Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unpleasant realities from your friend . . . in theory

By "The Guest Teacher" LaRon Carter

Our students suffer from your insecurities, your lack of integrity, and your lacking courage to fight for what’s right when the odds are stacked against you.

That tone in a message is far beyond the norm of what one professional tells another let alone sends in an email, even if you’re thinking it. And that shoe tends to never slip onto the other foot. But what if we were to embrace a reality that far too many of our students are not succeeding?

Would you be willing to accept accountability for your student’s failures more easily if it were a team effort – If it were written to address behavioral flaws instead of a character issue? How would you rewrite the introduction of this article to communicate a vested interest without all the finger pointing or being so controversial?

The revisions might sound something like this: Students are suffering from our weaknesses that have turned us into the very bullies we once ran from. Our students suffer from our inability to overcome the very fears that hold them back from dreaming bigger. Reality is many of our students are living below the principles needed to succeed because we are not modeling the excellence they need to see daily. And most of all not one valuable life lesson has been taught from our inability to take on those difficult problems no one else wants to deal with. We have all failed as a team and we will win as a team.

Sounds better, right? But more importantly how do you plan to contribute in solving our problems now that we are all part of the same team?

[No reverting allowed, true reform only.]

Stay focused, stay confident, and play on the other side of theory.

LaRon Carter is a K12 education behavioral strategist and author of Stop Crying in the Restroom [it ain’t that deep]: A Guide to Your Best Year Teaching With Smart K12 Goal Setting Methods. Follow Carter “The Guest Teacher” @laroncarter on Twitter.

Education Speak with Mike Buttry of Capella University

By Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. Candidate

Capella University is an accredited online university (accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA)) that has built its reputation by providing quality education for working adults. Nearly eighty percent of Capella students are currently enrolled in master’s, specialist, or doctoral degree programs in business, information technology, education, human services, nursing, psychology, public administration, public health, and public safety. Capella also offers bachelor's degree programs in business, information technology, public administration, and public safety. Within those areas, Capella currently offers 135 graduate and undergraduate specializations and 17 certificate programs. More than 38,000 learners were enrolled as of June 30, 2011, from all 50 states and 59 other countries.

The mission of Capella University is to extend access to high quality bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate programs for adults who seek to maximize their personal and professional potential. This mission is fulfilled through innovative programs that are responsive to the needs of adult learners and involve active, engaging, challenging, and relevant learning experiences offered in a variety of delivery modes. Capella is committed to providing high-caliber academic excellence and pursuing balanced business growth. Founded in 1993, Capella University is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Capella Education Company, headquartered in Minneapolis (Facebook, 2011).

Mike Buttry joined Capella Education Company in July, 2010 as Vice President for Corporate Communications. He was drawn to Capella by the organization’s shared sense of mission to transform learning and maximize human potential. Prior to coming on board at Capella, he worked on education issues as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska and was Managing Director of a Communications firm in Washington D.C. In addition to Capella, he's interested in Kansas City Royals baseball, fly-fishing and Bob Dylan, so feel free to ping him on any of those topics (

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lost in the Documentation Abyss

By Stephanie Shouldis

After spending the past five years as an Intervention Specialist, I’ve come to one realization. Those who teach early childhood education, do so because they have a true love for children. Those who teach special education, do so because they have a passion for paperwork. There have been times when I have felt like I was spending more time documenting than I was teaching students. The most frustrating part for me was that nothing every happened with the documentation, no one ever looked at it. I would file it in a three ring binder, and then put it in a filing cabinet to collect dust. A former special education director told me to keep it for seven years in case the school was audited. I had to question that practice. Is that why I am collecting documentation, in case we are audited? Shouldn’t documentation guide our teaching and IEP writing? I needed to find a way to make my documentation authentic, guide my practice and be available for parents in a way that they could understand.

While browsing through comments on Twitter, I noticed a large amount of people tweeting about the site At first I was intrigued, but dismissed it thinking that it would not be an authentic fit within my classroom. Then as I was reading Fair Isn’t Always Equal (Wormeli) the author explains the use of portfolios to collect records, accomplishments or reveal areas of needed growth within the student’s work. Finally, I found a use for the tool that was so intriguing to me. I decided to create ePortfolios, using LiveBinders, for the use of documenting student’s progress on their IEP goals and objectives.

During the last half of the 2010-2011 school year, I piloted this ePortfolio idea for my own use. I created a binder for each student’s current IEP. Within the binder I created a tab for each student’s goals and objectives. For any evidence of growth or area of weakness, I would upload my documentation into a new subtab, under that particular goal or objective. Now I was able to access documentation for any of my students, no matter where I was, as long as I had a computer with an internet connection. In the past, I would take notes for everything. For example, student’s reading fluency or noted areas of weakness within their process of completing math problems. I don’t know about you, but that takes too much time, and takes away from actually teaching. Now that I am using an ePortfolio, I am able to upload a recording of the student actually reading, me conferring with the student or a SMARTboard recording of a student actually completing a math problem. This has saved me so much time, when documenting, and increased my one-on-one time spent with students.

