The Greatest Lesson in Life from the Commencement Address Never Given

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I remember starting my first job as a systems engineer on an aerospace project. My new boss gave me an unusual assignment on my start day. He wanted me to tell him what “E = mC(squared)” and “You can’t push on a rope” meant.

As part of figuring out the answer he said to first ask anyone you want in the department for advice or insight. Of course, I thought he just wanted me to meet everyone on my own since I already knew the answer to both questions.

It turned out I was wrong on all parts.

Here’s what I told him when we met for lunch in the cafeteria on the third day of my first job.

“E = mC(squared)” While I got the scientific principle right the bigger purpose was to understand how this relates to the real world of product design given competing constraints on functionality, time, cost and manufacturability. The lesson: It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you lose sight of the big picture.

“You can’t push on a rope.” I thought this one had to do with strength of materials, some kind of force diagram and one of Newton’s laws. But it turned out to be about human nature. The lesson: The most important part is that you can’t push the people involved to do what you want them to do despite overwhelming analysis or engineering evidence. You have to understand their needs first.

I learned later that Zig Zigler said it more eloquently, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

That’s a principle everyone needs to apply to get ahead regardless of their age or their job.

Here are a few other useful life principles I learned early on in my career.

In my first engineering design class the professor showed a picture of a bridge across some river that didn’t meet perfectly in the middle. There was a six-inch offset. The professor started by saying that in this course you’ll learn how to ensure this will never happen to you. Planning ahead was the big lesson. Thinking of the consequences of your actions was the more subtle point. Stephen Covey’s “Begin With the End in Mind” pretty much sums it up. While this stuff is easy to say, it’s hard to do whether you’re building a bridge or figuring out how to just get through the day.

Persistence overrides intellect. In most of my engineering classes the answers to the problems were given. My non-engineering friends thought this was too easy. I thought so too until I was given one very complex problem to figure out. It took me all night and a lot of trial and error to get the right answer.

There were a lot of lessons learned that night. The obvious one: Getting the answer right was secondary. Figuring out how to find the right solution was the purpose of having the answer given. A lot of smart people gave up too soon. That’s when I realized that persistence is far more important than intellect.

Some similar things happened a short time later as an intern and during my first full-time engineering job. I was assigned two very complex technical projects. In each case there was an initial 2-3 weeks of total confusion. It was clear I was going around in circles, over my head and an abject failure. After stumbling about, talking with people and thinking about the problem from a totally different perspective, the fog starting lifting. Soon a solution emerged. In both cases it took a few very uncomfortable weeks to go from nothing to a potential solution. Of course, getting the actual solution took a lot longer but that was the easy part. The lesson learned again: It’s okay to be confused but it you keep at you’ll figure out what to do.

I learned later that Winston Churchill said it much better, “Never ever give up. Never!”

But that wasn’t the big lesson in all this. By not giving up too soon you build confidence in yourself to take on any project as long as you can figure out a solution and create a vision of where you’re going. As a result I then started volunteering for projects and positions over my head and even asking for promotions in different departments. And I got them by selling the vision to others and getting them to see how this would personally benefit them. This got them to be allies not foes and they became proactively involved in ensuring we were all successful.

The real lesson is that true confidence is contagious. But you need to struggle a lot before you develop it in yourself. So look for some struggles to tackle. A lot of them. And never give up despite how easy it might be to do. I’m not sure, but maybe this is how leaders are developed, too.

Data-driven decisions require CIOs to help educators interpret and organize vast amount of information

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When it comes to data analytics, Maribeth Luftglass,CIO at Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, focuses on ensuring privacy of all student data. And, she adds, it should be a top concern for all CIOs. (Photo: Donnie Biggs, Fairfax County Schools)Just a few years ago, CIOs—if they were involved in data analytics at all—would run a report, export it into an Excel document and create a chart or a graph to share with teachers and district leaders once a week, or at the end of each semester.

