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October 31 - November 2, 2014
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2014 ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership

2014 ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership

October 31–November 2, 2014, Orlando, Fla.

Learn the secrets to great leadership practices, and get immediate and practical solutions that address your needs.



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Publish in ASCD Express


E-mail submission as a link or an attachment (include the issue theme in the subject line) to

Published every two weeks, ASCD Express, launched in fall 2005, seeks to give a new generation of educators in the United States and around the world the practical information they need to be the best-informed in the field.

Because of the nature of the web and the demands made on typical educators—too much information and too little time to read it—ASCD Express seeks brief, practical content (articles of about 600 words; multimedia no longer than 10 minutes).

We welcome research-based submissions as well as your own examples from the classroom and advice about how to adapt successful strategies or overcome challenges, whether as a teacher, administrator, or specialist.

Read our list of upcoming themes, and consider publishing in ASCD Express. When submitting articles, please write the issue theme in the subject line of your e-mail.


2014 Themes 

 denotes a theme that corresponds to an issue of Educational Leadership.

January 2: Managing Your Work Load

As demands on educators increase, many wonder how they can add one more task to their already full plate. This issue will offer tips for staying organized and managing time. How can technology help—or hinder—educators as they attempt to juggle multiple responsibilities? How do educators set priorities and manage conflicting demands on their time? Articles will consider what kinds of schedules and staffing structures make the most of educators’ limited time, managing stress, juggling multiple responsibilities, workspace organization, and setting priorities to maximize effort where it will have the most impact.

Submissions Closed

January 16: Closing the Engagement Gap

Many students don’t find school engaging; boredom is the top reason students give for dropping out of high school. In this issue, we’ll consider what makes for engaging instruction, including what teaching approaches most foster engagement, how to target instruction to each student’s needs, how to connect new learning to students’ interests and life goals, and ensure that students have opportunities to do meaningful work. What role do rewards and social interaction play in making instruction interesting? How can teachers know what level of work is challenging enough for each learner? How are teachers using technology to increase student engagement? What traditional practices might teachers de-emphasize to make school more engaging to all?

Submissions Closed

January 30: STEM

How can schools enhance the traditional ways of teaching STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math)? This issue will consider how schools are grounding math and science instruction in real-world scenarios, varying the traditional sequence of science courses, and creating new courses in developing fields. How are schools connecting STEM courses to workplace readiness? What effect do the Common Core State Standards have on the STEM curriculum? How are Next Generation Science Standards reshaping STEM? How are schools tapping into cutting-edge digital technologies to teach STEM skills? How can we attract more students—particularly girls and minorities—into STEM-related classes and fields?

Submissions Closed

February 13: Building School Morale 

How do we build schoolwide cultures in which administrators, teachers, students, and parents are energized and positive about learning? This issue will explore how both principals and teachers can achieve balance, reduce stress, and become confident advocates for public education in the face of outside criticisms. What practices build educator morale; protect educators from negative pressures and initiative fatigue; empower them to be problem solvers; and promote trust, mutual respect, collegiality, and celebration? How can the demands of accountability and high expectations be realized in a positive culture? How can school leaders create a culture of community by forging alliances and involving families?

Submissions Closed

February 27: Inside the Hot Topics at ASCD's 2014 Annual Conference

Be the smartest attendee in the room (or on the hashtag), with this primer on some of the hot topics that will be presented at ASCD's 2014 Annual Conference in Los Angeles. Build background knowledge before you go to AC 2014, so that you'll get the most out of your Conference experience. This issue will include bites from the influential work of some of the big names presenting at AC 2014, as well as exclusive, original content especially for AC 2014 attendees (or those attending in spirit).

