Close the Gap: Empowering Christian Leaders and Organizations

Christian leaders and organizations face a significant challenge: to close the rhetoric/reality gap. To close the gap between the words of the mission and the current reality. Interested? Read on. This blog emphasizes ways Christian schools can close the rhetoric/reality gap.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Tokyo, Japan

Friday, September 29, 2006

Use assessment to improve student use of a biblical perspective

You know.
 
You know the following 5 statements are true:
(1) Writing essays helps your students improve their writing.
(2) Singing in concerts helps your students improve their singing.
(3) Giving presentations helps your students improve their presentation skills.
(4) Playing basketball games helps your students improve their basketball skills.
(5) Performing in plays helps your students improve their acting.
 
Why am I telling you this? Here’s why:
• Essays, concerts, presentations, games, and plays help your students improve.
• Essays, concerts, presentations, games, and plays are forms of assessment.
• Assessment helps your students improve.
 
Connection: Assessment helps your students improve their use of a biblical perspective.
 
That’s right. Your students will improve their use of a biblical perspective as they complete rigorous assessments that require them to connect course content, their lives, and a biblical perspective.
 
Ask yourself, “If my students completed an assessment in each unit like those listed below, how would that affect their proficiency?”

(1) Science 2: Write a 1–2 paragraph report about a dinosaur of your choice. Include where the dinosaur lived, when it lived, what it ate, what it looked like, its size, how it got its name, who found it, and any other interesting facts you found. Give three examples of how your dinosaur shows God’s creativity and power.

(2) Math 6: Construct a model of the solar system that accurately represents planet size and planet distance from the sun. Next, write a paragraph in response to the following question: What does math have to with God’s world? In your paragraph, make three connections between the biblical truths we studied in class and the model you made. Include quotations from two Bible passages.

(3) English 10: Write a 1000-word essay to answer the following two questions: Who are you? How does knowing who you are help you love your neighbor and/or heal what’s wrong in the world? In your answer use first-person, use six quotations (three from the literature studied in class and three from the Bible) and cite a minimum of seven sources (including works of literature, the Bible, and a Bible dictionary).
 
Now you know. Assessment helps your students improve their use of a biblical perspective of course content. Use assessment to help your students. Today.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Why use questions (to help students understand and use a biblical perspective)?

Answer: Because it’s doable.
You already know how to ask questions. Your students already know how to answer questions. And you don’t have to have all the answers. You can start with the answers you have. I believe you have the expertise you need to start. Today. Right now. During your next class. Just ask a question. How about “How can we use what we are learning to serve others?”
 
Better answer: Because it works.
Students increase their understanding and use of a biblical perspective when they consider questions like: “How can I be a wise steward?” “How can I bridge cultural differences?” “How can I use math to make sense of God's world?”
 
Need some testimonials? Read on.
• Student: “Questions challenge me to think in new ways and help me be a discerning thinker, to use a biblical perspective.”
• Elementary teacher: “My students have learned to apply a biblical perspective to course content. I ask them questions like, ‘How can I show that I obey God?’”
• Middle school teacher: “In my classes I ask questions like, ‘How do authors help us see truth?’ Using questions like this helps my students see God’s will in all that they do and understand that God’s Word applies to all subjects.”
• High school teacher: “Using questions has helped my students think through a biblical perspective and apply it to course content and to their lives.”
 
Need more reasons to use questions? Here’s a starter list:
1. Using questions helps your students’ connect course content, their lives, and a biblical perspective.
2. Using questions is a time-tested teaching practice.
3. Using questions is fun.
4. Using questions is something you can do right now.
 
So, what’s the real question? Well, it’s not “Why use questions?” Instead, it’s “How will I use questions today to help my students understand and use a biblical perspective?”
 
Remember: Success is your students increasing their understanding and use of a biblical perspective by responding sincerely to the questions you ask—not you dispensing answers to your students or even you asking your students questions.

Use class time to help your students understand a biblical perspective

“How can we help them get this better?” You’re in your classroom, thinking.
 
“We model Christlike behavior. We talk with students about our faith. We do devotions, Bible class, and chapel. Students get this part of a biblical perspective—they encourage each other, help lead devotions and chapel, and participate in Bible class discussions.
 
“But they don’t really seem to understand that they can use a biblical perspective in math and English and all their other subjects. How can we get them to understand this?”
 
Good news: Your students can increase their understanding of a biblical perspective of their subjects.
 
How? By using minutes. By using minutes during class. When your students have time in class to learn something, they learn it. There are always “good reasons” to not provide class time to help your students understand a biblical  perspective. But remember, "good reasons" are the enemy of "best reasons."
• Covering course content is a "good reason."
• Helping students understand and use a biblical perspective of course content is a "best reason."
 
Answer 3 questions:
1. During your last unit, how many minutes were your students involved in learning a biblical perspective of unit content?
2. How many minutes do you students need to really understand a biblical perspective of unit content?
3. What’s your next step?
 
Use your answers. Use your answers when developing your next unit. Even better—use your answers today. Commit yourself to providing class time in each unit for your students increase their understanding of a biblical perspective of unit content.