Now it’s all about creating systems that aggregate and sort data automatically, making it easier for educators to view crucial information every day.

“The CIO is really becoming more of a leadership position,” says Elizabeth Dabney, director of research and policy analysis at the Data Quality Campaign. “It’s not just an IT role—it’s having a very broad vision and a good understanding of the value of data in supporting education goals at the district and being able to communicate that.”

Since creating its first custom data dashboard in 2014, Sun Prairie Area School District in Wisconsin has been in a constant push to develop easier ways for educators to analyze data pulled from all of its schools.

The district used to rely on the state’s WISEdash system, which is a data portal that uses “dashboards,” or visual collections of graphs and tables, to provide multiyear education data about Wisconsin schools.

But it was barely used, because it didn’t allow schools to really drill down into detailed data. So the Sun Prairie district joined a data consortium of local districts a few years ago and has been creating different custom dashboards with the help of a software company.

The most recent project: An early-warning system that identifies students at risk of not graduating high school. The system feeds data from 12 indicators—including attendance, grades and discipline—into an easy-to-use program so educators can provide extra support to at-risk students as early as middle school.

Educators would previously look at the risk indicators individually in WISEdash. The new system overlaps the data to show which students are most at risk.

“What we’ve seen is the need to get data into the hands of our teachers, and get that into their hands in real time so they can use that information for decision-making on an almost daily basis,” says Michael Mades, Sun Prairie’s director of technology.

Sun Prairie’s data transformation reflects changes in the day-to-day roles of CIOs and CTOs in many other districts. “I am not someone who is allowed to be in the background making sure that our infrastructure is working—that isn’t my job anymore,” says Tony Spence, chief information officer at Muskego-Norway School District, also in Wisconsin. “It’s on a much higher level. I spend most of my time making sure the data systems we have reflect the needs of the district.”

So how do CIOs keep up with the changing demands? Here’s what four CIOs and CTOs had to say about how data analytics is changing their jobs—and their districts.

CIO as data interpreter

CIOs say their role is increasingly that of a data interpreter—someone who bridges the gap between the technology department (or product vendor) and the academic and operational branches.

Mades, at Sun Prairie, says he speaks two languages. In meetings with principals, he talks in academic language about the kinds of data that can be generated to improve student achievement, for example. Then he goes back to his IT team and, in much more technical language, discusses the systems needed to track and analyze that data.

Mades is a member of both the academic and operational branches of the district, meaning he keeps tabs constantly on how every department uses data. “Part of my work in the meetings is to listen to what their needs are and then help our data system support those, whether that’s building new dashboards or modifying some of the reports,” Mades says.

Because Mades understands the problems leaders are trying to address, such as behavior, he can provide better analysis.

For example, if misbehavior reports increase at a school, he can help a principal determine if there’s a buildingwide issue or if the problem is limited to specific classrooms or teachers.

For Dane Conrad, director of technology at Hattiesburg School District in Mississippi, interpreting data involves working with the district’s academic evaluation specialist to determine what data should be collected and analyzed. He then turns to his vendors to identify programs or products that meet the specialist’s needs.

On a different day, he might help schools take better advantage of existing data—for example, showing them how to track and identify trends in teacher or student absences.

CIO as data visionary

Because systems change so quickly, analyzing systems is a task that requires being something of a data visionary. And it means understanding how data supports current district goals, and then thinking about what information its educators will need in five or 10 years.

Many CIOs are shifting their focus from managing district data servers and applications in-house to seeking out third-party vendors and cloud-based systems that automate analytics for them, says Tracy Weeks, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

For CIOs who don’t have time to develop relationships with vendors that can provide analytics services, Weeks suggests teaming with neighboring districts to seek out the best products via consortium procurement agreements.

When looking for new products, Conrad from Hattiesburg relies on an email Listserv for district technology leaders in the state. He also finds ideas from Linkedin and technology conferences.

