Saturday, May 14, 2005

Rough Draft of Assignment 8

VERY ROUGH draft of Assignment 8

Following extensive analysis of the source of our problem situation (undercredited 11th graders) [see assignment 7 for analysis], we were confronted with the new challenge of developing a strategy to address this issue. Faced with an undercredited cohort we decided to develop a plan that would address key areas of instruction and procedure.

Using different logical processes to choose areas within instruction and procedure.

As an antidote to "arrogance" (i.e, we know what's best and don't need to improve our craft), we chose to focus on improving instructional practices. As an antidote to "uncertainty" (i.e, abandoning conventional practices leave staff confused), we chose to focus on improving selected procedures. From the vast range of instructional practices and organizational procedures, we had to narrow down what we would specifically focus on. This section describes the inductive and deductive approaches that led us to settle upon

project development
mentor meetings
learning plans

We used an inductive approach to brainstorm many possible areas of action

We had strategy meetings, small group meetings and email discussions. This generated a list of 30 different ideas.

We used a deductive approach to analyse decision rules within four different subsystems at school


Rather than develop a plan of action we moved quickly into communicating our decisions for focus

We publicized latest thinking on the leadership blog.

Michael condensed decisions into one-page memo. [Mandated new norms in spirit of Heifetz (to be referenced) and using technical move to provoke adaptive work]

The memo was uploaded to a list serve, disseminated through email and hardcopy and followed up with a personal conversation between each member of the leadership team and a staff member.

We created specific staff development and resources to support staff in executing the plan.

We conducted PD on conferencing and use of grids. [NOT SURE ABOUT OTHER MEASURES]

We disseminated 4 page conferencing book which was an adaptation of "How is it going" by Anderson.

We developed practices for monitoring execution and collecting data on results

Leadership team formed into conferencing groups.

Michael required data in March and May for oversight.

In summary, we took our diagnosis of "arrogance" and "uncertainty" and developed a focus on instructional and procedural practices. These practices were aggressively communicated, supported and monitored.

Pyramid Principle and Assignment 7

I tried to use the Minto Pyramid Principle as presented by Phil to structure this document. I still fear that there are logical breakdowns within this structure. Here's my first draft.

Assignment: Identify cohort, analyze data, analyze systems. Look for causes.

Assignment 7
Bronx Guild

Two years after founding the Bronx Guild, we do not have any reliable methods for analyzing the causes for the results we produce. This situation is startling given that we will graduate our first class of students in June 2006 and 85% of that cohort has not earned sufficient credits to be promoted to the appropriate grade. Here we describe our efforts to analyze this problem situation using data analysis and systems analysis, methods that attempt to link cause and effect in a way that would lead to taking promising actions.

Data analysis was not useful for discovering causes or promoting action

We employed a common statistical method described by Douglas Reeves (REFERENCE HERE) to conduct a data analysis. We compared attendance, special services classification and 8th grade reading and math levels to performance [SPREADSHEETS AND GRAPHS ATTACHED). The analysis was not useful for discovering causes as correlations were were not discovered nor for promoting action as the readily available data were primarily describing qualities outside of the school’s control.

Systems analysis was useful for hypothesizing causes and promoting action

Coached through a process by Liz Gewirtzman (WHERE DID THE EXERCISES COME FROM?) we conducted a systems analysis. We took steps that would help us deduce how the Bronx Guild was set up in such a way to have produced the problem situation:

Team Responses

What’s the problem?
85% of our 11th graders are undercredited.

Why is that a problem?
We’re supposed to graduate kids in 4 years according to the system and society.

What about this most concerns us?
Eventually we’ll be labeled a failure and suffer a loss of freedom. We will experience constraints on our ability to work.

If these were symptoms of some disease, what would the disease be called?

Imagine there were a solution…what would it have to do to affect the disease?
The solution would have to help us see that our arrogance (or uncertainty) is getting in the way of student’s learning and that external constraints are not the problem. It’s US not THEM.

What message would forward that solution?
“One kid at a time” or
“In 4 years!”

We need a message that addresses the disease and causes actions or behaviors different than what we have been doing and provides the lift we need. We need to think about how it affects decision rules and how the message can be implemented in any situation. Questions we need to ask include “what does the audience believe that makes them favorable towards this message? and What does the audience believe that makes them unfavorable?”

The team’s response to this exercise in systems analysis was useful in contemplating causes that affect student performance at the Bronx Guild. The responses resonated with team members: we saw that “arrogance” described a pervasive attitude that “we know best” and that “uncertainty” described the lack of response amongst staff when their competence is challenged [REFERENCE HUMAN SIDE OF SCHOOL CHANGE FOR CHALLENGE TO COMPETENCE AS REASON FOR RESISTANCE TO CHANGE]. We think there may be other valid diagnoses but we chose to focus on these two in the interests of taking actions immediately. This analysis put the source of action directly in the hands of Bronx Guild staff and therefore endowed us with a sense of agency.
The most useful analysis (systems) distinguished itself from the less useful analysis (data) by uncovering causes and promoting action

Our efforts to analyze the problem situation of undercredited 11th graders entailed two forms of analyses supported by course teachings and readings. These methods reflect our efforts to link cause and effect and determing promising actions. We discovered that the data analysis was not useful in this regard because we could not find correlations between inputs (e.g., attendance, special needs identification and reading and math levels) and outputs (e.g., credit accumulation and Regents pass rates). Furthermore, we were restricted to using that data which was readily available. That data largely described characteristics that were outside of the school’s area of control.

