School Leadership - May to September     
  May 2014
In This Issue
Nashville Invitation
Pre-K Mandate
Pinterest & Education
Power to Choose
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Annual Conference
sponsored by NAESP

July 10-12
Nashville, TN

Featured Speakers include:
Robert Fulghum
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Susan Cain

Milton Chen
Peter Yarrow

The Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor
& many more!
CLICK HERE for information and registration.

~ ~



An article on NAESP's Principal Mentoring has been published by
 The International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education.
 Written by Christine Mason, Executive Director of the Center for Educational Improvement, and Kathleen Sciarappa, Curriculum And Instruction, Plymouth State University, New Hampshire,
and is titled
"National Principal Mentoring: Does It Achieve Its Purpose?"



Dear Educators,

May, a beautiful time of year. Spring blossoms, sunshine, birds returning. And for schools there is always the process of reflecting on the past year and preparing for the next. A grace period of sorts: testing is over, whatever has been achieved or not, it is time to put one year behind and plan for the next.  However we also know that for some schools it is not this idyllic. Sometime in late May students start to get the "summer itch" and it can be a time of pranks and disruption, even with the best made plans.  And for principals it is sometimes a time of "hurrying up." One principal recently email me that "May, by definition for me, is a time when I am hung up with EVERYTHING."

 In this issue of Wow! we are planting a few seeds, giving you something to consider for next year.  To begin that process,  the Center for Educational Improvement is extending an invitation to our Wow! subscribers to participate in a special invited seminar at the NAESP Conference in Nashville. See details below. Also in this issue, we consider the Pre K Mandate, using Pinterest to enhance and parenting, and an alternative to reduce in and out of school suspensions.  


An Invitation: CEI Special Seminar on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Nashville with CEI's CEO, Dr. Christine Mason and a Panel of Educational Leaders

Room: Delta Island C
Gaylord Opryland
Nashville, TN
10:15 - 11:45 a.m., Saturday, July 12
heart centered

Space is limited to the first "40" respondents, who will receive:


*The new 12-page CEI Heart Centered 
 Approach Rubric, which includes recommendations for implementing Heart Centered Learning Communities with neuroscience programs (and particularly, C8 Sciences' Activate program). 

*An early release of CEI's  Heart Beaming Activities for schools.


Please email if you wish to attend.  CEI leaders will provide updates on their activities, including:

  • NAESP Mentor Trainers: Drs. Kathleen Sciarappa (NH) and Nancy Phenis-Bourke (IN): Principal Mentoring 
  • Dr. Michele Rivers Murphy (CEI Research Associate) on the Power to Choose (see article below) 
  • Heather Smith, Principal, Lilja Elementary School in Natick, MA, on Implications of Neuroscience for the Classroom
  • Drs. Melissa Patschke, PA and Kathleen Sciarappa on Virtual Principal Simulations (a program with the University of Pennsylvania)
  • Others-To be determined. If you are interested in sharing an exciting, 21st Century program from your school, email Presenters will be able to add this panel presentation to their resumes.

This invitation-only seminar follows the special presentation by Peter Yarrow (of the folk singing trio Peter, Paul, and Mary), which will be held from 8-10 a.m. CEI has been collaborating with Peter and Mark Weiss for the past two years to develop a research initiative around Heart Centered Education, combining Peter's work with CEI's approach. (Note this is an opportunity to sing-along with Peter.)





Peter Yarrow  
of Peter Paul and Mary, and currently President  

and Co-Founder of Operation Respect  

and its "Don't Laugh at Me" Program,  

with Mark Weiss, Director of Education,  

Operation Respect and former NYC principal for 20 years,  

promote safe, compassionate, caring environments  

for children and youth.  

"Where we've been, what we've have learned, where we're going" -  

a presentation in story, song and conversation,  

as they look at "better practices for better schools"  

in a movement to create more positive school climates  

and to prevent bullying, ridicule, and disrespect  

in our schools.




Leadership and Lesson Plans:
A Model for Assessing Universal Pre K Education

by George White, CEI Associate Policy Analyst 

Where is your state with Pre K education?  As a principal, are you prepared to supervise and provide instructional leadership for your Pre K teachers?  Pre K Education is a major part of President Obama's education platform for 2014.
States vary in terms of their readiness for this initiative; however, a recent study gives California good grades for making Pre K education universal. This, in spite of the fact that the California initiative relies mainly on the leadership and lesson plans of school principals and teachers, because the state has not provided curricula or professional development training for the statewide mandate.

The study by the American Institutes of Research (AIR) examines the Transitional Kindergarten (TK) programs that California has created for four-year-olds to help them learn more words and numbers in preparation for kindergarten. The TK is a main component of the California initiative.