To meet your students’ learning needs, answer 1 question

Your students’ objective is to increase their understanding and use of a biblical perspective of course content. You want to help your student achieve their objective. Good.
 
Now what? Answer 1 of the following 10 questions. Then use your answer. You might be tempted to answer more than 1 question. Don’t. Keep it simple and doable. Just answer 1 question—then use your 1 answer.
 
Here are the 10 questions:
1. How can I help my students see the importance of understanding and using a biblical perspective?
2. How can I help my students understand that there’s biblical perspective of course content?
3. How can I help my students understand what effective application of a biblical perspective looks like on a classroom assessment?
4. How can I help my students understand how I teach from a biblical perspective?
5. What vocabulary words do my students need to learn?
6. What engaging instructional strategies will help my students?
7. How can I give my students opportunities to think through answers for themselves?
8. How much time during class do my students need for reflection?
9. How can I design assessments so that my students connect a biblical perspective with their lives?
10. How can I give my students more practice in using a biblical perspective?
 
Remember, the goal is not have an answer. The goal is to use your answer to help your students increase their understanding and use of biblical perspective of course content. Today.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What’s an IDEAL way to help your students?

You’re sitting in your classroom thinking: “How can I help them get this? I’m supposed to teach them a biblical perspective. Maybe I should talk with Tom. Michele mentioned a good book and a workshop next month. I wonder if we should work as a department to develop some curriculum for this. What would be the best thing to do?”

Stop.

Don’t start by talking to a colleague. Don’t start by a reading book or attending a workshop. Don’t start by writing curriculum. These are solutions. Instead, begin by defining your students’ learning needs by looking at your students’ work and talking with them.

Remember, the goal is for your students to increase their understanding and use a biblical perspective, not for you to be the master at teaching from a biblical perspective.

What’s an IDEAL way to help your students? The IDEAL process is a five-step process you can use to help your students understand and use a biblical perspective:
*I*dentify the problem and ask God for help.

*D*efine your students’ learning needs. Look at your students’ work. Talk with your students or give them a survey (see below for sample secondary surveys). As necessary, talk with parents and colleagues. Do this in order to select one student learning need you will address.

*E*xplore ways to address the student learning need you selected (see “10 ways to help” for suggestions). Pick one and make a plan to address it. Now get the training and support you need.

*A*ct. Just do it! And be sure to tell your students what you are doing and why.

*L*ook at the results. Discuss them with your students and colleagues.

Use the IDEAL process to meet your students’ learning needs. Today.

To pursue excellence, answer 4 questions

Your goal: To pursue excellence by meeting or exceeding each organizational standard.

Now what? Get answers to 4 questions:
(1) What’s the standard?
To meet or exceed the standard, you must know what the standard is. Does your organization have a set of standards? If not, get some. If so, learn them.

(2) What does it take to meet or exceed the standard?
To meet or exceed each organizational standard, you must know what “meeting” and “exceeding” the standard means. Does your organization have concrete definitions of “meeting” and “exceeding” each organizational standard? If not, develop definitions. If so, discuss them.

(3) What is the current performance level?
To meet or exceed each organizational standard, you must know the current performance level. Do you know which standards you currently meet or exceed? If not, find out. If so, use your data to develop action plans.

(4) What will I/we do to meet or exceed the standard?
To meet or exceed each organizational standard, use performance data to develop an action plan. Do you have an action plan? If not, develop one. If so, use it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

How can I lead effectively?

Let me answer your question by comparing coaching and leading.

You’re coaching a sports team. Here are 7 tips that can help you coach effectively:
(1) Know your sport.
(2) Know what constitutes winning (high score as in soccer or low score as in golf)
(3) Before the athletic contest, tell your team the plan.
(4) Watch the athletic contest.
(5) Know the score.
(6) Use your timeouts to celebrate achievement of the plan, increase focus on the plan, and encourage players to win.
(7) Use your players’ stats to improve performance.

You’re leading a Christian school. Here are 7 tips that can help you lead effectively:
(1) Know your mission.
(2) Know what it take to achieve your mission in terms of measurable student learning.
(3) At the start of the school year, tell your staff what the plan is for increasing measurable student learning.
(4) Watch students learning.
(5) Know your students’ achievement levels.
(6) Use your staff meetings to celebrate student learning, increase focus on student learning, and encourage your staff to achieve the mission.
(7) Use your students’ assessment results to increase learning.

Remember, the real question isn’t “How can I coach effectively?” or even “How can I lead effectively?” The real question is “What am I going to do today to achieve our mission?”

What can you do? Here are 7 options:
(1) Memorize your mission statement.
(2) Define the achievement of your mission in terms of measurable student learning.
(3) Collaborate with staff to develop annual improvement plans that target mission achievement.
(4) Schedule 30-60 minutes each week to do walkthroughs and/or to examine student work.
(5) Use your definition of mission achievement and your student assessment results to determine your current level of mission achievement.
(6) At your next staff meeting, ask teachers for examples of how students have increased their understanding and use of a biblical perspective.
(7) At the end of each year, use your students’ assessment results to identify ways to increase your students’ understanding and use of a biblical perspective.

