Leadership and Learning @WMSURN Leadership Academy 2015

Diane Sweeney, Coming Soon!

SURN is pleased to have Diane Sweeney, author of Student Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals and Student-Centered Coaching at the Secondary Level, join us for our Leadership Academy this summer on June 22-23, 2015.

Diane has been a national education consultant since 1999.  She taught and coached in the Denver Public School system before serving as a program officer at the Public Education and Business Coalition in Denver.  She is a well-respected educator who focuses on coaching and professional development.

Student Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals (Corwin Press, 2010) focuses on school-based coaching designed to impact student learning.  Professional development should focus on how to best support teachers and collaborate with them in order to design successful and targeted instruction.  The book focuses on the critical role of principal in developing and sustaining a culture of learning.

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Student-Centered Coaching at the Secondary Level (Corwin Press, 2013) is the follow-up to Sweeney’s 2010 best-selling book and focuses on the principles and tools of student-centered coaching in order to meet the challenges in middle and high schools.  Coaching focused on the student can allow the coach to provide feedback that has a direct impact on student achievement.

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For more information on Diane, please visit www.dianesweeney.com.  For more information on SURN’s Leadership Academy and how to sign up, please visit our website for more information or email us surn@wm.edu.

SURN Principal Academy

The 2013 and 2014 cohorts of the SURN Principal Academy met in September to continue their learning about high yield strategies. The 2013 cohort dived deeper into a session on John Hattie’s book Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learndesigned by Carol Sceare. Meanwhile the 2014 cohort considered how various learning strategies aligned to teacher pedagogy using a sorting activity on the form. Both groups engaged in a simulated observation using the indicators of student engagement form led by SURN Principal Academy mentor, Tony Vladu, principal of Denbigh High School (NNPS).


Visible Leaders Institute for Central Office

Twenty-six central office leaders from 20 SURN member school divisions engaged in a day long exploration of student engagement which included training on how to use the Indicators of Student Engagement Tool to collect formative feedback on what students are doing to learn in the classroom. The Visible Leaders Institute for Central Office (VLICO) consists of two one-day sessions designed to provide central office leaders with knowledge and skills to support their principals who are engaged in the SURN Principal Academy. A culminating activity was to create a poem modeled after the format of Margaret Brown Wise’s Important Book from one of four perspectives on student engagement. Can you match the perspective of administrator, student, teacher, and central office personnel to each poem?

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Welcome 2014 SURN Principal Academy Cohort Members!

Twenty-four principals and assistant principals from Virginia Regions 1, 2, and 3 started their two-year journey in the SURN Principal Academy, July 14-16 at The College of William and Mary. They focused on how to collect data about student engagement and provide feedback to teachers. As part of their reflection, teams wrote poems about student engagement from the perspectives of student, teacher, and administrator.

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Teacher Appreciation Week

The first full week in May is Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9, 2014). Instructional leaders, PTA, School Boards, students, and others often recognize this week in a myriad of ways from proclamations to tasty treats. Perhaps there are clever plays on words or use of candy bars such as “Don’t Snicker, you are worth $100 Grand, no you are really worth the entire Mint.” Perhaps there is a token of appreciation such as flashlights for “lighting up students’ learning.”

One school’s administration and PTA designated days to show their appreciation for teachers so that students were invited to bring items to school such as:

Monday: Smile big and say something nice to your teacher
Tuesday: Give your teacher an award-make a ribbon or a certificate
Wednesday: Pick a flower to bring your teacher
Thursday: Write a letter or draw a picture telling your teacher what you appreciate about him/her
Friday: Decide how you will honor your teacher – maybe bring a candy bar or donate a book you no longer need at home to the classroom library

For an interesting twist, consider reaching out to a memorable teacher in your life. Send the teacher an email or letter reminding them when they taught you and sharing how the teacher made an impact in your life.

Consider having your students write a letter to a former teacher. Use the intra-district mail to send the letters to the teacher or place letters in the faculty mailboxes.

Principal Academy Data: From Research to Practice

By: Amy Williams

Over the past two weeks, I have had the exciting opportunity to turn the observation data collected by SURN Principal Academy participants into charts, graphs, and data sets that participants can use to look for trends, to engage in dialogue with others, and to identify areas of strength and continued focus for their schools.  Research-based instruction is aligned with the tenets of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and SURN Principal Academy participants are not only using research-based practices like those highlighted in John Hattie’s Visible Learning, they are also generating, analyzing, and using school-based data to inform their teaching and administrative practices at both school and classroom levels.

