Black Friday Sale at The Principal Center: Join The Network + Bring A Colleague for Free

The High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network

For the first time ever, we’re offering an incredible Black Friday deal for the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network:

Join now, and you can bring a colleague—any colleague—for free.

This is a great way to “pay forward” the mentorship and support you’ve received throughout your career.

We’ve offered “two for one” to mentor/mentee pairs to make the Network accessible to interns and other aspiring admins. But this weekend only, we’re opening it up so you can bring ANY colleague along for free.

Even if you work in different schools. Even if you live in different countries.

You can find a buddy to split the cost with, or—even better—sign yourself up and give the 2nd membership as a gift to a colleague.

We don’t even need the name of the 2nd person right now, in case you need some time to figure out who would benefit the most. We can modify the payment setup later, too.

You can get started for as little as $49.99 a month (which, again, you can split if you want).

But YOU must join this weekend to take advantage of this offer—in fact, you must join by Cyber Monday to join the Network at all this year.

» Learn more about The Network

That’s right—we’re shutting down registration for the rest of the year on Monday night, because we have a new group class starting. Here’s an omninous-looking red timer to illustrate the point :)

(Registration Closes Monday Night)

I hope you can join us. The Network is the ONLY professional development program focused on helping you transform your productivity and multiply your impact.

» Learn more about The Network

Whose Mentorship Are You Thankful For?

Thankful for mentor

How did you get to where you are today?

I became an administrator at a very young age. It wasn’t because I had any special skill set (that comes with experience), but because I had great opportunities.

I’m profoundly thankful for these opportunities, and especially for the mentorship that I received.

Mentorship is both an opportunity in itself, and a way we gain access to more opportunities.

Thank You, Dan

My mentor as an aspiring principal was Dan, who hired me straight out of my middle school classroom to be “head teacher” at his elementary school.

Once I was on board, I spent the next two years gaining experience, forming relationships at the district office, and generally getting my head around what it meant to be an administrator.

When the time came, I was selected as principal of Olympic View Elementary. I know this was partly due to what I brought to the table in the application and interview process, but I also know it was because I received great mentorship, which both prepared me to go after the job and paved the road for me.

It’s great to have someone in your corner, someone who is connecting you with the right people, recommending you for the right opportunities, and cheering you on.

Thank you, Dan.

Who Are You Thankful For?

Now, I’d like to ask you: Who are you thankful for? Who mentored you and helped you get to where you are today?

Mentors have a “pay it forward” mentality. They don’t ask for reciprocation. They don’t expect you to do them a favor back.

They simply expect that, when the time is right, you’ll mentor others and make the world a better place by creating more and better leaders.

Could you share a bit of your story? Whose mentorship helped you along in your career or life?

Leave a comment below and thank your mentor, and in the process, you’ll inspire others to pay it forward.

Responses from Twitter

“My main role as the principal will be an instructional and servant leader”

Lodree The Fernandina Beach News Leader reports that a new principal, Spencer Lodree, has been selected for Fernandina Beach High School in Florida.

At The Principal Center, we don’t normally share news of individual appointments, but Mr. Lodree’s vision for his role caught my eye:

“My main role as the principal will be an instructional and servant leader,” Lodree said in an email exchange following his appointment Nov. 13 by the Nassau County School Board.

“The principal should provide the necessary tools to the teachers and students to ensure academic excellence. The principal should be positive, enthusiastic and have their hand in the day to day activities of the school. A highly effective school leader is available to the teachers, students, parents and community members,” said Lodree, who came to FBHS from Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville in 2009 as the assistant principal of curriculum.
Fernandina Beach News Leader

Mr. Lodree uses one of my favorite verbs in describing the bottom-line responsibility of instructional leaders: ensure.

Congratulations on your new role, Mr. Lodree, and kudos for emphasizing servant leadership alongside instructional leadership.

Instructional Leadership for Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is of those instructional practices that everyone knows about, but that very few schools do well across the board.

As instructional leaders, what’s our responsibility? What we can do that will make the greatest difference?

For starters, we can make sure that our staff get high-quality professional development on formative assessment.

In too many schools, formative assessment is little more than a section of each lesson in the teacher’s guide. It’s not a daily reality, and it’s certainly not the high-leverage teaching tool it could be.