Which option will you use today?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Are you a player or a spectator?

The game is achieving your mission. Are you a player or a spectator?

A player plays, knowing 3 things:
(1) To win, you have to play.
(2) If you play, you will lose. (No one always wins).
(3) What you learn from losing will help you win.

A spectator watches, never doing 3 things:
(1) Never winning.
(2) Never losing.
(3) Never learning to win.

Don't be a spectator.

Be a player. Play today. Achieve your mission.

Remember, the real question isn’t “Are you a player or a spectator?” The real question is “What step will you take today toward achieving your mission?”

Friday, September 01, 2006

How can I achieve the mission—without feeling hurried?

Achieving your mission takes work. Hard work. A lot of hard work.

You know that working to achieve your mission means you’ll be busy. Busy you can deal with—but feeling hurried is something you can’t deal with. You don’t like feeling hurried, rushed, a little out of control. When you feel hurried, you don’t feel peaceful. Not good. Jesus agrees. On earth, He was busy achieving His mission, but He didn’t hurry.

So, how can you achieve your organization’s mission without feeling hurried?

Let me answer that question by asking you some questions:

(1) What’s your organization’s mission? (What is not your organization’s mission?)

(2) What does it take to achieve your organization’s mission? (What is not involved in achieving your organization’s mission?)

(3) In your job, how do you contribute to mission achievement? (What does your job not require you to contribute?)

(4) To contribute to mission achievement:
• What 1-2 measurable priorities will you target this year? (What measurable priorities will you not target this year?)
• What 1-2 “good things” will you stop doing? Remember, “good things” are the enemy of “best things.”
• What 1-2 ways will you model an unhurried work style?

(5) How will you monitor progress on #4?

(6) How will you get the support, encouragement, and accountability you need to move from being hurried to being unhurried?

Need a place to start? Get weekly coaching.

Friday, August 25, 2006

What 3 things can I do to help my students?

To help your students increase their understanding and use of a biblical perspective of course content, answer 3 of the following questions:

(1) What 3 biblical values will I model?
(2) What 3 questions will I train them to ask?
(3) What 3 questions will I ask them?
(4) What 3 Bible verses will I help them memorize, understand, and apply?
(5) What 3 biblical principles will I help them understand and apply?
(6) What 3 skills will I help them improve?
(7) What 3 types of assessment will I use?
(8) What 3 engaging instructional strategies will I use?
(9) What 3 student learning needs will I meet?
(10) What 3 ways will I decorate my room?
(11) What 3 things will I put on my course handouts?
(12) What 3 classroom guidelines will I use?
(13) What 3 ways will I invite parents to be involved?
(14) What 3 things do I want from my principal or colleagues?
(15) What 3 things will I do to stay focused?

Now that you have answered 3 questions, use your answers. Use one of your answers today. Right now.

Remember, success is using your answers to help your students, not having the answers in your head.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How can I schedule more good days?

Their eyes are shining. They’re smiling. They feel good about teaching. Their classes went really well. They think, “This is why I got into Christian education. I should do this more often.”

Do what?

Do a lesson that targets helping students connect course content, their lives, and a biblical perspective.

Teachers get really excited when students connect:
(1) Carbon emissions, personal consumption of fossil fuels, and biblical stewardship.
(2) World poverty, personal values and practices regarding money, and biblical teaching about wealth.
(3) A short story involving conflict, personal conflicts, and biblical teaching regarding being humble and being peacemakers.

And the really good news is lessons like this are both doable and repeatable.

So, schedule more good days. Schedule lessons that target helping students connect course content, their lives, and a biblical perspective.

What makes a good question good?

To answer that question, let’s start with another question: What happens at a Christ-centered school?
• Students and staff ask good questions.
• Students and staff respond to good questions.

So, what makes a good question good? A good question:
(1) Grabs attention
(2) Requires upper-level thinking
(3) Allows a variety of appropriate answers
(4) Connects course content, life, and a biblical perspective
(5) Is Essential—universal, timeless, at the heart of learning
(6) Is Student/staff-friendly—short, with developmentally appropriate vocabulary

Want a memory tool for these 6 characteristics? Here it is: GRACES. A good question GRACES understanding.

What’s an example of a good question?: What’s wrong?

Use these 6 characteristics (GRACES) to develop a good question. Ask a good question today.

How significant would the impact be?

Imagine.

Imagine Christian school students routinely asking each other...
What do you mean by...? How do you know? How does the Bible help? How can I respond?

Imagine Christian school teachers routinely asking students...
How can math help us learn about God and His creation? How do cultures affect/reflect worldviews? How do we balance needs and caretaking? How can we use our learning to serve?

Imagine Christian school teachers routinely asking each other...
What questions should students ask? What questions should we ask students? How can we help students increase their understanding and use of a biblical perspective? How can we achieve our mission?

Imagine Christian school principals routinely asking teachers...
What’s our mission? What’s our definition of mission achievement? What’s our current level of mission achievement? How can we close the gap between current and targeted levels of mission achievement?

