Byron's Babbles

Application of Practice & Theory

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Valerie and I

As I prepared for dinner last evening in Bern Switzerland, I had no idea what I was in store for. First of all, the views of the Swiss Alps were breathtaking. The meal was absolutely awesome! The restaurant first opened in 1862. But, it was the conversation with our waitress that blew me away.

Here I was in Switzerland with a delegation from Indiana organized by Horizon Education Alliance to learn about vocational education and apprenticeships, and all of the sudden I am in a conversation with our waitress, Valerie, who was in her last year (4th year) of apprenticeship in Service. She was two months away from taking her final exam. She will earn a Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training in Service. Valerie was outstanding at serving us and spoke incredible English. Most would say she spoke better English than me.

Check out the video of me introducing Valerie to our delegation and telling her story here:

Valerie really values the apprenticeship program she is a part of. She explained that she really likes the fact that she is learning in a real world context. As the guy who really values teaching in a relevant context, this was amazing to me. In Valerie’s case she went to her vocational school two days per week and then works in the restaurant three days per week learning the business. In addition, every so many weeks she got to what are called “Branch Courses” to learn specific skills. One of the themes that has come out in the Swiss model is the belief that a student should not just “know it,” but “know it and do it.” This is an applied model.

“A Swiss Apprenticeship doesn’t define you for life, but it is designed to prepare you for life.” ~ Ambassador Suzi and Eric Levine

When I asked Valerie what she thought could be improved about the way she was being educated she talked about career exploration/guidance and how students are sometimes “pushed” into different areas. Valerie explained career guidance is very important and believed she needed more. She also discussed that she believes her teachers in compulsory education (k-10) do not know enough about business and industry. This caused a lot of discussion in our study group about needing more teacher externships. We need to really ramp up the number of our teachers we are putting out into actual workplace environments to learn first hand about the places their students will be working.

IMG_2574When we get push back in the policy-making space about how having Graduation Pathways in Indiana and providing more opportunities for students makes more work for counselors, I disagree. As a former teacher, I believe teachers have the closest relationships with students and must take on part of the responsibility of helping guide students to post-secondary paths and choices. Valerie was also concerned that student sometimes get pushed into the wrong area of interest.

IMG_2550In Switzerland 2/3 of the students do vocational/apprenticeship training while a third go on to college. I believe it is great that in Switzerland wanting a vocational education is not the second choice. In the United States we need to really work on making sure students understand the value of vocational education and apprenticeship programs. We need to make sure that students and families understand that it is just as great of education to go the career and technical education and going to a university. It is all about what the student wants to go into and where the high wage, high demand jobs are.

Furthermore, Valerie really has lots of options with her apprenticeship program – what the Swiss call “Permeability.” She can go straight into the workforce, or go to the university, or into professional education. See the chart below:

IMG_2565Make no mistake as you read this post. I do not want us (Indiana) to copy the Swiss model. I do not believe you can just cut and paste or copy another system into our own, But…I do believe there are pieces of the Swiss model that was started in 1932 that we could use in our system to better our apprenticeship programs for our students.

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Learning 4.0

IMG_2531Yesterday I had an incredible experience at the Benteler Education and Training Center in Paderborn Germany. We had the opportunity to learn Smart Manufacturing first hand by working in the Benteler Industry 4.0 Learning Factory. This factory was built by the students and used to teach Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing practices and techniques. This learning factory also affords students the opportunity to use equipment and use 4.0 practices. There are three choices of products to build in the learning factory: speed boat, semi tractor; or sports car. The cool part was that all of the parts for the products except for the the grill ornament (made by 3D printer) were Lego™. I had the honor of working with Representative Bob Behning on this project.

The line starts with the selection of which product and what color the product will be built. For this part of the factory SMART glasses are used in order to give the student the opportunity to use and navigate this 4.0 technology. I am really glad I had the opportunity to do this. We had been hearing about SMART glasses and having the opportunity to actually use them on the production line was awesome. Then after the selection of the color and product the line gave us a tray of parts to get started.

IMG_2532After assembling the frame of our truck it was then moved down the assembly line and the RFID chip (I could relate to this because it is like the RFID tags we use for data and identification of our dairy cows) read what product we were building and gave us the next set of instructions digitally. As we waved our hand over the screen the proper bin for the next part would light up and then the screen told us where to put the parts. Even though we were doing some human labor on this it was evident to see all the skilled labor that was needed to program the line to give us the right parts on time during the assembly. Finally, we installed the Benteler emblem made in the 3D Printer to the grill of the truck.