After I discovered how much time an ePortfolio has saved me, in the world of documentation, I decided to use this as a transparent tool for parents and general education teachers. I started at a new district for the 2011-2012 school year, and explained my idea to the administration. They loved my idea, and asked me to pilot this program for the district. However, they were concerned about the confidentiality part of the IEP. I assured them that I restricted each ePortfolio as private, and only people with the access key could view the ePortfolio. Since this was a new idea, within the district, we decided that it would be best for me to send a letter to the parents explaining my use of the website. Here is an excerpt from the letter that I sent home to the parents, explaining our confidentiality concerns.

I wanted to provide you with some background information about the internet site that I am piloting for the school district. As per federal law, all IEP information is confidential. I want to make you aware that the information that I am placing into this internet site is not housed within our school’s technology department. The internet site where I will be housing your child’s information is Live Binders posts the following as their stated security policy:

"We have implemented reasonable measures to help protect your Personal Data from loss, misuse, or unauthorized access or disclosure. Unfortunately, however, no data transmission over the Internet can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As a result, while we strive to protect your Personal Information, we cannot guarantee its security."

I then asked parents to approve my use of LiveBinders as a form of IEP documentation. 100% of the parents responded that they were okay with the use of the website. The administration, general education teacher, paraprofessionals and parents were provided with an access key for the IEP ePortfolios, for each student, with whom they directly work. This has become an amazingly transparent tool in terms of documentation. No more binders collecting dust, while waiting for that audit that may never happen. The lines of communication between all people on the IEP team have gone from that of a basic rotary phone to a Skype video conference call, all because of the ePortfolio system.

Finally, I have found a form of documentation that has helped me go from overwhelmed and under productive, in the area of documentation, to highly organized and thoroughly engaged. I still am doing the same amount of documentation, if not more. However, there is a purpose behind why I am documenting, besides waiting for that mysterious audit. General education teachers can use this information to guide their teaching, even if we do not have a common planning time. Parents can use this information to follow their child’s progress and hold authentic discussions with their child about their progress. The IEP team can use this information to guide the decision as to what the best goals, objectives and services may be for the child. For once, I am excited about the IEP meetings that will be held in the spring. I can’t wait to pull up the ePortfolio, and be able to discuss the progress that the child has made, and everyone is on the same page because the entire IEP team has had access to this information, literally at any time, within the past school year.


Wormeli, Rick. Portfolios. Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Portland: Stenhouse, 2006. 43-44. Print

Stephanie Shouldis is an Intervention Specialist at Cassingham Elementary, an International Baccalaureate World School, in Bexley, Ohio. She graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2006 with her B.S. in Education, as an Intervention Specialist. An avid twitter user and participant in educational social media @WizardOzTeacher.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Advice to New Educators

By Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. Candidate

This video was inspired by A Message to New Teachers by Mary Beth Hertz. In my video I talk about my own journey as an educator, as well as give a few tips based upon my own personal experiences.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Education in the U.S.A.

By Eric Sheninger

All across the country, education is under attack on numerous fronts. No matter where you look, educators are to blame for the economic woes in many states. This is extremely puzzling to me, as it is well known that this downturn in our economy was a result of misguided, unregulated, or greedy practices of the private sector. Educators then became the scapegoats as a message of “shared sacrifice” swept the country.

How this makes sense to anyone is beyond me. Consider that the average starting teacher salary is $40,000 and may approach $85,000 after 25 years of service, nearing retirement. So now, as states cry foul about their unprecedented budget gaps, educators are made to look like kings and queens because of their pensions and health benefits. Isn’t it funny how everyone made fun of educators for choosing a profession that paid so little when the private sector was raking in the cash from the late 90’s through 2006? Like virtually every educator in our country, I didn’t go into this profession to become wealthy. I wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of students and hopefully inspire them, like so many of my teachers did me, to be life-long learners and pursuers of dreams.

Recently NJ was the latest state to pass landmark employee legislation curtailing the collective bargaining rights of state employees, including educators. It was an extremely sad day for me personally, as I saw my grandmother and parents, retired educators who dedicated themselves to helping all students learn, have their pensions targeted by politicians who have never stepped foot in a classroom. Is this how we now treat people that made one of the most important decisions of their lives to make less money in the field of education as opposed to more lucrative positions in other lines of work? How do we not value the work that these retirees did for our schools and children to help catapult our country to such an elite status?

What concerns me even more is how the work of educators is being devalued to the point that no one will want to pursue one of the most rewarding careers available. More than ever the field needs passionate individuals who have the drive, patience, and character to work with students that have diverse learning needs. As the seemingly relentless attacks continue, the incentive to become a part of the noblest profession decreases to a point that might be irreparable.