Imagine a Christian school community routinely asking...
What happens at a Christ-centered school?

Imagine this happening...
How would this affect the efforts of Christian schools, of CAJ, to equip students to impact the world for Christ? Questions are powerful. And in a real sense, we become our questions.

Imagine the impact.

Friday, July 14, 2006

What is success?

Everyone wants success. The questions is, “What is success?” Consider the following suggestions, develop your definition of success, and share your definition with colleagues:

1. Joining God is what He’s doing, not starting down your own path.
2. Achieving your mission, not implementing a Christian philosophy of education.
3. Using diversity to achieve one mission, not using unity to achieve diverse missions.
4. Building community in order to achieve the mission, not achieving your mission in order to build community.
5. Caring for others as you do mission, not doing mission as you care for others.
6. The Parable of the Talents, not the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
7. Getting targeted results, not getting results.
8. Reaching a pre-determined destination, not reaching a destination.
9. Getting it done, not getting it perfect.
10. Batting 300, not getting a 98%.
11. Distinction, not perfection.
12. Displacement, not distance.
13. Direction, not motion.
14. Hitting the bulls-eye, not going the distance.
15. Doing right things, not doing things right.
16. A program that is exemplary, sustainable, and replicable; not a program that is exemplary.
17. Quality outputs based on quality inputs, not quality outputs or quality inputs.
18. Increased student learning, not increased teacher learning.
19. A Christian who teaches Christianly, not a Christian who teaches.
20. Learning, not being learned.
21. Getting experience, not getting knowledge.
22. Doing, not knowing.
23. Using learning, not getting learning.
24. Professional development that targets mission achievement, not professional development that targets teacher knowledge.
25. Adding 1 best practice per year, not adding 5 best practices per year.
26. Asking questions, not dispensing answers.
27. Working smarter, not working harder.
28. Increasing “face” time, not increasing email.
29. Using data, not collecting data.
30. Maximizing strengths, not remediating weaknesses.
31. Reaching potential, not achieving at a high level.
32. Adding value to student learning, not students achieving to a high degree.
33. Getting things right through repeated failure, not getting things right the first time.
34. ReadyFireAim, not ReadyAimFire.
35. Using documents, not having documents.
36. Productivity, not effort.
37. Effort, not productivity.
38. Talking about student learning, not talking about schedule changes.
39. Looking at student work, not looking at teacher work.
40. Students learning, not teachers teaching.
41. Students learning, not students behaving.
42. Students behaving, not students getting good grades.
43. Students on task, not students wanting to learn.
44. Students achieving, not students trying.
45. Students trying, not students achieving.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Increase your mission quotient (MQ)

Increasing your mission quotient (MQ) can help you achieve your mission.

To increase your MQ, answer the following 15 questions. Better yet, get a team together to answer the questions.
1. What is a mission statement?
2. What makes a good mission statement good?
3. To what extent are ends statements and mission statements related?
4. How do we develop a mission statement?
5. What is our mission?
6. How important is our mission?
7. How well can I explain our mission statement?
8. What does our mission mean? What does not our mission not mean?
9. If we achieve our mission, what would it look like?
10. How do I contribute to mission achievement?
11. To what extent are we mission driven?
12. How can we promote being mission driven?
13. To be increasingly mission driven, what do we need to keep doing, stop doing, and start doing?
14. How can I thwart being mission driven?
15. To do mission, what 2 crucial tasks do our students (outputs) and our staff (inputs) need to do this year?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The question is not “Can we?” The question is “Will we?”

Imagine teachers involved in ongoing professional development that targets increased student understanding and use of a biblical perspective.

Imagine that as a result of this professional development:
(1) Teachers are increasingly intentional about helping their students understand a biblical perspective in all subjects.

(2) Teachers regularly ask students questions, for example: What’s true? What’s wrong? Who is my neighbor? How can I serve God and others? How should I respond to suffering?

(3) Teachers develop biblical perspective assessments, for example: Write a 1000-word essay to answer the following questions: Who are you? How does knowing who you are help you love your neighbor and/or heal what’s wrong in the world? In your answer use first-person, use six quotations (three from the literature studied in class and three from the Bible) and cite a minimum of seven sources (including works of literature, the Bible, and the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology).

(4) Teachers prepare students for biblical perspective assessments by using engaging instructional strategies, including case studies, discussion, debate, and journaling.

Now imagine that as a result of teachers implementing what they learned in their professional development, every student in every class in every unit proficiently uses a biblical perspective. Just imagine.

Imagine that this professional development is available 24/7 anywhere in the world. An online course, complete with video, audio, articles, resource lists, and Skype calls. And imagine that as a result of this training, your staff become certified trainers who train others.

This is doable. We have the knowledge. We have the technology. We have the finances and time.

The question is not “Can we?” The question is “Will we?”

Monday, June 19, 2006

Where are you now? How do you know?

As a school leader, to what extent do you relate to the following?

You step on to the deck, smiling. You’re that captain of a boat that is transporting children to Anchorage, Alaska so they can do ministry. You’re excited about the voyage—good crew, good passengers, good destination.

