edlp704f2f)-Gender Equity and Leadership

I have been in k-12 education for over twenty-five years, beginning as most women in education at the elementary level.  According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, seventy-six percent of all K-12 educators in the United States are women (2020). Only 26.9, up more than 2 percent from 2010, of school superintendents are female (American Association of School Administrators, 2015). Female private school counterparts fare a little better but not much. Those who reach top levels of education leadership usually need at least one more degree than men to earn the same salary, and women earn almost 15 percent less than their male counterparts (Kise and Watterston, 2019). My husband and I both are educators. We met teaching at the same school and completed our Masters’s degree in the same program.  I completed two additional Post-Masters programs and am now a doctoral candidate. I am a 12-month administrator, and he works 10 months as a teacher and coach and earns a higher salary than I do.

I am fortunate that I work in a school with a female head of school who has mentored me and given me several opportunities to grow professionally.  I previously worked in administration in a public school and another independent school where the top leadership teams were male dominant, and preference was given to those who looked and acted like them. Women actually possess many qualities that make them strong and successful leaders. Women should endeavor to break away from previous mindsets that women have to act like men to be seen as successful, and they should value and embrace their unique qualities.

Many women do not reach top-level educational positions until later in life due to overcoming internal barriers such as home-life balance, perceptions of job readiness, and developing agency and advocacy in determining their career path.  This was my experience. Women must also learn to navigate external barriers such as few female role models, limited experience in requisite skills, and organizational politics, which disfavor women. As a leader in education, I hope to recognize and nurture leadership in others, particularly women, and serve as a mentor and sponsor to help them grow in their careers. Women often take circuitous or happenchance paths to leadership, and I would like to help them see career choices and opportunities that they may not be aware of. I would like to see educational leadership programs address these issues. I do not regret my path and the time I took away from my career for my family, but I had to forge my path with little direction or assistance. If I had been aware of other options or paths available, it would have been helpful.

Another place where I am aware of gender inequality is in the dearth of pre-k-8 male teachers. Students need to see male role models and educators at this level. Since becoming an administrator and responsible for hiring staff, I have sought to increase racial-ethnic diversity and gender diversity. To do so often requires a different approach to hiring and talent development. I was fortunate that I could bring expertise from other experiences in my life to broaden my approach in the hiring process. I suggest that talent procurement, development, and mentorship are other areas where educational change is needed. I am pleased to see a growing number of candidates in this arena, but there is still room for growth.  The diversity has changed the dynamics of our teams for the better, adding perspective, strength, and balance.

Truly resilient educational leaders adeptly wield multidimensional leadership, which fits the complexity of the school’s expectations and situational needs. Successful leaders know how to use masculine and feminine leadership types with discretion, and they seek to overcome stereotypes. As leaders, we should aspire to recognize where gender and leadership bend and become fluid and adjust accordingly.

edlp704f2f-Responding to Recommendations

This year when my school reopened in a pandemic, our typical mode of operation was turned upside down. Protocols, protocols, and more protocols allowed us to return to in-person learning. Social distancing, sanitizing, wearing masks, and daily health checks began the new normal.

Each morning before coming on-campus, all staff and students have to complete and submit a health screening via a health app and have their temperatures checked in the carpool line. If students and staff show a green screen and their temperature is in the acceptable range, they can exit the car. If they have a red screen, they have to remain home and await follow-up instructions from our school health coordinator.

As a medical support team member, I review all of our medical data, absentees, quarantined, and exclusion lists daily. If someone is absent and we do not know the reason, we make a courtesy call. Most of our families are very forthcoming and often share more information than needed. I know when someone is traveling, having a mental health day, has allergies, a migraine, menstrual cramps, a toothache, or sore throat. What is surprising to me is how willingly families share this information. As suggested in the New American Foundation report, people seem very trusting of their educational institutions, which I guess is good. Trust is necessary for positive school culture but keeping the trust of students, families, and staff also a great responsibility. This year has opened the door to volumes of information I previously had little need to access. Consequently, it has raised issues of privacy, data access, storage, and propriety. How long will we need to track his data? Will this become the new normal?

Looking through the set of recommendations listed in the report Keeping Student Trust: Student Perceptions of Data Use Within Higher Education and considering the different way we have had to operate this year brings privacy and individual rights and expectations to light. I am not sure whether these recommendations provide a framework for education going forward, but they certainly ignite conversation, consideration, and possibly even future legislation.