If formative assessment is merely a feature of commercially published curriculum, and not a living practice, it’s not going to improve learning.

How Formative Assessment Can Go Wrong

The key distinguishing feature of formative assessment is that it informs the teacher of what students understand and can do while instruction is still in progress, so the teacher can make adjustments in real time and help students master what they need to.

There are several ways we can miss the mark on formative assessment.

The first is to give assessments that are really summative, but are so small they can pass as formative.

A quiz at the end of the chapter may only have a few questions, and it may be quick to grade, but if you’re not planning to reteach or revisit anything after giving the assessment, it’s not formative.

Second, we can blow an opportunity for formative assessment by collecting the right information at the right time but failing to use it.

You can give the best assessment task in the world, at just the right time, and get great insights about what your students know and can do…but if you fail to actually change your plans in response, it’s not formative assessment.

But the third challenge is the most dangerous of all: that we’ll simply fail to take a serious approach to formative assessment at all.

Imagine if a school forgot about report cards, or transportation, or lunch, or giving interesting assignments. Imagine if we just left out a major chunk of what should be part of every student’s right to an education. We’d be caught, embarrassed, and shamed into fixing the situation immediately.

Yet somehow formative assessment slips through the cracks. Perhaps because it’s a bit technical (the public doesn’t really understand formative assessment, after all), or perhaps it’s by design ephemeral and doesn’t get reported higher up in the organization.

Either way, it’s our responsibility as leaders to ensure that formative assessment is a reality in our schools.

Beyond The Cowboy Approach

Where we have bright spots in formative assessment, they tend to be outliers. They tend to be individual teachers who have figured out what best informs their teaching and made a habit of it.

Only rarely are they entire teams or departments, and even more rarely are those bright spots entire schools. They’re usually lone teachers, working under their own initiative. They’re cowboys (though most of them are women :).

Fa cowboy blog

Cowboys are great when you need someone to ride out into the open range, alone or nearly so, and do what needs to be done.

But that’s not the approach our students need us to take.

Our students need us to do something much more prosaic, and much more useful: they need us to put consistent, reliable systems for formative assessment in place.

Common Practices & Common Assessments

As a leader, you can do three things to make formative assessment a reality in your school, starting in the next 30 days:

  • Schedule high-quality PD on formative assessment
  • Start to put consistent practices in place for formative assessment, so that everyone is starting to use formative assessment as part of their daily teaching practice
  • Have teams start to develop common formative assessments that they can give at key points during each unit and lesson. Start small, score early wins, and scale up from there.

We’ll have more on formative assessment in the coming months at The Principal Center. For now, check out my interview with Karen Sanzo on her book Formative Assessment Leadership.

November #ilchal Twitter Chat: Maintaining a Focus On Learning Around The Holidays

21-Day Instructional Leadership Challenge

Our next Instructional Leadership Challenge Twitter chat is this Monday, November 24 at 9pm EST.

As December approaches, it’s critical to both recognize the realities of the season, and maintain a focus on learning. What can we do as instructional leaders to keep everyone focused on the mission, even while plenty of other things are going on?

For both students and staff, it’s easy for learning to take a back seat with so many December activities to think about. Join us for this Monday’s Twitter chat to share ideas for keeping everyone optimally focused—without being a grinch :).

Date: Monday, November 24, 2014

Time: 9:00 p.m. Eastern (6:00 p.m. Pacific/7pm Mountain/8pm Central)


Twitter, #ilchal

Topic: Maintaining a Focus on Learning

Click here for links to add to your calendar with one click


The #ilchal Twitter chat is hosted by Justin Baeder and Jillian Lubow, creators of the Instructional Leadership Challenge

Whether you’re a Twitter chat devotee or you’re just getting started on social media, this is a great chance to connect with your peers and have an honest, engaged discussion about your challenges and triumphs in pursuit of true instructional leadership.

See you there!

Future Dates

(Usually the Last Monday of each month):

  • Monday, December 29, 2014
  • Monday, January 26, 2015
  • Monday, February 23, 2015
  • Monday, March 30, 2015
  • Monday, April 27, 2015
  • Monday, May 25, 2015
  • Monday, June 29, 2015
  • About the 21-Day Instructional Leadership Challenge

    The 21-Day Instructional Leadership Challenge has helped more than 2,600 school administrators in 34 countries become stronger instructional leaders.