The days, filled with passengers learning from the crew about life on a boat and about the ministry they will do on Anchorage, pass quickly. Everyone is feeling positive about the destination and the journey.

Except you.

You don’t have a compass; you are unable to read the stars. You say to yourself, “I know Anchorage is north. The sun sets in the west. I’m keeping the west on my left—so we must be going north.”

But it doesn’t help.

You don’t know where you are. You could be in anywhere. Anywhere in the southern hemisphere. Anywhere in the northern hemisphere.

To get "there," you need to know where "here" is.

As a school leader:
• Where are you now?
• How do you know?

Where are you going? Why?

As a school leader, what to extent do you relate to the following?

Suddenly, you’re on a boat that is transporting children—and you’re the captain. This concerns you because you don’t know the destination. You consider asking the crew (or perhaps the children), but something tells you that you are supposed to know this and that letting others know you don’t know would be unwise. This is confirmed when you overhear your first mate mutter, “Where are we going?” and girl whisper, “Where do I get off?”

No one seems to know, and you need to act fast to keep up morale. Good food, good fellowship, and good activities quickly put everyone in good spirits. And soon, no one (including you) is asking about the destination—everyone is enjoying the journey, which is good since that’s what journeys are for.

Sort of. Deep down, you know journeys are also about destinations, about getting there.

Wherever "there" is.

As a school leader:
• Where are you going?
• Why?

Friday, June 16, 2006

What is coaching?

Coaching is a relationship in which you receive the support, encouragement, and accountability you need to achieve the mission God has given you. Coaching is different than counseling. In counseling you focus on healing the past; in coaching you focus on improving the present.

In coaching:
1. You are in charge.
2. You identify your goals.
3. You sent the agenda of your coaching sessions.
4. You determine the type of coaching you want:
• Transformational Coaching: Your coach will help you grow as a person by asking questions so you can, for example, modify your attitudes, become more comfortable with difficult situation, and increase the degree you value students applying a biblical perspective of course content.
• Collaborative Coaching: Your coach will work with you to complete a project, write a policy, or plan an event.
• Instructional Coaching: Your coach will provide training in running effective meetings, defining mission achievement, and use assessment data to improve student learning.

With a coach you can:
• Define and implement strategic goals necessary for you to achieve your mission
• Think bigger and more clearly.
• Find a better way.
• Play to your strengths.
• Make your program exemplary, sustainable, and replicable.
• Get more focused and more organized
• Get the support, encouragement, and accountability you need to reach your goals

Here’s what I believe about coaching:
• God initiates change.
• Change is relational, experiential, and transformational.
• Change is more a function of motivation than of information.
• Each person is responsible to God for his/her life.
• Leaders grow as they take responsibility by defining, committing to, and achieving goals.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Does defining mission achievement help?

At Christian Academy in Japan, we define mission achievement in terms of achievement of our student objectives, accreditation standards, and core values. How has defining mission achievement helped us? Here’s what two staff members had to say:

“As a teacher, having mission achievement stated in quantifiable terms lets me know if I am achieving the mission or how close I got to achieving the mission. It gives me a direction in my work (I know what I need to do with my students), and it gives me a way of knowing if what I'm doing is effective.” —Math Teacher

“In the Technology Department we continually keep the school's mission in mind as we make decisions. We feel strongly that everything that we do in technology should relate back to our mission of equipping students to impact the world for Christ. Decisions such as what hardware to buy and what services to provide all should relate to that mission. We are also concerned about how we meet student objectives. We look at how computers and related technologies relate to our student objectives. How can we use technology to help students become responsible learners, discerning thinkers, productive collaborators, effective communicators, and faithful caretakers? It is exciting to us to look at our student objectives and to see ways that the technology we provide here at CAJ will help our students achieve the student objectives.” —Educational Technology Coordinator

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Take time to reflect

You have worked hard all year to achieve your mission, and now your school year is done. Be sure to take time to reflect. I recommend journaling.

Here are 5 things you could journal about:
(1) This year I carried out our school’s mission by…
(2) To help students understand a biblical perspective of course content, I…
(3) I enjoyed collaborating with…
(4) I feel that I have grown as a professional in terms of…
(5) For me, one positive thing about focusing on mission achievement is…

Friday, June 09, 2006

Take a step toward mission achievement

You want to achieve your mission. Good. Ask God about a step He wants you to take.

Here are some possible steps:
1. Define the achievement of your mission in measurable terms
2. Measure your current level of mission achievement
3. Define goals and specific steps necessary to close the gap between your targeted and current levels of mission achievement
4. Use calendar software to map out how to get your goals done
5. Use purpose, collaboration, and data to achieve your goals
6. Develop scoreboards that measure your progress and increase motivation to achieve your goals
7. Schedule 30 minutes each week during which you will asses and plan for mission achievement
8. Develop systems, processes, and policies
9. Lead effective meetings
10. Increase your students’ understanding and application of a biblical perspective of course content
11. Live your values
12. Think bigger
13. Think outside the box
14. Think more clearly
15. Get focused and stay focused
16. Get more organized
17. Get appropriate resources
18. Improve your job performance
19. Eliminate frustrations
20. Get the support, encouragement, and accountability you need

Friday, June 02, 2006

Share your thoughts about life and success

When leading, coaching, or consulting, share your thoughts about life and success. Here are 10 of my thoughts:
(1) God is already working. Join Him.
(2) Want results? Invest in yourself.
(3) Do right things, then do things right.
(4) "Be" what you want to "see."
(5) There's usually a better way. You can find it.
(6) Defining your goal is the first step toward achieving it.
(7) Want to improve? Target your strengths.
(8) It's self-management, not time management.
(9) Make your program exemplary, sustainable, and replicable. Target outputs and inputs.
(10) Change is about motivation. Motivation is about getting support, encouragement, and accountability.