California law requires every school district to offer at least one TK class in at least one school during the 2012-2013 school year. However, California's Department of Education has not yet produced statistics on which schools offered Pre K. A study by AIR found that 96% of districts with children that qualified for the program - 39,000 - offered it.   


"A lot more guidance will need to be provided if this is to be expanded to serve all four-year-olds, because there will be a wider range of developmental levels in a classroom," said Karen Manship, the lead researcher on the study.     


The study said teachers reported that instruction in art, music, social studies and science were at higher levels than traditional kindergarten classes - but not as much math and language arts. In many ways, that instruction regimen reflects the lesson plans for kindergarten 15 years ago, the study said.

In its next step, AIR will determine if TK is adequately preparing students for kindergarten. Meanwhile, many educators are calling for long-term studies on how California's four-year-olds perform compared to previous students, who did not have this early education.  


Using Pinterest to Plan and Prepare  


by Gwen Mak, CEI Intern and George Mason University student
As the end of the school year draws near, educators may be looking back over the year to consider which strategies worked well, and which ones might need adjustments. Similarly, parents may be thinking back to last summer and which activities and strategies worked for their children. Veteran teachers can rely on past experiences to populate a catalog of strategies, while newer teachers might ask those veterans for advice.


Parents also share tips, especially when speaking of children with learning differences or who might require extra support. While a catalog - whether recipe box or file folder -- is useful, and word of mouth parenting advice can help small communities, technology can link communities that are far apart yet deal with the same challenges. A teacher in California may have a strategy for assisting a student with ADHD which could also benefit a woman's son in Washington, D.C. This pair may not know each other, but through the use of the website, Pinterest, they can share the strategy and benefit.

                 is a social media site based on the idea of a bulletin (or pin) board. Users create "boards" to which they can virtually "pin" images from around the internet. Think of it as a virtual, and therefore limitless, wall of bulletin boards to which you can pin any image from the web, linking to a webpage you wish to remember. Each board can be given a customized title and description to remind you of the board's purpose or category. Both the title and description are searchable by other users. Pinterest provides a handy "Pin It" button, which allows you to make a pin directly from any webpage (with images) you are visiting.


Each pin requires an image to represent the link on your board. Think of this like cutting out a picture from a magazine and jotting a note on the back, then pinning this cutout onto a bulletin board. By requiring an image for every link, Pinterest becomes a virtual picture book of ideas that can be searched and quickly viewed. If you're interested in a pin you see, click on it to show the full caption, provided by the original pinner. You can click the image again to be taken to the linked webpage, or click the pushpin button to add it to one of your own boards, to save it for later. Like a board created by another user?


Click the "Follow Board" button and every new pin added to that board will show up in your Pinterest "feed" on the homepage when you log in. Think that the board would be helpful for one of your friends? Click the "Send Board" button to send them a link. 


Users can also search Pinterest for words or phrases to see pins from other members. A quick search for "ADHD strategies" yields pins as varied as a radio show, a book on Amazon, and links to personal blogs.


For busy parents and education professionals alike, Pinterest can provide a quick and simple way to find ideas and support. Rather than having to read lengthy articles or parse through individual blogs, Pinterest's image based interface allows users to post a short caption for each image pinned, intended to provide a brief synopsis or description of the link. Consider creating your own Pinterest board with ideas for the summer or next school year. Maybe that one strategy that really helped you will be valuable to someone else. If nothing else, this time next year, you can revisit your board to be reminded of your own ideas that were useful and perhaps find new ones to try!

The Power to Choose: Creating Positive School Climate
by Michele M. Rivers Murphy, Ed.D., KIDS FIRST Educational Consultant and CEI Research Associate, and Christine Mason

Editor's Note: Although this program was developed for and implemented in a middle school initially and shared with other schools between 1997-2010, it continues to be relevant and could easily be adapted to elementary schools. See also CEI Blogs for the week of May 19 for additional information on this program.

Have you noticed that when children's/adolescents' needs are not being met, they CHOOSE to meet their needs in a variety of ways and these choices may include resorting to negative behaviors, acting out and rule violations? According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2012), in the 2009-2010 school year, an estimated three million K-12 school-aged children were suspended, missing out on valuable instructional "seat time" in the classroom.1 


In recent years, educational leaders have become concerned about the number of students who because of conduct and behavior problems end up missing out on valuable classroom instruction as they spend time in in-school suspension, (making little connection to their behavior and the consequences issued) or out-of-school suspension, totally disengaging students from their school day. The Power to Choose program, first developed in 1997 and later shared with additional school districts (Rivers-Murphy, 2007) was designed as an alternative to traditional school consequences related to handling "the revolving door of teacher referrals" and ultimately suspensions (both in and out of school suspensions). To implement the program:

  • Teachers were first trained in additional relationship building, communication and personal accountability strategies geared towards increasing their behavioral repertoire and working with students to keep them in the classroom, focused and engaged in learning.
  • The Assistant Principal guided teachers in improving communications and relationships with "at-risk," acting out students in classrooms.
  • For a small percentage of students, additional supports/consequences were needed. These students were referred to a Choice Planning Room for an immediate intervention.

