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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


Alive With Possibility: 20 Tips for Creating Responsive Schools

From his visits to over 100 schools last year, Tom Vander Ark, co-founder of Getting Smart, compiled 20 ways that responsive schools are helping students prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, such as AI and the climate crisis. Some of the ways include the importance of having a shared vision, being guided by the learning sciences, enabling youth contribution, building structures that support deep work and distributing leadership.


#2: Co-Curriculum & Learning Environments


Why It's Imperative We All Learn To Be 'Emotion Scientists'

This Mind Shift article is an excerpt from the book Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive by Marc Brackett, Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Brackett believes that we need to remake education so that it includes emotion skills and in the article, he shares the talents that the researchers at the Yale Center believe are necessary to become an "emotion scientist":
  • recognize our own emotions and those of others
  • understand those feelings and determine their source
  • label emotions with a nuanced vocabulary
  • express our feelings in a way that tries to inform and invites empathy from the listener
  • regulate emotions, rather than letting them control us

Also worth a read: As Teen Stress Increases, Teachers Look for Answers


#3: Academic Program


Talk Less So Students Learn More

Shannon McGrath, a K-8 Instructional Coach, believes the ideal classroom culture is one in which students own the learning, and teachers provide the tools and time to encourage cognitive struggle. Writing for Edutopia, McGrath offers several suggestions and strategies for building such a culture, including reducing teacher talk, asking questions instead of giving explanations, observing students, and providing non-teacher scaffolds to engage students in their learning.

5 Ways to Combat Classroom Isolation

To connect his classroom to the outside world and help his students develop a global perspective, teacher Michael Dunlea sought out ways to partner with members of the community locally and from afar. In this Ed Surge article, Dunlea offers five free and easy ways to improve students' global awareness:

  1. Connect With Scientists
  2. Give Classroom Learning Real-World Relevance
  3. Sign Up for Virtual Classroom Partners and Pen Pals
  4. Participate in National and International Events
  5. Build Cross-Grade Partnerships


#4: School Leadership


What We've Learned: Administrators share advice for engaging families

Recognizing that parental involvement is an essential factor in student success, Education Dive asked several education leaders how they encourage parental involvement. A few of the answers include:

  • Make sure there are ways for parents to feel part of the student programs and communities. For example, if you sell student swag, sell parent swag to go along with it.
  • For authentic parent engagement, be open to and available to listen to parents, not just speak to them.
  • Take the opportunity to connect with families through small gestures like going into the parking lot to say 'hello' or sending a positive note about a student to their parent.
  • To foster trust and engagement, convey an understanding of each student as an individual.

How to Be a Career-Changing Mentor - 25 Tips From The Best Mentors We Know

First Round reached out to the most active and successful mentors in its Fast Track 90-day mentorship program, which has had close to 2,000 participants to date, to find out what good mentors do differently. The article includes 25 principles of meaningful mentorship that First Round gleaned from asking three questions.


#5: Human Resources


What science can tell us about Building Great Teams

This Kellogg Insights article looks at plenty of research that disproves the commonly held belief that great teams are made by assembling a group of highly talented people. The article offers several key takeaways for anyone who leads a team:
  • Teams are more important than they used to be because there's so much more to know in a given field.
  • Teams have their own level of intelligence, which is separate from the combined intelligence of their team members.
  • Sometimes building a group with lots of really talented people actually hurts a team's performance.
  • Diversity is often an asset for teams, but can also lead to common pitfalls. So be thoughtful and deliberate in how you lead diverse teams.
  • Don't always opt for a generalist, sometimes you need a specialist.
  • Team members' history together, especially if its been successful, can help a lot.
  • How big of a team should you convene? It depends on what your ultimate goal is.

New LinkedIn Study Finds Employees Who Switch Roles Internally Are More Likely to Stay With Their Employers Long-Term

In this Inc. article Adam Robinson, Co-founder and CEO of Hireology, looks at a LinkedIn study, which shows that employees who switch roles at their companies are more likely to stay on board for the long run -- even if the move is a lateral one. With that in mind, to improve employee retention, Robinson recommends that companies build defined, attainable career paths and encourage employees to try different roles.