I agree that schools should make students and families aware of how their data is being collected, used, and safeguarded concerning student data. As a K-8 school, we do not use geo-tracking data.  After the tornado incident a couple of years ago that resulted in a lengthy shelter-in-place after school hours, several companies tried to capitalize on the near-disaster by devising and marketing tracking apps for schools.  While geo-tracking apps could help in an emergency, remember Katz-Lacabe’s research and the License Plate Readers? The collection and retention of information was an example of over-reach. The marginal benefit has not yet proven to outweigh the intrusiveness, and I agree that we should limit the use of location data.

I concur with the report’s recommendation to be mindful of data limitations.  When I worked in a public school and ran district-wide gifted education reports, I found that our demographic data reporting was not always accurate. The reports did not reflect some students of racial-ethnic diversity. Upon further research, I learned that many were miscoded or left blank, especially students of mixed race.

Financial aid candidates may also be affected by data limitations. Presently I work at a private school and am a member of our financial aid committee. I often see misreported or incomplete data that skews an applicant’s standing. Furthermore, extenuating circumstances such as caring for an elderly family member or a child with special needs, large medical bills, a loss of overtime income, etc., are not always captured in quantitative data. I agree with the report’s recommendation to send financial information to all students and not rely on limited measures to assess a recipient’s likelihood of needing financial aid.

As recommended in the report, limited use of tools such as third-party vendors and proctoring companies is preferable. Particularly in a K-12 environment, families should know how personal data, medical information, and students’ educational profiles are used. To the greatest extent possible, our school tries to keep student information restricted to our systems. Still, some level of disclosure is necessary when using student information systems, educational applications, and health vendors.

Training staff and faculty about the institution’s expectations regarding students’ privacy is essential. We cannot assume that staff knows what they can and cannot do. I agree with the recommendations for outreach to students needing help and what they can and cannot require of students to ensure student privacy. Not all have the benefit of taking graduate law courses such as this one which brings this information to light. As we saw from our text, technology information is continually evolving and is not clear cut; therefore, ongoing training is necessary. During COVID, many of our staff have been anxious when they learned that a student or staff member was quarantined. They wanted to know names and details that are not appropriate to share. We endeavored to be transparent in our process while maintaining individuals’ privacy, but staff often did not understand why we could not share all the information with them. As an administrator, I spend many, many hours in legal seminars and reviewing policies. Our teachers do not. It is our responsibility to train them in practice and written policy to know how to respond appropriately.

Moving down the list, messaging and communication for outreach seems like a personal preference and maybe more relevant to students in higher education than K-12. It is advisable, however, regardless of the audience, to test the message ahead of time.

Even though this report provided feedback from a small sampling size, the recommendations on student opinions are comprehensive and provide food for thought. Some are not as relevant for K-12 but are nonetheless thoughtful. One missing piece I see for K-12 is how to guarantee student privacy and protection with student accounts and data when accessed outside of school networks, such as remote learning. We found that breaches occurred in student accounts when students access them from home. Parents did not realize their vulnerabilities or lack of filters. How can we further educate parents and students on how their data may be used, accessed, or tracked and where their responsibility lies.

edlp704f2f-A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships

After watching/reading the clip, and after the cases you read this week and the book you read and we discussed, what do you think? What do you wonder? 

The topic of equity in education raises many questions and wonderings. Education is a rising tide that lifts all people yet as the School Segregation by Boundary Line in Virginia report and the Georgetown study show, access to education remains uneven. It is shocking to learn that in this day and age, school segregation is deepening within Virginia. School district and attendance boundary lines section off areas with highly differentiated wealth and unequal allocation of educational resources that benefit some while limiting others. I wonder if residential segregation by income has intensified and the vast majority of districts assign students based on proximity, then how can school districts realign boundary lines to promote integration, and how can the state and local school districts apportion resources to help disadvantaged areas?

The Georgetown study suggests that America’s selective public colleges are meant to provide opportunity for all; however, in reality, attendants in these colleges do not reflect the demographics of the college-age population they are serving. Fewer whites make up the college-age population, yet more whites attend selective public universities than the majority-minority college-age residents. According to the report, selective public colleges use admissions measures that disfavor minority acceptances and perpetuate disparities. As a former director of gifted services, I have seen this form of segregation in K-12 education as well. The qualifying psychometrics used to identify students for specialty programs or preferred paths of learning are often rigid and narrowly tailored; they overlook the talents and potential of underrepresented students. The over-emphasis on standardized testing is one example. Some colleges are starting to make high-stake tests like the SATs or ACTs optional, using demonstrated student performance as a more accurate measure of potential; however, this shift still meets resistance in most selective public universities. Its selective status is maintained by its exclusivity. Many more students could be well served and successful in these programs if only given the chance.

