School Performance – The Big Picture, Part 1

I recently sat through a long session on the “secret” of improving schools, writ large.  It seems that the obvious answer is more effective school boards.   I wish I could agree. I do not.   Are school boards important? Yes.   Are schools board the answer to a unifying theory of school improvement? No.…

Curriculum Sources

Recently, I was meeting with a school board to provide some training on the practices of effective school districts. I was pointing out the providing teachers with a common scope of sequence is a leadership responsibility, and to not do so is a failure of leadership.  This board instantly understood the logic of this and…

Does Class Size Matter

School board members and superintendents often ask me my opinion on class size.  I have read the research and understand the theory behind the class size argument, but my answer is much more practical and is based on the situation. Situation 1 (The Small School): In most small schools, class size really isn’t an issue.…

A Reader Doesn’t Like… Observations From the Perfect Dysfunctional Storm

In response to the series of posts, “Observations From the Perfect Storm,” a reader writes the following: SC, I am offended by many of your views of central office. In large districts, I have seen this as being an issue, but in the majority of districts, many in upper administration are there because we want…

A Superintendent Writes… Changing Tires Doing 75 m.p.h.

A LYS Superintendent shares the following: I don’t think the changes to the Texas math standards are getting nearly enough attention. I have heard complaints from math teachers all year about how convoluted and confusing the entire situation is. If you are late to the game, let me catch you up. Some high school math…

The Failure of Leadership

Last week’s post (9/17/14), “Treat the Symptoms Vs. Treat the Disease,” got me thinking about my real job when I was working for the state.  Yes, my title was “State Director of Innovative Redesign,” but the actual job was more along the lines of Plumber.  When systems fail, there is either a broken component, a…

A Superintendent Writes… Treat the Symptoms vs. Treat the Disease

A LYS Superintendent submits the following: LYS Nation, Of course we know that not every disease has a cure.  If a patient is sick, then most certainly the ideal course of action is to cure the disease.  This can be done through surgery, or perhaps through antibiotics.  Of course there are some ailments that simply…

A Reader Asks… A Little Career Advice

A LYS Principal asks the following: SC, I am currently at a career crossroads and would like you opinion on how I should move forward. As you know, I am the High School Principal in a small urban/suburban district.  Our superintendent, a mentor and the person who hired me, is retiring and the Board is…

A Reference

School Boards and Superintendents repeatedly tell us that LYSers are a different breed than the typical educator.  And many districts now specifically seek out LYSers for critical positions.  When I share this with audiences, I typically am asked why this is the case.   Here is an example. I recently had the privilege of writing a…

A Reader Writes… Happy and Thriving – Part 1

In response to the 9/12/12 post, “Happy and Thriving,” a long time LYSer writes: SC, I have certainly seen school leaders use poor methods when dealing with teachers that could be characterized as fear and intimidation.  Clearly, I believe the more appropriate method of dealing with employees is one of coaching, cooperation, and mentoring.  However,…

Top LYS Tweets From the Week of June 10, 2012

Here’s some good news on the bootleg technology front.  A recent survey indicates that the use of smart phones by principals and other top school district administrators is up to 30 percentage points higher than that of the general adult population.  The gap is even larger when the use of tablets (ex: I-pad) is considered. …

School Closures, Who to Blame

Across Texas, districts are having to close under-capacity schools. As one could guess, this has created staff and community anger. I’m not going to say that the anger is wrong, but where it is present, it is almost always misguided. Let’s look at the situation logically. If a school is under-capacity, enrollment is declining, and…

Top LYS Tweets from the Week of October 2, 2011

Our bootleg technology conversation is dramatically different (if it exists at all) without the presence of Steve Jobs. With bootleg technology have a tool that is beyond the realm of imagination for prior generations of educators. We just have to figure out how to use it. A number of you in the LYS Nation are…

The Little District That Will…

I have spent the last two days working with a group of teachers that has reaffirmed why the politicians and the angry fringe of the general public are wrong. Let me set the stage. In this district, the secondary schools lost their ratings in May. No TPM, means that they have to face the harsh…

A Reader Writes… (Yes, I Know the Hours are Long – Part 11)

In response to the post, “Yes, I Know the Hours are Long – Part 1 & 2 (11/7/2010),” a LYS Principal writes: I am one of the old time LYS guys, and I am one of the original writers of this fine blog. I know Sean Cain very well. And here is a news flash:…

A Reader Writes… (Some Concerns)

In response to the post, “Some Concerns,” a reader writes:Sean, I did not realize you were “recruiting.” I’m not sure what this person is “disturbed” about? Is it following directions as prescribed by the school board and superintendent, or is it change? The comment sounds bitter and the post goes in a lot of directions.…

What Do We Really Value?

