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

How Teachers Designed a School Centered On Caring Relationships

The underlying vision of Social Justice Humanitas Academy is to "help students become the best version of themselves." This vision guides every decision: everything about how the school is structured and run is done with the best interests of students in mind.

Can A School Built On Brain Science Alter The Learning Landscape?

Everything from the architecture to classroom activities at Soaring Heights PK-8 school in Erie, Colorado is grounded in neuroscience: teaching kids how the brain works is central to the school's philosophy. According to the article, "the STEM-focused school also uses principles of neuroscience to help students persevere, concentrate, unleash creativity, regulate their emotions and even develop empathy."

#2: Co-Curriculum & Learning Environments

A 4-Step Process for Building Student Resilience

Michele Lew, a high school special education teacher, has developed self-awareness and coping skills activities that help all students identify feelings and stressors, while also providing them a way to discover positive, self-regulatory coping skills:

  1. Teach students to identify their stressors.
  2. Identify what students normally do when presented with stressors.
  3. Brainstorm alternative ways to respond to stressors.
  4. Practical application and maintenance of coping skills.

Also worth a read: Mental health ed informs students of difference between stress, depression

This article from The Hechinger Report looks at class size research from around the world, which does not support the consensus generally held by education researchers that smaller classes increase how much students learn. In the article Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University suggests that "it might be more effective to operate larger classes, supplemented by one-to-one tutoring for kids who need it." However, Slavin acknowledges that he prefers to send his own children to schools with smaller class sizes.

#3: Academic Program

To Learn, Students Need to DO Something

In this Cult of Pedagogy blog post, Jennifer Gonzalez writes "if we want our students to actually learn the facts and concepts and ideas we're trying to teach them, they have to experience those things in some way that rises above abstract words on paper. They have to process them. Manipulate them." She recommends many activities to add in between the direct instruction step and assessment step, some of which are: sorting, kinesthetic work, discussion, graphic representations and mini-projects.

#4: School Leadership

3 Ways to Develop Leaders in Your School or Classroom

George Couros defines leadership as "the ability to move others forward in a positive direction" and asks "how do we develop this in our staff and our students?" He suggests that we consider building on the strengths and passions of people, giving ownership over the process and knowing when to follow.

#5: Human Resources

How to Help Your Employees Learn from Each Other

The authors of this Harvard Business Review article recommend that all organizations have a formal structure for peer-to-peer learning in place to complement more traditional learning programs. Peer-to-peer learning taps into the expertise that already exists in an organization, and the format itself helps employees to develop management and leadership skills. The authors detail several best practices for setting up a peer learning program: appoint a facilitator, build a safe environment, focus on real-world situations and encourage networking.

Can we design schools where teachers and students thrive?

This eSchool News article includes a list of components that enhance professional growth and collaboration. A few of which are:

  • One to two hours per week of consistent, frequent, intensive interactions between a coach and/or teacher leader and with collaborative teams.
  • Formal roles for teacher leaders that are well-defined, with clear authority and accountability attached to the role, multiple roles in a teacher leadership career path.
  • Structures, tools, and resources that guide collaboration and professional growth activities and ensure they are relevant, meaningful, and actionable.
  • A high-quality standards-aligned curriculum serving as a precondition of and foundation for teacher growth and collaboration activities.

#6: School & Community

Strategic Partnerships: A Powerful Tool to Do More With Less

Amy Jolly was most recently Head of School at Maine Girls' Academy. In this NAIS post, she writes that strategic partnerships with neighboring schools, businesses, and mission-aligned nonprofits are a "tool that strategic heads of school can use to build name recognition, increase auxiliary income, and deliver deeper programs for the school." When considering new partnerships, Jolly recommends that schools be transparent, plan for a win-win, align mission and strategy and get legal help.

#7: Enrolment Management

How to conduct a winning school tour

Nick LeRoy believes that getting the school tour right is one of the most important things schools can do to improve enrolment. LeRoy has plenty of experience as a 'secret shopper': taking on the role of a parent to tour clients' schools, which he draws on to provide suggestions to improve the tour experience:

  1. Make a strong impression with a great "pre-tour" process.
  2. Ensure that their first impression of your school is a welcoming one.
  3. Tell your story the right way.
  4. End with a strong close and continue to nurture them until they enrol.

Also worth a read: Why Independent Schools Need Landing Pages

#8: Governance

How Can Nonprofit Boards Overcome the Inertia of Certain Directors?

"Process directors" according to Dr. Eugene Fram are "well-intentioned, sincere individuals" who are "uncomfortable with major decisions" and "always want more data or information before voting." Fram stresses that it is up to the Board Chair to develop an inclusive Board and satisfy process directors who create obstacles; however, the Chair must also make sure that these directors do not allow the Board to lose sight of its mission.

#9: Finance

Strategies: Tackling a Shared Challenge

Debra Lee-Rizzi is the chief financial officer at The Evergreen School. In this Net Assets article, she writes about how independent schools in the Seattle area meet regularly to learn and support one another as they work to improve financial aid policies and strategies.

#10: Physical Plant, Health & Safety

Five Guidelines to Follow for Safer Field Trips

This ISM article elaborates on the following recommendations for creating and implementing field trip safety guidelines:

  1. Organize volunteers and staff appropriately.
  2. Vet volunteers.
  3. Create a 'Volunteer Rights and Duties' document.
  4. Consider unifying identification.
  5. Use the power of a buddy system.

St. Jerome's University commits to buying sustainable food to sell to students

St. Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo has made a formal commitment to meeting four food sustainability standards, in response to a student-led campaign which calls on schools to offer ecologically-sound, socially-just, community-based and humane food.

#11: Commitment to School Improvement

The power of rituals

Jim Dillon has been an educator for over 40 years, including 20 years as a school administrator. In this article he writes about the 'Share and Celebrate' assemblies at his school and the overall power of rituals: "Rituals, when educators consciously design them, can enhance and deepen learning. They can punctuate experience and help students make better sense of their learning. Rituals enable students to value and appreciate what they are about to do and what they just did. And rituals don't have to be elaborate or time consuming to be effective."

Also worth a read: 15 Ways to Bring More Positive Language into Your Classroom and School

#12: Boarding Program

Global survey tracks agent perspectives on destinations, online learning, alumni, and student experience

The ICEF i-graduate Agent Barometer monitors the opinions of education agents worldwide, providing valuable insight into agents' perceptions of international education markets and institutions. The 2018 Agent Barometer gathered responses from 1,300 agents in 101 countries. The survey found that the vast majority of agents expect to place more students in the next 12 months than in the previous year. The survey also clearly indicates the continuing popularity of Canada as a study destination and highlights the importance of strong post-arrival support services.

Back to Most Recent Top 12