In contrast, our systems analysis uncovered theories that both resonated with the team’s experience and endowed the team with a sense of agency. The action plan will be described in the next document in this series (assignment 8).


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Preliminary Report on Latest Data

Although this is just for our 11th graders, it is my belief that it is reflective of school progress.
When you look at how the students did in terms of credit last semester (probably our worse semester of "earnings") we now see:

79 % projected to earn more credit than they did last semester
27 % earning just as much
2 % doing worse

Now compare how they are doing compared to their average earnings prior to this school year
59 % projected to earn more than they had on average
2 % achieving their average earnings
40 % doing worse than their average

Finally, every student has a "burden." That's the number of credits they need to earn for the remaining semesters to get on track for a 4 year graduation.

16 % projected to reduce their burden (none of these are among the undercredited 11th graders -- that is, all were already accelerated towards graduation)
3 % have the same burden
84 % have a higher burden - that is they have to earn more credits per semester next year to get to graduation than they did at the beginning of this semester or at the beginning of this year.


Friday, April 08, 2005

The Data Is In!

It has been 2 months and 8 days since the semester began.

We had intended to take actions to address the problem of the undercredited 11th graders. Our first action was to institute or increase conferencing with an emphasis on instruction. We would record conferencing events and measure the success by tracking progress towards credit achievement. The grids were to be used as ways to capture fractions of credit.

Finally, today we have a full set of credit achievement data for this subgroup. 2 months and 8 days seems to be the current delay in implementing an action cycle and receiving data on that action. At this rate we would not have data again until the end of the school year.

I want to collect this data three more times. How can we cut down the turnaround by a third?


Thursday, April 07, 2005

One Crew / One quarter / Zero Credits

As reported by crew leader #3
Student1 10th grader O credits earned from 1/05 - 4/1/05
Student2 10th grader 0 credits....
Student3 10th...0 credits...
Student4 11th grader...0 credits from...5 credits projected for June
Student5 10th grader 0 credits...
Student6 11th grader...0 credits...4 credits projects for June
Student7 11th....0....5 for June
Student8 11th...0...2 for June
Student9 9th...0
Student10 ...11th...0...4 for June
Student11 10th...0...
Student12 9th...0
Student13...11th...0...5 for June
Student14 10th...0...

What do you make of this?
Interpretations? Hypotheses?

Does it mean conferencing does not lead to credit accumulation?
Is there some confusion by what we mean by “credits?”
Does it mean these students have accomplished nothing? Learned nothing?

This is what assignment 7 and 8 are all about: making and testing hypotheses.

Look back on the data previously reported by two other crews. Does it alter any thinking?


Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique

“In other words, once something is good enough to do the job it's designed for, the worst thing you can do is to keep delaying its release till it's perfect. A related idea is that once it's good enough, you've probably got more important things to do than to keep tweaking the little imperfections. People who aren't satisfied with good enough sabatogue their own efforts by failing to benefit from the good enough work that they do."
from a site about website development

Do the simplest thing that could possibly work.

There is a sweet spot in setting standards. Too low or too high can be disastrous.

TheBestIsTheEnemyOfTheGood does not promote mediocrity, it (paradoxically) promotes the best that can be done in a given situation. Sometimes we aim very high -- unrealistically high. When the dust settles, we find that we would have done better if we would have aimed lower!

With regards to yesterday's grid meeting, it is my thinking that you all fall well enough within the ballpark to have teachers do the same exercise as we did yesterday. Keep in mind the "resolution" issue. We're working with the equivalent of a low resolution microscope (not very good). Improving resolution (i.e., improving the precision of the performance expectations, attaching rubrics, including student work, etc.) should always be part of our school-improvement plan. But school improvement plans should not be mixed up with getting to work NOW with what we've got at the resolution we currently have.

Year One: No grids at all. Just credit for classes.
Year Two: No grids in use. Beginning to be developed in performance expectations. Credit was again given for classes or teacher discretion in Explorations.
Year Three:
Semester One: Mapping past credits onto grids just as a record-keeping exercise.
Semester One and Two: Roughly trying to capture current work and working dynamically with grids to get work recorded onto grids.

[years of intervening work]

Some day in the future: Students have complete control over their progress using the performance expectations (rewritten with precision) and the grids to move towards graduation.

Don't lose sight of this being a process and don't demand more, especially if it hurts the students, that the tool is not refined enough to deliver. At the same time, keep developing school improvement plans that will refine the tool.

Hope that makes sense.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Push to collect data

Michael writes:

Hopefully this reinforces Al's previous post.

In February, staff were required to conference, maintain conferencing records and collect data on credit accumulation. To date, one-quarter through this final semester, only two staff members have provided data. One is on the leadership team and one is not. The fact that the leadership team is not getting this data together is a big problem.

The problem now in late March is the lack of data regarding student progress and correlation to conferencing. We have to look at how we’re doing and ground it in data. We can’t do that if the data isn’t collected and provided. Please do that.

What I have now is limited to two crews. This data is based on progress of students between January 31st and March 28th.