#6: School & Community


5 Ways to Improve Your Impact Report

Sharing your school's goals and impact with current and potential donors is an excellent way to build trust and attract support; however, most nonprofits overestimate how much donors know about them. In this NonProfit PRO article, Kayla Matthews elaborates on these five ways to improve your impact report:
  1. Define Outcome vs. Output
  2. Communicate Long-Term Incremental Impact
  3. Suggest Gift Amounts
  4. Express Gratitude
  5. Make the Donor the Agent of Change
Matthews also notes that the majority of organizations are switching from printed impact reports to digital formats, such as videos, images, social media posts, and websites.

The Changing Relationship Between College Presidents and Their Brands

In this Inside Higher Ed article, branding and marketing expert Bill Faust writes about some of the new ways that higher education leaders are working to proactively strengthen their school's brand: advancing their institution's story, appearing in advertising and other publicity efforts, engaging with prospective students during the recruiting process, and promoting their expertise in a specific area that ties authentically to the school's brand.


#7: Enrolment Management


3 Alarmingly Expensive CRM Mistakes to Avoid

Bart Caylor believes that every enrolment office needs a high quality enrolment CRM software; however, he cautions that schools must avoid these three alarmingly expensive mistakes when investing in CRM:

  1. Rather than buying the most expensive CRM, Caylor advises schools to take the time to look through the features and get a demo and read reviews by other independent schools.
  2. Ensure that your CRM database is correctly set up (Caylor provides key questions that should be answered before use).
  3. Purchase proper training for your CRM; without it, you are wasting your money.


#8: Governance


Giving Guide: How charitable boards can foster a fundraising culture

This article in the Ottawa Business Journal highlights the importance of recruiting fundraising expertise to nonprofit Boards and finding ways to involve every Board member in fundraising. Some key takeaways:
  • Use a compentency-based matrix that includes fundraising expertise to recruit new Board members.
  • Discuss fundraising expectations during the recruitment process.
  • Pursue additional fundraising training for all Board members.
  • Recognize there are many ways for Board members to be involved with fundraising and that all Board members can assist with fundraising initiatives such as calling or writing to thank donors.
  • Develop a clear strategy to engage fundraising expertise from a volunteer standpoint.
  • Motivate Board members to fundraise by examining how it factors into the organization's mission and strategy.


#9: Finance


Local private school creates fair share tuition program

Since introducing the "Fair Share Tuition" model in September, enrolment has gone up by 10 percent at Berkshire Country Day School in Massachusetts. The school restructured its tuition approach to meet its goal of combining quality education with affordability. Jenifer Fox, Head of School, says the school is "interested in people who realize that there is a value that if they are paying a little bit more because they can afford more, that the world is going to be a better place when more people come to the table." She does not expect the restructuring to have a negative impact on the financial stability of the school. Stressing the importance of having a strong environmental, social, and governance (ESG) proposition, the authors of this McKinsey article provide a framework for understanding the five key ways that ESG links to cash flow and creates value: facilitating top-line growth, reducing costs, minimizing regulatory and legal interventions, increasing employee productivity, and optimizing investment and capital expenditures.


#10: Physical Plant, Health & Safety


Preserving Your School's Facilities: The Impact of Deferred Maintenance

This ISM article cautions that deferred maintenance can slowly and silently destroy facilities and recommends having a depreciation line in your school's budget to reflect this. The long term consequences can lead to hazardous conditions, unusable spaces, unattractive facilites that can lead to missed enrolment opportunities and increasing inefficiencies. To get a handle on deferred maintenance, ISM recommends having cash reserves equal to 20% of the operating budget, which includes a 5% allocation for Physical Plant Replacement, Repairs, and Special Maintenance.


#11: Commitment to School Improvement


The 8 Steps Institutions Need to Take to Improve Student Success

Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Steven Mintz, Senior Advisor to the President of Hunter College, identifies eight pillars of student success, many of which also apply to independent schools. Mintz stresses the importance of enhanced onboarding with a dedicated advisor, engaging high impact experiences in their first year, data-informed proactive advising and access to experiential learning activities.


#12: Boarding Program


Managing student recruitment agents from on-boarding to creating sustainable recruitment partnerships

At the Class of 2020 student housing think tank, recently held in Berlin, more than 800 delegates debated solutions to shortages of housing for students and international talent. One of the ideas to address the housing crises is 'blended living', a hybrid model that blends student and other accommodation and offers a rapidly expanding investment opportunity and urban living solution.




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