Leading Social and Emotional Learning — How District Leaders Use SEL Data

(Social and Emotional Learning) Permanent link

Leading Social and Emotional Learning — How District Leaders Use SEL Data

SEL Cohort Webinar Brief: September 25, 2019

sel partners logosIn this special webinar for the AASA Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Cohort, Panorama Education shares strategies being used by exemplary districts and schools throughout the country to collect, analyze, and use SEL-related data to improve student achievement, behavior, and attendance. The webinar is a powerful introduction to many of the themes and focus areas cohort members will explore in the October 13-14, 2019, SEL Cohort conference in Alexandria, VA. Facilitated by Ben Mark (Panorama Outreach Director) and Elizabeth Breese (Panorama Marketing Director), this webinar provides clear and very practical ways in which district leaders are using SEL data to: (1) improve academic outcomes, (2) promote student attendance, (3) evaluate the effectiveness of SEL and wellness programs, and (4) implement a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) to ensure student success in the required core curriculum and provide appropriate short-term and long-term supports and interventions related to student academic performance, engagement, efficacy, and self-regulation.

Webinar Highlights 

  • Panorama Education serves 900+ districts, impacting 9 million students. Its mission is to help educators use data to improve student outcomes by focusing on school climate and family engagement, social-emotional learning, and student success (including MTSS and early warning systems).
  • Schools and districts successfully making SEL a leadership priority integrate the monitoring of student progress related to key SEL performance indicators into district strategic plans, Profiles of a Graduate, school improvement plans, and community and family partnerships.
  • The webinar facilitators focused on results from the Panorama Social-Emotional Learning Survey, co-developed with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the University of California Santa Barbara, and Johns Hopkins University.
  • Part of the total Panorama data management system, the survey can be custom-tailored to district frameworks, producing actionable SEL data related to student skills and competencies (e.g., self-management and growth mindset); student supports and environment (e.g., sense of belonging, teacher-student relationships, safety); and teacher skills and supports (e.g., professional learning and resources).

Key Conclusions

  • Schools that build strong student SEL skills tend to create safe classrooms and sites where students can focus on learning, achieve academic growth, and improve their capacity for collaboration and career/life outcomes;
  • Key focus areas include self-efficacy (do students believe they can succeed in achieving academic outcomes?) and engagement (are students attentive and invested in school?);
  • A successful data-driven SEL intervention system serves as an “early-warning” process to signal students who may need extra support with skills gaps and struggles that can result in issues related to attendance, behavior, and course performance; (4) Engagement is an especially significant SEL factor (with facilitators citing the statistic that 62% of students reporting high levels of engagement are less likely to fail courses); (5) Facilitators cited two districts with high levels of student poverty and mobility that have successfully used SEL data to improve student achievement, attendance, and behavior: (a) Olathe Public Schools (KS), which has demonstrated remarkable success in enhancing student “grit,” i.e., the ability to persevere in the face of setbacks; and (b) Ogden Public Schools (UT), which has improved student performance via relationship building, student goal setting, and preventative problem solving.

Webinar Archive and Follow Up Items

SEL Cohort

The AASA Social and Emotional Learning Cohort is a vibrant community of superintendents and district administrators engaged in meaningful dialogue about how SEL is contributing to the whole child—from physical and mental health to the development of fundamental, lifelong learning skills. To join the cohort, apply at https://www.aasa.org/application-SEL.aspx



Leaders Going 'Above and Beyond': A Superintendent's Perspective

(Views On Leadership, Superintendent Certification) Permanent link

Leaders Going 'Above and Beyond': A Superintendent's Perspective

by Todd Dugan, superintendent, Bunker Hill CUSD #8, Ill., and a member of the AASA National Superintendent  Certification Program® – Midwest Cohort Class of 2020

On a sweltering July weekend in Chicago, Illinois, a group of dedicated public school superintendents from across the Midwest region (and beyond) of the United States gathered for four days of intense professional development. With an Excessive Heat Warning in effect, leaders from school districts in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio and other midwestern states devoted their time and energy to learning from AASA facilitators from across the nation, as well as from each other regarding best practices in the continuously evolving and increasingly complex job of serving as public school superintendents.

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The AASA National Superintendent Certification Program® is a 2-year cohort geared toward superintendents within their first 7 years in the field offering a unique and intensive period of professional growth in a cohort setting. As this cohort met again in the heat of Illinois summer, several important topics were covered over the long weekend. From fundamental topics such as nurturing positive board relations to ancillary (yet equally critical) topics including engagement of families and communities, participants continued their journey of shared learning that began in February in Los Angeles. 