    High Performance Email Workflow—Free Webinar Wednesday, November 19


    High-Performance Email Workflow: Email Is Broken Without These Tools I Use To Handle 1,621 Emails A Month

    This past Wednesday, I did a live webinar that we’re turning into premium content for the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network

    …but you can watch it free hereuntil Saturday night.

    We’ll explore:

    • Why email isn’t fundamentally broken…and what’s really the problem when we’re overloaded 
    • The missing tools that are crucial for handling email (yet work with any email system) 
    • How you can get through your inbox in a fraction of the time

    Watch Now

    By the way, registration for the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network is currently open, and we have a special startup class for our new cohort starting November 30, so make sure you join by the 29th. Details »

    ToDoist Workflow

    This video explains why ToDoist (or whichever digital task management app you choose) should be THE place you keep track of ALL of your work, and exactly how you can set it up to meet the demands of your job.

    Please enjoy this video as a free sample from our premium series Going Digital, part of the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network.

    The High Performance Triangle

    If you go to just about any education conference—and I go to a lot of them—you’ll see session descriptions packed with strategy.

    Everyone wants to know the best approach to each particular problem we face in education, and it’s this desire that sells millions of books every year.

    As educational leaders, we love strategy.

    But strategy doesn’t automatically create results; in fact, there’s such a well-established gulf between strategy and reality that we have a special phrase for crossing this divide:

    “From theory to practice.”

    It’s completely normal not to put theory into practice—to let the best strategies go untried.

    Of course, we often do try, and find ourselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work it takes to implement a particular strategy succesfully.

    Or we get started, then have to get started on something else, then something else, and our organizational attention wanders…and that strategy isn’t happening after all.

    Why do we struggle to do what we know we should be doing? If we have the strategy figured out, why is executing it so hard?

    I believe the answer is simple:

    • Strategy isn’t enough
    • Good ideas aren’t enough
    • “Best practice” isn’t enough

    …because none of them get at the underlying issue: behavior. As the adults responsible for students’ education, what we actually do matters more than anything else…and doing is hard.

    Here, then, is my attempt at a more complete picture. If we want to attain high performance in any endeavor, we need three things:

    • A solid strategy
    • The right tools
    • Disciplined habits

    High performance triangle t

    I’ve become convinced that all three factors—tools, habits, and strategies—are crucial, because if one is missing, we get predictably inferior results, in any area, whether it’s:

    • Leading major change
    • Handling email
    • Dealing with paperwork
    • Conducting classroom observations and walkthroughs
    • Following through on any kind of work

    Let’s look at why we need all three.


    Without strategy, we’re ineffective.

    If we don’t have a well-considered strategy, the whole activity can be a wrongheaded waste of time, even if good tools and habits are in place.

    Can you develop consistent habits of using powerful tools…poorly? Absolutely.

    When we check our email with no strategy, old messages linger, clutter builds, and we never seem to get caught up. Our habits and tools don’t serve us well because they’re not being put to wise use.

    Who struggles with strategy? I think it’s my generation, those of us who are comfortable with tools and technology, who tend to put strategy on the back burner in our enthusiasm for using the latest and greatest tools.


    Without habits, we’re inconsistent.

    Being great… some of the time… isn’t worth much.

    On my team, I want players who can consistently make layups, not goofballs who can make the occasional 3-pointer from mid-court.

    We need to not only know and do what works, but do it consistently. We need to use our future files to keep our desks clear. We need to get to inbox zero.

    For more on how habits form and operate, see Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.

    Who struggles with habit? I think we all do, but especially those of us who are most eager to make sure we’re using the latest tools and the smartest strategies.


    Without tools, we’re inefficient.

    Tools accelerate our work, enabling us to do more than we ever could without them.

    They don’t turn a non-leader into a leader, but they make an impossible job more doable, if we use them right.

    Who struggles with tools? I think it tends to be people who have good strategies and habits in place, and see tools as unnecessary.

    But when we have all three in place, we can accomplish amazing things.