Even if the end goal is to automate analysis—when data from different areas, such as attendance or behavior, is merged in ways that educators can easily access—selecting the right systems involves hands-on work.

“We want somebody who used a product, preferably somebody who has had it for a while, that can tell us their experiences and how the product fits into their flow and make sure their flow matches our flow and our needs,” Conrad says.

CIO as trainer-in-chief

cCreating ways for teachers and administrators to study multiple kinds of data has opened up the problem-solving potential of analytics, says Rich Boettner, chief technology officer at Hilliard City Schools in Ohio.

But it’s also created a new role for CIOs: trainer-in-chief.

It’s important to make sure educators who may not have a background in analytics can use the information in meaningful ways, Boettner says.

Spence, at Muskego-Norway schools, trains teachers, academic coaches and certified staff during summer breaks and throughout the school year in how to use data systems and understand the numbers. Before CIOs can plan training or make sure data is being used effectively, however, they also must have a deep understanding of the data and how it supports district goals, Boettner says.

Boettner points to several main sources for professional development for himself and his staff: product vendors; internet resources, local and state networks for technology leaders, and conferences like ISTE.

CIO as silo regulator

And finally, after administrators understand how different departments use data, such understanding can help reduce or eliminate the data silos that exist within many districts.

At Muskego-Norway schools, Spence relies on a building-by-building plan that outlines how each school site is working on the district’s continuous improvement goals and which data will be used to support which efforts.

The plan gives Spence a clear understanding of what data each department collects, so he can ensure the systems are kept timely and up-to-date.

“Without the data plan it would be stabbing in the dark,” Spence says. “Instead we have a very specific goal about where we need to be.”

School-Leader Standards to Get More Revision

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Amid sharp criticism from experts and practitioners in recent weeks, a key set of professional standards that guide the training and professional development of the nation’s school leaders will now explicitly address equity, social justice, and ethical behaviors. An  was chided for downplaying the role of principals and other leaders in addressing those issues.

The about-face is a departure for the Council of Chief State School Officers, which owns the copyright to the standards and is partnering with the National Policy Board for Educational Administration to revise them. It also follows a 19-day public comment period in which nearly 300 people provided feedback in an online survey and others submitted written responses to the CCSSO.

When a draft of the seven standards was released last month, Chris Minnich, the CCSSO’s executive director, defended them against critics, saying that social justice, equity, and ethics were addressed in the document’s introduction and embedded throughout the standards. Mr. Minnich said at the time, however, that the CCSSO was open to revising the benchmarks based on feedback from the field.

The standards, known as the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium standards, set the benchmarks for what school leaders are expected to know and do. They are used across the country to help guide leadership preparation programs, including those for principals and superintendents. They are also used to set policies and regulations around school leaders’ hiring, evaluations, and professional development.

Multiple Drafts

Equity and cultural responsiveness had been a discrete standard among 11 that were part of a September draft issued by CCSSO. Under that standard, principals were expected to advocate for children and families, attack issues of student marginalization, deficit-based schooling, and limit assumptions about gender, race, class, and special status.

So when CCSSO released its May draft, the removal of that standard caused strong pushback in the education leadership community, especially given the ongoing national conversation about poverty and race and the shifting demographics in American public schools to a student body that is increasingly nonwhite, low-income, and in need of English-language instruction. School leaders are also responsible for creating safe and welcoming learning environments for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

Without explicit standards to address equity and social justice issues, leadership training programs would graduate students “without ever challenging them to be aware of their own presumptions around race, much less make their schools equitable and inviting places for children of color and children of all kinds of differences that characterize our society today,” said Bradley W. Davis, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Mr. Davis was among six education leadership professors and education school deans who wrote a letter to the CCSSO seeking changes. More than 500 people, including professors, principals, and teachers, signed the letter. The September draft also contained a separate standard on ethical principles and professional norms, which was removed from last month’s version.