One of the coolest things was at the end of the assembly line when our completed truck went into the sensors to tell us if we had made it correctly. We either got a green light or a red light. The green light meant we had it perfect, the red meant we had a flaw. Sadly, we got a read light. We went back and studied, but could not find the issue. We found there was an error and we were not given the instruction or part to put some covers on the clearance lights on the front of the truck. But, how cool is that to have sensors that could tell us if the product was perfect. Here is a picture of our final product:

IMG_2530I am so glad I had this experience. It also really drove home the fact that, as the research tells us, as adults we like to learn like our young students. We want the education to be relevant and we want to be engaged in the process. Let me tell you, Representative Behning and I were very engaged. We were excited as the truck came together and went down the line. Then we were screaming when the truck did not pass inspection. We were ultimately proud of our product. Bottom-line – This Industry 4.0 Learning Factory made school work into real work. We were using real life digital tools to make a real product in real time. How much more engaging can you get?

IMG_2534The factories of the future will be very different from the workplaces of today – in 2016 alone nearly 200,000 robots were deployed in automotive factories and a further 85,000 were installed in factories making electrical and electronic goods, so automation will liberate people from the drudgery of production lines. Now with Artificial Intelligence (AI), the robots will be able to interact with the human. These “cobots” will take robotics to a new level. This past week we have also learned that at work or at home, the Internet of Things (IoT) will completely change the way in which most of us carry out our basic daily tasks, eliminating the drudgery of shopping, banking and even cooking.

I am so glad I have had the opportunity to learn about Industry 4.0 this past week. One thing is for sure: this will completely change the dynamics of manufacturing and will mean that we will be able to make products that are tailored exactly to our wishes in every way we could want. The very same technology is already being used to produce motor vehicles and even to “print” buildings, so the possibilities are almost endless! We need to make a commitment to making sure we have our students ready for this workforce. That means we must start and continue to have the conversations between all sectors about how to do what is best for our students. This involves bringing business/industry, k-12 education, higher education, education advocate organizations, business/industry organizations, state officials, families, and students together to partner how to make this happen. I appreciate all the work that organizations like Horizon Education Alliance are already doing to make the conversations happen – thus why we are learning in Germany and Switzerland. It is the right thing to do for our scholars!

 

Learning to Do, Doing to Learn!

Today, while in Berlin, Germany, I was reminded that what I always say, “Once an Agriculture Science teacher and Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director, always a CTE guy. As I visited with Yorck Sievers of The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, I was reminded just how engrained the FFA motto of, “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve” is to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. This is also engrained in my core values of how to educate young scholars. The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag, DIHK) is the central organisation for 79 Chambers of Commerce and Industry, CCI (Industrie- und Handelskammern, IHKs) in Germany. All German companies registered in Germany, with the exception of handicraft businesses, the free professions and farms, are required by law to join a chamber.

The FFA motto gives members 12 short words to live by as they experience the opportunities in the organization. Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve. Learning by doing is also a cornerstone of the German education system. Whether someone wants to become a carpenter or a hotel concierge, she has probably gone though what is known as the dual education system. This system combines time spent in the classroom with work at a company. During our education research trip with Horizon Education Alliance, we learned about how Germany’s vocational education system pairs hands-on learning with classroom learning to give young people a leg up in the workforce. Most students graduate not only with a degree, but also with job experience and a deep knowledge of their trade. This vocational training offers a high degree of job security. The professional certifications issued to students at the end of their programs are well respected within their fields, and more than half of apprentices stay on as full-time employees at the businesses where they trained. They even get paid during their studies.

Check out a few slides from our meeting with Sievers:

During this time with Sievers we also learned that schools follow the companies and not the other way around. This training model is all about the future of the company, but the companies are not left alone. The companies need support. This is competency based education. The Chambers in Germany provide:

  1. Organization
  2. Registration
  3. Examination
  4. Certifications on a national level

In this German model there are courses that cover more than 350 different occupations that are approved by the businesses and federal bodies overseeing the program. In Germany, they are truly walking the talk by facilitating students for “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.”

Educator Reflections On This NCLB Anniversary Day

It all started in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson, as part of The Great Society program, created The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA created a clear role for the federal government in K-12 policy, offering more than $1 billion a year in aid under its first statutory section, known as Title I, to districts to help cover the cost of educating disadvantaged students. At the bill signing in Johnson City Texas, President Johnson said, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.” Then on January 8, 2002 President George W. Bush signed into law No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This bill was born out of concern that the American education system was not competitive­­ in a global economy.

