Summer Shorts: Four Quick Items for Summer Planning

Summer vacations seem to come and go more quickly these days as our workloads continue to grow. But making the time for planning is a bit easier in the summer months. Here are four thought-joggers to consider as you think about planning the year ahead:

Use the Branding Concept of “WE’RE GETTING BETTER” in All That You Do

Every day we battle critics who claim our public schools are bad. Even after we can prove that graduation rates, student achievement, and even our comparative international tests results when they are based on level playing fields are better than in the past, our critics still continue to bash public education.

Instead of getting all defensive as we normally do, think about taking an approach that says we are getting better every day. When you say that we are getting better, you create a bridge that acknowledges that we still have work to do and that we need our community’s support to help make us better. Let people know that improvement is our first order of business.

By taking this “we-are-getting-better approach,” you may convert some of the more reasonable critics into supporters and advocates for your schools.

Learning First Alliance Calls for a Year’s Delay in Common Core Testing

The Learning First Alliance (LFA) — a coalition of the 16 leading education associations; (NSPRA is a member) — is calling for a year’s delay in implementing high-stakes testing of the new standards. It is not sound practice to rush to make high-stakes decisions such as student advancement or graduation, teacher evaluation, school-performance designation, or state-funding awards based on assessments of the Common Core standards. Removing high-stakes consequences for a short time will ensure that educators have adequate time to adjust their instruction, students to focus on learning, and parents and communities to focus on supporting children.

But we need to make sure our communities understand that we are not running away from accountability. The LFA recommends that states and districts continue to hold educators and schools to a high standard as determined by the components of their accountability systems that are not solely based on standardized tests, including other evidence of student learning, peer evaluations, school climate data and more.

Scholarship Dollars Can Be a Competitive Edge for Public Schools

We urge you to take a quick tally of the combined scholarships that your graduating seniors earned this year. That statistic could turn into a positive  point when you are talking about your public schools in this era of increasing competition from private, charter, and home-schooled education.

Just last week a news release popped up on my computer screen saying that the graduating seniors of one North Carolina School District were offered >more than $126.5 million in scholarship funding. This is one case where public school numbers really add up. The numbers can impress prospective students and their parents when they are choosing a school. Since we are seeing more competition in numerous states, this robust scholarship statistic is another feather in our public school hat.

Select at Least One Issue to Be Proactive About in the Year Ahead

Education leaders are rarely out in front on major issues. We continue to play catch up and react to what others are saying about our new programs. We often let our critics and others set our community’s agenda, define our own programs with their language, and project our outcomes.

It is difficult to find the time and adequately plan the communication effort for major new components in your system. But if you want it to be successful, you must be proactive and get out in front of your opposition to set the agenda, to define your work, and project the benefits of your program.

At least pick one issue or program this year to give it a try. If you don’t do it, you know your critics will gladly step into this leadership role for your schools.

Be proactive and that is spelled PRoactive!

Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

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