As Klarman suggests in his book, education is an equalizer. As whites became better educated, their racial opinions were liberalized. They became less tolerant of separatist behavior. As blacks became more educated, they realized economic, political, and societal gains.  A more educated public benefits all. I don’t think the answer is to limit one group so another group can prosper, but rather I wonder how we can broaden the opportunity so that more can be successful? A rising tide lifts all ships.

edlp704f2f-Blog #2 Speech is Powerful

In the Snyder v. Phelps case, CJ John Roberts wrote:

Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation, we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.

Remember the old adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Is that really true? I have said it but didn’t feel it. Physical scars can heal. Mental and emotional scars can linger for a long time. Hate speech hurts, and it can have a widespread impact. As Justice Roberts suggests “speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow.” Words matter.

This case, while stirring sympathy and outrage on behalf of the victim, epitomizes the Constitutional principle of free thought as expressed by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.- “freedom for the thought we hate.” The speech and act as distasteful and egregious as it was, was  in compliance with regulations and the manner in which it was disseminated. The almost unanimous support of the bench asserts this protection for Westboro and the lawful right of others to expression that meets like criteria.

Justice Holmes’s formula for punishable speech is ”whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” Holmes goes on to say that speech can be punishable if “its natural and probable effect”  would in time have led to a crime. In the Abrams dissent cautioned “against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we lother and believe to be fraught with death unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference” with the law.

In the United States, more than any other country, we allow an expansive free of speech. Yet, with great freedom and privilege comes great responsibility. Americans have the right and freedom to speak on matters of public importance. That right allows for the expression of controversial viewpoints that serve as checks and balances and competition of the market of free ideas but which can also inflict harm or have a negative impact on individuals or groups of individuals. As Justice Alito commented in his dissent of Phelps v. Westboro, “the discussion of public issues can be fully articulated without harming innocent people for arbitrary reasons.” I agree with Justice Alito and suggest we can promote civil discourse that expresses the diversity of thought while still acknowledging the dignity and worth of each individual.

The First Amendment allows a wide range of speech addressing public matters in a public setting even if it is harmful to some members of the audience. How do we regulate free speech without infringing on the rights that our First Amendment protects? Where is that line? Can we trust in the goodness of fellow citizens to exercise the unfettered right to freedom of speech with empathetic and judicious discernment? Must we impose regulation or can we trust in ourselves and our fellow citizens to regulate their own conduct for the ultimate good? As Justice Holmes suggests, “Is the best of truth, the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out?”

EDLP704f2f-Blog #1 Policy Making

My most recent experience in making policy has been co-authoring and implementing our COVID-19 Return to School policy. What an experience that has been! To return to in-person instruction, our school had to submit a Return to School plan to the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in compliance with Governor Northam’s Phase Guidance for Schools and in accordance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Guidance for School, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Virginia Department of Labor & Industry (DOLI) standards.  You know you are dealing with the government when your sentence looks like a bowl of alphabet soup! This unprecedented year of COVID-19 has required fastidious attention to ever-changing laws, regulations, guidelines, and best practices. It has affected every aspect of the way we, as a school, do business, safeguard our staff and students’ health and well-being, and provide instruction and supervision.

Often, we had to sift through conflicting guidelines from various agencies.  For instance, though CDC guidelines were touted as the gold standard on the federal level; however, we are held accountable for following the state mandates. This clarification was helpful to us in establishing allowances in our Return to School policy. For example, the CDC recommends six feet for social distancing; however, Governor Northam’s Phase Guidance for Schools permits three feet.  Three feet makes quite a difference when determining student ratios per square footage. It also begs the question, why are six feet the safe standard for everywhere except schools? Is Governor Northam’s guidance based on safety and science, or the politics and special interests Ruccucci suggests often lie behind a situation?