NCLB increased the federal role in holding schools responsible for the academic progress of all students. Even though over the years there has been controversy over the effects of NCLB, I believe it is important to note the desire of progress for all students. As a believer that all students can learn and all students deserve a great school regardless of zip code, I would argue that NCLB helped us make strides in the right direction. It put a special focus on ensuring that states and schools improved the performance of certain groups of students, such as English-language learners, students in special education, and poor and minority children, whose achievement, on average, trailed their peers. NCLB really creates the environment for focusing on eliminating the achievement gap. NCLB put us on the trajectory to begin to focus on student outcomes instead of inputs or outputs. These outcomes enable us to tell the stories about our students, about who they are, what they want, and what they are achieving.

As a teacher during the passage and majority of the tenure of NCLB I appreciated the critical view of teaching and requirement of “highly qualified” teachers. I believe this was a precursor to teaching being a more highly regarded profession and teachers being treated like professionals. We still have a long way to go, but with ESSA we now have the opportunity to further the development of teacher leaders to build more capacity for distributed leadership. On this anniversary of NCLB we need to celebrate advancement of disaggregating data and recognizing areas for improvement and our continued commitment, as a country, to address long-standing gaps and ensure students are well-prepared for their post-secondary endeavors.

What Difference Has Been Made?

Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to have a discussion during a meeting about outcomes versus outputs. I made the comment that I believed in accountability based on outcomes. The person I was meeting with said he was glad I said outcomes versus saying outputs. If we get stuck just evaluating and making decisions based on outputs we are bound for mediocrity. Great organizations, including schools, are managing to outcomes. In education, I believe we need to lead schools according to outcomes.

What do I mean by this? Let’s use the example of graduation rate. Make no mistake, this is an important output, but it is just that – an output. If we change our thinking to outcomes we look at what students are actually doing (or could be doing) after graduation. To me, this enables us to understand how our schools are serving students and how their lives and circumstances are being changed.

An outcome is the level of performance or achievement that occurred because of the activity or services an organization or school provided. Outcome measures are a more appropriate indicator of effectiveness. Outcomes quantify performance and assess the success of the organization and the processes used. In the high school graduation rate example, some outcomes would be is the student employed, is the student in the military, or is the student attending some post secondary education. Graduation rate, an output, alone does not demonstrate how the life of the student had been impacted. Basically, without outcomes, there is no need for outputs.

Furthermore, outputs are the what. Outcomes are the difference made. In other words, outcomes are the why. Sometimes I worry there is a perception that it is too hard or impossible to measure outcomes and that stops us, as leaders, from collecting key outcomes data. We need to work toward thinking more about outcomes. In the case of schools this will enable us to tell the stories about our students, about who they are, what they want, and what they are achieving.

Finally, if we study outcomes we can answer the question: What difference has been made?

The Leadership Symphony

IMG_1279Well, I have come to the end of another book. Actually this is the completion of my 84th book this year. My goal is 87. It has actually taken me a year to complete this book as it is divided in 52 distinct lessons. I have tweeted about many of them. I will do a post about the book as a whole and include the posts, but for now want to post thoughts on the 52nd lesson. In lesson #52 entitled “What Makes A Symphony” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart he tells us how the conductor brings individual musicians together to form the playing of the symphony.

“A symphony consists of polished performances from many sections that become a unified whole. If not played together it is merely a cacophony of disconnected sounds.” ~ John Parker Stewart

This chapter really resonated with me as a believe in shared, intent-based, leadership. Everyone is a leader and has a part. But, there still must be a leader who is conveying the shared vision and making sure the musicians, in the case of a symphony, have the necessary professional development to do their part.

IMG_1273This point was driven home this morning in the last general session of the annual conference of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). The keynote was delivered by Dr. Pedro Noguera. He is the Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. His research focuses on the way in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions, as well as by demographic trends in local, regional, and global contexts. In his keynote, Dr. Noguera gave five strategies for successful school leadership:

  1. Shared leadership
  2. Concerted effort to obtain buy-in around the strategy
  3. A coherent strategy focused on student needs
  4. Differentiated professional development
  5. Follow through, examining the evidence, sticking with it

“Only a clearly communicated perspective, directed by a wise and capable leader, results in a magnificent performance. ~ John Parker Stewart

The big takeaways for me and relations to this 52nd lesson were the idea of shared IMG_1277leadership, coherent strategy, and differentiation. As I said earlier, every person in an organization is a leader. As in a symphony, every person has an important part no matter their job or instrument. Additionally, in a symphony everyone needs to be playing from the same musical score, or strategic plan. And, finally, since everyone one plays different instruments or has different jobs or is playing/working at a different level of proficiency, the development must be differentiated.

img_2431The bottom line is that shared leadership an drive change. If, as a leader, we are the conductor, we must bring everyone together sharing the leadership of a coherent strategy. We know, for example, in schools we must invest in teacher leadership by developing leadership pipelines. This involves cultivating structures, processes, and mindsets for shared leadership. We must also prioritize and enhance instructional leadership skills. What are the priorities of your industry or organization?