Submissions Closed

March 13: Using Assessments Thoughtfully 

With the new assessments connected to the Common Core State Standards to be implemented in the 2014–15 school year, high-stakes tests will continue to be a force shaping schooling. This issue will look at current questions and challenges associated with both high- and low-stakes tests. How different will the new assessments created for the Common Core be? What must schools do now to prepare for the new tests, including providing professional development and getting the infrastructure needed for computerized testing? How can schools fairly assess English language learners and students with learning differences? What about "exit exams" for high school students? How do such gatekeeper tests affect at-risk youth and the dropout rate? We welcome new perspectives on how to align standardized and classroom-based tests and how to teach for meaning in an age of testing.

Submissions Closed

March 27: Revisiting Informational Texts

We received so many quality submissions for the theme of the November 7 issue, "Tackling Informational Texts," that we're repeating the theme. This issue will include all new, original, practitioner-submitted strategies and advice for meeting and exceeding the Common Core State Standards' emphasis on increasingly complex informational text and the need for deep comprehension across all content areas.

Submissions Closed

April 10: Writing: A Core Skill 

The Common Core State Standards call for schools to emphasize not only creative and narrative writing, but also argumentative and informative writing. How can writing instruction across the content areas best respond to these new standards? How important is it to explicitly teach language mechanics, such as spelling, vocabulary, and sentence construction? How can schools give writing instruction more time in the day and more focus in all subjects? This issue will examine the writing skills that students need to develop to become college and career ready, as well as promising approaches for teaching writing.

Submissions Closed

April 24: The Effort Effect

How do you get students to see intelligence and achievement as outcomes they can grow with effort? Experts like Carol Dweck argue that activities that encourage, acknowledge, and support sustained effort help students develop a growth mind-set, which leads to not just short-term achievement but also long-term success. Working within students' zone of proximal development, teachers can design tasks that challenge yet don't overwhelm, that communicate the value of hard work, and frame feedback as a tool for improvement. How do you help students set goals and chart their progress toward these targets with regular, informative feedback and self-assessments? What helps students internalize the habit of practice and Dweck's axiom that "even geniuses work hard"?

Submissions Closed

May 8: The New Face of Professional Development 

Professional learning is no longer only something that schools do for educators; it's also something educators do for themselves. Educators are not only building professional communities online and in their schools and districts, but they are also personalizing their own learning. Data teams, lesson study groups, and virtual communities provide opportunities to learn with and from peers. Teacher-led "unconferences" and edcamps provide new models for professional conferences. And blogs, wikis, and Twitter chats are enabling educators to learn and share anytime and anywhere. How can school leaders customize and evaluate professional development opportunities? What types of learning communities are most effective, and what are some of the barriers to creating such communities?

Submissions Closed

May 22: Building Academic Vocabulary

Academic vocabulary is one of the strongest indicators of how well students will learn subject-area content. Unfortunately, time constraints can make vocabulary development an afterthought, especially in content-area classrooms. How do you include vocabulary instruction in daily lesson plans? Which tech tools are most effective in supporting vocabulary development? How do you help language learners simultaneously develop content knowledge and language skills? What strategies are most effective in coordinating a whole-school focus on vocabulary? This issue will build on research that recognizes learning as fundamentally dependent on vocabulary knowledge and offer practical advice for all educators seeking strategies to shore up this essential learner resource.

Submissions Closed

June 5: Technology and Differentiated Instruction

This issue calls for examples of how to use tech tools to deliver differentiated instruction. Through skills practice and navigating a menu of leveled options on individual devices, for example, technology has the potential to make differentiated instruction more seamless and viable in busy classrooms. Which tools and methodologies hold the greatest potential? How can schools make best use of free applications available on hardware already in the schools or on students' personal devices? What are some of the pitfalls of relying on technology as part of a differentiation strategy?

Submissions Closed

June 19: What Innovative School Leaders Do

Education innovation is often narrowly cast through the lens of the reform movement or technology, but groundbreaking school and classroom leadership comes in many shades. What are your sources for the best ideas in education? How do you translate ideas into action? What are your strategies for adapting innovations to your school context and strategically listening to and involving your constituents in changes? What can the United States learn from successful international schools? Why do some reforms take hold while others fall flat? What sacred cows in education are due for an overhaul? Which classic education ideals deserve renewed attention in the 21st century?

