Expect The Best


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

The Four Pillars of High School Success

In this blog post, teacher Dave Stuart Jr. writes that "ninth grade performance is especially predictive of graduation outcomes" and shares how the ninth grade transition team at his school focusses its work. The team first developed four pillars: academic success, social success, plan for the future, and enjoy the process. Each Wednesday afternoon the team meets for 45 minutes to discuss one of the four pillars, and he outlines what each of the meetings look like in the post.

The 4 essential elements of an exceptional K-12 customer experience

In this trustED article, Todd Kominiak writes that schools striving to create an excellent customer experience should focus on four elements:

  1. Accessible two-way communication
  2. Resources, with a focus on timeliness and technology
  3. Authentic engagement that is "positive, direct, and continuous"
  4. A safe, secure, and inclusive learning environment.

#2: Co-Curriculum & Learning Environments

Repairing Harm: A Better Alternative to Punishment

In this Cult of Pedagogy blog post, Jennifer Gonzalez recommends that educators use a restorative practice called repairing harm rather than dishing out traditional punishments, which neither work nor fix the damage that has been done. Gonzalez spoke with Brad Weinstein and Nathan Maynard, authors of the book Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy & Responsibility Using Restorative Justice, who shared their steps for repairing harm: identify the harm and the stakeholders; consider how the behaviour affected others; and, create and carry out a plan to repair the harm. The post also answers questions about the process, such as "shouldn't people suffer at least a little bit after doing something wrong?"

Also worth a read:

#3: Academic Program

7 Approaches to Alternative Assessments

Denise Pope is a senior lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, an author, and the Co-founder of the nonprofit Challenge Success. In this ASCD article, Pope writes about the problems with traditional assessment and details some of the assessment practices that Challenge Success has helped schools implement to more effectively support students:
  1. Use multiple forms of assessment that align with learning goals in each unit.
  2. Consider eliminating midterms and/or final exams.
  3. Allow students to self-assess and engage in peer review and revision when possible.
  4. Revise late work and "zero" policies.
  5. Allow students to do test corrections to show they understand their mistakes.
  6. Refrain from grading the first assignment(s) each semester.
  7. Diversify teaching strategies to include rigorous project/problem-based learning as part of each unit.

How to Improve Checks for Understanding

In this blog post, Eric Sheninger, who is a Principal, writes that effective instructional design must recognize the importance of checking for understanding. Questions are the best way to determine whether students genuinely understand the concept being addressed, and the post includes some easy to implement strategies to ensure all kids have the opportunity to respond to verbal questions.

#4: School Leadership

Why 26 college presidents toured Zappos-and what they took away

This EAB article -- which is written for higher education leaders but applies to independent schools -- acknowledges that it is not always appropriate to treat students as customers but stresses that there are lessons about student and employee engagement that school leadership teams can learn from the private sector, including:
  1. Give front-line staff the tools to "WOW" every person they serve
  2. Empower employees to improve themselves and the organization
  3. Employee engagement doesn't need to be complicated or expensive
  4. Partner with the private sector on community revitalization

#5: Human Resources

Why Employees Need Both Recognition and Appreciation

Writing for Harvard Business Review, consultant Mike Robbins explains the differences between recognition and appreciation: "in simple terms, recognition is about what people do; appreciation is about who they are." Robbins explains that since both are necessary to create a culture of engagement, loyalty and high performance, leaders who focus solely on positive outcomes are missing opportunities to build trust and connect with their team. He offers a few simple ways to show appreciation: genuinely listen, tell people what you value about them, and check in to ask how they're doing and what their current challenges are.

#6: School & Community

Traces and Echoes: Understanding School Backwards

In this blog post, David Willows, Director of Advancement at the International School of Brussels, challenges the idea -- which he says is shared even by progressive educators -- that the real 'value' of education is the future it can unlock. Instead, Willows ponders the idea that the real value could be in the memories and recollections that remain for the rest of one's life? Willows concludes by saying that the next time he tries to capture the story of his school, he will attempt to write it backwards and focus on "those traces of light that will guide and provide beacons of hope for the remainder of a life."

