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Sandy Hook Reflections

I appreciate District Administration and gain much from your work. However, the comment made by Ken Trump in “Reflections on Sandy Hook” (February 2013) regarding the lack of “excitement” by school boards and administrators over school safety is not only inappropriate, but insulting on many levels.

I will take the high road and assume Mr. Trump must have been frustrated by some of his recent interactions with school personnel. I hope he will recognize that there are many school boards and administrators, especially those of us serving as principals, who wake up every morning since April 20, 1999 “walking the walk” of school security.

Jeff Crane
West Irondequoit Central School District,
Rochester, N.Y.

Editor’s note: I agree with you. However, I assure you that Ken Trump was reacting to personal experiences in the past, where safety sometimes became an “academic” and “theoretical” subject removed from the horrific incidents and tragedies of recent years. Decades ago, I remember “going through the motions” on drills and procedures for events that few of us imagined could ever happen. Appropriately, most of us are now focused on these critical real-world safety issues, as Mr. Trump observed, though many were tuned in long before others.

Odvard Egil Dyrli
Executive Editor
District Administration

Principal Reform

The February 2013 story “Priming Principal Pipelines” spotlights high-quality school leadership training that offers principals and district officials chances to create professional learning communities and connect with one of their greatest resources—each other.

In a reform-minded era, such PD should be afforded to all our nation’s school leaders. Cash-strapped districts don’t have to choose between homegrown programs—often with a weak research base—and outsider-provided boutique programs that may be too costly for more than a few participants. Another model exists—leveraging a nationally researched program, tailored to local needs and delivered by district staff.

The National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) used this effectively in more than 20 states. By partnering with districts and states to deliver a heavily research-based, highly interactive program, NISL’s train-the-trainer approach has brought continuous PD on issues of leadership, education, and instruction to more than 6,000 school leaders.

This work contributes to efforts to improve schools and provides educators with the knowledge and skills they need to increase student achievement.

Bob Hughes
President & CEO
National Institute for School Leadership

And more on principal reform:

I appreciated the inclusion of the National SAM Innovation Project, but the story did not include the scope and result of our work. We are a nonprofit corporation working with 500+ schools in 76 districts and 17 states. Large districts, like Hillsborough County in Tampa, Gwinnett County in Georgia and Charlotte-Mecklenburg [in North Carolina] contract with us for SAM services to implement SAMs in all schools.

I created the SAM process in 2002 with Wallace Foundation support. The foundation, in part, funded external and independent research, which revealed that the average SAM team gains the equivalent of 27 extra days of instructional leadership time in their first year.

Mark Shellinger
National SAM Innovation Project

Keeping Leadership Informed

As superintendent in a small Massachusetts district, I always look for ways to help my leadership team keep informed about current issues. I often forward articles on topics I think would be helpful. But because we strive to be a paperless school district, I am selective about clipping and copying articles to send to team members.

Recent articles on professional development, evaluation, Mandarin, and school security were all so timely and well-written. We were also proud in Medway, Mass. to be included in the teacher evaluation feature sidebar, “Teacher Reviews Turn to New Technologies” in the November 2012 issue. Thanks for your hard work and high standards.

Judith A. Evans
Medway (Mass.) Public Schools 


Holding Students and Teachers Accountable

In response to “Testing Isn’t the Problem,” by Amy Wilkins in the September 2012 issue, I noticed this quote: “The difference is that the outcomes from the school test had no repercussions for him, so there was no reason for him to fear it; he was manifesting the anxiety of the adults at his school.”

This illustrates everything that is wrong with education reform.

As stated, the outcome of the test had no repercussions on [Wilkins’] son, but it did for the boy’s teachers. If students aren’t personally held accountable for a low test score, what is their incentive to do well? What if that student is having a bad day? A test has many variables, particularly the test taker. Test scores don’t measure what happened at the student’s house last night. What time did they go to bed? Did they witness dad hit mom? Also how does Wilkins know that he was “manifesting the anxiety of adults at the school”? Did she speak with them? And if the teachers are worried about the test can you blame them? In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg wants teacher names published in The New York Times next to their test scores. When you put added emphasis on test scores as a means of assessing teachers, then it’s obvious that the outcome would be “teaching to the test.”

This is not the fault of teachers; it’s the fault of educational reformers who created this situation.

Aidan Kearney
Dudley-Charlton Regional School District
Dudley, Mass