Mary-Dean Barringer, the strategic initiative director of workforce development at the CCSSO, said “there was a lot of encouragement” in the most recently public comment period to put functions related to equity and social justice into a separate standard. Similar comments were provided on ethical behaviors, Ms. Barringer said.

Process Revised

In what appears to be another effort to appease critics—who claimed that the tail end of the revision process had been cloaked in secrecy—a committee of education professionals, possibly including principals or representatives from principals’ associations and convened by the national policy board will hammer out the final standards.

The new set of final standards are now scheduled for release in the fall, Ms. Barringer said.

“There was clearly a lot of pressure put on [the CCSSO],” said Joseph F. Murphy, a professor of education leadership at Vanderbilt University and the author of the original standards, who was a critic of the May draft. “And I think they reflected on that, and I think that that pressure was effective in this case.”

Mark A. Gooden, the director of the Principalship Program at the University of Texas at Austin, said he understood the CCSSO’s goals in attempting to “weave” matters of equity through all standards, as it had done in the May draft. But Mr. Gooden, an associate professor, said that he’d rather see a two-pronged approach that would weave equity throughout all the standards and explicitly set it apart as a concrete standard.

Putting concepts such as race and gender in the standards pushes educators to name the problem and it increases the likelihood that they would tackle it head on, he said. And given the cheating scandal in Atlanta and its major fallout, addressing ethical behavior is critical, said Mr. Gooden.

Other education groups also weighed in. The ASCD wrote in a June 4 letter that the standards captured well the competing responsibilities of principals as instructional leaders and operational managers, but it also noted concerns about the absence of equity and ethical principles. Ms. Barringer, from the CCSSO, said the final revisions would reflect feedback and comments from the variety of education organizations that responded.

Overall, the feedback from the online survey was positive, with 77 percent of the 271 individuals who commented deeming the standards to be “good to excellent,” Ms. Barringer said, citing language from the survey.

Feedback also suggested that the language in the May version was clearer than the September draft, she said. And many appreciated the preamble on “transformational” school leaders who focus on student learning, continuous improvement, and creating inclusive school communities, she said.

Of the respondents, about 20 percent worked in higher education, some 60 percent were school-level administrators, and 11 percent were teachers, she said.

The May feedback was more constructive than what CCSSO heard last year, with many respondents following up with extensive comments and suggestions, she said.

Related Blog

Rob Larson, the director of the Oregon Leadership Network, for example, provided the CCSSO with examples of how Oregon since 2012 has embedded equity and cultural competency across all licensing and preparation standards. Mr. Larson said in an interview that meeting the needs of all students was part of the essential and important work of school leaders and that Oregon would continue to focus on cultural competency and equitable practices.

As a result of the delay in releasing the ISLLC standards—they were originally set to be published this spring—the first-ever set of standards for principal supervisors will also be pushed back, according to Melissa McGrath, a spokeswoman for the CCSSO.

Ms. Barringer said the CCSSO will try to work concurrently on both the ISLLC standards and principal-supervisor standards to ensure that there is not a significant lag time between the publication of the two documents.

“We are going as fast as we can,” Ms. Barringer said, “but only as fast as we can get it right.”

Dispelling Myths about Improving Student Achievement # 4

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Myth: Teachers need deep content knowledge to be effective.

Some reform initiatives primarily focus on ensuring teachers have deeper content knowledge, particularly in secondary subjects. Yet most teaching today occurs at the surface level, so in-depth subject knowledge in not as influential as many believe.

It is only when there is right mix of surface and deep learning does content knowledge matter. Expert teachers use their content knowledge to make meaningful connections between concepts by using students’ prior knowledge and adapting lessons to meet students’ needs.

