By Mahnaz Ahrary, CEI Intern, and Christine Mason
Visioning. Dr. Christine Mason, CEI Executive Director, joined Dr. Helen Soule, Executive Director of Partnership for the 21st Century (P21), and a panel of distinguished elementary school principals for two presentations at the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ conference in National Harbor Maryland, on July 7 and 8. At the Conference, they led participants through an exercise to envision the future of their schools using an exemplar approach.
Dr. Soule began by explaining P21 has developed a network of 99 Exemplar schools & districts in 22 states. Multi-media examples of these programs can be found here.
The key components of the P21 exemplar model are presented in the figure to the left.
Next, Dr. Mason introduced the CEI approach to considering and encouraging exemplary schools.
- That approach relies on networking with a group of NAESP principals and national principal leaders to uncover how schools combine a high-tech, STEM/STEAM foundation with a high-touch approach to establishing supportive and nurturing school climates.
- The CEI approach considers the importance of the latest knowledge from neuroscientists about how to help children cope with trauma to build student self-esteem, self-confidence, and success, even as students are preparing for 21st Century careers.
- This approach resulted in the CEI Heart Centered 21st Century Rubric (https://classgather.com/) which can be used for visioning.
ESSA Opportunities. Participants at the Visioning session had opportunities to use performance indicators from P21 and CEI to consider how they might move their schools forward with a vision towards what schools might be. As Dr. Mason said, ‘With the Every School Succeeds Act, principals have an opportunity to present their recommendations for what they believe is important to fund and monitor. By participating in visioning sessions with their staff, principals can be better prepared to advocate for the practices that they believe are most critical for the children they serve.’ During this session, Aaron Brengard, principal at Katherine Smith Elementary School in San Jose, CA, also shared how he reinvented his school to be a 21st Century school through a focus community collaboration, literacy, STEM, and schoolwide celebrations.
Exemplary Schools. At the second CEI presentation, Dr. Mason and Mr. Brengard moderated a panel of principals at exemplary schools. These principals shared some of their successes, describing how they instituted authentic project-based and blended learning, STEM, Makerspaces, and heart centered learning. Two key themes emerged: community collaboration and support in all stages of implementation and how to re-think use of time and space.
Keynotes. Also at the NAESP conference, three influential speakers made powerful keynote presentations. Daniel Goleman, renowned psychologist and a pioneer in social emotional learning, described how emotional intelligence is more important to success than cognitive competency and how the leadership of school principals can strategically influence school culture to include methods and activities to enhance emotional intelligence. Russell Qualgia, researcher, author of Principals: Listen, Lead & Learn, and president and founder of the Quaglia Institute for School Voice & Aspirations, described transformational leadership through listening. Lastly, Pedro Noguera, urban sociologist, summed up leadership challenges by one simple quote, ‘the more you know about who you serve, the more you know how to serve them.’
Other Sessions. Breakout sessions followed the keynote presentations on each day. Tara Brown – “The Coach Connection” – led a high energy, inspiring presentation on mindset and resiliency. The most critical point she made overall was that school leaders need to understand what students’ internal dialogue to be able to reframe thinking to a more growth-oriented mindset. During a speaker series presented a panel of four discussed state and local implementation of The Every Student Succeeds Act. The panel discussed the law’s provisions and how schools may be impacted. It was noted that the law’s success would be determined mainly if the lowest performing schools turn around. Sarah Silverman from the National Governor’s Association reminded principals in the room that Governors have to sign off on accountability plans which might either add more bureaucracy or more opportunity. On the last day of the conferences, Jacie Maslyk, Assistant Superintendent of the Hopewell Area School District, reviewed exciting learning opportunities concerning the ‘Maker Movement’ and using creativity and innovation to spark the creation of new learning spaces, curriculum and programming in schools.