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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


Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids

In this article from The Atlantic, which was widely shared on Twitter this week, Adam Grant and Allison Sweet Grant write that we should encourage children to do their best, and there is significant evidence that suggests that children who help others end up achieving more than those who don't. The authors lament that while parents praise kindness, they are often sending messages that personal achievement is more important. They offer several ways to show that caring is a core value, such as sharing our own experiences with helping and offering kids the choice to be kind.

A Massive New Study of 11,258 High Achievers Says This Single Trait Separates Very Successful People From Those Who Only Dream

Characteristics beyond intelligence can factor into someone's ability to succeed, according to a new study led by professors Amy Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and Michael Matthews of West Point. The 10-year study of 11,000 cadets at West Point tried to determine the degree to which measures of three attributes -- cognitive ability, physical ability and grit -- could predict whether a cadet would succeed or fail at the famously challenging academy. The findings strengthen early theories about grit and also point to other attributes that are key to long-term achievement.


#2: Co-Curriculum & Learning Environments


Is Childhood Trauma Being Misdiagnosed as ADHD?

The symptoms of ADHD and childhood trauma are very similar, writes Leah Campbell in this School Leaders Now article. In the article, Dr. Karin Cleary, a psychologist, identifies some signs of childhood trauma, including:

  • Startle and scare easily
  • Intrusive thoughts causing distraction
  • Trouble sleeping at night, which may lead to trouble maintaining attention in class
  • Seeming emotionally flat, less likely to appear either angry or happy
  • A desire to control every situation, which could look like overachieving
Trouble remembering things they have previously learned or understood
Dr. Cleary offers suggestions for educators who suspect a student may be suffering from the results of trauma and stresses that educators must be aware of just how prevalent childhood trauma is and work to create 'trauma-informed classrooms.'


#3: Academic Program


The Power of Productive Struggle

In this blog post, Katie Martin, VP of Professional Learning at AltSchool, looks at a study that reinforces the idea that North American educators are over-scaffolding learning for students. Martin suggests some questions that educators who are striving to design compelling learning experiences that meet the needs of all students should ask.

Math Looks The Same In The Brains Of Boys And Girls, Study Finds

This Mind Shift looks at a study that shows girls start out with the same math abilities as boys, challenging the idea that more boys than girls end up in STEM fields because they are inherently better at the thinking those fields require. There is evidence of sex differences in some exceptional older students; however, fields like mathematics and computer science are likely dominated by men due to the societal messages girls and young women get, and the difficulty of entering a field that includes very few women.

Italy's Students Will Get a Lesson in Climate Change. Many Lessons, in Fact.

This New York Times article is about Italy's new initiative that will put the country at the forefront of environmental education. Lorenzo Fioramonti, Italy's education minister, believes, "the 21st century citizen must be a sustainable citizen." To that end, starting in September 2020, the country's public schools will require students in every grade to study climate change and sustainability as part of civics education; eventually, the lessons will be integrated throughout a variety of subjects.


#4: School Leadership


Why You Should Skip the Easy Wins and Tackle the Hard Task First

This Kellogg Insight article looks at new research that shows people gravitate toward simpler tasks when struggling with a heavy workload. The researchers recommend that managers encourage employees to tackle difficult tasks by breaking down complex projects into small milestones and educate employees about the importance of tackling hard tasks for professional growth.

Also worth a read: Why Groups Struggle to Solve Problems Together (in Standard 8)


#5: Human Resources


The Benefits of Low-Stakes Teacher Evaluation

This Usable Knowledge article looks at the key findings and implications from a new study, which found that low-stakes peer evaluations resulted in improvements in teacher job performance -- for both the observed teacher and the teacher doing the observation -- as measured by test scores. The study was conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Eric Taylor, University of Bristol's Simon Burgess, and Shenila Rawal of the Oxford Partnership for Educational Research.