Want to take the next step? Write down 3-5 of your thoughts about life and success. Make sure each item is concise and easy to say. Next, share your thoughts with someone.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Steward the mission God has given you

God has given your school a mission.

You are committed to it, you want to achieve it, and you believe that achieving it will impact the world for Christ.

But it’s Tuesday morning, and you have to get a sub for a teacher who is out sick, you have just been asked to attend a meeting at 9:30 regarding a student who is struggling, you have to talk with a 7th grader from a dysfunctional home who has been acting out in class, you learn that the father of your 6th grade social studies teacher has cancer, and 237 emails are sitting in your inbox.

Stop. Breathe. And remember that while Christian education is about responding to crisis and the parable of the Good Samaritan, it’s more about stewarding the mission and the parable of the talents.

Consider making one or more commitments regarding stewarding your mission. Here are 5 options:
(1) Commit to focusing on the mission and to responding to crises as a function of achieving your mission.

(2) Commit to investing 5 or more minutes during each staff meeting in discussing and celebrating progress toward mission achievement.

(3) Commit to investing 30 or more minutes each week in assessing progress toward mission achievement and planning next steps.

(4) Commit to getting 100% of your staff to be able to explain the answers to 4 questions:
• What is our mission?
• What is our definition of mission achievement?
• What is our current level of mission achievement?
• What strategic steps are we taking to close the gap between targeted and current levels of mission achievement?

(5) Commit to developing an attention-getting scoreboard that measures your current level of mission achievement and your progress on strategic steps you are taking.

If you make one or more commitments, consider ways to get the support, encouragement, and accountability you need to carry out your commitment(s).

Measure mission achievement in 3 ways

You can use indicator data, survey data, and standards-based assessment data to measure your current level of mission achievement.

INDICATOR DATA
Brainstorm examples of how your schoolwide learning outcomes, accreditation standards, and core values are being achieved. For example:

(1) If your schoolwide learning outcome is “Organize information to support conclusions,” you could list examples of students doing this, including making graphs and charts, completing Venn diagrams, writing essays and lab reports, and providing supporting points in a debate.

(2) If your accreditation standard for the instruction is “Teachers use their professional experience, research-based knowledge about teaching and learning, and student performance data to select instructional strategies,” you could list examples of instructional strategies teachers used professional experience to select, for example:
• Art: teaching skills by demonstration and then having students practice the skills.
• Math: using direct instruction when students are not ready.
• PE: using a combination of direct instruction, demonstration, and practice.

(3) If your core value is “caring,” you could list examples of caring, including how:
• Students care for students (prayer, 2nd/5th buddies, 5th helping in kindergarten, older students looking out for younger students, attendance at co-curricular activities) and for staff (snacks for meetings).
• Staff care for students (prayer, attendance at co-curricular activities, Student Support Team), staff (prayer, sending bereavement cards, new staff orientation), and parents (Tuition Assistance Program).
• Parents care for students (prayer, attendance at co-curricular activities), staff (providing snacks and meals), and parents (PTA New Families Buddy Program).

SURVEY DATA
Analyze data from a survey that uses a set scale (4: Strongly Agree • 3: Agree • 2: Disagree • 1: Strongly Disagree) and that provides data on achievement levels for your schoolwide learning outcomes, accreditation standards, and core values. For example:

(1) If your schoolwide learning outcome is “Understands a biblical perspective,” ask:
• Students to respond to “I understand a biblical perspective of each subject I study.”
• Parents to respond to “My child understands a biblical perspective of each subject he/she studies.”
• Teachers to respond to “My students understand a biblical perspective of the subject(s) I teach.”

(2) If your accreditation standard about content is “Each student studies challenging, coherent, and relevant content,” ask:
• Students to respond to “I feel that what I am learning in my classes is important to my life both now and in the future.”
• Parents to respond to “I feel that what my child is learning in class is important to his/her life both now and in the future.”
• Teachers to respond to “I feel that what my students are learning in my class(es) is important to their lives both now and in the future.”

(3) If your core value is “caring,” ask:
• Students to respond to “My teachers collaborate with me.”
• Parents to respond to “Teachers collaborate with my child.”
• Teachers to respond to “I collaborate with my students.”

