Community Support

As problem solvers, The School Solutions Group often seeks input from a district’s stakeholders, but if you are seeking support and not input.creating academic momentum Be transparent about  your intentions. As I said in Creating Academic Momentum:

There is a difference between a community outreach that seeks input and one that seeks support. Demonstrate to the community that your values are in sync with theirs, and ask for their support. This is not to say that some community members won’t have great ideas that you can use. Just be clear about what you are soliciting so that everyone is clear about expectations.

Creating Academic Momentum


creating academic momentumFrom the foreword to the book by George Couros:

As Mike says in the book: “Education should provide opportunities, not barriers.” For this to happen, we will need to challenge our thinking and continuously ask: “How can we?” Leaders from any position, find a way forward; that’s why they are leaders. See the possibilities and find that way.


A Companion Book


creating academic momentumMuch discussion has occurred after the release of Every Child, Every Day.

  • How do we replicate those results?
  • How do we create a culture in which this is possible?
  • What sort of leadership is necessary to accomplish this?
  • Isn’t this an awful lot of work?
  • This makes sense. How do I begin?

Creating Academic Momentum: Realizing the promise of performance-based education is my response. It is not a step-by-step guide because every local condition is a little different and must be nuanced. What the writing does provide is guidance regarding the platform upon which to build. In the chapter on collaboration:

It is just as hard to admit a mistake as it is to ask for help. Both make us feel vulnerable and inadequate. some of that has to do with the way the help is ultimately offered. An attitude of superiority in providing any help that is requested is detrimental to collaboration. Help should be offered without judgement. No one has all the answers in this ever-changing educational and technical landscape. Eventually everyone has to ask for help.

Just released by Rowman & Littlefield, it is available in paperback, clothbound, and e-book editions wherever good books are sold.


For those of you attending the National School Boards Association annual conference in Boston, Roger Cook will be presenting Learning in a School That Never Closes on Sunday at 1:30 pm in 104A. If you haven’t heard him speak, you are in for a treat!

The book about his district, Every Child, Every Day, is for sale at the NSBA conference bookstore.

Balancing Head Work and Hand Work

In her Synapse post, Alex Ellison (founder of DunceLabs) questions what would happen if more AP students learned a trade. At Taylor County Schools in Campbellsville Kentucky (the subject of the book) every student is required to declare a career by their junior year.

The purpose is the same, although the method is somewhat different.

  • There is a balance to be achieved between academics (head work) and skills (hand work). My wife and I owned and operated an organic farm for ten years. During that time I also worked as a planner for a large public school district. Modulating between the harvest of vegetables and flowers and the calculation of student assignments was not only exhilarating, but also made me better at both.
  • Many students learn through connecting the what to the why. Having a career direction to apply the knowledge, makes knowledge acquisition practical and far more interesting particularly for those with limited attention spans.
  • Creativity is enhanced when there is an opportunity to move between head work and hand work. “Unconscious ideation” is what Koestler called it. Eureka moments don’t often happen at your desk.

The more I read and learn from education literature, the more I am impressed by what is happening under the leadership of Roger Cook and his team in Kentucky. I am profoundly grateful to have been able to describe their work in Every Child, Every Day.

The Six Spoke Wheel of Personalized Learning

Taylor County Schools delivers their program in six different ways depending upon how each student learns best. This is the banner that hangs on the wall of the board room.

My publishers have been great throughout the entire process of taking a manuscript to final product. There has been one glitch and that has to do with the figure on page three that has been difficult to correct. If you have already ordered or received a book with an unusual diagram on page three, just print this slipsheet as an insert into your book. I am sure most of you have figured it out, but just in case this is the corrected diagram for the six spokes. Thanks for understanding.img004

Leadership Finesse

In his post in Synapse Richard Kississieh talks about school leaders leading with a small rudder.

From the coxswain’s seat, a school leader may read the race and the river, set timing and tempo, anticipate turns, and pull on the tiny rudder when needed. School leaders play a vital role in successively shaping many small aspects of a school to consistently support a vision for teaching and learning.

In Every Child, Every Day I describe a superintendent and staff that appear larger than life, but upon reflection I realize that they had the good sense to understand they were steering with a small rudder, not using a blunt instrument. Superintendent Roger Cook said of naysayers in one interview, “If they think we haven’t dealt with everything they have to deal with, they’re out of their minds!”


Sharing what you know

Every student-driven educational organization should be built to collaborate easily. Education is after all your business. Managing the knowledge of the organization is key to building the organization’s capacity. In his article in the Harvard Business Review, Harvard Assistant Professor Christopher Myers discusses the creation of an environment where knowledge can be shared. Seems like a no-brainer for a school.

Grouping for Effectiveness, not Efficiency

The latest issue of Pioneering includes information about the SXSWedu conference in Austin in March. Roger Cook, superintendent of Taylor County Schools, is one of the featured speakers for a panel discussion on abandoning age-based learning. Here is the entry:


Roger Cook (Taylor County Schools) Dr. Marina Walne (EduStart LLC) Stephan Turnipseed (formerly LEGO Education North America)


Our education system is fundamentally stagnant and it is time that it is overhauled. The aged-based education structure worked well for most of the 20th century, but it has now run its course and will leave students ill prepared for the careers of the future. To improve the outlook for students, we must put them first and move towards a mastery system, where students graduate when they demonstrate a deep knowledge of the subject matter. Join this panel discussion to learn how school systems can implement a “learner-centered paradigm” where students complete day to day tasks at their own pace until they have mastered the curriculum, ensuring they are prepared with a Network Age education.

Those of you planning on being at the conference should plan to attend this presentation. With both Stephan Turnipseed and Roger Cook at the table it promises to be a lively and informative session.