In addition to the hours spent learning while most people enjoyed their summer weekends either on vacation or in the company of their families (one superintendent actually flew directly from Florida, departing his family vacation early, to Chicago to attend the summer meeting), these dedicated cohort participants also read articles and viewed artifacts, via an online digital learning platform, as well as monthly progress calls via Zoom or Skype, typically in the evening. All of these activities are leading up to a culminating capstone project, to be presented at a graduation in Chicago in the summer of 2020.

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What makes this meeting of a cohort of educational leaders newsworthy? At a time when public schools are under more scrutiny than before, as outcomes and mandates continue to accrue as financial resources decline or remain steady, it speaks magnitudes to see a group of superintendents so dedicated to the improvement of leading America's public school districts. As a profession, bringing to light this type of unsung commitment to the public's attention will only help all districts as we move forward and continue to improve public education, showing that there is no better system of education than public education. 

Follow and contribute to the conversation on Twitter via the following hashtags: #LeadersMatter #lovepubliceducation

AASA, Howard University Celebrate 5 Years of the Urban Superintendents Academy

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AASA, Howard University Celebrate 5 Years of the Urban Superintendents Academy

by Jimmy Minichello, communications and marketing director, AASA

It started in 2015 with an early morning meeting between representatives of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the Howard University School of Education. The topic focused on bolstering school district leadership in urban areas.

Today, both organizations are celebrating five years of the AASA / Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy, a program designed to offer superintendents and aspiring superintendents a revolutionary new approach to ensure success in urban settings.

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School leaders at the AASA-Howard University Inaugural Conference

The program was officially launched at AASA’s National Conference on Education in San Diego, Feb. 26, 2015. "This unique partnership between AASA and Howard University provides an exceptional opportunity for those who wish to become leaders in urban school systems," Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA, said at the time of the announcement. "Combining on-site learning experiences, mentors, strong curriculum, affinity groups, an annual conference and ongoing support, the Urban Superintendents Academy is a leader in preparing superintendents."

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Leslie Fenwick, former dean of the Howard University School of Education, speaking at Urban Superintendents Academy Event

"Through its relevant and rigorous program, the Urban Superintendents Academy prepares a new generation of school superintendents who are committed to all school children actualizing their potential," said Leslie T. Fenwick, the dean of the Howard University School of Education at that time.

At a time when less than 5% of our nation's superintendents are persons of color, the Urban Superintendents Academy prepares educators for certification and success in urban and increasingly diverse suburban settings, and bolsters the effectiveness of district leadership in those settings. The AASA/Howard University partnership is also designed to expand the pool of underrepresented superintendent groups.

In August, members of the 2020 Urban Superintendents Academy cohort gathered in Alexandria, Va., for the annual Urban Superintendents Academy conference and again in September for the first educational workshop.

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Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, addressing 2019 Urban Superintendents Academy Summit

The August kick-off was on a day filled with an all-star cast of speakers, including Virginia social studies teacher Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year. A 19-year teaching veteran, Robinson became a teacher to honor his mother.

His remarks centered on "remembering your why" when it comes to what you do, focusing on the lens of equity. He said his first major influence was his mother, who "made you feel like you were the most important person."

His second influence were two teachers who essentially taught him to pay it forward. I want to give young boys and girls opportunities that were given to me in my life, he told the audience.

His third influence was one of his students, a football star who died tragically a short time ago. Robinson's why focuses on a "matter of life and death."

Vince Matthews, superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District, served as the opening  keynote speaker.

Matthews focused his discussion on telling your leadership story. "You have to make sure you're able to tell three stories," he said. "Your leadership story, the story of the organization and the story of how the people you'e leading are fitting in."

Others commented on the significance of the Now moment in education:

"You bring joy and light to the children of America," said Mort Sherman, associate executive director, Leadership Network and academy co-founder at the gathering. "We want you to succeed. Through your success, the children of America will succeed."

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AASA-Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy Cohort 2020 participants.

"This is all about preparing you for the next dimension of leadership," added Joe Hairston, academy co-founder, Howard University School of Education. "When you make a commitment to this responsibility, you can't turn your back on people who are depending on you for sound judgment and more importantly, the vision of where you're going."

"We have come so far," said Dawn Williams, dean, Howard University School of Education. "You are here to be a part of that work. The Urban Superintendents Academy will equip you with the data, narrative, skills and a disposition to be a leader and a change agent. But you have to bring forth the courage to utilize those tolls in ways that promote social justice."

