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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.

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

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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


The education conversation we should be having

This Washington Post article by Alfie Kohn is about public education in the United States; however, it is an interesting read. Kohn is a believer in progressive education, and his most recent book Schooling Beyond Measure and Other Unorthodox Essays About Education challenges conventional wisdom about education in the United States. He begins by looking at the standard narrative about education, opining that "every single phrase in the paragraph is misguided" and details several suggestions for what should be said instead.


#2: Co-Curriculum & Learning Environments


Atypical Oakman school day yields positive results

During a recent service day, students at Oakman High School had the opportunity to learn about different activities that their teachers enjoy, such as cake decorating and gardening. As well some teachers taught life skills that are not a part of daily lessons, such a how to create a budget and how to apply for a job. In the afternoon, the students spent time with their teachers deep cleaning their school. There was also a blood drive at the school on the same day.

How One Makerspace is Meeting Students' Social-Emotional Needs

This Cult of Pedagogy blog post is about The Success and Innovation Center (SIC) at Mt. Blue High School, which Director Dan Ryder describes as "a problem-solving studio, a stigma-free space where students can go at any time during the school day to work on problems they're having inside or outside the classroom." The SIC is open to students on a flexible, as-needed basis and has vastly improved students' engagement in design-thinking projects. Ryder offers suggestions for educators who want to establish something like the SIC in their own schools.


#3: Academic Program


New, Strong Evidence For Problem-Based Learning

Writing for Forbes, Michael T. Nietzel, president emeritus of Missouri State University, looks at two new large-scale reports that provide empirical evidence that problem-based inquiry instructional methods work and are preferred by those who use them. The researchers found that students who received problem-based instruction improved in math and science relative to standard-instruction students; boys, in particular, benefitted.

Framing a Classroom Around the Future of Work

In this Getting Smart article, Jamie Back, an Upper School STEAM Teacher & Makerspace Coordinator at Cincinnati Country Day School, writes about his decision to frame his entire school year around "the future of work". Back explains the steps he took to get started and elaborates on the strategies he is using to educate and prepare students for the future workplace.


#4: School Leadership


6 Ways to Lead Differently and Boost Creativity to Get Out of a Slump

Acknowledging that "The grind of leadership can wear on you over time," the author of this Inc. article offers six things to try for a week to shake things up, a few of which are: instead of technology bring a note pad and pen to meetings, conduct your meetings standing up, bring someone along to meetings who is more junior than you and shadow a role you're unfamiliar with.

Why the Best CEOs Are Already Thinking About Their Exits

In this Harvard Business Review article, Stanislav Shekshnia draws on his 25 years of advising boards and CEOs on leadership succession and a 6-year research project covering 15 countries to provide four basic guidelines for leadership succession: start early, get help from the board in profiling for the job and identifying and evaluating candidates, have a retirement plan and, when the time comes, make a clean break.


#5: Human Resources


You Can't Have a Coaching Culture Without a Structure

In this Educational Leadership article, education consultant Elena Aguilar recommends that school leaders pay attention to these 10 key elements to design stronger coaching programs, which she elaborates on in the article:

  1. Articulate a Definition and Vision
  2. Consider the Context
  3. Choose a Coaching Model
  4. Set Program Goals
  5. Hire the Right Coaches
  6. Build the Coaching Relationship
  7. Understand How Coaching Works
  8. Protect Confidential Communication
  9. Evaluate Your Efforts
  10. Establish Professional Development for Coaches


#6: School & Community


Are your schools using these 4 sure-fire strategies to build community trust?

This TrustED blog post looks at a new report that suggests that the customer experience: "the feeling that students, parents, teachers, and others get when they interact with your school" may be even more important than quality teaching and learning. The article elaborates on these four key markers for sustained success.
  1. Tie customer service to your strategic plan
  2. Zero in on response times
  3. Create a dashboard to measure your effectiveness
  4. Provide training & PD

The Myth of a "Silent Phase" in Capital Campaigns

In this NonProfit Pro article, nonprofit Executive Director Chris Budnick writes about the "silent phase" of a capital campaign: the time before the official announcement of a campaign when typically the majority of funds are raised, but marketing communications are quiet. Budnick opines that the "silent phase" is, in fact, critical for intentional, public communications that impact giving in powerful ways. He shares campaign communications tactics that worked during his organization's latest capital campaign and offers advice for leaders who have never managed a capital campaign.


#7: Enrolment Management


Video Marketing: Education Marketing Videos I Like

In this blog post, school marketer Bart Caylor shares some of the video marketing that he likes from various independent schools, colleges, and universities. Some key points from the post:

  • Even small schools can use video marketing.
  • Funny, light-hearted videos boost brand awareness.
  • Niche schools shine with video marketing.
  • Light-hearted video content brings prospective students into the top of your enrollment funnel.


#8: Governance


Five Questions Nonprofit Boards Should Ask At Every Meeting

In this Forbes article, Patrick Jinks, a certified leadership and strategy coach, writes about the benefits of keeping your strategic plan front and centre at each Board meeting. To do so, Jinks recommends having the Board ask five questions at every meeting; each question should begin, "with regard to our strategic plan" followed by:

  1. Where are we?
  2. What is next?
  3. What has changed?
  4. What is new?
  5. What else?
He also suggests an overarching question: "Where does the organization need air cover from the board?" -- founded on the notion that strategy is originally a military term.


#9: Finance


A New Model for a New Reality

Last year, St. John's College announced a tuition reduction from $52,000 to $35,000. The school turned to donors to replace the lost revenue and donations increased, as did applications. Inside Higher Ed asks if this new financial model might be the answer for making college more affordable.

University of Chicago projected to be the first U.S. university to cost $100,000 a year

University of Chicago is projected to be the first U.S. university to cost $100,000 a year. Much of college tuition inflation has been driven by an enrolment strategy that relies heavily on tuition discounting. This Hechinger Report article questions the effectiveness of tuition discounting.


#10: Physical Plant, Health & Safety


School Safety: Building and Maintaining a Threat-Resistant Culture

To create a threat-resistant culture in your school and protect your community, the authors of this NAIS blog post -- who are emergency services experts -- stress the importance of having a threat assessment team and a mechanism for reporting threats of any kind. The tools must fit the community's culture and everyone on campus should know how to use them. Once school leaders are made aware of a threat their response should seek to answer these three questions, which the article elaborates on:
  1. How do we find out more?
  2. How do we respond?
  3. How do we plan to smooth a student's return to normalcy?


#11: Commitment to School Improvement


Responding Calmly to Upset Parents

In this Edutopia article, Jessica Cabeen, a Middle School Principal, offers five tips for responding to "ouch moments" such as emails or phone messages from upset parents. She writes that ouch moments have the potential to be positive turning points in relationships with a family, staff member, or student.

Also worth a read: The Power of Positive Communication
Setting a goal of positive contact with every student's family helped a middle school teacher deepen relationships and boost her own morale.


#12: Boarding Program


UK independent school launches in Japan

UK independent school Rugby School has announced it will open a sister school in Japan in 2022, following the success of its first overseas school in Thailand. It will be the first British independent school to open a sister school in the country; however, there are several international schools operating in the country.






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