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.

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

President Obama Signs the Every Student Succeeds Act

The bipartisan bill passed by the House includes many of the key reforms the Administration has called on Congress to enact and encouraged states and districts to adopt in exchange for waivers offering relief from the more onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill helps ensure educational opportunity for all students by:

  • Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers.
  • Ensuring accountability by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states redirect resources into what works to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools with achievement gaps.
  • Empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence, rather than imposing cookie-cutter federal solutions like the No Child Left Behind Act did.
  • Reducing the often onerous burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure that tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear, annual information parents and educators need to make sure our children are learning.
  • Providing more children access to high-quality preschool.
  • Establishing new resources for proven strategies that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.

Read more here.