Submissions Closed

July 3: Game-Based Learning

In games, tasks become increasingly more difficult as players compete against other participants, themselves, or the game itself. Particularly with digital games, players receive ongoing feedback and just the right amount of challenge to persist in attempting to clear the next level. From low to high tech, what are some ways educators are incorporating the elements of gaming into instruction? How have you designed tasks that create the sort of "productive frustration" that intrinsically motivates students to keep trying? How can teachers reduce the time between students' effort and feedback on that effort without sacrificing the quality of feedback? How do you help students learn from their mistakes? What processes can be automated or streamlined so that students can independently seek additional levels of challenge or support in what they're learning? What are the limitations of game-based learning? Can it be used to teach higher-order thinking and complex tasks?

Submissions Closed

July 17: The End of Homework

Nobody likes homework: It gives an unfair advantage to students who have the time and conditions to do school work outside of school hours; when it's graded, it distorts the overall picture of student learning; and it's a burden for teachers to keep after students who perpetually don't do it. Instead of these traditional conceptions of homework, experts like Cathy Vatterott suggest revamping homework into something more meaningful—individualized practice. Have you or your school changed policies toward homework? What affected your decisions to stop giving, grading, or otherwise altering your approach to homework? Can there be rigor without reams of homework? How do you build in equitable opportunities for students to practice with skills or content? How do you ensure that practice is purposeful? What are the political snafus inherent in not grading homework or differentiating practice assignments, and how have you dealt with them?

Submissions Closed

August 14: Making a Difference 

Ask educators why they went into teaching, and the majority will respond that they wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people. That initial idealism, however, is often challenged by the realities of heavy workloads, classroom discipline problems, and bureaucratic demands. For this issue, we welcome stories from (and about) individual educators and teams of educators striving to make a measurable difference—for example, by building meaningful relationships or designing innovative programs that helped students overcome challenges, raising academic achievement, supporting students' emotional and physical health and safety, building partnerships with parents, advocating for education reform, or empowering their students to make a difference.

Submissions Closed

August 28: What New Principals Need

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23,200 new principal positions will be added between 2010 and 2020. And as a profession, the current field of 236,100 K–12 principals averages about 1–5 years of experience in a related field. That is a pretty green crop of leaders charged with everything from maintaining school budgets, staffing, and making decisions about student data. Most principals say their learning happens on the job, and for new principals that can be a steep learning curve. This issue will tap both veteran and newly minted school leaders for guidance on how to avoid common missteps, develop a leader identity, set and enact priorities, stay positive, and find and sustain support networks. What do you wish you had known as a new principal?

Submissions Closed

September 11: Motivation Matters 

Motivated students learn at high levels, even when they start with knowledge or skill gaps. We know, for instance, that when teachers create an engaging curriculum, students will persist in the most challenging courses. Yet many students are unmotivated. Perhaps they feel that the work is too hard or too easy, that their own skills or styles aren't valued, that what they're studying isn't connected to their life goals or passions. This issue will consider how teachers can spark inner motivation in all students—from near drop-outs to high fliers to those sliding by in the middle. How can we change curriculum, instructional approaches, grading, and classroom culture to engage more students in learning?

Submissions Closed

September 25: Tools for a New School Year

Next year will be different. You're taking experiences from this year and translating them into a game plan for next year. You're seeking out professional reading, training, online resources, or a colleague that will help prepare and support you for next year's challenges. We want to know what aspect of your practice you're fine-tuning over the summer break and what resources are taking you to the next level. Looking back on the school year, what was lacking and what sustained you? What do you need to start next year right?