Crew #1
5 undercredited 11th graders

Past Record (data from Semester 1)
5/5 earned less credit than their average earning power.
5/5 increased their burden (have more to do per semester than in the past)
1/5 fell off track (previously on track)

Based on 20 class days since January 31st (data from 1/31 through 3/28)

5/5 are earning more credit than they did last semester
5/5 are earning more credit than their past average earning power
3/5 increased their burden
2/5 meeting or decreasing burden – moving from off-track to on-track

Correlation to conferencing: unknown. No conferencing statistics provided.

Crew #2
Information was provided in aggregate form. That is, overall 14 students have earned a total of 8 credits in the first 20 days. Not broken out per student although range is earnings of 0-2 credits per student in first 20 days.

When this aggregate earnings is compared to aggregate earnings for past semester’s undercredited 11th graders, we see no significant difference in earning. That is, students on average earned 2.25 credits last semester and projecting from this current report will earn 2.42 credits per student.

Every student in this group has had at least one conference. Each student has experienced 1-3 conferences.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Al Writes:


I’m feeling like we are not acting like a team, nor are we sticking to what we say we’re going to do. I feel like we are together as a team building the k’nex tower in class and then become a bunch of independent operators when we are running the school. Here are some reasons why I think this:

  1. We said we were going to work on the undercredited 11th graders because we believed that all of our students were similarly undercredited (i.e. the 11th graders weren’t any different than any other group of kids in the school). Yet we are beginning to set up structures and practices that address the symptom of the 11th graders, instead of the disease of undercrediting (i.e. we want to start afterschool and Saturday times – some of them classes targeting performance expectations – for the 11th graders, a proposal for teaching a class during the day for the 11th graders, etc) How does this help the undercredited 9th and 10th graders? If our numbers hold true there are 85% of the 9th and 10th grade that are undercredited too! (BTW, what’s up with all the “offer classes” solutions?)
  2. In a very long meeting at the region, we said we were going to work on conferencing and grid use as leverage points to crediting. We set up the conferencing groups but then have done almost no work with them. We introduced a grid tracking sheet and then have ignored its existence for a week and a half. Now I’m just as guilty as everyone else. But what are we doing that keeps us from working on this?
  3. We have committed to conversations about the staff attendance problem. They haven’t happened. Why?
  4. Frenchy seems to be isolated. We aren’t making sure he’s with us. Just like last class, we aren’t making sure that all the members of our team are able to speak as clearly and concisely as each member of the group. Why?

I’m sure that folks could add or subtract from this list. As well, I’m sure y’all could point out how I’ve actively taken part in the aforementioned dysfunction. True, true…

The point is that I’m worried we are slipping into our old isolationist habits. (Did we ever really break them?) I think we have to figure out some way to pull together, concentrate our efforts and hold each other accountable before the year’s over. I personally do not expect Michael back in the school this year. And if we continue to fracture without him there day-to-day, I think we’ll be in a very bad spot at the end of the year.

What do you all think?


Friday, March 25, 2005

Checking in on conferencing & grids

On March 21, Marc reported the following status on use of grids amongst Explorations crew leaders:

3 crew leaders - sending grids this afternoon
1 crew leader- no updates on grids, offering learning plans instead
2 crew leaders - no updates on grids since they are using binders to chart progress
4 crew leaders - no updates on grids, nothing offered in its place
2 crew leaders- absent

I sent out the following email on March 25th in response.

It's clear we are still struggling with collecting results on conferencing and using the grids for record keeping. You each broke up the teachers into smaller groups that you were each responsible for to check in on conferencing. Please add to that task that you should check that those teachers are actively using the grids on a weekly basis. Show them how.

What I'm interested in now is the extent to which you have done these practices within your own crew. I would like each of you to tell me your status to each question:

1. Does each person in your crew have a learning plan for this quarter (whether it's foundations or explorations)?
2. How many conferences have you had with your crew members since this action was first initiated? Only count those that you recorded in your conferencing notebook.
3. What is the total credit accumulation according to your grids for your crew since January 31? Report this number as average number of credits per student (so that's a single number) and a range from lowest accumulator to highest accumulator. You would get these numbers by calculating partial credits as indicated on your grids.

So, possible responses might look like

Crew of 10 students
1. 6 have learning plans.
2. I have done 1 conference each with 3 students (total of 3 conferences recorded in the manner it was presented in where you taught something).
3. One average, my students have earned a 0.25 credits per student. The range is from 0 to 1. (This means you have grids that show this)

That's it. Please do this as soon as possible.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Minutes 03.22.03 Manager: Sue

March 22, 2005

Admin Meeting

One Minute Items:
ELL Meeting
Sue and possibly Jeff will be at a meeting tomorrow leaving around 11:45. Jeff will play it by ear.

Jeff Out Thursday
Going to HPA to see Fairness, and then to Outward Bound

March 30th LIS visit
There will be a visit. We need to make a learning walk folder for our school. Also the school wide thing they will be looking at is operations. Collectively the Building Council is thinking about this issue and are debating having an operations person who is not one of the principals.

We are having difficulty meeting with our small group. We need to do this. We are going to report back each meeting on how this is going. We will also be brainstorming ways to support each other. For example helping with coverages, and other issues that take time out. We are also considering using PD time.

After School
There are eight hours worth of per session that we can use for supporting under-credited students (priority to 11th grade). We will be seeking proposals from teachers to help us figure out what the after school program will look like.

