Given the rapid growth in my work with schools, I need a more robust website where I can share my blog, new book, new articles, resources, and workshop events. SO THIS IS THE LAST POST ON THIS SITE.




In addition to my blog, on the new site you will find:

Link for free download of the Introduction to my new book, #EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education

Resources: Links to my books, articles, media events, slide decks, and more.

Events: Clients lists, event tracking, and feedback



One of the big obstacles to school innovation I have found is the “dam” of college admissions and college entrance exams that focus on lower-order knowledge acquisition and regurgitation. Anecdotal evidence points to the fact that if a good school de-emphasizes AP’s and college test prep and emphasizes deep, rigorous, student-centered, project-focused learning, their students will be attractive to the most competitive colleges and universities.  But where are the data? How do we answer parents who say “We know the processes of the past have worked to get our kids admitted to good colleges, so why do you want to mess with it?”

There is no one answer. We can cite college presidents and VP of Admissions who tell us that they want to admit creative, deep-thinking young people, but those same colleges still rely heavily on entrance exams, inflated grade records, and AP’s, right?

Twitter colleague Shelley Krause shared this compilation of actual SAT scores in the 25th-75th percentile range at many well-known and selective colleges and universities. Many of their students  are admitted with SAT’s in the 1000-1100 range (1800 scale); this are not low, but neither are they out of reach.

Will this report answer the concerns of parents? Not by itself.  But there is plenty of evidence, including Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath about which I wrote last spring, that there is a broad tier of US colleges and universities that are highly appropriate for, and available to, a range of high school graduates, not just the big name “most selective” schools. We are educators; we are in the business of educating people. We can rail against the college admissions “dam”, and blame “them” for making us focus on objective testing and narrow courses.  Or we can stand up, as many schools already have, and teach our communities that over-concern about college entrance tests and a focus on a small group of college choices is unhealthy for our students and their futures.

I am in the final stages of launching a new web and blog site. It will go live in a week or so. This blog site, The Learning Pond, will become inactive as I move all of my writing and resources to the new site.  All of the archived blogs are moving as well, so nothing is lost. Thanks for being a loyal follower and when the transition is made, please add the new site to your blog reader.  

As followers of this blog know, I find THE key to transforming learning is painting the picture for adult educator-leaders, and then giving them the resources to re-tool and create dynamic, flexible, adaptive, engaged learning ecosystems.  We are seeing a mini-explosion of professional development events aimed at meeting this critical need. Schools and districts realize that they have both internal brain power and experience, and the ability to attract others, to create active learning, growth-oriented learning events of their own.

I have been fortunate to be involved in this rapid evolution through the leadership of The Martin Institute, and via that organization, Harvard Project Zero.  This summer I keynoted and did a workshop for the first annual Summer Institute at Pinecrest Schools in Ft. Lauderdale, and attended/connected with #FUSE14, the leading design thinking event for K-12 educators. In August I will work with the leadership team on strategic evolution of the Center For Transformative Teaching and Learning at St. Andrew’s School in Potomac, MD which is leading the way in brain research and K-12 learning.

imgresNow colleagues in and around (or with a short plane ride to!) the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley can help build that capacity through the first annual Los Altos School District EdSummit September 18-20.  Like other events of this nature, it offers an impactful line-up of speakers and active learning workshops, and will grow rapidly in the years to come. Why? Because good educators realize that effective learning for adults and students alike takes place when people are actively engaged in the learning process, not sitting listening to lectures. When thought-and-action leaders Kami Thordarson and Alyssa Gallagher asked me to give a workshop and do an #EdJourney book signing, I happily waived my fee and jumped on board! Come join us for a day or two of highly effective, affordable, transformational personal and professional growth.

Make this event, or one like it, a cornerstone of your professional growth plan for the year.  Commit to a day or two of expansive thinking and expanding your local, regional, or national PLC.  Bring this mindset back to your school and share with your colleagues…and you just may start a professional collaboration event of your own!

What schools in the San Francisco Bay Area are burning brightly with brushfires of innovation? Might I come visit, observe, reflect, and share with your faculty and/or students? I normally charge a daily consulting fee, but maybe we chalk this trip up to research?