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Urban Superintendents Academy participants hear from Curtis Jones, 2019 National Superintendent of the Year®, at their first meeting.

Cohort members held their first monthly meeting on Saturday, September 14-15 at AASA headquarters in Alexandria. "When I researched the academy, I felt it would give me the tools—a toolbox of resources, professional colleagues, a network of individuals who can really assist," said Alvin Pressley, director of secondary education at Lexington-Richland School District Five, Columbia, S.C.

Specific goals applicable to the Urban Superintendents Academy include:

  • Prepare for and successfully acquire a position as an urban superintendent.
  • Delineate and apply key skills of 21st century leadership.
  • Address critical problems and issues facing all urban superintendents today in a strategic and creative way.
  • Deal effectively and creatively with community relations and politics in the urban setting.

For more information about the AASA/Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy, visit the AASA website. For questions, contact Bernadine Futrell, AASA director, leadership network, at bfutrell@aasa.org / 703-875-0717.

Click here to view the photo gallery of the 2019 AASA/Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy Conference. To join the conversation via social media, access #UrbanSuptsAcademy.

Personalized Learning Continues to Grow at Pennsylvania’s North Penn Schools

(Lead To Learn, Personalized Learning) Permanent link

Personalized Learning Continues to Grow at Pennsylvania’s North Penn Schools

July 18, 2019, by Richard Mextorf

The AASA Personalized Learning Cohort, comprised of school leaders from across the country, gathered earlier this year at North Penn School District, located in Montgomery County, Pa., to learn about the district’s approach to personalized learning.

Cohort members experienced a variety of events and activities during our visit. We saw firsthand how learners (students) own their learning and demonstrate their understanding through multiple pathways. At the secondary school level, learners demonstrated performance-based assessment through video production, which was written, directed, produced and performed by the learners. Literature students created multi-genre projects to create compelling narratives. Additionally, learners created engaging animations to demonstrate mastery. 

Personalized Learning Richard Mextorf

Elementary learners used Flipgrid to understand the significance of each Apollo mission and demonstrated their understanding by writing thank you notes to the Apollo team members for their unique contributions to each mission. Learners became authors, writing books that are stored in the school library to be checked out by anyone in the school community. 

Cohort members saw examples of active learning spaces and the impact they have on engagement, and how they support a personalized approach in the classroom. 

Teachers from area school districts served on panels to share with cohort members how embracing personalized learning has transformed their classrooms. Middle level learners also served on a panel to share their experiences with personalized learning and their perspectives on how it has impacted them as learners. Guided by the cohort leadership, members worked in groups designed to challenge our thinking and question our assumptions.  Additionally, representatives from The Franklin Institute facilitated several activities to help cohort members better understand how the brain functions and the impact of instructional design on the brain.

The breadth of knowledge and experience from leaders across the country, combined with the intimate examples within the context of a single district, made this experience broad and deep in vision, and rich in context.

Richard Mextorf is the superintendent of the Hamburg Area School District in Hamburg, Pa. He is also a member of the AASA Personalized Learning Cohort.

Guest Post: Changing College Choices with Personalized Information at Scale

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Guest Post: Changing College Choices with Personalized Information at Scale

By Christine Mulhern, Harvard University

Choosing whether and where to apply to college is a complex and important choice which many students and families struggle to navigate. Naviance is an important tool for helping students, families and school counselors with these choices. Over 40 percent of US high school students use Naviance, but little research examines how it impacts their college choices. Given its widespread use and the importance of students’ college choices, I partnered with one medium-sized school district to study how it affects where students apply to and attend college.

This study examines how the personalized information conveyed in Naviance’s scattergrams impacts students’ college choices. Providing students access to a college’s scattergram increases applications and attendance at that college, and students are most likely to apply to a college when the admissions data suggest they are likely to be admitted.

The full paper can be found here: https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/mulhern/files/naviance_mulhern_april2019.pdf.

The key findings include:

  • Access to a college’s scattergram increases applications and attendance at that college, especially for students with a high probability of admission. This means that students are nudged towards the colleges popular among previous students from their high school.
  • Minority and low-income students are most responsive to the availability of a college’s scattergram. Access to scattergrams for less selective in-state public colleges increases four-year college enrollment rates for these students. 
  • Students change their applications based on what Naviance signals about their probability of admission. Students prefer to apply to colleges where they are most similar to previous admits.
  • Students respond strongly to the average admitted student’s GPA. I find a discontinuity in application rates for students just above and below the average admit’s GPA despite no discontinuity in a student’s probability of admission at this point. Students appear to use these averages as heuristics to simplify their college choices.