Submissions Closed

October 9: Instruction That Sticks 

Good teachers know the importance of effective teaching strategies. But how do you know when a strategy is working, when it's not, and how to make adjustments? What do research and professional experience say about which strategies are most effective in raising student achievement? This issue will explore these questions and will include articles examining a variety of classroom instructional strategies, such as project-based learning, reciprocal teaching, inquiry-driven learning, group learning, direct instruction, backward planning, mastery learning, differentiated instruction, and timely feedback. How can teachers implement these strategies in ways that produce the richest learning for their students?

Submissions Closed

October 23: Managing Messy Learning

Project-based learning is a paradox. It can be the platform for deep immersion in interesting problems or topics, but it can also be wildly unwieldy to conduct. Sometimes depth is sacrificed for the sake of manageability, and the result falls short of the profound learning you’d hoped students would experience. With the mix of learners and the resource limitations in a typical classroom (namely, time), what are the secret ingredients for designing meaningful and manageable project-based learning? How do you align tasks to learning targets? What are the processes and routines that release responsibility to students to work autonomously on a project over time? How is assessment different when students work in groups? How have you partnered with other teachers or organizations to create interdisciplinary units, and what are the keys to keep such partnerships running smoothly? And, finally, why is project-based learning worth doing? How does it positively disrupt traditional templates for teaching and learning?

Submissions due: August 1, 2014

November 13: Talking and Listening in Class 

The typical school day is abuzz with student and teacher talk—whole-class discussions, small-group and paired interactions, student presentations, teacher lectures, question-and-answer sessions, student-led debates—and of course, countless social conversations. How can we use all this talk productively to promote rich content-area learning and to develop the speaking and listening skills that are vital to students' future success? Topics in this issue will include teaching students to be active listeners, encouraging respectful debate, leading whole-class discussions that promote higher-order thinking and encourage all students to participate, teaching to the Common Core speaking and listening standards, and designing instruction so that students talk more and teachers talk less.

Submissions due: August 15, 2014

November 26: Are the Kids Alright?

In his essay, "The Purpose of Education," a young Martin Luther King, Jr. famously wrote, "Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education." Studies bear out the import of Dr. King's message – schools that intentionally cultivate the social-emotional aspects of learning, through shared norms, values, and language; report healthier and happier students and staff, as well as less behavior referrals. So what are schools doing to address the social emotional development of students? How can schools best leverage counselors, social workers, and other mental health specialists? Which approaches to character education are most promising?

Submissions due: September 1, 2014

December 11: Grade Smarter

Do your grades measure comprehension or compliance? Do they give students enough information on how they can improve? How do you communicate with families about grading practices? How do you deal with late or incomplete work? Does grading homework give an unfair advantage to better-resourced students? What are the hurdles to implementing standards-based grading? How can grading practices shift to put the emphasis on learning, not simply measuring? This issue will look at strategies and polices for making grades more fair and meaningful.

Submissions due: September 15, 2014

December 24: STEM for All 

A STEM education is becoming increasingly vital, and not just in terms of a shortage of workers in these areas. Our technology-dependent society demands citizens with sophisticated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills who can apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems. How can schools foster student interest in STEM, especially among underrepresented groups? What effect will the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards have on the STEM curriculum? And what supports will teachers need to promote deeper understanding in these areas? We're looking for articles that target each of the subject areas as well as programs that integrate STEM-related subjects.

Submissions due: October 1

January 8: Questioning Strategies

Questions can be posed to engage student interest, check understanding, and challenge students to go deeper in their thinking. How do you spiral questions throughout a lesson or a concept? What are your strategies for ensuring equitable student participation? How do you engage students in generating their own questions? How do you get student to dive beyond basic, surface questions? What questions do good readers ask of different types of texts? What do you do with unanswered questions? How do you stay poised for the unexpected, or help redirect students when they got lost on a tangent?

