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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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Books in Translation

September 2013 | Volume 71 | Number 1

Resilience and Learning

Maya and Malala

Marge Scherer

Handle with Care: A Conversation with Maya Angelou

Amy M. Azzam

Overcoming a difficult childhood and extraordinary obstacles–poverty and racial prejudice among them–Maya Angelou went on to make important contributions to literature, the arts, civil rights, and women's rights. In this interview with Educational Leadership, Dr. Angelou shares some thoughts about resilience–how it develops, and how we can instill it in others.

The Significance of Grit: A Conversation with Angela Lee Duckworth

Deborah Perkins-Gough

Students who apply to West Point Military Academy go through one of the most rigorous admissions processes imaginable. Yet even with this extensive screening, about 1 in 20 of the new cadets admitted to the Academy drop out during the summer training session, before their first academic year even starts. What factors decide who stays and who goes?

Grit, says Angela Lee Duckworth, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University, is the best predictor of who will stick it out that first difficult summer. Duckworth's research at West Point found that grit was the single best predictor of success in the summer training session–better than any other factor West Point measures, including SAT scores, class rank, demonstrated leadership ability or physical aptitude. Gritty individuals, explains Duckworth in this interview, are those who choose a goal and stick with it over the long term, in spite of any obstacles that arise. Duckworth's research has shown that when you consider individuals of equal talent, the ones with more grit tend to be more successful. Now she's focusing on ways in which schools can help students build grit.

Havens of Resilience

Nan Henderson

Schools are filled with the conditions that foster resilience, writes Nan Henderson in this article. Henderson tells how she herself experienced the resilience-building power of school as a child. Coming from an abusive and violent home, she found a haven in school–a place where regular structures, routines, civility, and caring "were so different from what I was experiencing at home that I began to believe I was a valuable, capable human being."

The article reviews research that shows that caring, supportive relationships with educators can help students overcome even severe childhood stress and trauma and go on to become successful adults.

Schools can become even more powerful resilience builders if educators become more aware of the internal and environmental protective factors that foster resilience and then work intentionally to strengthen these factors. Educators can foster students' internal protective factors (such as good reasoning skills, self-esteem, feelings of competence, and humor) by helping students appreciate their own strengths. In addition, educators can create an environment that supports student resilience–for example, by conveying unconditional caring to every student; providing ways for students to participate in school activities; and teaching life skills, such as goal setting.

There's Always That One Teacher

Michael Sadowski

Why do some students, when faced with adversity, become so resilient? Author Michael Sadowski sought to answer this question in two different studies he conducted with at-risk students who went on to experience success in school. He interviewed immigrant students, both recent arrivers and those who had spent years in the United States, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Students in both groups faced threats to their safety, their school success, and their positive sense of identity. They were targeted by peers and others because of who they are. Yet they all developed a strong foundation of resilience and are now thriving.

Sadowski points out that these two studies highlight the power of relationships as the key factor in helping young people overcome risk and thrive. In the four student profiles he includes, the author shows us teenagers who are simply looking for teachers who really listen, who help them plan for their futures, and who will stick with them even after they've completed the class.

"Clearly that one teacher can make a world of difference," the author concludes, "but he or she shouldn't be expected to do it alone." Administrator support and school structure supports, such as advisories, are crucial in meeting these students' needs.

Staying Connected with Troubled Students

Allison Warshof and Nancy Rappaport

Melissa, who has just been moved to a new foster placement, angrily flips over her desk and curses at the teacher in her anger over a new seat assignment. As a student suffering from trauma and ongoing stress, and Melissa is trying to communicate her needs. Yet her teachers may not understand what's causing her behavior and may have no idea how to respond.

In this article, Allison Warshof and Nancy Rappaport describe attuned relationship building–the practice of looking moment to moment at how students feel, zeroing in on the meaning behind their behavior, and responding in ways that will keep them engaged and make them feel understood. Many students who suffer the effects of trauma and loss come to school feeling frightened, guarded, and unavailable for learning. For such students, caring relationships can be powerful and curative–yet these students often struggle to sustain connections with others. That's why it's essential for schools to create frameworks for responding to such students in ways that are not punitive, but rather encourage connection and foster resilience.

Afraid of Looking Dumb

Mark D. Jacobson

When 2nd grader Brenda tells her teacher, "I'm the dumbest in the class in math," he assures her that she's better than she thinks she is. "I don't believe you," the student bluntly replies. That surprising assertion of incompetence coming from a student so young spurs the author to look into Carol Dweck's research about mind-sets and to do some action research in his own classroom

He found that students with a fixed mind-set–that is, those who believe we're born with a fixed amount of intelligence that remains static throughout our lives–aim to please and want to look good. The goal of those with a fixed belief is to look smart, whereas the goal of those with a growth belief is to get smarter. Moreover, those fixed believers who think of themselves as not very smart develop a pattern of learned helplessness: If I'm not very smart and can't get any smarter, why bother?