    The Next Step

    For more on high-performance instructional leadership, check out this free video series:
    5PATHWAYS red 600 vimeo

    #PAESSPChat Highlights from November 13, 2014

    I was honored to moderate the Twitter chat of the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary & Secondary School Principals tonight. Host @DrBillZiegler brought a great group of leaders together!

    Our questions:

    1. More than anything else, what does instructional leadership mean to you?
    2. How is instructional leadership “stretched over” or distributed across your staff? 
    3. What are you letting go of in order to focus more on instruction?
    4. What was the first time you got “pushback”/resistance on getting more involved in instructional decision-making?
    5. How have you deflected outside interference to focus on your school’s instructional vision and plan?
    6. How do you honor teacher leadership & help teachers accept instructional leadership from peers?

    Here are my favorite tweets from the chat, organized by question:

    Q1: More than anything else, what does instructional leadership mean to you?

    Q2: How is instructional leadership “stretched over” or distributed across your staff?

    Q3: What are you letting go of in order to focus more on instruction?

    Q4: What was the first time you got “pushback”/resistance on getting more involved in instructional decision-making?

    Q5: How have you deflected outside interference to focus on your school’s instructional vision and plan?

    Q6: How do you honor teacher leadership & help teachers accept instructional leadership from peers?

    #PAESSPChat is Thursday nights at 8pm EST. Join @Joe_Mazza next Thursday, November 20.

    Using Your iPad & iPhone Together

    Photographers have a way of ending arguments about which camera is best: “The best camera…is the one you have with you.” It doesn’t matter how good your gear is if you leave it at home.


    It’s the same way with our productivity tools: The best tool is the one you have with you.

    No one is a bigger “iPad for administrators” guy than me, but I often find that my iPhone is even more indispensable. Why? Because it’s always with me, even when I can’t carry my iPad.

    Even better than always having a single device with you, though, is always having your data with you, regardless of which device you’re using. Fortunately, your tablet and smartphone can work well together if you’re using the right apps.

    I tend to use my iPhone and iPad for many of the same things, but the iPad really shines for:

    • Taking notes in classrooms or meetings—it’s faster and it looks more professional than fiddling with your phone
    • Reading—the screen size makes a big difference
    • Planning—I much prefer mind-mapping and writing out detailed notes on the bigger screen
    • Email—especially if I have my Bluetooth external keyboard

    On the other hand, the iPhone is great for more frequent message-checking and for quickly jotting down tasks. And since I always have it with me, it’ll do whenever I don’t have my iPad.

    Since I use both devices for my work, it’s important that they talk together and share data seamlessly. Here are some recommendations for making that happen.

    1. Use “Universal” Apps

    A lot of apps work on both the iPhone and the iPad. If you’re not sure if your apps will run on both, fire up the App Store and go to the “Purchased” tab, then select “Not on This iPhone/iPad” to find apps you’ve bought but haven’t installed. Many of these will be apps you bought for iPhone that also happen to work on iPad, or vice-versa.

    2. Use iCloud

    iCloud allows your Apple products’ apps to sync data and settings. Make sure you’re signed into the same Apple ID on both devices so your data stays in sync.

    In the Settings app, go to iCloud to enter your Apple ID email address and password:
    Icloudsettings 1

    3. Use Dropbox

    For apps that allow you to create files, documents, or data, iCloud doesn’t always do the trick. iCloud Drive is changing this, but Dropbox has better support from app developers—it simply works with more apps, because it’s been around longer.

    Try Dropbox sync whenever it’s an option in an app—Dropbox will hold and sync the data for the app, so it’s accessible and always up-to-date on all your devices.

    4. Use Built-In Sync Services

    Some apps have their own synchronization service, so dig into the “settings” section (look for a gear icon) and see if you can share data across different devices. Evernote, ToDoist (a to-do list), and Buy Me a Pie (a shopping list) are among the apps that have their own sync service.

    Most of the above will apply to Android phones and tablets too—the more you can rely on cloud-based services, whatever device you’re on, the more seamless your work will be.

    How do you get the most from your smartphone and tablet?

    Free Report: My Top 5 Productivity-Boosting Apps

    Free Report: Top 5 Productivity Boosting iPad Apps for School Leaders
    Click here to download this free report