Should Students Lead Parent-Teacher Conferences?

Despite being an avid NYT reader, I had no clue that there was a cool website called Room for Debate. I wrote an opinion based about the value and need for Student Led Conferences using what I saw at the schools in my book on Deeper Learning as well as what I have observed at other site visits and articles like that by Emily Richmond in Hechinger A teacher wrote an opinion based on her experience as a teacher. The comments then debate the two different opinions.  The comments are enlightening on multiple levels – they are very mixed as to the depth of the discourse or the negative reaction but nonetheless, provide an interesting perspective on how people view the role of the student and adults in learning highlighting the difference of a student centered approach to teaching and learning.

Enter the debate and share your perspective:



NYU Honors Monica Martinez as Distinguished Alumna

New York, NY (May 13, 2016) – T72f843b1-af3f-415a-9b5e-c30c2a3a092a-originalhis week the Steinhardt School will launch graduation season with its annual Doctoral Convocation at NYU’s Skirball Center for Performing Arts.  More than 100 students will receive advanced degrees at the event which will begin with a procession through Washington Square Park.  On Tuesday, May 17th, 2,076 undergraduate and master’s degree recipient will receive their diplomas on stage at three separate ceremonies at New York City’s Beacon Theatre. At the events, the school will honor distinguished alumna Monica Rae Martinez (MA ’91, PhD ’04, Higher Education Administration). Monica Martinez is a senior fellow to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a presidential appointee to the White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and the co-author of the book, Deeper Learning (The New Press, 2014).

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Technology and Learning

I so enjoyed recording the most recent #XQExpertSeries on Technology and Learning with Mary Ryerse, a former principal, and now Director of Strategic Design at Getting Smart and Nichole Pinkard, Founder of the Digital Youth Network and Associate Professor, CDM School of Design at DePaul University because I learned so much (I certainly hope the audience members did as well). I loved how Mary provided us with a system perspective and identified how various layers of the system help support the use of technology and learning. I loved her depth of understanding Nichole provided all of us on the use of technology for learning, particularly around issues of quality and access as well as what can get lost during implementation.  I was happy to simply offer what I have observed and learned on how technology is used in the service of learning from teachers and leaders at schools I have visited, helped start, or featured in my book on Deeper Learning – and that is, start by asking: What do you want students to learn? And then, what’s the best way to help them get there?   As a result, I saw students use technology as a regular part of research and discovery, collaboration and team projects, communication with other students and with teachers, organization, self-direction, and demonstration of work. With technology seen as a tool, students were free to be creative, writing blogs and wikis, designing web sites, and producing videos. My favorite perspective on the use technology, however, has come from Science Leadership Academy. The principal, as well as the Technology Coordinator, Marcy Hull always say, “Technology is the air we breathe here. It should be invisible.”


I do hope everyone learned from this #XQExpetSeries as I know I felt fortunate to have my thinking pushed. After I listened to our recording, participated in the twitter chat, and viewed the picture of the three of us that was used for this particular #XQExpertSeries, I was suddenly struck at how unusual it is to see a panel of all women, and two of them of color, to lead a discussion on technology and learning. Thank you for that XQAmerica for the opportunity to be part of such a dynamic panel –  there are too many conferences where that is not the norm.


In the news: The Value of Student Led Conferences

I hope people have seen or read Emily Richmond’s article on Student Led Parent Teacher Conferences in the Hechinger Report and then a shorter summary in The Atlantic Monthly. Emily talks about the use of Student Led Conferences as part of a student centered approach as a foundation to improve a school that had not been performing well. Her article wonderfully describes and identifies the process, purpose and outcomes of student lead conferences – from how students learn to organize their work, engage in long term planning, develop deeper learning outcomes and even how this practice indirectly increases family engagement.  I feel in love with the concept of Student Led Conferences when I visited Wheels Academy in the Bronx, a signature practice of EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning. And then I learned how this was a common practice across all 8 of the schools in my book, though they might be some slight variations on the process.  Student Led Conferences contribute to everything Emily captured but I particularly like how they provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their work to significant adults in their life.  How many times does any student engage in an in depth conversation about their performance beyond identifying what grade they got on a test, quiz, or paper with their family members at home?  Not only does presenting out to family members motivate students to prepare but it helps them own their learning –  take responsibility for the time and effort they did or did not put into their work and empowers them to advocate form themselves. One time, a student told her parents how much she wanted to go out of state to college despite the fact her parents were focused on having her attend a local college. Another time a student told his parents how having his newborn brothers, and twins at that, sleep in his bedroom was limiting his ability to study.  The teacher helps the students frame these issues so they are supported in their own advocacy and therefore, are empowered to identify and communicate what kind of resources or support they need from their families to be successful, or express their interests and share the hopes they have for their education which their parents may or may not share.  If Emily’s reasons or my reasons are not compelling enough for why we need to transition to student led conferences, how about this reason. Do you like to be talked about in the third person (and not absent) about your performance? Is that how you improve best and accept ownership for your success and/or challenges? If not, then why do we talk about students in the third person and at a venue where they are not even present suggesting they do not know themselves. At the end of the day, it is hard for any of us to grow if we are not provided with a structure and opportunity in a supportive environment to reflect on our work and then to share what we are learning about ourselves.