I Have Paid For An Education With My Mistakes

This past week was one of my favorite weeks of the year. I spent the week at the Boone County Fair (Lebanon, Indiana) showing Jersey dairy cows with my son. This is incredible dad and lad time. The county fair is the time of year when I get to see friends and visit with former students. It is great to catch up. One visit I look forward to every year is with Andy Clark, a Lebanon graduate I had in many classes and one of my favorites and great ones. This year, like clock work, Andy showed up with his wife and kids and we sat at our dairy stalls and talked for a couple of hours. I blogged about last year’s visit in “Matching School Work To Real Work.” Click here to read that post. 

During our conversation this year I was struck by his comment of “I Have Paid For An Education With My Mistakes.” This is the true mindset of a lifelong learner and someone who has a growth mindset. Andy supplies chopped hay and straw to Fair Oaks Dairy in northern Indiana as part of his farming operation. We talked a lot about how he learns, researches, experiments, and iterates to make his operation successful, efficient, and profitable. I could not be prouder of what Andy has accomplished and the great leader he has become.

Andy really gets what it means to be continually learning and to work toward continual improvement. He is an example of what we must be making sure we prepare our students to be ready for. As we work in Indiana to create worthwhile graduation pathways we must make sure we are providing the correct avenues for students, like Andy, who are going straight into he workforce with careers. Research shows that students are nervous about making any mistakes — but with a little encouragement by teachers, they begin to take risks, and growth by leaps and bounds. On the other hand, other students who were so anxious about making mistakes they would not take any risks at all, and the research showed their anxiety slowed the process of their learning.

Mistakes play a powerful role in learning, as well as the huge influence that the teacher’s attitude and feedback play on a child’s perspective on mistakes. We need to help students become comfortable with mistakes and help them learn how to grow from them. This is difficult to do for some because despite the fact that making mistakes seems to be a part of who we are, mistakes are still not readily accepted. We act like they didn’t happen. We blame someone else. We feel embarrassed. But this isn’t how mistakes should be viewed — especially in schools. I would assert that Andy should be an example for adults, too.

I would argue whether you are a grown adult or are a school age child and you don’t make any mistakes, then you aren’t really learning anything new. School, especially, is the one place that’s all about learning. It’s the one place where mistakes should be not only accepted, but expected.

Why should mistakes be an expected part of learning? If students, who then become our workforce, entrepreneurs, and future leaders, don’t learn early on how to handle them on their own, if they are regularly rescued by well-meaning teachers and parents, then they won’t develop the skills needed to tackle difficult things or bounce back from setbacks. Skills like perseverance and gumption. 

Despite the rhetoric around mistakes being necessary for learning, I believe it is rare that you truly see mistakes embraced and celebrated as learning opportunities. We must learn from individuals like Andy that learning from mistakes is an important part of being successful. In most schools, “success” is defined as getting high marks on tests, with results (and minimal or no mistakes) mattering more than the process of learning or the process of getting to the answer. And when the results aren’t good? Students feel embarrassed or shamed. We need to change this. 

We must create environments in our schools, businesses, and organizations where everyone see mistakes not as impenetrable roadblocks, but rather as a natural part of the learning process. Have you received an education from your mistakes? 

Cultivating Student Success

26afa71ed72a2063737bb720421104c8I was so moved by a video I watched as part of my Harvard class I am in right now, that I wanted to share a blog post response to it. Here is the link to “The Gardener”: https://youtu.be/ktj4jGmUs6Y . Take a moment to watch the video, I’ll bet you will be inspired and moved as much as me.

This Allegorical Story drove home why students perceive a lack of justice, lack of equity, or disparate treatment for certain racial groups. When students see their schools as unfair places, their loss of trust will lead to lack of engagement. Using the metaphor of the video, we need to not be creating different growing conditions (soil fertility) for our students. Black and Hispanic students, who often take the brunt of inconsistencies in schools, are then less likely to trust their white peers. We must create policies that show our students we value and expect equity.

Additionally, we must help and provide growth opportunities for staff to not let the “two flower pots” effect happen in the first place. These teacher/student relationships are key to breaking cycles of inequity. Finally, we must ensure interactions between students and educators that prove the school has high standards and expectations for all students. We must also ensure students that all at the school believe in the potential of all students – especially our underachieving and school dependent children.