Teachers need to see the classroom through the eyes of their fixed-belief students–as though sitting up on a stage, anxious about being judged. Out of fear of public failure, these students tend to misinterpret comments, cheat, and give up easily. Teachers can help move students away from a fixed-intelligence mind-set to one in which they're less concerned with how they look and more concerned with how to get smarter through their efforts. Strategies include giving specific feedback, asking open-ended questions, ensuring plenty of wait time, and enlisting the entire class in engaging disengaged students.

Getting Beyond "I Hate Math!"

Lisa Medoff

Students who struggle with math-related learning disabilities face an uphill climb as they try to persist in math class. Kids for whom math comes hard, writes professor and consultant Lisa Medoff, are often afraid to approach adults for help and become overwhelmed by activities that would aid typical learners, like taking notes in class or being asked a question to gauge their understanding. Learning and emotional disabilities often compound the struggle. Medoff lists eight approaches she's found classroom teachers can draw on to bring out math resilience in students: (1) empathize with struggling students; (2) solidify your own math understandings; (3) use group work and hands-on learning; (4) notice how you talk about math; (5) answer all questions; (6) be intentional about homework; (7) reframe the purpose of tests for students; and (8) praise students for effort and reinterpret their mistakes.

Designing Advisories for Resilience

Jeffrey Benson and Rachel A. Poliner

Benson and Poliner are consultants who help schools set up advisory programs, programs in which each student has a designated adult who checks in with him or her in a regular advisory period. A great advisory structure can bolster skills that make students resilient, they write. With the barrage of pressures secondary students face, related to competition for good grades for wealthier students and to challenges of poverty for many urban kids, resilience is an attribute required to thrive in school. The authors describe five key elements schools forming advisory programs need to consider. Benson and Poliner show how to shape each element so the program provides maximum guidance for students learning to become resilient. Ironically, the authors note, resilience is often lacking in the adults who work in advisory programs and take on roles beyond classroom teaching. They give suggestions for helping these educators have stamina and commitment, despite bumps in the road.

Operation Graduation

Laura Hebert

The students and staff at Lloyd C. Bird High School in Chesterfield County, Virginia, had always prided themselves on being a family that supported those who needed help. Yet a close look at the school's 2011–12 senior class revealed that about one-third of these students faced obstacles to graduation.

To get a handle on the problem, a team of faculty and administrators made a list of all seniors who faced one or more of these obstacles to graduation and sorted them into three groups. Students in the green category faced only one obstacle, which the team worked to address. Students in the red zone were going through their senior year for a second time and still faced multiple obstacles. These students were guided toward nontraditional routes to graduation, such as GED programs.

Students in the yellow zone faced multiple obstacles, and the team decided they would benefit from personalized mentoring. All but one student agreed to participate. So many teachers were eager to help that several potential mentors had to be placed on a waiting list. All the mentored students graduated with their class in June or after summer school. The program has expanded to include juniors who are monitored and attend monthly meetings to help them stay on track. The community has gotten involved by providing funds and volunteers to speak with students about the importance of education. And the school has enhanced its nurturing and caring culture.

I Can Climb the Mountain

Maddie Witter

Many low-achieving students have lost hope; they no longer believe that their own efforts can lead to school success. In this article, Maddie Witter shows how educators can build the capacity for hope in all students–even the most troubled students. The key is teaching students how to master large, difficult tasks by breaking them into smaller parts and persistently meeting these smaller goals. Witter describes specific strategies for deliberately building students' stamina, inspiring a growth mindset to replace a fixed mindset, and providing positive reinforcement. She writes, "I can climb Mount Everest when I consider the path, not the peak."

Reflections on Resilience

Sara Truebridge and Bonnie Benard

"Resilience begins with beliefs," the authors note. "If you believe in the capacity of all individuals to be resilient, you won't give up on them." In this compelling infographic, resilience experts Sara Truebridge and Bonnie Benard share some thoughts about what resilience is–and isn't.

The Case Against Percentage Grades

Thomas R. Guskey

One basic component of most present-day grading systems stands as a major impediment to making grades fairer, more accurate, and more meaningful. That component is the percentage grading scale, writes Thomas R. Guskey in this analysis.

Guskey reviews the history of grading systems in U.S. schools and points out that percentage grading scales enjoyed a previous period of popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, until studies in 1912 and 1913 dramatically demonstrated that teachers were unable to apply these scales accurately or consistently. Percentage grades fell out of common use until the 1990s, when the growing availability of digital grading software and online grade books increased their popularity once again. That's unfortunate, writes Guskey, because percentage grading systems are neither accurate, objective, nor reliable, and they create unsolvable methodological and logistical problems for teachers. As an alternative, he proposes an integer grading system based on a 0–4 scale.