Though most K-12 private schools and some public schools resumed in-person learning in the fall, most public schools remained in remote learning despite many parents advocating for in-person learning. On January 21, 2021, newly elected President Biden issued an executive order to support the safe reopening of schools.  At this time, new messaging from the CDC is urging schools to return in-person.  In Virginia, Governor Northam today put out a new call for all K-12 schools to provide in-person learning options available by March 15, 2021, and provide optional summer instruction. Though the release and beginning administration of new vaccines offer hope of a return to normalcy, by all accounts, it will be summer or fall before strict safety measures start to ease and conditions ameliorate. One has to wonder about the timeliness of these updated CDC guidelines, the incoming new administration, and the state-level response. The path dependency model seems to fit here. As Ruccucci suggests, political forces motivated by social and economic factors use strategies and power plays to shift public policy as it suits their ends. Reading Ruccucci’s book has opened my eyes to consider what’s at play behind the play-the major stakeholders, the tools and strategies, and the sustainability and stability of the drifts and shifts.

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Team Dynamics

Consider your major team members (and yourself) given what you know now about MBTI preferences. How might different preferences affect/have affected the team’s interactions–both positively and negatively? 

In the team scenario I shared, middle school co-teachers, Karen and Martha, came to blows over the issue of students not adhering to the dress code.  Though both teachers agreed on the problem and shared the same goal-students adhering to the dress code-each had a different view on how the issue should be addressed.  The chasm in their views and their responses to each other became irreconcilable and eventually, led to the dysfunction of the entire middle school program.

Karen was passionate in her belief of Montessori pedagogy and held that the problem should be addressed in adherence to Montessori values of cooperation, teamwork and collaborative problem solving. She wanted to let students problem-solve the issue through discussion and peer accountability.  Karen believed students could be motivated through intrinsic motivation

Her approach suggests that she is a Sensing/Feeling (SF) leader who prefers the Cooperation cultural pattern. Karen’s view was personally tied to her core beliefs and she was driven by her passion to align with what she viewed as the Montessori approach. When she perceived that  Martha did not share that view, she attacked her both personally and professionally.

Martha, though not Montessori trained, was an experienced teacher with a worldview aligned to what she knew about Montessori practice.  She, too, supported giving students a voice, but also believed that consistency in establishing and enforcing rules was important.  When students continued to blatantly disregard the dress code after repeated discussion, she believed that extrinsic measures were needed and suggested implementing consequences and accountability systems to correct their behavior. Her approach suggests that she is a Sensing/Thinking(ST) leader who prefers the Consistent cultural pattern.  Further egregious to her sense of order and propriety was the betrayal she felt by Karen who went outside the chain of command and blind sighted her by bringing this issue to the head of school and assistant head of school instead of working it out with her.

What insights does this lens give you in thinking about team development?

In my view, both Karen and Martha brought valuable perspectives to the situation and perhaps, under different circumstances and direction, their personal profiles would have complemented each other more than conflicted with each other. Both had skills that were needed in establishing a thriving secondary program, yet, without administrative direction and oversight, they were unchecked and unbalanced in their views. As Truskie suggests in his article, when one becomes entrenched in their cultural view and overemphasizes a particular pattern, they can become unbalanced (p. 4).  Both Karen and Martha “dug their heels in” with respect to their view and even turned a professional divide into a personal attack. This team of two operated too autonomously.  With no established administrative oversight, they were cut off from other areas of the school and when tensions mounted, there was no buffer or other perspectives to balance the two dynamics. Consequently, I saw the importance of developing a more well-rounded team with administrative access, established norms for communication and collaboration, and a shared vision-developing an authentic secondary Montessori program.

What actions could you take/could you have taken to improve team dynamics?

As an Intuition/Judging (NJ), when I took over as the administrative lead of the team my goal was to get this team functioning again and to build an excellent Montessori secondary program. Hindsight is always 20/20 but looking back on this team dynamic now, had  I been a more skilled leader and more knowledgeable about Montessori pedagogy and the school’s culture at the time (remember I had only been on the job for week when this altercation occurred), I think I could have helped each to see the value their perspective offered and looked to apply both to the situation-a student-led approach with established accountability measures. Over the course of the following three years working with the secondary program, I saw that both Martha and Karen tapped into two key pitfalls in the middle school program. We needed teachers trained in Montessori pedagogy directing the program, and the program lacked accountability and communication systems needed to keep the program from running amuck.