#7: Enrolment Management

6 Unique School Website Design Examples To Inspire Your Next Redesign

This Finalsite blog post features six school websites that have taken a unique approach to homepage design. To ensure a great user experience, the websites all use a mobile-first approach and also have several other things in common, including simple navigation with less than eight options, call-to-action on key pages, and minimal text.

#8: Governance

The Key Elements of a Sustainability Orientation

Moving from Oversight to Foresight: Essential Work for the Board byDonna Orem, NAIS President, stresses that Boards must be future-oriented -- which requires moving from an oversight orientation to a sustainability orientation -- when setting strategy. She recommends starting with examining the Board structure and gives the example of an independent school Board that merged three committees -- finance, investment, and buildings and grounds -- to form a more generative one, the Assets Committee. The article includes many questions that Boards that are considering a pivot from an oversight orientation to a sustainability orientation should ask.

Concordia University says it will divest entirely from coal, oil and gas by 2025

Concordia University will stop investing its assets in the coal, oil and gas sector within five years and has also committed to putting its entire endowment into sustainable investments -- those that conform to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment -- by 2025. Other Canadian universities have announced similar divestment commitments, but Concordia is the first university in Quebec to have committed to a 100% sustainable endowment portfolio within a specific timeline.

#9: Finance

Building Blocks for a Stronger Financial Future

In this Net Assets article, John Lynch, Education Industry Manager and Senior Vice President at SunTrust Bank, writes, "the top schools in each market tend to have one thing in common - a well-thought-out strategic plan that emphasizes tactical elements that execute the school's mission." Lynch details the following actions for school leaders to take, with the business officer playing a key role, to develop their school's strategic and financial sustainability plan:

  • Articulate Value Proposition
  • Focus on the Future
  • Perfect the Proforma
  • Strengthen the Balance Sheet

The College Campuses That Moonlight as Wedding Venues

This article in The Atlantic looks at some colleges that rent out their facilities for weddings. While doing so doesn't bring in a lot of extra revenue, the marginal revenues do add up, and other benefits include free PR, exposing new people to the campus, strengthening alumni's affinity to the school, and reminding students how beautiful their school is.

#10: Physical Plant, Health & Safety

To have students learn face-to-face communication skills and foster kindness, Principal Janet Behrens started 'no phone, new friends Fridays' at Iowa Valley Junior-Senior High School this year. When students enter the cafeteria, they receive a coloured card that tells them which table to sit at, and the tables also have conversation starters on them. The student response has been positive; the school is a kinder place since students have the opportunity to get to know each other at lunch.

#11: Commitment to School Improvement

Nobody has the answer. But everybody does

Jim Dillon, who has been an educator for over 40 years, including 20 years as a school administrator, believes that school's looking to make improvements should first think about and discuss questions with faculty and staff rather than seeking outside "expert" advice. Dillon cautions that schools should resist the temptation to jump to quick fixes, solutions, or answers, and he recommends starting with the following questions:
  1. What type of school do we want to be?
  2. What are the values and beliefs that would support that school?
  3. How specifically are those values and beliefs manifested in our interactions with students, parents and with each other?
  4. What are we currently doing that we should keep doing in order to be that school?
  5. What are we currently doing that we should question and reconsider because it conflicts with our values and beliefs?
  6. What would be the school story of a student who is currently successful in our school?
  7. What would be the school story of a student who is currently struggling in our school?
  8. Who are the students who are struggling?
  9. What can we say and do differently to turn those students around and change their story?

#12: Boarding Program

New program aims to increase international student enrolment at Lakehead University

According to this CBC article, Lakehead University hopes that 20 percent of its student body will consist of international students by 2023. To this end, the school has launched The Global Ambassador program in which student ambassadors volunteer to share their stories to help recruit students from their home countries. The student ambassadors will receive training in communication and presentation skills, and then they'll have the opportunity to be featured in social media campaigns and promotional videos.

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