Submissions due: October 15, 2014

January 22: The Second Chance Student

Many students who are capable of doing well in school get tripped up by behavior or a series of bad choices. How do you help these students push the reset button on their school performance? This includes setting expectations, providing a pathway to achieving or exceeding goals, reframing student and teacher mindsets, providing opportunities for restorative justice and advisory groups that guide student decision-making.

Submissions due: November 1, 2014

February 12: Improving Schools: What Works? 

Many schools have implemented successful improvement efforts—yet others are struggling to lift their students to acceptable achievement levels. Articles in this issue will examine important components of school improvement, such as education policy, leadership, curriculum, school climate, and community support. We will look at obstacles to school improvement and how they can be overcome. What can we learn from the research on various turnaround models, including turning management over to a charter organization, replacing most of the staff, or even shutting down "failing" schools? We welcome profiles of schools that have gone from low-performing to high-performing, as well as those that have gone from good to better to great.

Submissions due: November 15, 2014

February 26: The Future of Education

Flipped classrooms, competency-based education, personalization, and cloud-based computing are some of the disruptive innovations shaking up education. But in many schools, the basic systems of teaching and learning look a lot like they did fifty years ago. What trends will significantly affect the future of education? What changes are already underway? What should we fix, keep doing, or abandon?

Submissions due: December 1, 2014

March 12: Culturally Diverse Classrooms 

Children everywhere are coming to school with an array of cultural and linguistic strengths and challenges. How do students' cultural backgrounds influence their interactions with both teachers and classmates, and how can schools improve the academic achievement of their fastest-growing group of students—English language learners? Articles will tackle how schools can personalize learning, promote acquisition of academic English, increase students' access to challenging coursework, and close achievement gaps. What kinds of professional development do all teachers need to serve their culturally diverse students? We welcome articles that address the benefits of classrooms that have a vibrant mix of cultures as well as the challenges associated with poverty, mobility, and interrupted formal education.

Submissions due: December 15, 2014

March 26: Writing for a Purpose

Students who are college and career ready possess skills to communicate effectively in academic and work world environments. According to the 2011 NAEP, writing is a stumbling point for many students – only about a quarter of the students studied can write proficiently, and about three percent of students are deemed "Advanced" writers. For many students, writing is disconnected from their personal goals; it's something "you do in school." How do you engage students in writing for a real purpose? How do you design authentic writing assignments? What happens to the work, once it is published? How do (or don't) the standards support writing for a purpose? How can content area classes foster the skills related to academic writing?

Submissions due: January 1, 2015

April 9: Communication Skills for Leaders 

From teachers to principals, formal and informal leaders must communicate well to forge a strong school climate and enhance learning. This issue will examine how school leaders can keep communication transparent and supportive. How can teachers, coaches, resource specialists, and other professionals communicate with one another constructively? How can leaders build strong connections with students, families, and business partners; use social media effectively; talk with teachers in ways that promote their professional growth; hold the inevitable tough conversations; communicate clearly in school crises; and shape their school's image?

Submissions due: January 15, 2015

April 23: Minds-On Learning

How do you design learning that strengthens connections in the brain, accounts for processing time and working memory capacity, engages multiple sense for deep inquiry, and otherwise capitalizes on how the brain learns? How do you develop students' metacognition and teach them about their own brains? What myths about the brain and learning persist? What new discoveries are most promising (and relevant) to educators? What would a brain-friendly school look like?

Submissions due: February 1, 2015

May 14: Teaching with Mobile Tech 

The digital generation expects to be able to access learning anytime, anywhere. As mobile technologies emerge at breathtaking speed and become a ubiquitous part of students' lives, how are schools evolving? How are teachers using tablets, smartphones, netbooks, and e-readers to engage students as active learners? This issue will explore innovative ways to create more relevant and challenging learning experiences. We welcome articles about educators' experiences with 1:1 tablet and BYOD (bring-your-own-device) programs and about how schools are meeting such challenges as equity issues, security concerns, professional development needs, and school infrastructure supports.

Submissions due: February 15, 2015