These findings indicate that the admissions information conveyed in Naviance can have large impacts on where students apply to and attend college. The information increases college attendance for some students, but the admissions data deters others from applying to highly selective colleges. The extent to which students respond to scattergrams varies across counselors, so counselors can play an important role in helping students understand the information in Naviance. More broadly, this research suggests that technologies, such as Naviance, can have large impacts on students’ college choices, and the popularity of Naviance means it has potential to influence national college enrollment patterns.

Learn more about the research paper in the article written by EdSurge, "Naviance Wields Much ‘Power and Influence’ in College Admissions, Harvard Researcher Finds."

Guest Post: Budgeting for College, Career and Life Readiness

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Guest Post: Budgeting for College, Career and Life Readiness

By Kim Oppelt, Naviance by Hobsons

Schools and districts need to prepare students for their future while also balancing their bottom line. The College, Career & Life Readiness Budget Trends 2018 survey brief dug deeper into the ways K-12 institutions are funding college, career and life readiness initiatives as well as the metrics they are relying upon to measure effectiveness.

Read About Why:

  • 94% of school and district participants state that they include college, career and life-ready components in their strategic plan.
  • Two-thirds of schools and districts stated that technology and staffing with more school counselors are major components of their school and district CCLR budgets.
  • The top three priorities for CCLR funding are supporting access for underrepresented students, scaling efforts to reach all students, and CTE opportunities.
  • Out of 286 respondents, over half reported using federal and state grants to fund CCLR initiatives.
  • 67% of districts reported using Title I to fund CCLR initiatives, and 34% reported using Perkins funding.

Administrators can use the report to identify funding sources for college, career and life readiness initiatives. Administrators can also compare current spending to national averages to help inform decision-making.

Access the report to see how schools and districts can use a variety of federal and state grants available for CCLR programming in CTE, SEL, 21st century skills, technology, and assisting underrepresented students by diversifying funding sources.

Read the report for the full details.

AASA Digital Consortium Visits Ephrata Area (PA) Schools

(Lead To Learn, Digital Consortium) Permanent link

AASA Digital Consortium Visits Ephrata Area (PA) Schools

Ready! Better yet, be Life Ready like students in the Ephrata Area (Pa.) School District. Educational leaders from across the country recently gathered there to participate in the AASA Digital Consortium’s first meeting of the year. 

The future of public education was on display as Superintendent Brian Troop showcased the transformational work taking place in his district. During our time together, we focused on personalization, flexible experiences for students, Maker Learning, a Life Ready Graduate and community partnerships.

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Take a moment to visit the Ephrata Area School District website and checkout the Life Ready Graduate community and district model. The integration of the technology is a model we need to highlight across this country. However, the reflection I want to share in this blog entry is the leadership growth I gained by participating in the AASA Digital Consortium and learning from Dr. Troop.

We can all agree we are passionate about improving how we operate as leaders for the sake of our students. This experience was especially rewarding for me because Kee Edwards, principal at Miller Ridge Elementary in Middletown City School District, attended the conference with me. We are two instructional leaders hungry for knowledge and growth around the goals set in our district.

The AASA Digital Consortium provided me the opportunity to offer authentic professional learning for a leader in my district. During building visits, Mr. Edwards and I discussed how we can better engage our community, empower students in their learning, inspire educators in our district to embrace transformation efforts, and find approaches to integrate technology effectively.

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We could have accomplished this by sitting in his office easily, but imagine the depth of our conversations as we observed Dr. Troop and his Ephrata leadership team highlighting the revolutionary work taking place in their schools. The value add in this example is the access to other digital thought leaders from across the country. For example, during the visit to the Franklin Institute, Mr. Edwards engaged in deep dialogue around Understanding Brain Theory and Learning with Nick Polyak and Brian Troop. (Nick Polyak, superintendent of Leyden High School District 212 in Illinois, serves as chair of the Digital Consortium.)

What do you do when a leader looks at you and says, “I want to grow more in these areas.” Would you stand by him or her? If we truly value supporting the growth of our leaders, I encourage my peers to stand, quite literally, side by side those we are challenging to grow. This cannot be done by sending someone to a conference. I’m talking about attending the professional learning opportunity with your growing leader and having deep dialogue and challenging thoughts about their approach to being an elite leader.