History. The Power to Choose program (based on research on student attitude and motivation) was initially implemented as a school-wide program in a middle school serving 700 students in Massachusetts. The major components of this program were the Power to Choose Behavior Approach combined with the "Choice Planning Room."


The staff (administration, teachers and support staff) at the Massachusetts' middle school where Power to Choose was implemented turned to this program since they were not noticing significant improvements for students with the most serious behavior and acting out issues. Developing a greater teacher behavioral repertoire meant increased learning time in-classroom, reduced time out-of-class (sent to the office re: referral), and fewer classroom disruptions.


Staff agreed that the more time students spent out-of-the-classroom, the more challenging it was for teachers to re-teach what was missed and for students to catch-up, make-up or understand what was learned. This cycle (in and out of the classroom learning environment) for some students was spinning out-of-control until the students did not want to return to class because they were so far behind and instead, become disengaged in their learning. Likewise, teachers were burdened when trying to "catch-up students or help them make-up assignments"  -- or the teachers just "put up" with this endless cycle.


The Approach.  When initially  implemented in Massachusetts, about 80% of the interventions to improve student interactions and reduce suspensions occurred in regular classrooms. Teachers sought first to exhaust all avenues in the classroom before sending the student to the Choice Planning Room (supervised by the Assistant Principal or another staff member). Students in the Choice rooms learned individual student responsbility through a series of questions and self-relection/evaluation of their circumstances, including their strengths, preferences, and needs.


When a referral was made (to the Choice Planning Room instead of the "office"), a four- step procedure was followed:


1. Students were first instructed to complete four questions on an index card. This provided students a time for reflection and included questions such as:

  • Are you making a good decision?

Ask yourself:

  • Is my behavior against school rules?
  • Is it harmful to me or to others?
  • Would it disappoint my family or important adults in my life?
  • Will I be sorry afterward?
  • Would I be hurt or upset if someone did this to me?

2. The backside of the index card consisted of a PLAN OF ACTION.

  • What happened?
  • How did I behave?
  • Did I get what I wanted? (explain).
  •  Students were instructed to state in a positive manner: "What do I need to do differently to make a better choice next time?"  Students might respond, for example, "share only kind opinions of others" or "share compliments with others, keep negative thoughts in my head."

3. Staff reviewed the plan with student and emphasized that he/she agreed to raise his/her hand for example, rather than yell out next time.  


Staff then reinforced (I believe in you...) that making positive choices would help the student get what she/he wanted.


4. The last step involved signing the Plan and returning the Plan to the specific  teacher for signature.


Student Monitoring and Guidance. With the Power to Choose program, students monitored their own progress with the decisions they made and data was kept to determine if additional intervention or strategies were needed.


In the program, students were provided guidance through discussions about:

  • Connections between which individual actions orbehavior(s) (rule violations) lead to this result (CPR)
  • Better choices and decisions through developing a Plan of Action (written social contract) that included:
    • Self-correction of behavior,
    • What they will do differently next time (what new behavior or choice can be expected), and
    • Appropriate consequences that will follow if they choose not to abide by their contract of good faith.

Results. Implemented over a two-year period, with this program, the number of in-school suspensions was totally eliminated and out-of-school suspensions decreased 75%, with only the most serious of student violations such as fighting resulting in suspension. During this period of time, students gained skills in making better choices and accepting responsibility for their decisions.        


Rivers-Murphy, M. (2007). Power to Choose. Pittsfield, MA: Kids First.

U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Interim Projections by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 2000-2050," (accessed February, 2014).


Join Dr. Rivers-Murphy in Nashville to learn more about this program.

Share your summer plans and activities. Create a Pinterest bulletin board and let us know about it. Talk to us in Nashville. Send us a message.  


And don't forget that the CEI website maintains a lively and informative blog!

Nurturing Growth - A Summer Project


As you plan for next year, we know that the Common Core and other high academic standards will be on your mind -- that is a given.  However, May to September is also a time for heart, an excellent time to plan ways to nurture families and staff. Perhaps even a time to work with your leadership team on how to deepen participation, listen with greater compassion and understanding, and even to plan strategies for providing a more solid foundation for your pre-k population, your youngest students.


Hope to see you in July in Nashville,


Christine Mason
Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement
CEI is collaboraating with the NAESP Foundation to bring innovations to school leaders.
Save 25% through June 1 on selected CEI workshops. Check out our offerings hereI
Offer Expires: June 1, 2014