Attendance Procedure
Marc sent out an email. It got an interesting response from Dana

Teacher Attendance
Dana’s email was great. We want to follow it up. Marc is interested in collecting data. Al was concerned about being reactive and wants us to have individual conversations with our two biggest offenders

Stevenson is going to take hats in the morning, starting next Monday morning. We are going to see how it goes and then determine policy. Jeff will tell crews today, Al is going to talk to Hamilton about enforcement on our floor, and he is going to talk to Mike about the policy and provision him with a bag and stickers to label hats that are confiscated.

Task analysis
Liz suggestion – “teach teachers to teach kids to teach themselves”
Research Groups – Work session on creating the sourcebook. This is our choice for Wednesday – Marc will be facilitating.

Impact Report Out
Dov reported back on our Impact status. We are very close to moving into phase one of the phase down portion of the protocol. We have met on criteria and have not yet met with a second. If you want the details, I have the documentation and am happy to share it and explain it if necessary. Lucille was concerned that we will lose the police presence in the building as we move into phase one. Peter seemed to think that the crime statistic will keep us on the Impact list forever.

Grid Use – saved for next meeting
Retreat – saved for next meeting

Minutes distributed by Sue

Minutes 03.21.03 Manager: Sue

1. ConferencesJeff has volunteered to send out an email that reminds folks to calltheir crew parents and to make appointments. The email will have aplace a special priority on making sure 11th grade parents come toclass.We are also considering what those particular conferences will belike. We are discussing the graduation plan and having parents andstudents sign it. We are also trying to think of other things formsthat will help to drive a sense of urgency home to parents as well asstudents.

2. Afterschool and Saturday extra helpMarc is looking into the budget to see if there is money for thedevelopment of a program to help under-credited 11th gradersdemonstrate performance expectations. The program will be organizedmore like workshops or classes directed at particular performanceexpectations.

3. Hallways, Hats, Attendance (teachers), Keeping track of attendanceThis is a big conversation we have been having re: how kids areinteracting with adults in the building (hats and hallways), thenthere were 7 adults absent today, and the last issue is the reportingof attendance to Shirley and the inconsistencies that are cropping up.

4. The other thing we talked about what Frenchy's desire to work withthe dance group and to work with kids who are "at risk". He will be writing up a proposal. Similarly, I have emailed Priya who had the idea for Wednesday crew. If she is still interested in the idea, shewill be writing up a proposal for that scheduling experiment.If you have any questions or other ideas, either let someone know orput them on the agenda for tomorrow. Sue.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

SMART Process

Message from Marc Siciliano after SAM / Baruch participants visited the Bronx Guild.

Great day. I'm certainly excited about the data collected and the ideasdiscussed. As expected, we're left with the "now what?" action steps thatreally speak to progress and accountability.I originally planned to use the attached document in my work with scienceteachers. Charles and I attempted it briefly -- and we both think there'spromise. I'm not sure if/how this fits, but I'm thinking of the next layerof PD using this model. We have staff-wide PD that address constructivistteaching and, more specifically, conferencing. With the teachers we'recoaching, I'm suggesting that we create specific, measurable goals relatedto their practice and student progress. Essentially, this piece becomes theindividualized PD our teachers need. The 3-step process includes thecreation of goals, an action plan and assessment.I'm sure I'm not capturing the essence of my proposal, but read the doc whenyou have a chance and see if this fits. Thoughts?

Science PD: The Goal Planning Process
File “Goal Planning.doc” Updated March 15, 2005

Goal Planning Step 1: Set Goals
The Goal Planning Process provides teachers, principals, and schools with the tools to create and manage professional learning communities within core courses, and with structures to set priorities for ongoing support and professional development for the school year. Individual teachers will set their own “implementation goals,” with a focus on their own progress. Teachers are to target three goal areas with at least one goal each: student achievement, instructional improvement, and content area literacy.

Achievement goals
Student achievement goals describe a concrete, desired change in student academic performance. Generally, teachers should use major summative assessments as a target of a goal instead of small assignments. Achievement goals might address one or more of the following:
Grade distribution, including the percentage of pass/fail at the semester break
Local assessments, including proficiency on end-of-unit exams and/or major projects or assignments
State assessments, including Regents scores
Participation rates, or attendance rates in academic activities, such as the completion rate on homework over a period of time

Instruction Goals
Instruction goals describe a change in teacher practices that can lead to increased student achievement. Instruction goals might address one or more of these areas:
Incorporating new pedagogies, such as cooperative learning, hands-on activities, or guided inquiry investigations
Curriculum development, such as creating and enacting new units of instruction focused on particular content or themes
Tool development, such as creating and enacting new rubrics for essays or projects, or new assessment systems for tracking student performance
Incorporating new technologies, such as PowerPoint presentations or graphing calculators, within existing instructional units
Actions that address special population needs, such as enhancing the support provided to ELL and special education students

Literacy Goals
Literacy goals should focus on: reading, thinking, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, or visually representing in response to text. Literacy goals may focus on either achievement or instruction (as described above), but should have a particular focus on these literacy ideals. Literacy goals might address:
Content standards regarding literacy, including enhancing ways for students to communicate and interact with informational text
Specific teacher or student actions that address a component of: comprehension, fluency, word knowledge, and writing

The SMART Process
First, goals should be driven by data about the school and the students that learn there. They should explicitly address gaps in performance, so that by attaining goals, gaps in student performance are closed. Second, a teacher’s implementation goals should be written in a manner so that student learning or student activities are the focus of the goal’s actions. Third, while long-term goal setting is encouraged, the goals that drive the planning process should be able to be achieved within one semester. For example, a long-term effort to lower the failure rate to 10% from 44% over three years should target a reduction of 6% per semester so that ongoing progress can be measured.