Principals in 49 schools used the Student Engagement Observation form in over 1,700 classroom observations in their schools in the fall semester.  Across these observations, student indicators of engagement were assessed in classrooms from English to Mathematics, from sign language (ASL) to automotive repair.  The wide array of classrooms in which observations were conducted provides a rich data set that reflects both SURN Academy participants’ commitment to using data to inform leadership and teaching practices in all academic domains, as well as demonstrating the multitude of opportunities administrators have found to engage in dialogue with teachers about what is working in their classrooms and what possible next steps may be for teachers to promote high-yield student engagement in their classrooms.

The collection and use of this data to inform teaching and learning in schools allow administrators and teachers to share a common language focused on what practices best support student engagement and learning.  By consistently collecting, analyzing, and using data, SURN Principal Academy participants and the teachers with whom they work are able to identify strengths and needs, and to revise approaches proactively to promote student engagement and achievement.

In working with the data collected from over 3 months of observations, I have observed that SURN Principal Academy participants are not only gathering data, they are using it.  Observations of high-yield student engagement indicators have increased from September to December, and administrators are eager to get ahold of their data sets to explore, analyze, and outline next steps based upon their data reports.  I am honored to play a role in this process, and I look forward to continuing to support the SURN Principal Academy participants in their efforts to use data that inform teaching and leading within their schools.


SURN Reads

book recs blog post

The 3rd Annual Joy of Literature and Literacy Conference

On October 11th, more than 160 educators, librarians, literacy specialists and administrators from around the Williamsburg area participated in the College of William and Mary’s third annual Joy of Literature and Literacy Conference.  With a focus on non-fiction this year, the conference offered sessions from award winning children’s book authors Don Brown, Steve Sheinkin, and Susan Stockdale.  Additional sessions were provided by literacy experts Joan Kindig, Beth Estill, Wendy Lucy, Katie Plum, Pam Griffin and Annyce Maddox, covering an array of instructional tools and techniques for incorporating non-fiction books across curricular areas. Participants were treated to captivating stories, resonant art, and powerful new ideas for engaging and teaching students with non-fiction books.

In addition to the conference sessions, attendees were treated to book signing opportunities with all the children’s book authors.  Speakers’ books were available for purchase, courtesy of the campus bookstores.

Planning for next year’s conference is already in full swing, and promises to be equally successful with the theme of reading and writing across the curriculum, featuring children’s book authors Candace Fleming and Barbara O’Connor! For further information, contact prdevc@wm.edu.


Author Steve Sheinkin shares primary sources that he used in researching and writing the young adult nonfiction book, “Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon”

SURN’s Summer Successes

Participants in SURN’s Summer Professional Development offerings benefited from a wide range of opportunities to connect, learn, and grow.


Over the summer, SURN’s Williamsburg headquarters at the College of William and Mary were a destination for teachers and administrators across Virginia who invested in summer professional development opportunities that would positively impact their schools and students throughout the upcoming academic year.  SURN-hosted events included the Leadership Academy on June 20th and 21st, and Principal Academy on July 17th, both of which provided participants with opportunities for connecting around ideological and practical issues emerging in field of educational administration and leadership.  The Leadership Academy in June featured speakers John Hattie, Deb Masters, and Valerie Gregory, who discussed the principles and practices involved in promoting Visible Learning in schools.  Participants attending the second day of the year-long Principal Academy series in July focused their energy on learning and practicing observation strategies and using observation checklists to promote Visible Learning practices in their schools.  Overall, participants of both Academies left energized and prepared to motivate and support teachers in integrating Visible Learning practices in classrooms across the region.

In August, the College and Career Readiness Institute (CCRI) provided finished a year-long workshop series for high school English teachers who are striving to integrate the College and Career Readiness standards into their teaching through the use of best practices in literacy instruction.  Teachers left the most recent CCRI workshop held on August 29th with many practical strategies for integrating CCRI standards into their teaching, including lesson planning materials and research-based resources to inform instruction.  These teachers also received valuable resources, in the form of fiction and nonfiction trade books, to support CCRI practices in their classrooms.  On average, each teacher received $50 or more of books, which were provided by the SCHEV grant that supports CCRI programming.

Not all of the participants in SURN’s summer professional development opportunities remained in Williamsburg.  For 14 days in August, SURN took eager educators and administrators to Australia and New Zealand to observe first-hand the impact that Visible Teaching and Learning strategies have on student learning and achievement.  Participants spent time in classrooms where Visible Teaching and Learning practices have been fully integrated and invested time and energy exploring how to integrate these same principles school-wide in classrooms closer to home.  Participants also took advantage of opportunities to network while experiencing the culture and beauty of Australia and New Zealand.  Attendees of the 2013 Study Tour returned stateside ready to embark upon an exciting school year filled with Visible Learning in schools.