From District Administration Magazine by John Hattie, Educational Researcher at the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Three Reasons Performance will Change

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Based upon changes in employee expectations, advancements in technology and the revolution in people’s relationships with technology, Forbes contributor Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith cites three reasons why performance management systems need to be revamped to better fit today’s organizational environment to achieve their intended outcome: performance improvement. As technology evolves and data becomes more streamlined through composite dashboards, graphic displays and easy to access reports, it is helping to redirect our attention to what actually matters in the performance evaluation and development process. Managers now have the tools to shift their focus from the process to outcomes that drive the performance development and organizational improvement. More: http://www.forbes.com/sites/sylviavorhausersmith/2012/12/16/the-new-face-of-performance-management-trading-annual-reviews-for-agile-management/

Article:

Is there any organizational practice more broken than performance management? Not if you concur with Marc Effron & Miriam Ort who state “perhaps no talent management process is more important or more reviled than performance management.” In fact, it draws universal agreement on several fronts:

  • everyone hates it – employees and managers alike
  • nobody does it well – it’s a skill that seemingly fails to be acquired despite exhaustive training efforts, and
  • it fails the test of construct validity – it doesn’t do what it was designed to do, i.e. increase performance

Traditional performance management programs have become organization wallpaper. They exist in the background with little or no expectations for impact. Yet despite its poor popularity, the concept of performance (at an individual and organizational level) is critical to business success. It can’t just be ignored.

Why is it so broken?

In a large survey conducted by WorldatWork, 58% of organizations rated their performance management systems as “C Grade or below.” That gets a giggle. The performance management process itself gets subjected to its own methods of setting criteria and rating performance against them – and fails.

I believe there are three reasons almost all current performance management systems are broken:

1 People have changed

2 Technology has changed

3 People’s relationship with their technology has changed

Repairing the damage? In order to compete in today’s market, companies must move to adopt a much more agile performance management approach.

People HAVE CHANGED

Employee expectations have changed. It’s not just Gen Y – employees everywhere and of every generation expect more. More involvement, more accountability, and more transparency. When it comes to managing their performance, employees have shifted from being passive recipients to active agents. Not satisfied with a one-way download of performance feedback, employees want to participate in the performance data collection process. And they liken the ‘annual event’ of a performance review to arriving at the pearly gates on Judgment Day.

Managers have changed too. Command and control is no longer cutting it – managers are expected to guide and coach, provide balanced constructive feedback and inspire, rather than enforce, performance.

Add to that what science is now telling us about what really drives human motivation. Like, goal pursuit motivates performance much more than goal achievement, peak performance is best achieved in states of flow, and multi-tasking only dilutes performance on all tasks undertaken concurrently.

Key Changes for High Performance?

Paradigm shift. What used to work no longer does. Managers need to:

1) be realcommunicate openly and often.

2) set stretch goals and inspire individuals to work to their potential.

3) get out of the way – trust their teams and empower employees with accountability.

Technology HAS CHANGED

We’re reaching a tipping point for technology in the talent management arena. It began with simple automation: take the paper processes and put them on a computer. Fine, but that left us with so many spreadsheets, Word templates, proprietary systems and disconnected point solutions that we were drowning in complexity and data overload. It also highlighted that many of the processes we were automating actually needed to be revised, simplified or eliminated altogether.

Baffled by the complexity we created, focus in recent years has been on process simplification, user-friendliness and redirecting attention to what actually matters. A good step forward, but we still suffer from too much data, too little meaningful information.

The “big data & analytics movement” has now really raised the bar – not just in terms of what data can be gathered, aggregated and analyzed but also how it is filtered and presented to audiences to provide immediate management insights. Activity lists are being replaced by composite dashboards, lengthy reports by simple performance heat maps – yes, pictures, literally replacing thousands of words.

Key Change for High Performance?

A shift in focus from process to outcomes. Burn the forms. With technology finally up to the task of producing meaningful information, managers can turn their attention to driving performance outcomes rather than being bogged down in laborious processes.

The relationship between people and their technology

On demand.

Ubiquitous.

Better, faster, cheaper.

It’s really not so long ago that your only likely encounter with a computer was when you went to work, laptops were expensive and rare, and mobile devices were pagers and Walkmans. Today, can you even imagine getting past 10:00 a.m. without having accessed a myriad of your online applications? We work online, shop online, socialize online, we are connected 24/7 – online.