Double Take

Grit Plus Talent Equals Student Success

Bryan Goodwin and Kirsten Miller

Cognitive Verbs and the Common Core

Robert J. Marzano

Good Technology Choices: A Team Effort

Doug Johnson

Good Failures

Thomas R. Hoerr

Growing Capable Kids

Carol Ann Tomlinson

A Student Whose Resilience Impressed You

ASCD Community in Action

EL Takeaways

Index to Advertisers

Respect, Resilience, and LGBT Students

Robert A. McGarry

The students and staff at Lloyd C. Bird High School in Chesterfield County, Virginia, had always prided themselves on being a family that supported those who needed help. Yet a close look at the school's 2011–12 senior class revealed that about one-third of these students faced obstacles to graduation.

To get a handle on the problem, a team of faculty and administrators made a list of all seniors who faced one or more of these obstacles to graduation and sorted them into three groups. Students in the green category faced only one obstacle, which the team worked to address. Students in the red zone were going through their senior year for a second time and still faced multiple obstacles. These students were guided toward nontraditional routes to graduation, such as GED programs.

Students in the yellow zone faced multiple obstacles, and the team decided they would benefit from personalized mentoring. All but one student agreed to participate. So many teachers were eager to help that several potential mentors had to be placed on a waiting list. All the mentored students graduated with their class in June or after summer school. The program has expanded to include juniors who are monitored and attend monthly meetings to help them stay on track. The community has gotten involved by providing funds and volunteers to speak with students about the importance of education. And the school has enhanced its nurturing and caring culture.

Building the Resilience of Refugees

Leslie Davies

The students and staff at Lloyd C. Bird High School in Chesterfield County, Virginia, had always prided themselves on being a family that supported those who needed help. Yet a close look at the school's 2011–12 senior class revealed that about one-third of these students faced obstacles to graduation.

To get a handle on the problem, a team of faculty and administrators made a list of all seniors who faced one or more of these obstacles to graduation and sorted them into three groups. Students in the green category faced only one obstacle, which the team worked to address. Students in the red zone were going through their senior year for a second time and still faced multiple obstacles. These students were guided toward nontraditional routes to graduation, such as GED programs.

Students in the yellow zone faced multiple obstacles, and the team decided they would benefit from personalized mentoring. All but one student agreed to participate. So many teachers were eager to help that several potential mentors had to be placed on a waiting list. All the mentored students graduated with their class in June or after summer school. The program has expanded to include juniors who are monitored and attend monthly meetings to help them stay on track. The community has gotten involved by providing funds and volunteers to speak with students about the importance of education. And the school has enhanced its nurturing and caring culture.

Relationships That Make a Difference

Lauren Tripp Barlis

Data on the academic achievement of black students reveal that black students achieve proficiency at lower rates than white students. In addition, black students are much more likely to live in poverty than white students. But despite the odds, some black students from high-poverty backgrounds are academically successful. Lauren Tripp Barlis interviewed black male students from high-poverty backgrounds to learn what helped them achieve.

The students told stories of teachers who made a point of challenging them to do well, recommending them for advanced classes and requiring them to make a plan to surmount their academic weaknesses. They were inspired by teachers who were personally invested in their success, who took time outside school hours to help them, and who noticed when they were dealing with personal crises. Classes in which teachers helped students see the connection between course content and real-world issues motivated students to work hard. Students also benefitted from the support of adults who guided them through the college preparation and admissions process.

School can be a ladder to opportunity. With the right supports, students can break the cycle of low achievement and develop the resilience they need to succeed in school.

Fostering Safe Learning Environments

Jason P. Nance

Despite their appeal to some state legislatures, strict security measures on school grounds, Nance writes, have a poor track record for fostering the nurturing school climate needed to develop resilient youth. Nance, a law professor and former urban teacher, reviews research and the experiences of schools that use tight security and concludes that measures like metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and security guards send students a message of mistrust and increase friction between students and adults, while failing to decrease violent incidents. In addition, such measures are applied disproportionately to low-income and minority students. They may be especially harmful to these youth in terms of alienating them from caring adults and sending them messages of non-confidence. Rather than putting resources into security measures, schools should turn to approaches that address the root cause of violent incidents in schools and build up students' self-esteem. Nance describes restorative justice and a focus on building respectful student-teacher relationships (including through strengthening the relevance of classroom instruction) as preferable approaches.

EL Study Guide

Naomi Thiers

Inservice Guest Blogger: Nan Henderson http://inservice.ascd.org/category/educational-leadership/

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