The AASA Digital Consortium encourages participants to bring members from our districts to attend consortium meetings. How could you take advantage of that in your district? Think about it.

In Ephrata Area School District, the community values and endorses the Life Ready areas set as priorities for all students. Mr. Edwards and I left inspired in our leadership growth together. I’m staying committed to my belief to provide the leaders in my district with personalized professional learning as best I can.

Given we were in Philadelphia, now would be a perfect time to reference a line from Robert Tepper’s song “No Easy Way Out” where he writes “some things are worth fighting for.” Let’s make growing leaders in education worth fighting for in our districts.

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On behalf of Middletown City School District, I want to thank AASA for providing ongoing opportunities for leaders across the country to come together to grow, ultimately benefiting all students. A special thank you to the students, community, and staff of Ephrata Area School District for showcasing the wonderful possibilities in public education. As a member of the AASA Digital Consortium, I was honored to have the opportunity to celebrate what you are doing for students. Go Mounts!


Marlon Styles, Jr. is the superintendent of Middletown City (Ohio) School District.

Take Charge of Your Brand!

(Urban Superintendents) Permanent link

UrbanBlogHeaderBy Niquelle Cotton 

There stands before our class a veteran super hero for education, Dr. Barbara Pullium! She’s an icon with accolades from organizations including but not limited to AASA, NABSE, ASCD and NSBA, and is known by many as a servant leader for public education. Dr. Pullium without fail brings our Cohort 4 of purpose-driven believers immediately to their feet, on-time, and at-the-ready to stand at attention! Dr. Pulliam is a teacher and “coach at heart” who has over four decades of K‐12 education experience. She served as superintendent of schools for seventeen years in three school districts which were in urban, suburban and rural school districts. She’s a “lifer” contributing heart-lifting contribution to the book of impact plays.

…music plays… Let’s Get it Started in Here! By the Black-Eyed Peas

Put that seatbelt back on! Round 2 of the AASA Urban Superintendent’s Academy ~ Cohort 4 is about to take things to a different level!
There were several topics shared across countertop when asked for expanding school, city, county, state, regional and country… SHIFTS that are driving today’s priorities and that demand taking charge of one's brand through a counternarrative: 

• Lack of funding for schools
• Diverse views on education
• Competition: Private/Charter/Homeschooling
• Comparison of what’s being taught in schools vs. parents’ perception
• Changes in the political agenda
• Changes in leadership / vision

What is a Counternarrative?
Before we delve into changing it… Let’s do some level setting. The formal definition for “counternarrative” is defined as follows: an argument that disputes a commonly held belief or truth. These beliefs often relate to cultures, people and even institutions.
Often, counternarratives, which can also be called counter-storytelling, will be used to give people a voice who otherwise would not have one. As a narrative outlines a widely accepted belief as the truth, a counternarrative can be used to share a different point of view that may have not otherwise been considered.
These types of narratives do not necessarily discredit the beliefs that have been established, but instead offer a different way of thinking about particular topics. Authors of counternarratives will include other elements to support their position, such as videos and images. https://www.reference.com/art-literature/counternarrative-bac2eed0be17f281

Tag… We’re IT!!

(Urban Superintendents) Permanent link

Tag… We’re IT!!

By UrbanBlogHeaderNiquelle L. Cotton

It’s a rainy start to our AASA Urban Superintendent’s Academy for Cohort 4… Day One Do-over! We soon learn that our class is the first in 4-year cohort history to postpone class… Why? A hurricane threat, thankfully with minimal damage, thwarted a timely Session-1 kickoff… a sign that our class would be like no other! I look around the room hearing each person’s purpose statement when asked… Why are you here?! I realize history is about to take place. This cohort is packed with the most talented, diverse people that will become our future advocates, thought-leaders, and torch-blazers using intellect, data, and passion for underserved student populations. We will be adding to this current history chapter.

Reality sets in and momentum continues to rise when Dr. Sam King (Steering Committee Member at the national level for the AASA Urban Superintendents Academy in partnership with Howard University), begins with a moment of silence honoring the recent hate-crime in Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh Schools’ very own Assistant Superintendent is cohort 4 member, Mr. Anthony Anderson, who provides somber highlights and then the tone changes… There’s an eerie hush when the class realizes the country as we know it has made yet another shift. Our patriarchs and matriarchs… our legacy makers, are preparing an infusion of knowledge impact. Dr. Bernadine Futrell, Director of Leadership Services, for AASA lets us know… we will make lifelong friends and colleagues relying on each other for support, and further conveys… this is a safe space for preparation. If not now… when?? Tag… We’re IT!!