One might ask why I refer to education as the noblest profession. My answer stems from the fact that education is what makes all other professions possible. Take a minute and think about other career paths – doctors, lawyers, engineers, mechanics, scientists, politicians, entrepreneurs – and ask yourself if any level of education has had a impact on that person’s ability to perform and succeed in those jobs. I think your answer would be a resounding yes. It is time for the negative rhetoric, demonizing, and punishment of the education profession to stop. If anything, we need to work harder to establish education as one of the most esteemed career paths as other countries have done. We have to treat those people who are, or were, in the classrooms with respect and dignity. In my opinion, blaming teachers for economic turmoil caused by others will continue to have an adverse effect on the quality of those entering the profession as well as a domino effect on every other profession. I see something wrong with this picture, do you?

Eric is the Principal at New Milford High School located in Bergen County, NJ. He is passionate about establishing and fostering learning environments that are student-centered, collaborative, flexible, and prepare all learners to succeed in the 21st Century.

Photo Credit:

As an educational administrator he firmly believes that effective communication, listening, support, shared decision making, and the integration of technology are essential elements necessary for the transformation of school cultures. Eric has emerged as an innovative leader in the use of social media and web 2.0 technology as tools to engage students, improve communications with stakeholders, and help educators grow professionally. Eric is a Google Certified Teacher, ASCD 2011 Conference Scholar, co-author of "Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals", writer for the Huffington Post, and was named to the NSBA "20 to Watch" list in 2010 for technology leadership. He now presents and speaks nationally to assist other school leaders embrace and effectively utilize technology. His blog, A Principal’s Reflections, earned first runner up in the Best Administrator Blog category in 2010 from Edublogs.

Eric began his career in education as a Science Teacher at Watchung Hills Regional High School where he taught a variety of subjects (Biology, Chemistry, Marine Biology, Ecology) and coached several sports (ice hockey, football, lacrosse). He then transitioned into the field of educational administration as an Athletic Director/Supervisor of Physical Education & Health and Vice Principal in the New Milford School District. During his administrative career he has served as District Affirmative Action Officer and is the current president of the New Milford Administrator’s Association. For more information on Eric visit

Photo Credit: Todd Plitt, USA Today.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gates Foundation's $500,000 to Harvard a Sham

By Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. Candidate

The Gates Foundation's 500 million dollar grant to Harvard's School of Education to "re-imagine" education is a sham and a joke! That money should have gone to HBCU's, which produces 50 percent of the country’s Black teachers and to the thousands of state colleges and universities whom actually prepare most of the country's teachers - including those in higher education.

Of course, Bill and Melinda can do what they want with their money. But they missed out on a real opportunity to "re-imagine" public education. Harvard, like many of the ivies, is dominated by White professors who come from the Ivy League and don't have extensive teaching experience in urban and rural K-12 schools. Nor do they have the real-life experiences with people of color needed to prepare future educators to become change agents in many of the country's worst schools. What they have is the "pedigree" for the media and policy-makers. But they don't have the educational street cred to be taken seriously in the real world.

Had I been consulted, I would have suggested the money be used to set up partnerships between Microsoft and Education departments at the best state teacher preparation programs in the country. In those new partnerships, pre-service as well as graduate level students would be taught not only how to use technology in the classroom, but how to take technology to transform their schools into global learning centers. What is more, I would have advocated for the money to fund exchanges or trips overseas for students to see first-hand what teachers are doing in their classrooms abroad. Lastly, I would have created Microsoft computer labs in as many urban and rural schools as possible - with a Microsoft Education leader on loan for a year to teach the existing teachers how to effectively use the technology.

To give the money to a school that already has a 27 million dollar endowment is a waste of the foundation's money and a failure to put innovation in the hands of people who are actually doing the bulk of the work. It is news like this that makes me want to buy a Macbook.

About the author -

Will Deyamport, III, is an Ed.D. Candidate, an education thought-leader and online content creator. His blog, PEOPLEGOGY, focuses on life and career developments. In addition to his 11 years of experience in education, he has interned with the likes of Ingrid Stabb and J. T. O’Donnell. Currently, Will is working on his dissertation, which focuses on using social media to individualize professional development for teachers.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Anti-Bucket List

By Will Deyamport, III, MSEd

This posting was inspired by Robin Roffer's latest blog post: My Anti-Bucket List. After reading hers, I decided to write my own.

I will never:

1. Hold on to negative emotions, memories or relationships.

2. Work with people who don't believe in me or my vision.

3. Listen to naysayers and haters.

4. Be bullied into doing something I don't want to do.

5. Take the Greyhound.

6. Work to steal someone else's dream.

7. Vote Republican.

8. Go back to school. This doctorate is it.

9. Complain about what I don't have. I've been blessed with so much.

10. Treat people like crap. Karma is a b****.

11. Give family members advice.

12. Not believe in myself and what I am capable of accomplishing.

13. Compromise on what I believe in. Some things are not negotiable.

14. Get romantically involved with a woman who has kids. By the way, I am married with no children.

15. Eat something Alfredo. Yuck!

16. Live in a ghetto neighborhood.

17. Watch Fox News.

18. Think I am bigger than my britches. It's Southern thing.

19. Buy an Apple computer. 2k for a laptop is robbery.

20. Work for less than I am worth.

What’s on your anti-bucket list?