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Register for the 2020 National Leaders Conference

The National Leaders Conference is your opportunity to interact with a range of senior-level leaders in your network. For 2020, the audience will be 200+ Academic Leaders. Learn more here.

Register for the 2020 Spring Leadership Institute

The CAIS Diploma in Independent School Leadership is designed to prepare participants for senior leadership roles in independent schools. Learn more here.

Apply to the CAIS Strategic Change Accelerator

The CAIS Strategic Change Accelerator provides the guidance and support for school teams planning important innovative change. Learn more here.

CAIS Top 12 - Archived

#1: Vision, Mission, Values & Strategy

How Schools Can Use Life Transitions To Help Students Feel They Belong

Students who feel like they belong to part of a community are more likely to succeed academically. This Mind Shift article looks at how South Bronx Community Charter, a high school in New York City, treats the transition to high school with an emphasis on fostering a sense of belonging.

True grit more about passion than personality, study suggests

According to a study involving more than 250 student-athletes at the University of Alberta, grit is the result of passion and focus on performance goals and is not necessarily an overall personality trait. The study also "identified a correlation between high grit scores and healthy levels of 'adaptive perfectionism,' also known as perfectionistic strivings."

#2: Co-Curriculum & Learning Environments

The Teens Are Not Alright

"In many high-achieving schools, parents and teachers often believe everything they are doing is justified as a means to an end. There is almost a superstition that if anything is changed, it could all fall apart. But what's falling apart are the students," writes Cathy Vatterotta, a professor of education, in this Educational Leadership article. To show teens that we value their well-being, Vatterotta suggests these strategies to reduce student stress and give teens back the gift of time:

  • Limit Homework
  • Coordinate the Workload Across Classes
  • Rethink the Schedule
  • Provide Student and Parent Education

Also worth a read: Honoring the Teen Brain: A Conversation with Thomas Armstrong

Student 'geek squads' maintain school devices, help teachers

Many schools are finding that as they roll out 1:1 programs it makes sense to have students help with the upkeep of iPads and laptops. It also helps them to hone practical skills. In Buffalo, student techs perform hardware and software fixes, and they will also help to collect and get the devices ready between school years.

#3: Academic Program

Cobden High School students get hands-on lessons in art, STEM with guitar-building class

This article is about Cobden High School's experience implementing the National Science Foundation STEM Guitar Project. This unique, hands-on project combines many learning opportunities for students: math, engineering, art and business. Since it began in the fall of 2018, demand for the class has exploded.

Vineyard Students Travel the World Without Leaving the Library

As part of a project called Cross Cultural Perceptions versus Reality, high school librarian Kevin McGrath brought a portal to the high school library, which allowed students to speak with young people from around the world including Iraq, Nigeria, Sweden and Afghanistan. McGrath plans to bring the immersive experience back next fall for more in-depth coursework on cross-cultural conversations with an emphasis on the experience of refugees and immigrants.

#4: School Leadership

What Bad Leaders Consistently Get Wrong About Discipline

John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. In this post he details three steps to follow if you want to be a more disciplined leader: focus on your relationships, set clear standards and gain buy-in, and create a culture of accountability.

To promote success in schools, focus on teacher well-being

In this Brookings article, Amy Roberts and Helyn Kim write that it is important to recognize that there are multiple factors that contribute to teacher wellbeing, and they offer research, practice and policy recommendations to create more comprehensive approaches for supporting teacher well-being.

Also worth a read: Even More Ways for Ed Leaders to Make Teachers Feel as Important as They Are

#5: Human Resources

"You Are the Steward of the Culture, and Culture Really Drives Everything."

This LinkedIn post is an interview with Mike D'Ambrose, Chief Human Resources Officer of Archer Daniels Midland Company. D'Ambrose stresses that the head of HR is the steward of the culture, which drives everything in a company and the importance of being willing to have the courageous conversations to drive change. He also stresses the importance of understanding history: "that's another piece that new people sometimes miss in their zeal to make a mark and have a quick win. They might make mistakes because they didn't understand how the organization got to where it is." D'Ambrose also provides suggestions for Board Members on how to get a feel of the culture of their company.