Hope thanks to a group of some State Legislators

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a a group of women state legislators who are members of a task force on mental health and substance abuse for the organization, Women in Government ( And they gave me hope in our policymakers.

I had some trepidation to facilitate this meeting given the topic/problem is not my content expertise so knew I would have to heavily rely on my meeting design, facilitation, and synthesis skills to help this task force identify policies to address mental health and substance abuse. I am so glad I agreed to facilitate this group. With all of the negativity at the federal level, whether it is refusing to follow the constitution to vote on a Supreme Court nominee; the multiple partisan stalemates in congress and the senate; or the disparaging rhetoric monopolizing the presidential primaries, this meeting reminded me that we have some amazing people in state office who deeply care about the populace, citizens, and how to work in a bipartisan way to create a state infrastructure along with policies. The other really fun part of facilitating this work group was to meet women who are in a state legislative role and be part of a group of wonderfully smart women who are authentically collaborative and work to learn from each other to craft ideas and potential recommendations that other states could consider when addressing mental health and substance abuse. I am just grateful I was reminded that there are some political leaders out there who are working for and with us and taking on major challenges like mental health and substance abuse.

Thank you Women in Government (!

Nation’s Largest Producer of Teachers Meets to Discuss Common Core, Data, Clinical Preparation

Fullerton, CA – Teacher preparation programs from across the California State University (CSU) system, California’s and the nation’s largest producer of teachers, met this week at CSU-Fullerton as part of the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI). Funded by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, this learning community’s objective is to transform educator preparation in order to ensure California teachers are classroom ready to make the necessary instructional shifts to address the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Read more about their work here.

ConsultEd Strategists, an education consulting group for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists, managed the design, logistics, and facilitation of 2016 NGEI convening.

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How Deeper Learning Can Create a New Vision for Teaching

School reform has come a long way….we are finally thinking about what students need to know and do but also, how we support teachers to develop these broader outcomes and are transforming from a focus on schooling to learning.  Some call these broader outcomes 21st century skills, some call them work-based skills, college and career readiness skills,  social emotional learning, and XQ reminds us that we need students who have an agile and flexible intelligence. I along with many, feel that deeper learning is a great umbrella term to capture the social emotional and learning competencies.  I was pleased as a Commissioner of National Commission and Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) and as the author of the book, Deeper Learning: How Eight Innovative Public Schools are Transforming Education in the 21st Century, I was able to write a paper, How Deeper Learning Can Create a New Vision for Teaching This paper is a lead up to NCTAF’s Great Teaching Initiative Report that will be released later this year.  In addition, you can watch the webcast to explore the conditions needed to support great teaching for deeper learning. Panelist include Elizabeth Foster from NCTAF, Laura McBain from High Tech High and myself.  Elizabeth and I will present this paper again at the Teaching and Learning Conference March 11, 2016, if you are attending.

Start with the End if Mind to Innovate

This week I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the A+ Houston’s Speakers Series on the Future of Education sponsored by the Chevron Foundation.  It was a great opportunity to be able to talk with business leaders, community leaders, higher education representatives, and K12 educators and leaders – including superintendents and principals. In preparing for the talk, it gave me cause to think about what it took for the schools in my book to make the shift to the six practices.  One thing I did not get to discuss in the book was the role of creating a shared vision for what we want our students to know and do in order for there to be true transformation. A shared vision brings commitment and direction and permeates throughout the school – the work, decisions, and behavior of everyone.  I was thrilled how well received then show this by contrast what we say we want our students to know and do (aka, deeper learning outcomes) but what we do daily to not develop those skills and could use examples from the school to show others how these schools walked the talk of their vision. HoustonAPlus