Each goal that is drafted by a teacher should be subjected to the SMART process in an effort to further hone its clarity. The SMART process has many sources and many variations, but all of them use the acronym S-M-A-R-T as a device to remind goal setters of several crucial aspects of highly effective goals. SMART stands for “specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound.”


For example, saying that you want to have fun this weekend is not specific, but saying that you want to go on one mountain hike of at least 8 miles is.
Saying you want your students to be better citizens is not measurable, but saying you want them to average over 82% on the department’s U.S. Constitution test is.
Saying you want your students to hand in their homework more often is not action-oriented, but saying you want to establish a new system for managing homework grading so that students take it more seriously is.
Saying you will improve Regents scores by 75% is not realistic, but saying you will increase them by 20% is.
And saying you want the Cubs to win the World Series is not time-bound, but saying you want them to win in 2005 is.

Goal Planning Step 2: Action Planning
Once each goal is set, teachers should discuss as broadly as possible the actions it will take to accomplish it. Those actions will likely group together in a logical way, and a few “key actions” will emerge as the main steps. From this discussion, the teacher will create an action plan that articulates these steps.

Key Actions
What steps or activities must teachers accomplish to achieve this goal?
What products will be created?

Key actions generally fall into four different categories, which can serve as useful prompts in planning discussions:
Materials to get or produce describe items that need to be acquired (laboratory equipment, copies of literature for students to read) or produced by the teacher (review packets for students).
Common lessons describe lessons and units that will be developed and enacted collaboratively by a few teachers.
Organizational changes describe changes in school processes or logistics that may be required to facilitate attainment of goals.
Professional development needs describe efforts to build new knowledge teachers will need in order to enact their action plans.

Timeframe and Due Dates
Teachers should determine a realistic timeframe for each key action, and identify which steps depend on other steps for their completion. Once the essential elements of the work have been described, the teacher should select specific due dates for each action.

Goal Planning Step 3: Reflection
Reflection is an ongoing and active part of The Goal Planning Process where teachers pause to take stock of their accomplishments and discuss their process for working together to make further progress. The reflection stage always begins with analysis of the results, based on specific assessment tools named during the early stages of planning. After reflection, goals and action plans may be revised and updated, so that an evolving, constantly growing cycle of improvement emerges. Broadly speaking, reflections should consist of discussions of answers to three basic questions for each goal:
Did I accomplish this goal?
If not, what were the obstacles that I have control over?
What adjustments to this goal and this action plan might help overcome these obstacles?

Formal reflections should occur each semester and will drive the continuing process of honing the plan.

Note: Plan and email message from Marc Siciliano

Monday, March 07, 2005

Strategic Planning Meeting

The Thinking in Systems Thinking - check it out for a one page synopsis.

Step 1. Constructing Hypotheses or Models

We used causal loops and system archetypes to create models that might explain the uncredited situation (our problem)

Shifting the Burden quick fixes: blaming student motivation, creating packets for easy credit
Tragedy of the Commons lots of uncoordinated individual activity limiting gains for each teacher
Fixes that Fail making one person responsible for the assessment of an individual student, banking seat time
Escalation teachers vs. students using credit vs. behavior as weapons
Drifting Goals desire to give away credits over improving instruction

Credits used as weapons.
Quick fixes preferred over improving instruction.
Isolating assessment: single person's responsibility
Credits seen as commodity
Delays, delays, delays inherent in anything that addresses fundamental problem.

Step 2. Designing a way to Test Hypotheses or Model

Variables we could consider: presence of principles of learning, conferencing events and quality, reduce performance expectations, sending PID letters, creating incentive system.

Measure outcomes we could consider: progress on grids, looking at student work, report cards, attendance

Our preference for Step 2.

Variable > Monitoring, supporting and improving conferencing.
Outcome> Progress as measured on grids

Another interesting thing to do

Variable > PID letters
Outcomes > Progress as measured by latest round of report cards

What's next? Questions. What was missing?

Some were concerned that we did yet more analysis at the expense of getting better at helping teachers with conferencing. What will we do about helping teachers with conferencing, grids and learning plans?

Our litmus test was whether or not we had something robust enough to serve us until June rather than act in day-to-day mode. Do we have that? What is it?

If the message we are sending is "we are dancing as fast as we can," what new message is replacing that? What systems, structures and decision rules will be changed? Because if none of it is changed then we will get what we have always been getting.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Class 03.03.05 - Observations

Using the supervisory model as “coaching with a supervisory component.” (I don’t think we emphasized that this still has a supervisory component).

PreObservation: Help the teacher see purpose for himself/herself.

Opinion: It seems that the coach has to do some work to understand the purpose for herself, but this is inadequate if it stops there. The coach’s job is to make sure that in addition, the teacher is clear about her purpose.

Pushing Further: There is a purpose to “having a purpose.” What is it? The purpose of purpose seems to be a (if not the) key learning goal from Liz’s point of view. So, what is the purpose of purpose?