Also worth a read: Boost School Culture With a "Sunshine Club"

#6: School & Community

The Future of School as a Place that Matters

David Willows, Director of Advancement at the International School of Brussels, writes about alumni relations in this blog post, "in order to truly understand our experiences, we need to consider the complex web of influences that mean that some places literally carry more weight and significance than others in the story of our lives." It is not one thing, Willows stresses but rather "each moment, a reference point and marker that forms a complex human memory and determines that this school, this place, will always be a true homecoming."

Also worth a read: Historic Week for Lakefield College School, which like the article above, highlights the importance of creating schools that are places that matter to students for a long time.

#7: Enrolment Management

How to Tell Your School's Stories

This School Webmasters post offers plenty of advice to help your school share its successes through storytelling. Some key tips:

  • Recruit teachers who teach literature and writing to the cause of becoming a storytelling school.
  • Consider using students as authors.
  • Narrative nonfiction is the most engaging story type for school websites, social media, school success stories, and school marketing stories or videos
  • The structural breakdown using the narrative arc includes background, conflict/problem, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.
  • Share these types of stories: connection, success, influence and clarity.

Google My Business is a free tool that allows you to promote your Business Profile and website on Google Search and Maps. The author of this blog post recommends claiming, verifying and editing your school's information. Doing so will allow you to connect with families, post updates, and see how customers engage with your school on Google.

#8: Governance

A Menu of Fundraising Options for Your Board

"Every board member has a role to play in fundraising. But keep in mind that each person has different skills, different contacts, different interests. So why ask them all to do the same thing?" writes Ann Goldman in this blog post. Goldman includes a link to an example of a Board fundraising menu.

#9: Finance

Reducing Operating Costs-Without Causing Panic

Since employee benefits are expensive, Business Managers may consider cutting the benefits that employees don't use as much. This ISM article recommends that schools start by asking their broker if "there are ways to reconfigure your benefits programs to save the school money with relatively minor or indirect impact on employees." The article also provides suggestions for schools that wish to proceed with a survey to understand the benefits that employees value most.

Study: Going solar brings financial, air-quality benefits for schools

This Education Dive article looks at a recent study which shows that solar panels on school rooftops can result in significant energy savings and improve health by reducing pollutants in the air.

#10: Physical Plant, Health & Safety

Johns Hopkins to offer school leaders safety programming

The Center for Safe and Healthy Schools launched by Johns Hopkins' School of Education will offer short courses to principals and other school leaders that bring together experts from across the university to develop evidence-based, holistic approaches to health and wellness, schools and community engagement and school security and technology.

Dan Stephens is founder and president of Invictus Consulting, LLC, which provides security solutions to schools as well as the private sector. Writing for Net Assets, he says that to ensure school safety schools must integrate security policies and procedures into their culture.

#11: Commitment to School Improvement

The promise of 'restorative justice' starts to falter under rigorous research

Recent research shows the difficulty of implementing restorative justice and fails to show clear benefits to the approach. This Hechinger Report article looks at studies in Pittsburgh and Maine. Teachers surveyed at the Pittsburgh schools that tried restorative justice said that their school climate did improve; however, students reported that teachers struggled more to manage classroom behavior and the academic performance of middle schoolers actually worsened.

#12: Boarding Program

'Flexi-boarding' on the rise as pupils stay overnight at school following after hours extra-curricular activities

Nick Wergan, Chair of the Boarding Schools Association (BSA), which represents the UK's leading boarding schools says that "flexi-boarding": staying overnight from time to time is on the rise. In 2016, 15.7 percent of boarders were weekly or flexi-boarders, which has now risen to 17.9 percent.

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