I am honored to be a featured speaker and have a book signing for #EdJourney at the first annual Los Altos School District EdSummit on Sept. 18-20. And I somehow, stupidly, agreed a year ago to lead the organizing committee for my high school 40th reunion (yeah, I am old) in Palo Alto the weekend prior.  So I have several days to visit schools in the area. Am already working on a visit to Palo Alto High where I know innovation is percolating in many ways.

Other nominees and suggestions?  I promise to share a full blog on each visit.  Thanks!

Yesterday I posted some reflections on how schools can more effectively move from broad vision statements that sometimes sound formulaic or canned to a real pathway of strategic implementation.  One critical step is to paint a picture of what success looks like in the future.  Innovative organizations recognized two elements of painting this picture:

  • The picture will change.While we need to be rigorous in holding ourselves and our organization accountable for implementation, we cannot be overly rigid in our assessment protocols.
  • Not all measures of success are objectively quantifiable. Business people are used to framing benchmarks for success in highly objective terms; I built some objective dashboards when I was CFO of Francis Parker School. Schools are not like assembly lines (well, they should not be!) Some measures of success can be tracked on a spreadsheet, and schools do that pretty well: test scores, graduation rates, admissions demand, etc. Other measures are just as critical.

Here are a few that I brainstormed for another school I am working with that might help you start:

  • Faculty, administrative staff, and trustees are able to communicate a brief summary of the school vision and how what they do each day contributes to that vision.
  • Faculty and administrative staff have PLC’s of both the school community and external colleagues with whom they connect frequently.
  • Faculty and administrative staff are increasingly viewed as educational thought leaders within the school community, the local region, and with a national educational audience.
  • Professional growth resources are closely aligned to specific elements of the vision.
  • Ongoing professional growth is a core element of faculty and administrative staff assessment.
  • Most adults are eager to come to work most days; they would rather work at your school than at other schools; they are happy and have some fun!
  • Adults increasingly feel comfortable with taking risks in their work and know that school leadership supports them. The board and leadership team have developed a transparent risk profile that sets out broad boundaries for others to follow.
  • Faculty and administrative staff embrace the role of “leader” in their respective jobs; are able to articulate what that means and how they lead.  Authentic leadership is available and expected throughout the organization.

What might your school look like in 12 months using these measures?  In 36 months?  What are you and your leadership doing to get there? How might you edit this list?


Last week I reviewed the visioning and strategic planning documents for a school with whom I may work in the fall.  Taking out the specifics for that school, I thought I would share my reflections on “how might we improve the path from forward leaning vision to sustainable, system-wide implementation of our strategic goals?

I am a huge fan of deeper visioning statements, or whatever title we lend to this document.  Mission and vision statements at schools tend to all have many of the same words, which makes it very difficult for the school community to enact, and the greater community to understand, a differentiated value.  Longer, deeper articulations of the vision provide that opportunity for authentic differentiation in ways that allow faculty and staff to say “I see how I can contribute to the vision each day”, or someone out in the community to say “I see why my child should attend” or “I understand why the school is an important community resource”.

Embedded within the vision, virtues, and strategic visions of most schools are often words and phrases that offer the chance to build this differentiation, and also upon which to ensure systematic alignment of the program.  I have found that “parsing” the existing language, highlighting the core words and phrases, is an extremely helpful first step transition from plan to implementation.  What does “global” really mean?  What is an “exceptional, innovative, and relevant” educational program?  What do we mean by “excellent” teaching? How do we promote truly collaborative professional growth?  How might we become a critical community asset?

If the entire faculty/staff engages in this reduction, and then in developing implementation strategies that address them with rigor, they have both understanding and buy-in; they will have created the implementation process.  We apportion resources (time, money, people, physical space, and knowledge) in ways to best support an evolving program.  Have we asked how our buildings support and amplify our strategic goals? Have we aligned our budget and professional development expectations to promote these goals? Are we hiring people who have demonstrated “excellence” in our key areas or growth? The process involves challenging ourselves to ask the hard questions, to ensure system-wide alignment of resources to these parsed vision elements.  Where are we doing these things well?  Where might we improve and how might we get there?

I will follow up tomorrow with some ideas for rubrics on how to measure success against our vision.


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