#6: School & Community


Institutional Branding Demands C-Suite Ownership

This article about institutional branding is from Inside Higher Ed, but several of its key points apply to independent schools as well. The author, Eric Sickler, who works in market research and branding, stresses that school leaders should be extraordinarily purposeful to align their strategic thinking and tactical execution around the institutional brand foundation and offers several suggestions for doing so, a few of which are:
  • Rewrite all standard or regularly used student life information sheets, brochures, booklets, handbooks and high-visibility communication tools to reflect the ideas and language of your brand foundation.
  • Integrate an introduction to your brand foundation into new student and new employee orientation activities.
  • Ensure that all student leaders are briefed and fully aware of the school's commitment to living your brand foundation; challenge student leaders to let your school's promise, pillars, character and centring idea inspire organizational programming.
  • Integrate dimensions and expressions of your brand foundation into residential life programming in dormitories, student lounge areas, public gathering spaces, restrooms, parking areas, etc.
  • Collaborate with dining services and external partner vendors/suppliers on ways to integrate the expression of your brand foundation into annual planning.


#7: Enrolment Management


What Do We Do When Inquiries Are Down?

Mia Major, Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, begins this blog post by acknowledging that even the best marketing can't increase the applicant pool. That said, when schools aren't reaching their inquiry goals, it is usually for one of two reasons. The first is that they aren't getting enough website traffic, in which case Major recommends investing in paid ads and social media ads, earning positive reviews and redesigning the website. The second reason is that schools aren't starting enough conversations, which is likely because families are finding it too difficult to take the next step. To simplify the process for them, Major recommends shortening the inquiry form and making sure it is responsive, optimizing landing pages and offering something of value first.


#8: Governance


Strategic Planning Sucks the Life Out of Nonprofits

In this article, which appears in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofit expert Joan Garry stresses the importance of creating an exciting, robust process that everyone owns. Garry looks at some of the reasons why planning processes and strategic planning are often flawed and offers suggestions for rethinking strategic planning in a collaborative framework:
  • Introduce Board Members to their roles in a way that will excite them and enrich their lives.
  • Engage board and staff members in an authentic way
  • Ask questions that expand the thinking of board and staff members
  • Recognize that "KPI" is a four-letter word.

Why Groups Struggle to Solve Problems Together

In this Harvard Business Review article, meeting expert Al Pittampalli writes that while "intuitive problem solving" works well for individuals, it is far less useful for groups. Instead, Pittampalli recommends that groups use a methodical approach: for each issue that needs to be discussed, members deliberately choose just one problem-solving stage to complete. He also provides a template for conducting a methodical meeting, which pairs each agenda item with a problem solving stage and a measurable outcome and suggests questions for identifying the problem-solving stage to choose.


#9: Finance


Three tools to communicate financial aid decisions more clearly may help mitigate families' confusion and bargaining.

Writing for Net Assets, Vincent Quirk, the Controller at Shady Hill School in Massachusetts, explains the tools and processes the school uses to manage enrolment and retention while working within its budget parameters. The more comfortable a family feels about costs, the more likely they are to be fully engaged in the admission process.


#10: Physical Plant, Health & Safety


Keep Wi-Fi 6 in Mind When Planning Network Upgrades

In this EdTech article, Joel Snyder, a senior IT consultant with 30 years of practice, writes that the new Wi-Fi 6 standard makes sense for high-density areas of K-12 campuses. Schools looking to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 should do so gradually, making sure that anything added to networks now can support Wi-Fi 6, and then looking at how to accommodate faster AP-to-network speeds in the next upgrade cycle.


#11: Commitment to School Improvement


How to bust educational neuromyths? Emphasise what works

Jessica Massonnié is a research fellow at the Institute of Education at University College London. In this BOLD post, she writes about a recent survey that asked teachers' opinions of both disproven educational assertions (neuromyths) and evidence-based learning strategies.
The survey shows that neuromyths, such as the idea that people are either right-brained or left-brained or that teaching is more efficient if pedagogical material is tailored to students' "learning styles" are still prevalent. Massonnié writes that the best way to combat neuromyths is through better explanations and broader dissemination of evidence-based learning strategies.


#12: Boarding Program


International students talk about stereotypes

The International Club of Ithaca College recently hosted a panel "Breaking Stereotypes About International Students," to bring awareness to some of the struggles international students -- there are 130 international students enrolled at the college, which is less than 1% of the student body -- deal with at the school. Students on the panel said that they often have to field misconceptions and answer stereotypical questions about their countries. As well, international students often get comments about how well they speak English, even though they have been speaking English from young ages.





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