Enterprise technologies are not far behind. Perhaps you are still in a workplace that restricts or bans social media, but they are in decline. Perhaps your organization refuses cloud-based applications for privacy or security reasons, but they are in decline. The fact is: organizations that try to block out the world simply ostracize themselves. And they are in decline.

Key Change for High Performance?

An agile, social and mobile work environment. You will set dynamic goals and adjust them in response to change; your manager will provide just-in-time coaching wherever you are; skills and knowledge you need will be recommended and streamed to you; your performance journal will continuously capture and cluster feedback, ideas and suggestions from your peers and customers; your formal annual performance review will be permanently deleted from your calendar…and you will finally be in a position to manage your own career.

Is the School Principalship a Doable Job? It Depends

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By Learning Forward on July 2, 2015 9:38 AM

A few years ago, Learning Forward deputy executive director Frederick Brown attended a State Consortium on Educator Effectiveness meeting in Baltimore, co-hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Learning Forward. At the meeting, principals from across the country were asked, “Is your job doable?” Their answers were both passionate and poignant.

A few years ago, I attended a State Consortium on Educator Effectiveness meeting in Baltimore co-hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Learning Forward. At the meeting, principals from across the country were asked, “Is your job doable?” Their answers were both passionate and poignant.

Although no principal said his or her job was impossible, many described circumstances that left the audience wondering how long they would be able to sustain their pace. They described being required to complete formal evaluations of dozens of teachers each year. They highlighted their districts’ responses to their state student assessments and their roles in supporting the testing processes. They described workweeks that typically lasted 80-plus hours and weekends that were all but nonexistent. It was a sobering moment that left many in the audience wondering if we are asking our principals to do too much.

The Wallace Foundation Principal Pipeline Initiative works with six urban districts to create large corps of instructional leaders — principals whose main task is to improve teaching and learning. The districts are Hillsborough County, Florida; New York City, New York; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; Prince George’s County, Maryland; and Denver, Colorado. The chosen districts survived a vetting process by Wallace before receiving funding. They are among the top districts in the country focusing their attention and resources on the principalship.

During a recent meeting of the Principal Pipeline Initiative professional learning community in New York, superintendents from these districts addressed the same question. Several were quick to acknowledge that the job of school principal is incredibly demanding and not for everyone. However, each superintendent who spoke emphasized that, while principals need the appropriate supports to do their jobs effectively, the job is doable.

As I reflect on these experiences, I’m drawn back to the word “supports.” What is it that districts — and perhaps provinces and states — can do to help support school leaders? Built into Wallace’s Principal Pipeline Initiative are the foundation’s beliefs about some of those supports, including:

  • Very clear leadership standards that outline what leaders are expected to know and be able to do;
  • Strong leadership preparation that ensures leaders can move into a principal position with the skills needed to do the job;
  • An induction process that provides job-embedded learning during the first few years on the job; and
  • Ongoing mentoring and support to help principals navigate the changing educational landscape.

The six Principal Pipeline Initiative districts had to prove these supports were either partially or completely in place before receiving the grant. After hearing from some of the overwhelmed principals from the State Consortium on Educator Effectiveness meeting, my guess is their districts may have lacked some of those basic supports. So what other supports do principals need? Here are a few I would offer:

  • As part of their training, induction, and ongoing professional learning, principals need help understanding how to more effectively distribute leadership, particularly the management aspects of their work.
  • Principals need central offices and regional service centers that are viewed by principals not as “mandate generators” but as “centers of support” and “providers of resources.”
  • Principals need opportunities to network with their colleagues in learning communities where they can take ownership of their own learning.

Is the principals’ job doable? In many places, the answer is NO. However, we know what it takes to change that. It’s my hope that those principals who find themselves in “undoable” positions will find a way to advocate for a new reality

 

Reversing the Teacher Dropout Problem

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Retain more of your staff by understanding their needs and helping them succeed.