Observation: LowInference

PostObservation: Coach gets teacher to reflect WITH A PURPOSE. What purpose? Improving instruction? Connecting to standard?

Debrief: Michael and Nell’s purpose was less to focus on the “purpose of purpose” and more to focus on the potential for using this traditional supervisory sequence as a coaching tool. Therefore, our debrief questions were focused on “What’s hard about implementing this as coaching in your school?”
Bayard Rustin: Seen as an obligation. Lack of faith that it serves higher purpose.

HPA: Lots of different observation modes in play / rarely need to put on supervisory hat. (Was the implication that it’s not hard at HPA…it’s already being done through a variety of mechanisms?)

Bronx Guild: Too many inputs (DoE mentors, TF mentors, etc.), Resistance from…..(fill in the blank)

Hillcrest: Not enough time.

By the way, the Autonomous Zone group has been using and studying the book
Helping Teachers Learn


Class 03.03.05 – Messaging and Decision Rules

Problem Statement: 85% of our 11th graders are undercredited.

Why is this a problem? The message “out there” is that kids should graduate in 4 years.

Why is that a problem? It hurts our viability (invites mandates and micromanaging)

Name of disease? Arrogance (although I still have difficulty with this one – see earlier post…I prefer fear, uncertainty)

So, everyone is acting in accordance with some message. What would that message be?

Message? “This is as good as it gets. The model takes time. We’re dancing as fast as we can.”

What would we have to believe for this message to be true?

Belief? Time does not matter.

What structures and decision rules support this belief? (This bears further fleshing out as we had limited time by design)

SYSTEM: Distribution
DECISION RULE: 20-30 minutes after lunch is enough time for crew.

SYSTEM: Incentive
STRUCTURE: Banking Seat Time
DECISION RULE: It’s okay if you get it later.

SYSTEM: Information
STRUCTURE: IEPs arrive or don’t
DECISION RULE: IEPs aren’t useful – file and forget

SYSTEM: Assessment
STRUCTURE: Up to crew leaders to oversee progress
DECISION RULE: We’ll get it from the subject area teachers anyway.

Others (couldn’t categorize)
Kids will educate themselves and we don’t have to know them.
60% of time is outside of school and it’s not academic time.
My son is in karate.

What messages could be sent that would impact one of the above decision rules? We looked at “seat time is banked” and “it’s okay if you get it later.”

Possible alternative messages

You have to get it now. It’s not okay to get it later.
Just give them 10 credits each year. (message: don’t worry about the credits)
Give them all 40 credits on day one. (message: don’t worry about the credits)
Don’t be concerned with 4 year graduation rate and tell everyone (message: time doesn’t matter and we’re explicit about it)
You have to earn credits and there are an extremely limited number of performance expectations this is tied to. (message: you have to earn it but it’s not a big deal).

By the way, why bother with all this stuff? Check out

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Credits - Thought Experiment2

How many distinct statements are in our performance expectations? Hundreds?

What if we limited each page to one statement -- only one expectation per page -- and this was tied to our 40 credits?

In that way,
1. We have a link between credits and some meaning we attach to them.
2. We have a built in metric for school improvement - how many more statements can we add for the second graduating class, the third, and so on ?
3. We have very few things to norm.

One (not the only) reason we have so many performance expectations was to give flexibility. But perhaps there are too many choices. Having too many things "up for grabs" is ultimately debilitating. It doesn't help as we intended it too, it stresses out everyone.

Check this link for a review by Orson Scott Card of the book "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Conferencing particulars

I took the book: How's It Going: A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers by Carl Anderson and boiled it down to a 4-page crib sheet. I am hoping that having this shared document will help us focus on the instructional aspect of conferencing rather than just logging in meetings.
The guide can be found

Here's a thoughtful piece on freedom, when we find ourselves constrained by making commitments to instructional initiatives (to conferencing, for example)

“If a violin string is lying on a table loose and detached from any violin, some might suppose it “free” because it is unconstrained. But what, one should ask oneself, is it “free” to do or be? Certainly it cannot vibrate with beautiful music in such a condition of limpness. Yet if you fasten one end of it to the tailpiece of the violin and the other to a peg in the scroll, then tighten it to its allotted pitch, you have rendered it free to play. And you might say that spiritually the string has been liberated by being tied tightly at both ends. For this is one of the great paradoxes of the world to be seen and tested on every side: the principle of emancipation by discipline.”—Guy Murchie, The Seven Mysteries of Life

Credits and Philosophy (?)

Thought Experiment: What if we awarded all 40 or 44 credits or whatever students need to graduate to all the 11th graders. That's it. They are done credit-wise. (Of course, Regents must be passed).

I'll sidestep issues of motivation for the moment (i.e, the argument that they wouldn't be motivated to do anything we asked them to do --- an argument that reflects what the speaker himself or herself really thinks of students and the work we are doing in school).

The result (again if tests were passed) would be graduating a large number of kids...many of whom we would say didn't do what we really wanted them to do OR didn't learn much OR don't have the skills a high school graduate ought to have.

If you agree with this line of thinking, my next question is: so what?

So what if kids graduate at this point in time not having really done what we wanted them to do, or learning much or having skills? My own response is that it depends on (1) why the situation occurred and (2) how we relate to what we do about it in the future.