Here is one of my BHAG’s (big, hairy, audacious goal: read, ‘Built to Last’) for education. I believe if we keep plugging away, turning around schools, coaching school boards, and empowering educators that at some point communities and school leaders will hold their academic programs to the same high expectations of excellence that they hold…

Comments from LYS Trainings, Camps, and Presentations

Throughout this summer, by conservative estimates, the LYS Coaching Staff trained over 5,500 teachers, school administrators and school board members. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with everyone, especially when one considers that the majority of the training participants were attending voluntarily (off contract). As I have written before, the great ones…

A Reader Writes… (Advice for the First Year Principal – Part 6)

In response to the posts relating to, “Advice for the First Year Principal,” a reader writes: “I enjoyed, “Advice for the First Year Principal,” as well as the posts that have stemmed from it. My question is this, “What about the 2nd year?” The first year, I know that lots of changes shouldn’t be made,…

A Reader Writes… (School Dysfunction)

In response to the post, “A Reader Submits… School Dysfunction“, a reader writes. “A school is only as fruitful as the administrative and instructional staff expects it to be. If one thinks of one’s school as “bad” or “nightmare” (terms I’ve never equated with any schools I’ve worked for) then it is the attitudes of…

A Reader Writes… (Your Can Do It, Quick – Part 2)

In response to the post, “Reader’s Write… (You Can Do It, Quick)“, a reader writes: “This post was a joke, right? LYS calls everyone out from time to time: teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, and each other. No one is spared scrutiny. No one escapes accountability. I have known Cain, Brown, and Brezina for years…

A Reader Writes… (Teacher Stress – Part 7)

In response to the posts relating to, “Teacher Stress,” a reader writes: “SC, thanks for clarifying my point about teachers being part of the problem. Let me be real clear. I think teachers in failing schools are about 30% of the problem, and 70% of the solution. I think leadership in failing schools is about…

A Reader Writes… (Teacher Stress – Part 3)

In response to the posts relating to, “Teacher Stress,” a reader writes: “As SC pointed out, it is hard to comment without knowing the specifics of your district. But, from what you wrote I get a mental picture of your school (which may be totally wrong). Your school probably has student achievement problems. As Cain…

A Reader Writes… (Instructional Discussions – Part 3)

In response to the posts addressing, “Instructional Discussions,” a reader writes: “SC, here are some problems with your improvement recipe: 1. The staff in the worst schools will reject meaningful training because after all, they are not the problem, the kids are. 2. The more conversations you have, the more irritated the faculty will become.…

TASB and AASA Presentations Update

It seems that the education world just can’t get enough of the LYS Nation. First, on Thursday, over 100 school board members overcame bad weather to hear how the LYS schools have learned to eat the perceived pain of change for breakfast. Look out non-LYS districts, because your board members left the presentation embracing the…

A Reader Writes… (Problem with a Co-Worker – Part 2)

In response to the posts relating to “Problems with a Co-worker,” a reader writes: “I have worked in Scenario 5 districts, more than once. In those cases I made the decision to do what was right for kids. In those districts the accountability scores were horrible, and the board demanded improvement. The teachers were the…

A Reader Writes… (A Problem with a Co-Worker)

In response to the post, “A Problem with a Co-Worker,” a reader writes: “Or there is scenario 5. The principal leader knows, understands and shares your frustration. She has addressed the issues not only numerous times with the person in question but also with Central Office. Central Office has “tied her hands” and in so…

A Reader Writes… (Leadership / Lonely)

In response to the posts addressing the lonely nature of leadership, a reader writes: “If this is your first school turn around, hang in there and hold on. October and November, in my experiences, are the months when the push back starts to really build. By Christmas it can be incredible.Stay the course. During the…

Brezina Writes… (A Response to His Rule)

In response to the reader who asked about Brezina’s Rule, “If it is not right for kids, it is wrong,” Brezina writes: “Whoever brought this up is starting to really dig into the issue. For you know that as you keep asking pointed questions, you start getting to the real causes of issue. Do know…

Board Members on Campus

This past weekend I, along with a Superintendent and an Assistant Superintendent that I have worked with for a number of years, presented at a multi-state school board conference. In our session (a full house with over 75 attendees) we had school board members from Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Our discussion centered on…
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