By Jon Andes

Each year, about a half million teachers are hired. School systems spend significant amounts of resources, in both time and money, to recruit, hire, and induct new teachers. Despite this expenditure, up to half of all new teachers will become “dropouts” within their first five years. For school systems nationwide, the costs of new teacher dropouts are substantial– estimated at $2.2 billion per year. For students, this teacher turnover impacts the quality of instruction they receive. Since a major proportion of new teachers are assigned to high-poverty schools, the negative impact on poor children is continuous.

Solving the teacher dropout phenomenon is a precursor to ensuring the success of all students. To address the challenges presented by teacher dropout, we, as instructional leaders, need to understand the unique qualities and needs of new, millennial-generation teachers; discover the general reasons given by new teachers for leaving the profession; and explore the strategies that instructional leaders can take to prevent this from happening.

Who Are These Teachers?

In general, members of the millennial generation have three common characteristics that will impact their career as teachers. First, they are digital natives, who constantly use technology to communicate and to access information. This generation sees access to high-speed Internet and devices as a given. Second, they are team oriented and seek to solve problems by working collaboratively. Since birth, members of this generation have been encouraged to be part of a team—in play groups, sports teams, summer camps, and arts programs. Finally, they seek tangible achievements and feedback, having been the recipients of trophies, medals, and even participation ribbons.

Why Do They Leave?

When researchers survey new teachers who have left the profession, three major reasons are commonly given for dropping out. First, they cite a lack of resources, including technology and classroom materials, and the time to plan and complete the many tasks associated with teaching. Second, these teachers identify a feeling of isolation as a reason for leaving, specifically, a lack of time and the freedom to work together as professionals to address and solve instructional challenges. Finally, they identify a lack of support by school-building leadership as a reason for leaving.

What Can You Do to Help?

The obvious solution to addressing the dilemma of new teacher dropouts is to make sure that the right person is hired. Assuring the right person is hired may reduce attrition, but it may not be enough to retain the best and the brightest millennials. By understanding the unique characteristics of this generation and the reasons cited for leaving the teaching profession, instructional leaders can identify and implement strategies to retain these new teachers.

First, providing needed resources is critical. The millennial generation of new teachers expects that the tools of teaching—including technology—will be available in the classroom to optimize their instructional practice. In terms of time constraints, school leaders can ease these by eliminating or reducing administrative duties such as bus or playground duty, providing new teachers with common planning time, and reducing class size. Additionally, school leaders can make a conscious effort to carefully choose which students to assign to new teachers, for the purpose of setting up the novice for a successful first-year experience.

Second, to combat a feeling of isolation, the instructional leader can assign the right mentor and place the new teacher on a collaborative team. Veteran teachers are often selected as mentors for new teachers but this may not always be the best choice. In addition to assigning the right mentor, the instructional leader needs to provide time during the school day for the new teacher and a mentor to plan and work together.

Third, to demonstrate support for new teachers, the building principal must make an effort to connect with them. This might include actions such as scheduling a regular bimonthly time to meet with new teachers and mentors to discuss needs, informally meet with new teachers for an after-school snack and chat, make informal visits to the classroom to acknowledge instructional success, and use e-mails to reach out to new teachers with positive messages. Most important, new teachers need to believe that an instructional leader is listening to them and is committed to enabling their success.

As instructional leaders, we must remember that the success of a student directly depends on the person who is teaching him or her. As a nation, we cannot afford the cost of constantly recruiting, hiring, and training new teachers. The cost is too high in terms of both money spent and loss of student learning time. The purpose of the hiring process is to replace ourselves with a generation of educators who are prepared and capable to meet the challenges that the post-millennial generation will bring to the classroom.

Jon Andes is a professor of practice at Salisbury State University in Maryland. He was superintendent of the Worcester County Public Schools in Maryland from 1996 through 2012.

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