STANDARDS-BASED ASSESSMENT DATA
Use rubric-based assessment results regarding student work, accreditation standards, and core values to establish achievement ratings. For example:

(1) If your schoolwide learning outcome is “Communicate through writing, speaking, reading, listening, graphs and charts, and the arts,” use assessment data from student writing to determine how many students are below, at, and above standard on this schoolwide learning outcome.

(2) If your accreditation standard for assessment is “Assessment results are the basis for regular evaluation and improvement of content, assessment, and instruction,” have a committee review appropriate indicator data and survey data, as well as appropriate documentation, and then use a rubric to determine your achievement rating (“3: Assessment results usually are the basis for teacher evaluation and improvement of content, assessment, and instruction”).

(3) If your core value is “caring,” have a committee review appropriate indicator data and survey data, as well as appropriate documentation, and then use a rubric to determine your achievement rating (“4: Stakeholders care for others and are cared for by others”).

CHRISTIAN SCHOOL ACCREDITATION AGENCIES, PLEASE HELP
Measuring current mission achievement is both challenging and worthwhile. If Christian school accreditation agencies provided 2 tools, the task would be easier and schools could spend less energy on measuring current mission achievement and more energy on achieving the mission:

(1) A password-protected, customizable, online survey (a paper version would also be available):
• That has survey items which are aligned with accreditation standards.
• That tabulates, disaggregates, and graphs the data.

(2) A password-protected online database (complete with templates and data analysis tools)
• That can be used to monitor task completion.
• Into which report narrative can be inputted by standard and benchmark.
• Into which documented evidence can be submitted.
• From which the current level of mission achievement can be determined.
• From which a scoreboard of the current level of mission achievement and a self-study report can be published online, as a PDF, or on paper.

Can your students afford for you to not find out?

If you knew you were coaching basketball, that your team was ahead 66-63, and that you were taking the ball in-bounds under your basket with 4 seconds remaining, how would this affect what you would tell your players in your final timeout?

If you knew that your goal was to have 90% of your students score at or above standard on using a biblical perspective of course content in an essay, that overall on the last assessment 78% scored at or above standard, and that on the last assessment 46% scored below standard on citing supporting Bible passages, how would this affect how you would prepare your students for the upcoming essay?

If you knew the definition of mission achievement and your current level of mission achievement, how would this impact your planning for next year regarding the following?
• Professional development
• Instructional supervision
• School environment
• School improvement plans
• Content, assessment, and instruction
• Support services
• Parent involvement
• Resource management and planning

How much is it worth to you to find out the definition of the achievement of your mission and your current level of mission achievement?

Can your students afford for you to not find out?

Christian teachers and accreditation agencies, target mission achievement

Christian teachers, your mission is to equip students to impact the world for Christ. To achieve your mission, you need to increase your students’ understanding and use of a biblical perspective of course content. So you:
(1) Identify the content that students are to learn.
(2) Design an assessment, being sure it requires your students to connect course content, their lives, and a biblical perspective.
(3) Provide engaging instruction, including using models of student work, explaining rubrics, and giving direct instruction on vocabulary.
(4) Provide effective tools that your students can use to prepare for the assessment, including templates and web sites.
(5) Use a rubric to assess each student’s work, and provide each student with specific feedback designed to increase performance as described on the rubric.
(6) Give your students repeated practice on using a biblical perspective of course content.

Christian school accreditation agencies, your mission is to equip Christian schools to achieve their missions. So you:
(1) Identify the content schools are to learn:
• The definition of mission achievement (in terms of schoolwide learning outcomes, accreditation standards, and core values).
• The current level of mission achievement.
• The strategic steps needed to close the gap between targeted and current levels of mission achievement.

(2) Design an assessment that requires schools to demonstrate the identified content (see #1).

(3) Provide instructional support:
• Including sample documents (that come with a standards-based rubric ratings), rubrics for accreditation standards and benchmarks, and vocabulary lists.
• Through workshops, conventions, teleclasses, videoconferences, coaching, and online interactive tutorials.

(4) Provide effective tools for schools to use to prepare for the assessment, including:
• A password-protected, customizable, online survey that has survey items which are aligned with accreditation standards and that tabulates, disaggregates, and graphs the data. (A paper version would also be available.)
• A password-protected online database (complete with templates and data analysis tools) that can be used to monitor task completion and into which report narrative can be inputted by standard and benchmark, into which documented evidence can be submitted, from which the current level of mission achievement can be determined, and from which a scoreboard of the current level of mission achievement and a self-study report can be published online, as a PDF, or on paper.

(5) Use a rubric to assess each school’s work, and provide each school with specific feedback designed to increase performance as described on the rubric.

(6) Give your schools repeated practice by requiring them to use the online database (see #4) to update current levels of mission achievement on a semesterly or annual basis.

To achieve the mission, teachers and accreditation agencies must target mission achievement. Using the 6-step process can help.

Friday, May 26, 2006

To achieve your mission, define the current level of mission achievement

You have a mission: Equip students to impact the world for Christ

You have defined mission achievement in terms of outputs and inputs:
(1) Outputs: Each of our 15 schoolwide learning outcomes will have an achievement rating of 90% of high school students at or above standard, scores being taken from a complete set of end-of-course common assessments

(2) Inputs: (A) Each of our 14 accreditation standards will have a rating of “above standard,” scores being based on a rubric. (B) Each of our 5 Christ-centered core values will have a rating of “above standard,” scores being based on a rubric.