(1) Why did it occur (in this thought experiment)

IF it occurred because we have an attitude that "this is as good as it gets" and we don't have any higher expectations for our kids, then we have a problem in my opinion. This is not a school I want to be a part of.

HOWEVER, if it occurred because in our striving for constant improvement, this is what we did this time and we understand we are not yet good enough at our model, then it seems more acceptable to me that we do this. If we aren't good enough yet, someone has to pay the cost. Why should it be the student? Why should our inability translate to extra years in high school for a student? Why not bear the brunt of that cost ourselves by saying openly that of our graduating class only x % met the standards. Which brings me to....

(2) How we relate to what we do about it in the future

IF we say, there's nothing more we can do then it's a problem for me.

HOWEVER, if we use the x % of the first graduating class as a metric and set school improvement goals beyond that and hold ourselves to that then we can always get better. In 5 years we can graduate students where 90-100 % meet our standards (for example). But why should we hold ourselves to that standard for our first graduating class.

What do you think? I'm very interested in comments on this topic. Oh yeah...think of this: How different would our graduating class be (some who met and some who didn't meet the standards) from graduating classes around the city? the country? If we're worried about the consequence to the student -- what consequences and how would we prevent them if we kept kids longer?

Monday, February 28, 2005


1. Leadership Team provided with overall school stats via email and on this blog.

2. Leadership Team provided with proposed actions to focus on via email and on this blog.

3. Actions revised and turned into memo.
(a) Sent on BG List
(b) Uploaded to Yahoo Groups

4. Recommendations to leadership team to distribute same memo via mailboxes, face to face and follow up / monitoring.

5. Each Explorations crew leader received an individualized message with the data breakdown for their 11th graders.


Friday, February 25, 2005

Actions to Take

In addition to whatever further study is going on with data, I think it’s important to take some action that we believe might spur student improvement through teaching and / or get people working on the problem themselves. What I mean is that the action does not have to be the exactly right action (as if we knew what that was) but it should stir things ups – get people doing something new with their students or get teachers to create new solutions as they help us all address this issue.

From Heifetz: “…with adaptive problems [complex, not solved via some technical fix], authority must look beyond authoritative solutions. [However] authoritative action may usefully provoke debate, rethinking, and other processes of social learning, …then it becomes a tool in a strategy to mobilize adaptive work toward a solution , rather than a direct means to institute one.”

So, what I would like to do is send out another set of practices to norm in Explorations. 3 are procedures or systems that could affect instruction and 1 is directly about instruction or the interaction between teacher and student.

Mentor meetings: Ideally there should be 3 check ins with mentors over the course of a quarter: opening, middle and end meeting. We need to help develop structures for each of these. In the meantime, this quarter each crew leader should have the 3 time meeting with at least one mentor (of an undercredited 11th grader) and at least one check in with the other mentors. These can be a mix of visits and phone calls. Ideally everyone should be visited at least once.

Learning Plans: Everyone should have learning plans by now. What’s important is to check that students are aware of them, that there’s purpose behind the projects listed and that there’s an apprenticeship connected project on each one. This can be checked in a massive SAMs effort in one week. If each SAMs picked one Explorations room and did a check in: physically check learning plans, interview students present about apprenticeship and purpose, and bring notes back to meeting so we can collect and respond to data.

Grids: Al will create a short form on which crew leaders report the projects completed as reflected on the grid. This will be turned into “credits” for internal monitoring purposes. For example, if Yvonne needs 8 credits a semester to get back on track for graduation then she needs 4 credits this quarter. In 8 weeks that’s a half credit per week. We can see if she’s on track if she completed enough projects (even if they are spread out over various subjects) to equal a half credit (equivalent of one intersection). This should be monitored weekly.

Conferencing: I think many crew leaders already meet 1:1 with their students and often push them to do something more in terms of activity. We should add that, if it’s not already being done, there is some instructional component to each conference. What specifically is the crew leader doing to push their thinking, capturing that thinking and leading to conceptual development with regards to performance expectations? Crew leaders should keep a record of this to be checked.

Those are the four authoritative actions. I’m interested in feedback but only in the spirit of getting into action NOT delaying it. We have had the undercredited 11th graders on our radar since December 14th (my notes from assignment 7). Less talking about it and more doing so we can then talk about and analyse the doing.

“Talking does not cook rice.” Chinese proverb


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Data Analysis


I looked at the credits earned in January and analysed the credit accumulation for all our 11th graders. It is very likely that some of you may respond that the data is not all accurate and that is true. However, it is my opinion that it is accurate enough to make the general conclusions made below. Although we should still be working on accuracy, for the purposes of looking at our 11th graders I think this data is good enough. In order to avoid being on some radar screen for a school in need of improvement, we would have to be wrong on about 40 of our students by a semester’s worth of credit. If we are wrong on anything less than 40 students or by less than a semester’s worth of credit, it is not going to make any big difference anyway. Remember that when we are talking about 3 or 4 kids who have significant credit differences. Or even if we have dozens who are off by a few credits. It really won’t matter much.

I looked at three things.

+++On Track Students: Did the students in your crew get on track, off track or stable compared to how they started in September.

Not one student who was “off track” get “on track.” Even if they did better this semester than the past, they were still so behind that it was not enough to get them on track (Out of 65 students only 12 students actually earned more in January than they usually do per semester).