Key themes surface once our AASA Urban Superintendent’s Academy “godfather and co-patriarch” Dr. Joe Hairston, former Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, is honored. He shares with conviction the sense of urgency. Academy Co-founder and passionate leader, Dr. Mort Sherman, AASA Associate Executive Director, Leadership Services, would echo sentiments and mandate we must continue to be “just in time” connectors and bridge proven concepts with reality. We clearly begin to see the delicate dance between data (history) and purpose.

The day continues… We are further reminded by Dr. Morcease J. Beasley, Superintendent of Clayton County, GA & AASA –Howard Urban Superintendents Academy Cohort 3 Alumni that these shifts taking place will test the guiding principles of educators, and most assuredly those in urban district settings.

• Regardless of position, how will we make decisions that impact all children?
• How will we make sure our 3rd graders are prepared for higher levels of rigor and ensure our Gifted and Talented students are constantly being challenged?
• And how will we (for those educators steeped in the weeds…) ensure we have the board behind us?

Great educators reinforce a growth mindset in students and staff

(Urban Superintendents) Permanent link
UrbanBlogHeader John Brown, Researcher in Residence, AASA

On a bright Sunday morning and the second day of the workshop, the 36 participants in the latest AASA Urban Superintendents Academy assembled for a moving presentation by award-winning superintendent, Dr. Deborah Wortham—currently the turn-around leader of East Ramapo Central School District, New York. Like yesterday’s sessions, Dr. Wortham reinforced the power of service-oriented and mission-driven educational leadership. She formed an instant rapport with the group—and used a range of presentation strategies and media to engage them and provoke both deep reflection and a sense of possibility for the future.

I had seen Dr. Wortham in action previously in her role as a transformational superintendent in Pennsylvania. She continues to amaze me with her charisma, dedication, and commitment to the future of the students she serves as the leader of her district. Her presentation, “Critical Issues in Education Facing the Modern Superintendent,” reinforced a powerful recurrent idea underlying the academy: The superintendent today—especially in urban settings—is participating in what Joseph Campbell called a “hero’s journey.” Every urban superintendent, Dr. Wortham reinforced, is responsible for the lives, well-being, and prosperity of the learners served by his or her district. In spite of what can appear to be sometimes overwhelming challenges, the heroic superintendent leads staff, parents, community members, and—most importantly—students toward a process of transformation, leading them to a better future and society to a greater level of both civility and achievement.

I was deeply moved by Dr. Wortham’s personal reflections, honesty, and support for the participants, encouraging them to consider such questions as: (1) Who have you blessed along the way of your own journey? (2) What is the “20%” difference you will make in your school or district? (reinforcing the range of variation that is possible within school and district structures) and (3) How many “firsts” can you put your shingle on? As a renowned and award-winning educational leader, Dr. Wortham also reinforced the difference between a transformational leader (“I am called to bring it up—Someone else is called to take it forward…”) and one who can sustain the momentum triggered by transformational change.

A few highlights of Dr. Wortham’s presentation that have stayed with me: (1) Great educators reinforce a growth mindset in students and staff. (2) The mission statement of a learning organization must be a living, breathing, and organic document—that is revisited continually as we reflect on our purpose, our goals, and the ways in which were are monitoring our progress toward achieving them. (3) Great professional development can only occur after students have been brought into understanding and “owning” the mission and vision of their school and district; once the superintendent engages their commitment and sense of efficacy, professional development priorities and performance targets can follow. (4) Learning walks can be a useful tool for providing supportive feedback to staff about how PD targets and strategies are being implemented—including areas for enhancement and growth. (5) Perhaps most significantly, Dr. Wortham presented a 5/20/80 rule: Educational leaders should be in at least five classrooms per day, 20 per week, and 80 per month. Interactions with staff and students at the school level are critically important for transformation to occur and be sustained.

I’ll close with two quotes from Dr. Wortham that I found especially moving: (1) “Love, relationships, caring, and concerns are essential in any effective school.” (2) “It is the non-cognitive elements of schooling that must be addressed first—and continuously…Students’ social-emotional learning is a priority before the cognitive-academic can truly be transformed…” Dr. Wortham embodied in her presentation—and continues to demonstrate in her career—her assertion that the “work of educators is deeply meaningful—We must believe in ourselves and our students—and our shared capacity to succeed.”