Your next step is to determine the current level of mission achievement. Collect and analyze assessment data to answer the following 3 questions:
(1) How many of the 15 schoolwide learning outcomes have an achievement rating of 90% of school students at or above standard? Answer—7.
(2) How many of the 14 accreditation standards have a rating of “above standard”? Answer—9.
(3) How many of the 5 Christ-centered core values have a rating of “above standard”? Answer—2.

To achieve your mission, you must score 100% on your 3 outputs and inputs. So, your next step is to define and implement strategic action steps to close the gap between the targeted achievement level and current achievement level.

Any ideas? How about ensuring that 100% of your staff know the mission, the definition of mission achievement, and the current level of mission achievement?

For further information on defining the current level of achievement, please also visit my web site and download “MOSAIC_curriculum_framework,” a combination of two articles that describe how to align mission, schoolwide learning outcomes, standards, and assessments; and how to assess standards, and, consequently, schoolwide learning outcomes and the mission.

Please also see my May 24, 2006, blog entry, “What are you going to tell them?”

Rally around mission achievement

As teachers, we rally in crisis. This is good.

• A 6th grader has chicken pox. As her teachers, we work together to create a list of assignments (making modifications as necessary), send appropriate materials home, invite the student and her parents to check in—and the student keeps up and makes a reasonably smooth transition back into class.

• A 9th grader is struggling. As his teachers, we review assessment data and talk together, talk to the student and his parents, and collaborate to develop a support plan that includes tutoring sessions before school—and his performance improves.

• Exams are 5 days away, and a senior has to attend her grandmother’s funeral in another country. The senior was close to her grandmother, is disturbed by her death, and is concerned about finishing the year. We as her teachers, in collaboration with the principal and counselor, develop an effective plan that provides time for grieving and for taking exams—the student attends the funeral, completes the exams, and heads off to summer vacation knowing we care for her.

In crisis, we rally, we focus, and we collaborate at a high level towards a common goal. And while we don’t live in constant crisis and wouldn’t want to, we do want to collaborate at a high level towards a common goal—on a regular basis.

What can we do? Define a rallying point. Ask for God’s help in identifying what He would have our school do (mission), define mission achievement, and work collaboratively to achieve the mission—daily.

God wants our best, both in and out of crisis. Our students need our best, both in and out of crisis, Most of life is not a crisis, and collaboratively focusing on achieving our mission is an effective way to rally, to achieve great things for God, and to serve students at a high level.

To achieve your mission, start by defining mission achievement

Your goal is to run fast. You want to achieve your goal.

Any questions?

I have two:
(1) How far? 1 kilometer? 10 kilometers? 100 kilometers?
(2) How fast? 5 minutes per kilometer? 4 minutes per kilometer? 3 minutes per kilometer?

Get answers to these two questions, and you’ll have a clearer understanding of what you must do to achieve your goal. In other words, define achievement, and you’ll know what you need to do.

Make sure your definition of achievement is specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant. For example,
• Instead of “run fast,” run 400 meters in 51.2 seconds.
• Instead of “play the trumpet well,” earn a rating of 2 at the instrumental solo and ensemble festival.
• Instead of “read and write well,” earn a rating of 3 on the AP test for literature and composition.
• Instead of “get good grades,” earn a 3.3 GPA.

Defining achievement is useful for you—and for your organization. For example, your school has a mission: Equipping students to impact the world for Christ. You want to achieve it.

Any questions?

I have two:
(1) For a student to be equipped to impact the world for Christ, what must a student understand, be able to do, and value? Must your students be able to understand and use a biblical perspective of course content? Must your students be able to communicate through writing, speaking, reading, listening, graphs and charts, and the arts?

(2) For a student to be equipped, at what level must a student understand, do, and value? Below standard? At standard? Above standard?

Get answers to these two questions, and you’ll have a clearer understanding of what you must do to achieve your school’s mission. In other words, to achieve your school’s mission, start by defining mission achievement.

And be sure to define achievement in terms of outputs (what students do) and inputs (what the school does). For example:

OUTPUTS: Each of our 15 schoolwide learning outcomes will have an achievement rating of 90% of high school students at or above standard, scores being taken from a complete set of end-of-course common assessments.

INPUTS
• Each of our 14 accreditation standards will have a rating of “above standard,” scores being based on a rubric.
• Each of our 5 Christ-centered core values will have a rating of “above standard,” scores being based on a rubric.

Once you have defined mission achievement, your next two steps are:
(1) Define the current level of mission achievement.
(2) Implement action plans to close the gap between the current and targeted achievement level.

For further information on mission achievement, please see the following blog entries:
• April 28, 2006: Get answers to 4 questions
• Feb. 25, 2006: Develop effective ends and hold staff accountable to achieve them

Please also visit my web site and download “The_Rhetoric_Reality_Gap,” an article that describes how you can define mission achievement in terms of measurable student learning.