Schools For All Citizens

fileOn this President’s Day, 2017, I am reminded that there are those who believe people are now judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. I want to believe this too, but know that the question of race runs much deeper than this. Others would contest that racial identity still strongly influences many aspects of their lives in American society. The question that is still causing me pause is “How do we reconcile such opposing opinions?” Furthermore, I need to make sure that I constantly remember to consider that all students have tremendous potential and most, regardless of race, are school dependent, and underachievers. Additionally, I really believe that many of the staff I serve, again regardless of race, have huge potential and many times are underachievers. I have a strong belief that race does not cause achievement differences, but how we structure the education and the pedagogy we use for teaching.

The real problem is low quality instruction for classes of lower skilled, underachieving students. Differentiated teaching is very difficult and presents a challenge to mixed ability groupings. Equity for me means that we are making sure that every student has the same high quality instruction. It also means that I continue to learn and remove my own and the school’s as a system implicit biases to make sure we are not grouping students incorrectly and making sure we are meeting the student where he/she is. As a school leader I must remember the school as a workplace is the most important place for teacher training/learning/and induction.

When discussing equity in education I believe we must first address the difference between equality and equity. I believe the definitions set forth by the Center for Public Education (2016) do an adequate job of capturing what I believe and read: Equality in education is achieved when students are all treated the same and have access to similar resources. Equity is achieved when all students receive the resources they need so they graduate prepared for success after high school. It is very important to recognize that equality and equity are not the same thing. When dealing with issues of equity we need to use data driven decision making and transparency as keys to success. I also believe we need to shift school and district level foci to external benchmarks as points of comparison, instead of inter-group comparisons in the home community. One of the pieces of the Every Student Succeeds Act that I really value is the breaking out and analyzation of more sub-groups.

“One fundamental aim of our democracy is to provide an adequate education for every person. Our educational systems face a financial crisis. It is deplorable that in a Nation as rich as ours there are millions of children who do not have adequate schoolhouses or enough teachers for a good elementary or secondary education. If there are educational inadequacies in any State, the whole Nation suffers. The Federal Government has a responsibility for providing financial aid to meet this crisis.

In addition, we must make possible greater equality of opportunity to all our citizens for education. Only by so doing can we insure that our citizens will be capable of understanding and sharing the responsibilities of democracy.

The Government’s programs for health, education, and security are of such great importance to our democracy that we should now establish an executive department for their administration.” ~ President Harry S. Truman in his 1948 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 7, 1948.

I do not believe we have gotten to where President Truman wanted us to be in terms of education. It is interesting to me we have researched, written and debated about for years the problems of race, poverty, and public education. These issues have been studied by academics and fueled by talk radio, television, and politicians which serves as a place for us as citizens to argue, debate, and complain about who is right or wrong and who needs to change. All of this has caused me think about the questions of race as related to education and see that what we now call problems are simply symptoms of something deeper.

What I believe we need to be asking is about a breakdown in our communities and education, not viewing as a problem. If we think of race as a problem then we will only be looking for symptoms. Instead we need to be thinking about what is possible and what can we create together. If we continue to look at education in the context of a set of problems to be solved, we may actually limit any chance of the future being different from the past. We need to be having the courageous conversations as a community to develop ways in which all school dependent children are provided the opportunities needed in a great education.

I believe that community health, educational achievement, local economic strength, and other measures of community well-being are dependent on the level of social capital that exists in a community. We need to create communities where citizens have the experience of being connected to those around them and knows that their safety and success are dependent on the success of all others. I believe as Peter Block does that “A shift in the thinking and actions of citizens is more vital than a shift in the thinking and action of institutions and formal leaders” (Block, 2009, p. 31). We need to continue to find ways to bring communities of people together to work for continuous improvement of our schools and the systems with which we evaluate those schools.

Reference

Block, Peter (2009-09-01). Community: The Structure of Belonging (p. 31). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

We Have To Norm That…

We had a great norming session today for our teacher evaluation team. This has been an important monthly retreat for making sure the team is doing all they can to help our teachers on their journey of continuous improvement. Norming helps us to unpack the nuances of teaching practices that have the greatest potential for improving student achievement. 

Our norming sessions prompt teachers and administrators to engage in professional conversations that make the critical link between teaching and the supports that teachers need to improve and hone their skills. This common understanding is the basis for high-quality evaluation systems that can drive professional growth. Our goal is to help all teachers grow throughout their careers. 

We believe teachers and administrators need a common language and vision about what constitutes effective practice. Being able to identify and  articulate these practices allows administrators to assess teachers and provide them with feedback on their strengths and areas for growth.

Here are our graphic notes I created from our norming session today: