided within the handicapped person’s Least Restrictive Environment.

ESC Region XIII’s online module “Understanding Basic 504 Procedures and Services: A Sample Campus Training Module” may be accessed by registering through our E-Campus system using Workshop # FA1224572.  This is a free, soon to be published online module that will assist district and campus staff in developing their own Section 504 processes to ensure FAPE and their adherence to Section 504 procedures.


ESC Region XIII Section 504 Site:

Judy Butler ( or 512.919.5168)

Susan Patteson (  or 512.919.5401)

Text of the federal statutes 34 CFR 104 of Section 504 and the ADA Amendments Act may be accessed through the Appendix of:

Texas Education Agency, “The Dyslexia Handbook-Revised 2007, Updated 2010: Procedures Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders.”

Leadership and Supervision

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Dr. Lauralee Pankonien, Senior Coordinator for Educator Quality and Diane Potter, Coordinator for Administrator Quality


There are a multitude of hats worn by campus leaders, so many that it is often difficult to decide which one is the most important or how to decide where to begin.  So let’s start with the assumption, based on data and research, that no role of a campus leader will impact student achievement more than that of SUPERVISION.

Of course, we need to begin with a clear definition of supervision.  For the purposes of this article, let’s define supervision as the process by which individuals in the school are supported in accomplishing their goal of improving student performance.  Put another way, supervision draws together the discrete elements of instructional effectiveness into whole school action.

To get further clarity before we move on, let’s think about what is involved.

Supervision must be:

  • learner-centered and based upon the identified needs of teachers and yourself as the instructional leader
  • based on high expectations for growth toward more expert professional practice
  • collaboratively implemented and supported by collegial professional relationships
  • an essential part of the continuous improvement process
  • used by both teachers and instructional leaders
  • individual and campus-wide growth

As we think of each of these components, it’s also important that we think about the FOUR CRITICAL PREMISES that serve as the foundation for the process:

It should be obvious by now that leadership for innovation requires a person with a vision and the capacity to extend it to others. An effective leader is continually moving toward the vision through meeting his/her individual responsibilities as an instructional leader, utilizing the Continuous Improvement Process on the campus as a whole. Supervision is an ongoing process and a function filled with a multitude of daily activities and responsibilities that must be accomplished. Learning to prioritize those activities is critical in order to keep the focus on student achievement.  FINDING TIME for supervision means preserving time for those key interactions with faculty and staff.


How does an effective campus leader find that time?  Rather than giving oneself absolutes, it is often more manageable to think in terms of decreasing some behaviors and increasing others.



decisions based on assumptions data-driven decisions
directive leadership collaborative leadership
assuming the role of expert who knows what is best assuming the role of being a facilitator who encourages self-direction among staff


Once supervision is given the emphasis and time required, the next most important step is for the campus leader to focus on FEEDBACK.  But not just any feedback, as Glickman points out.  Providing quality feedback assists and supports teachers, enabling them to succeed. A supervisor’s function is to provide direct assistance to ensure that teachers receive feedback, are not left alone, and are involved as part of a collective staff.‖ (Glickman, Gordon, and Gordon, 1998)  Effective feedback will help you as campus leader to keep good teachers in the classroom.

The purpose of informal feedback is:

    • to positively reinforce strong instructional strategies
    • to assist in focus for walk-throughs
    • to identify resources for sustained support

Pairing the informal feedback with formal feedback and direct assistance to teachers is a crucial element of a successful school, always with the focus of professional growth and instructional improvement.

Finally, certainly DOCUMENTATION is critical to the continuous improvement cycle.  The analysis and interpretation of the observation(s) determines  the approach for the conference(s). Documentation is the data collected in a nonjudgmental fashion during the lesson. Data collection is conducted during observations through scripting (verbatim record) and describing (actions and events of teacher and/or students). The importance of documentation is to provide support of legal, ethical, and local policies and decisions. Effective documentation provides accurate communication to the teacher and is a part of appropriate personnel procedures.

Effective, ongoing, productive, authentic supervision can and must be accomplished by campus leaders – starting with a CLEAR PLAN and PURPOSE.  Again, effective supervision requires a person with a vision, and the capacity to extend it to others.

Instructional Leadership Development: Moving Texas Forward.  Austin, TX: Texas Education Agency, 2005.

Glickman, Carl D., Gordon, Stephen P. and Ross-Gordon, Jovita M.,  Supervision and Instructional Leadership – A Developmental Approach. New York: Prentice Hall, 2007.


Putting PD back into PDAS

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Feeling stressed out by the mountain of data piled up on your desk?  While the AEIS Reports, report cards, benchmark tests, and a wealth of other data can sometimes seem overwhelming, they offer school leaders the critical information that informs powerful decisions for individual, campus and district improvement.  In fact, these data sources provide the driver for the following system of continuous improvement, developed from a belief that we can always better both our education system and the skills of the individuals within that system.


from PDAS Instructional Leadership Development, 2005

Begin by analyzing the data to identify trends that occur in student achievement.  As patterns begin to emerge, goals for areas of need begin to present themselves, allowing you and your staff to strategically target professional development resources for the greatest impact on instructional practice. Formative evaluations of student and teacher progress, the results of mid-process interventions, provide information which can then be analyzed to reassess the originally established needs and recalibrate goals and objectives, initiating the next cycle of improvement.

Your Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) data can help you see campus wide trends that can lead to professional development for your entire staff, a department, or a handful of teachers.  Consider your options as you approach the formal campus improvement planning process:  Professional Learning Communities; internally provided, targeted professional development; off-site professional development; and book studies, to name a few. No matter what strategy you decide on for your campus, applying this process of continuous learning and improvement on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis will significantly impact classroom practice and student learning.

Administrators: Focus on Supporting Differentiation

Monday, December 12th, 2011

As an administrator, you understand the importance of differentiation in the classrooms of your school as a way to improve student achievement for all students.  You know that, as the instructional leader, your role is to make sure that differentiation is taking place consistently in every classroom.

But HOW?  Below are some suggestions that you may have overlooked or forgotten!

  • Talk the Talk.  Do you really know what differentiation looks like in the classroom?  If not, make the opportunity to educate yourself. Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson and her website,, are a great place to start.  Besides her books and presentations, Dr. Tomlinson’s website has links to ASCD articles and materials on differentiation.  They will help ensure that you can “talk the talk” with your staff.
  •  Now, Walk the Walk.  How often are you getting into classrooms?  Are you scheduling the time on your calendar?  This is the best way to let teachers know that what is happening in the classrooms is a priority for you.
  •  Discover Ways to Demonstrate Differentiation Yourself.  Professional development, even staff meetings, can hold elements of differentiation for staff members.  Be sure to take a few minutes to debrief, so that staff knows that what they have just participated in is differentiation, and give them the opportunity to talk together about how they could incorporate the techniques into their classrooms.
  •  Finally, Feed Them!  Walkthroughs and classroom observations are nearly useless without the final piece….feedback for the teachers!  Send a written note or email compliment when you catch them differentiating; make time to ask a probing question when you consistently don’t find differentiation in a classroom.  You’ll find out what your teachers need, whether through opportunities to watch someone else differentiate, a book study, a workshop, or online resources.  Start the conversation!