8/12 crews saw no change in this category and “did no harm.” However, 4 crews had a student who was previously “on track” fall “off track.”

+++Earning Power: How many credits did a student earn in January compared to their average credit earning per semester. Did they earn less, as much or more than they had in the past?

12 students earned more credit in January than they usually do. These students are spread out over 7 crews.

50 students earned less credit in January than they usually do and 5 crews saw all their students earn less than that student’s average.

+++Burden: Every student – even those on track – have a certain number of credits they need to earn per future semester in order to graduate on time. Did these burdens increase, decrease or stay stable?

59 students saw their burden increase. That is, they fell more behind than they were in September.

7 crews had every one of their students see their burdens increase. That is, all these students are in a worse position than they were in September.

4 crews each had a single student reduce their burden. 1 crew had one student stay stable.

So, as a school we lost more kids to the off track status, increased the burden of 90% of the students, and saw 77% of the students earn less credit than they had in previous semesters.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Changing Instruction / Behavior

There is nothing wrong with any of the following and in fact may be great ideas:


BUT, am I the only one that thinks this has something to do with instruction or the educational interaction between the crew leader and student?

For example:
>>"We agreed that every teacher will have a specific concept in mind (as a learning goal) when they are conferencing with a student and will go through the I DO/You WATCH through YOU DO/I WATCH model." OR

>> "We agreed that all students will be in cooperative learning groups and each will be taught explicit roles to play as they check in on each other's learning with crew leader facilitation." OR

>> "We agreed that a 'bridging' activity will be used with every major concept (2 or 3 per quarter) to help forge a connection between new concepts and prior knowledge. The Building Background Knowledge sequence can be used as a bridging activity."

These samples address teacher behavior in the instructional interaction. I don't see any of that in the recommendations. Either that's because (1) y'all don't really think that's at issue -- fine, then let's discuss further or (2) y'all think you ARE doing it by doing the above -- then I need to understand better or (3) y'all agree but it's hard and all the above is a form of work avoidance.
I'm interested in where people are at with this.Michael

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Analysis of "Problem" - class notes

What's the problem?: 68% undercredited 11th graders?
Why is that a problem?: We're supposed to graduate kids in 4 says society.
What about this is of most concern to us?: Eventually we'll be labeled a failure, loss of freedom = constraints on our capacity to work.

[I would like to dig deeper than this. What are we working on that we believe in so much that constraints would be a problem OR are we just concerned for personal freedom regardless of results?]

If these were symptoms of some disease, what would the disease be called?: Arrogance.

[This doesn't resonate with me. I think it's something like "fear" ].

Imagine there were a solution...what would it have to do to affect [the disease]?

We said, "the solution would have to help us see that our arrogance was getting in the way of student's learning and that external constraints were not a problem." It's US not THEM.

After Birdsell's presentation we were pushed to come up with a message that would forward the solution. We had "one kid at a time" and "In 4 years." [I'm not sure about either and would like to keep looking].

We need a message that addresses the disease (assuming proper identification of disease), causes actions / behaviors different than what we have been doing, and provides the lift we need. Think about how it affects decision rules. Think about how it can be implemented in any situation. What does the audience believe that makes them favorable towards this message? What does the audience believe that makes them unfavorable?

Martin Van Buren and Chester Arthur were the missing presidents.


Collecting Data / Taking Action

James has added the credit accumulation from every report card that Al sent me. Some staff's report cards are missing. This spreadsheet has been emailed to Al.

James is currently inputting the POL scores.

I think that as long as the data is provided to me (and much I have) we have the time to input the data.

I'm afraid that the we may allow ourselves to be seduced by inputting data or creating new systems (i.e., new graduation plans) without taking direct action on the core issue of the undercredited 11th graders: instruction.

I believe we have all the systems we need but they are not all implemented (i.e, does each student have internalized what their learning plans say...are they real live plans of action OR does each student have a rich project connected to their apprenticeship?). Inventing new systems may be enticing while not addressing the hardest work.

I would like to hear about what actions are being taken in the classroom and in the interactions with students. What are people trying out? What results do we see? How will we track those results (I suggest grids...another system in place but underused)?

Any thoughts? Debate?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Collecting Data / Assignment 7

I titled this "collecting data" because that's the aspect I'm stuck on right now. I have three sources of data that need to be transferred to our master spreadsheet and each has it's own way of getting done:

1. Transferring Regents scores from Sue's spreadsheet to the master spreadsheet. Apparently this can be done with look up tables and Phil will show Joan and me how to use them.

2. POL scores need to be typed by hand into the master. (Also, we need to revisit this sheet to see who didn't present, if there are incorrect records, and work on what to do next with the kids).

3. Report Card Credit Accumulation. This requires adding info from report cards to the spreadsheet.

Joan and I will work on this, but I'm wondering what everyone thinks (if I set it up right) about taking some admin time and everyone putting some data in. That is, if Sue were available for 20 minutes at 10 am, she would go to the folder and add what she could...indicate where she left off...and move on with life. At noon, I come by and put in 15 minutes and get as far as I can. If the setup were there we could get this done in no time. Comments?

I think with this blog we can add comments directly addressing this post and/or create brand new posts. Maybe we should only create brand new posts for new topics but I'm not sure of the best way to use this.

Hope this helps.