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Register for the CAIS National Leaders Conference

Register today to join us virtually on April 12-16 for the 2021 National Leaders Conference: Positive Transformation: Reframing our Relevance.

This year we are offering two distinct conference experiences - one for Academic leaders and one for Operations leaders - all for one school fee with unlimited attendees! Find out more here.

COVID-19 Resources & School Samples

CAIS members can view up to date COVID-19 resources and school samples here.

CAIS Top 12 - Archived

#1: Vision, Mission, Values & Strategy


Writing for The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan takes a highly critical look at elite private schools in the United States (The Dalton School, Harvard-Westlake, Sidwell Friends and Choate Rosemary Hall are mentioned). A former private school teacher and parent herself, Flanagan opines that elite schools breed entitlement, entrench inequality—and then pretend to be engines of equity and even "inclusivity." Flanagan writes, "A $50,000-a-year school can't be anything but a very expensive consumer product for the rich." Schools must clearly communicate their mission, vision and values and use them to guide their decision-making.


#2: Co-Curriculum & Learning Environments


How to Give Students More Agency in Selecting Their Counselors

Writing for MindShift, Alex Venet looks at the Adopt-a-Counselor model at U-32 Middle and High School in Montpelier, Vermont, which fosters student agency and leadership by having students choose their own counsellor. Venet details the selection process, and stresses that students have the option to switch to a different counsellor if they choose: "If students decide that a different counsellor pairing would better meet their needs, they're allowed to 'fire' their counsellor through an informal process that includes an honest conversation about their reasons." The article includes advice for schools who are thinking of trying a similar model.


#3: Academic Program


How to Set Up Mastery-Based Grading in Your Classroom

In this Cult of Pedagogy blog post, Kareem Farah writes that "with the growing diversity of academic and social-emotional needs as a consequence of the COVID pandemic, a mastery-based approach is not just valuable, it is necessary." This approach prevents lingering skill gaps, builds student confidence and prepares students for the real world. Farah details how to set the conditions needed for mastery-based grading and how to design the systems necessary to make it happen and offers suggestions to deal with pushback and setbacks.


#4: School Leadership


Designing Next Year With Intention

After convening four listening sessions with school leaders earlier this year, Leadership+Design developed a six-step model to plan for next year, which this post elaborates on:
  1. Share stories and design rituals to mark the transitions into the current year.
  2. Identify what you have learned since March 2020 to inform intentional plans next year.
  3. Use a design thinking approach to define the current needs of your community.
  4. Identify concrete "hacks" to use your new knowledge and meet needs next year.
  5. Declutter. This is a healthy moment to re-assess what "comes back" and what goes away.
  6. Make a plan.


#5: Human Resources


What Does Email Have To Do With Burnout?

In this Forbes article, Anne Sugar, an executive coach for Harvard Business School Executive Education, says that one of the most impactful ways to mitigate employee burnout is to be mindful of your email usage. Sugar suggests taking four simple steps:
  1. Don't send emails on the weekend.
  2. Limit the length of your emails. If you need to write a lengthy email, opt for a phone chat instead.
  3. Limit your use of the cc function.
  4. Set up parameters about email usage and help other leaders realize the importance of mitigating email burnout.


#6: School & Community


The Miseducation of America's Elites

This City Journal article is by Bari Weiss, who resigned from the New York Times in July citing "bullying by colleagues" and an "illiberal environment." Weiss interviewed affluent parents, who she calls "dissenters" who are terrified of running afoul of what she calls "the new orthodoxy" in their children's elite private schools. Parents at Harvard-Westlake School told her that the school teaches students capitalism is evil, and their children are afraid to speak up in class. They also expressed concern that the school's plan to become an "anti-racist institution...is making their kids fixate on race and attach importance to it in ways that strike them as grotesque." These parents have taken to organizing in secret, highlighting the need for school leaders to be open to engaging in challenging conversations with their community.


#7: Enrolment Management


Question: Creating Yield Events

A member of the InspirED School Marketers community asked the marketing 'Gurus' to suggest some creative ways to safely provide in-person, on-campus opportunities for families to gain a sense of the campus and facilities. Here is how one school managed an on-campus open house: "They gave each family an iPad preloaded with a QR reader program and invited them to walk around the perimeter of the campus. Signs with QR codes were placed on key areas of the school, and parents could scan the code, then pull up a web page with information about that program/area of the building, along with a video tour of each space. Masked teachers and staff were stationed around the campus to greet the parents and answer questions."


#8: Governance


You Say You Want a More Diverse Board. Here's How to Make It Happen.

The governance experts from PwC who wrote this Harvard Business Review article looked at the firm's research and compiled four of the most commonly cited reasons why boards lack diversity: low turnover, high inertia, limited candidate pools, and inadequate succession planning. They offer tactical strategies to help directors overcome these obstacles, a few of which are:
  • Add a new board seat without waiting for a director to retire or reach their term limit.
  • Develop proactive policies that decrease director tenure, promote routine turnover, and emphasize succession planning.
  • Challenge the assumption that new directors must be retired executives.
  • Proactively formalize and share board succession plans — before they're needed.


#9: Finance


B.C. elementary school goes solar, promising savings and learning opportunity

This CBC article looks at the installation of a $60,000 solar power project on the roof of Torquay Elementary School in Saanich, B.C. The Chair of the Greater Victoria School Board, Jordan Watters, said the project brings the district one step closer to its goal of net-zero energy use and expects reduced electricity bills to cover the cost of the solar panels in the long run. The installation also provides learning opportunities for students, who will monitor the solar panels' electricity production and the school's consumption.


#10: Physical Plant, Health & Safety


Are We Facing a Mental Health Crisis for Boys?

Writing for Edutopia, Laura McKenna says that boys have fewer tools to cope with emotions and stressors than girls do, and they are less likely to get the help they need. McKenna writes, "Boys can benefit from a school culture that destigmatizes mental health issues, creates opportunities to connect with other boys, confronts ingrained masculine stereotypes, and provides support from adults who understand their needs."

Survey finds majority of students struggling with mental health during COVID

This ICEF Monitor article looks at a survey that should more than half (56%) of undergraduate students say that their mental health has suffered as a result of COVID. The article stresses that since international students face additional challenges, "Strengthening mental health services infrastructure for international students will therefore be key for student retention and success and also an important aspect of recruitment as we move to and through the latter stages of the pandemic."


#11: Commitment to School Improvement


Physics camp has proven benefits for high school girls

This Science Daily article looks at two studies. The first showed that engaging high school girls in basic physics concepts at a two-week summer camp before they began formal studies boosted their abilities - they scored 3% better in high school physics than their counterparts - and their confidence. The second study showed that teachers whose coursework touches on engineering showed significant improvement in overall self-efficacy in engineering instruction after taking a 45-hour graduate level course.


#12: Boarding Program


What Could Still Derail Fall 2021

In this Higher Education Strategy Associates blog post, Alex Usher writes about whether or not campuses will open for in-person learning in fall 2021. He says it depends on two things: distance rules and travel/visa processing, which is extremely back-upped at the moment. Usher recommends that educational institutions "demand that various levels of authority start paying attention to these issues and let them know what the deadlines are for providing answers that provide a basis for action".




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