As a team, we could have benefitted from a coaching or development plan using an instrument measure such as the MBTI and/or the L4 Strategy Model that would have helped us to understand our leadership styles better and how to recognize the value each offered. Ironically, two weeks before this incident occurred between the two co-leads, the entire school had taken a profile inventory and the results were shared with each faculty member; however, the focus of the inventory was on self-reflection rather than team dynamics.  It was just a fun thing we did. There was no coaching strategy as Truskie suggests which helped teams to consider how their profiles worked together or could be leveraged for effectiveness.  I think had we used the instrument in understanding team dynamics-both potentiality and pitfalls-the team may have responded differently to the conflict. Following a development plan, would have allowed us to address issues without personal attack.  In the end, the personal attacks were so deep, that the team could not go forward.  We had to encourage the departure and replacement of  team members to move the program forward.

When I became the team lead, I sought to bring a more balanced view to the team.  I grew the team from two co-leads, to four team members and myself. Though we did not use a personality metric like Myers-Briggs, I did carefully consider the balance and leadership styles of candidates and involved team members in the interview process when bringing on new team members. Using a distributed model of leadership, we utilized strengths and expertise to take responsibility for different aspects of the program. We set regular team meetings with established norms for discussion.  Through respectful dialogue, recognition of common goals, and grace, we continue to grow as a team. We do not always get it right, but we use feedback to make adjustments when needed, and we give each other room to experiment with new ideas.

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A View from the Balcony

After many years of yearning, contemplation, procrastination and finally determination, I did it. I took the plunge and started my doctoral program.  On the first day, in my first class, I was assigned to a team and given  the following scenario:

You are a team tasked with helping the local urban school system and higher ed institution strengthen and expand their K12/HE partnerships. Your group must recommend how to prioritize the programs by ranking them from 1 (most important, first place to start) to 3 with a rationale for the rankings.

My teammates rather surprised me.  I expected us to be grouped by cohort which would place me in a group with fellow K-12 educators; however, the groups were co-mingled with Higher Ed educators, and the backgrounds of my team members represented various areas of academic interests.  Our team consisted of Member 1-Director at ECPI, Member 2-a recent graduate student, Member 3-a  Communication and Marketing Associate in a Higher Ed, and me, an Assistant Head of School for a PreK-8th grade independent school.

One of the professors moderated our group and broke the ice for us by making introductions, then asking questions and prompting responses. The professor guided the discussion so there was little lag time. If one of us did not respond immediately, she called on a member to speak. Member 1 responded first by saying he would prioritize the principal leadership program because schools cannot exist without leaders. Member 2 suggested that diversity and future leadership should be placed first. I sought clarification about the university residency program since not much background information was given.  As Members 1 & 2 offered their understanding of the program, I noticed that both gave different explanations of what they thought the programs were. We did not receive any further clarification, but after discussing, we came to a mutual agreement on what we thought the program was. After clarifying the scenario, I offered my view that we prioritize the teacher residency program since it satisfied objectives on the K12 side as well as the Higher Ed agenda. The professor then asked the Member 3 if she wanted to weigh in, but she said she was taking in the discussion for the moment and still contemplating.  We continued to discuss the options, and the professor reiterated what she heard us agree upon. We coalesced around the ranking of the teacher program as the first priority, the principalship as the second, and the support for first generation college students as the third.  We did not vote, we simply agreed. Then Member 1 offered to be our spokesman, and no one opposed. We actually all seemed quite relieved.

Member 3 commented less frequently than the rest of the team.  I wondered  if it was because not she did not have direct experience with the elements of the scenario, if she felt uncomfortable with the group, or if she did not have anymore to add to what was already said.  I initially felt uncomfortable with my understanding of the scenario and did not want to comment until I understood it better. The professor was aware of the time constraint and moved the discussion along ensuring that everyone participated.  While she did an excellent job, I wonder how the dynamic might have changed if one of the team members had been asked to moderate.

My takeaway was that I realized each of us had a different perspective based upon our educational area of interest, our understanding of the scenario, and our personality. I entered the discussion with assumptions about  the backgrounds of my teammates. At first, I was unconvinced this discussion would be relevant to a K12 setting, and all would be able to come to a shared view.  However, over the course of the exchange, I came to value the varying lenses we each used and could see why initially each of us prioritized the rankings the way we did.  As we talked further and developed a shared understanding of the information and the task given us, we came to agreement, though for some,  it meant letting go of an individual priority in favor of a shared priority. Once I stood back from my own expectations, I was able to let go and appreciate the wider view.

Spreckels Theater, San Diego – Historic …historictheatrephotos.com

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