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Teach to Mastery not Test Scores

It's always good to review great TED talks. Here's one by Sal Khan.

Even though this conversation has been going on for years, we are still, by and large, still doing school the same way we have always done it.

What will it take for us to move to a mastery or competency-based system? We need to have the conversations.

The hard part is that it is hard. It takes effort for teachers, who already work hard, to do things differently. To stop trying to cover, and start trying to ensure mastery.

A real question is, what happens when kids start to master things?

They start to believe they can do it.

Can you imagine if all kids started to believe they could learn anything?

Synergy Success Stories


This week students presented their synergy projects to a panel of teachers that didn't know their projects. We had 37 projects greenlighted to continue, 18 that need some more organization before they continue, and 15 that were discontinued. 

We have seen some amazing efforts on this, *|FNAME|*, and it is amazing. 

I did some audio interviews with the top 8 synergy projects. What they have in common is that they all learned things that are the things that you said in a survey you really want your kids to learn: teamwork, collaboration, perseverance, grit, patience, overcoming challenges. These are presented in no particular order:

  1. Chess Club - This isn't your grandpa's chess club. These students are not only learning chess themselves, but they have partnered with Ladd elementary to teach chess to someone else. 

  2. Ed Videos - These students are creating educational videos to teach other students how to do stuff. Their target is 1-3 graders who will listen to something because it is not from an adult! 

  3. Tanana Step Crew - These students have expanded from their original start last year and are working on making bigger strides in their performances, and are actually performing in North Pole on Saturday. 

  4. Yurt - Students are creating a Yurt. They're following a plan and trying to create something cool. They've got it standing already.

  5. Drama - These students are creating short films about topics they are learning about in other classes. 

  6. SOS - Signs of Suicide helps students know how to talk about suicide in a safe and healthy way that gets kids help they need. In the past, this has been an after-school or during lunch group. With synergy, more students have access to participate because it is during the day. This group also has students who are part of TATU, Teens Against Tobacco Use. 

  7. Tanana Team Leaders - These students share their love of cheer, volleyball, and soccer with students at Ladd. The students come over on Thursday to learn about these sports. 

  8. Minty Business - These students are in the slow process of creating a candy business, starting with their own recipe for making butter mints. 

This is just 8 of the great projects that are engaging kids in something they can be passionate about and gives them an opportunity to learn without limitations. 

Synergy groups. Green means move forward, Yellow means needs more work, Orange means discontinued. 

Turning Learning Upside Down

Twitter version: Read this book, and join me as I try to change education.

I have been trying to change education from the inside out for YEARS! Ever since I started, I have been poking and prodding and trying to change and adapt it to better meet the needs of our students.

It started with inner-city kids blogging on salvaged computers my first year teaching. Then, a standards-based RTI approach that allowed every student in my class for two years to pass successfully (400 kids!). When kids get D grades, they have failed their potential. When a student gets an F, it is the teacher who has failed the student.

After that, I sought to change libraries in a 33,000 student school district so that they were hubs of learning rather than just places to check out books.

Following that I moved to a curriculum specialist position that allowed me to coach teachers to implement a coteaching practice. We also created a middle school schedule that increased reading scores significantly.

Then, I started administration, and started focusing more on kids as individuals, hearing their concerns and treating them with respect, even though they were usually in trouble. We also raised attendance rates from 85% to 95% in a Title I elementary school by doing 1 simple trick.

In my next school, we added Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports to the school day, rather than forcing kids to be told they are dumb all day, only to be forced to attend an after-school program where they still felt dumb. Honestly, if we can't meet kids' needs during the 7 hours we have them each day, that's our fault.

At my current school, we are really upping the ante by making education personalized for our students. Not just lip service, which is what most personalized learning is. We are looking at big ideas to make things happen for kids in a powerful way.

Here's my Four Year Plan (TM haha):

Click the image above to go to the podcast where I explain this in more detail. 

Click the image above to go to the podcast where I explain this in more detail. 

In the last month and a half, there has been a confluence of factors that have helped me see that it is truly possible to do what we need to do for our kids.

I'm a podcast nerd, so many of these links are to podcasts, which is worthwhile, because you get to hear the excitement in the voices as they talk about it.

I spoke a little bit about this passion in my podcast a couple weeks ago, where I suggested that we end college career readiness.

The dream I have had for education is already happening at a place called Acton Academy. At least a year and a half ago, Seth Godin suggested I talk with Jeff Sandefer, the co-founder (with his wife, Laura) of Acton Academy.

We really need to empower kids to make their own learning choices. I've been doing this with my kids for the last several months by just goal setting each week with them. It has been very powerful to see the goals they have set. Things that I have wanted for them for months they are choosing to do, without my involvement. It's awesome.

Last month, I interviewed Heather Staker for the Transformative Principal Podcast. That interview is not out yet, but you will enjoy it when it is, so please subscribe.

One of the things she said was that I must interview the Sanderfers and was kind enough to connect us.

While I was in the process of arranging that, the book Courage to Grow was released, and I bought it for me and my Mastermind right away. I suggest you buy it as well. I read it in two hours.

Soon after that, Laura was on The 1 Thing Podcastt. Listen here. I was on The 1 Thing podcast, too, btw.

Then I interviewed Jeff a couple weeks later. Here is the early release, unedited of that episode.

We can turn learning over to our students and really empower them in a powerful way.

So, how do we change education? We empower students to be the learners they are innately, and stop letting our public education put road blocks up that bore them and destroy their creativity.

What if you could sit down with 36 amazing educational leaders?

Monday is the big day for the launch of the Transformative Leadership Summit! I'm so excited. #TLS17

Sign up here

I mentioned last week that my goal is to reach 100 Million students in the next ten years.

Will you please share this with 5 people? We doubled attendance in the last week because so many people did just that!

Over 800 people have signed up for this amazing learning experience! My goal is to get to 2000.

Please forward this to 5 people that are leaders in your district (by position or influence).

There are over 18 hours of amazing wisdom to get to over the next few days!

Let's get to the schedule!

Monday and Tuesday we are going to focus on the administrator experience. Share this day's email with your principal friends, only if you want them to be less stressed! On Monday, we will have a launch webinar with special guest Danny Bauer from the Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast. Register for that here Click Here to Register for the Launch Webinar

Wednesday and Thursday is all about the Student Experience. These days are packed with 5 speakers on Tuesday and 6 on Wednesday! They are going to be huge. These days are especially good for sharing with teachers to get them inspired to meet kids' needs.

We have a special treat on Thursday. I'm inviting you to see a live Mastermind call in action. Please Join us at 10 am EST to see what a Mastermind is about. Then, schedule a call with me if you would like to talk about joining us! Click Here to Register for the Mastermind LIVE webinar

Friday and Saturday are all about the Teacher Experience. So share these with the teachers in your life that are ready to up their game. Friday morning at 11 am EST I will be hosting a private Q&A for All Access Pass holders, so if you would like to participate in that, get the All Access Pass today!

Sunday is reflection day.... so take some time to reflect about what you've learned and most importantly, how will you apply what you have learned? Whatever you are learning, you can share on social media with the hashtag #TLS17

Monday and Tuesday are all about the Parent/Community Experience. Parents and community members can be such a powerful part of our schools, and you are going to love learning about how to engage parents and community from a very involved parent group in the heart of Silicon Valley, to an amazing community partnership in the midwest, to a rural community in North Carolina. We will have a special end-of-the-#TLS17 webinar on August 8th at 4:30 pm AKST Register for the closing webinar!

So, if you made it this far, go ahead and send this to 5 more people! Let's make this HUGE!

Much Love,