Category Archives for "Best Practices"

First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions

First impressions are lasting impressions.  It takes just one-tenth of a second for an individual to make a judgment about someone or something and most likely, that first impression will never change.  Making good first impressions is incredibly important because in most cases, you’ll only get one shot at it.

In the case of a school, how can you ensure that you are being judged accurately?  How can you make good first impressions on parents? Successful schools do it all the time. They make themselves distinctive and memorable.

More and more, school choice is becoming a powerful element for parents, students, and teachers.  It is the reason that a parent will travel across town, to a different neighborhood daily, for their child to attend a school outside of their immediate school zone.

So what do successful schools do to create good first impressions and make travel across town compelling enough for parents? Here are a few tips:

Your website is your school’s welcoming center

A school’s website is usually the first thing a visitor sees. A good website is cohesive, informative and easy to navigate. Keep it simple and appealing with a logical flow of information and messaging.  And most importantly, make sure your website is providing timely, up-to-date information.  A schools’ website should reflect the schools strength and character and speak to its audience appropriately.  It must be reliable and load quickly.  Here are some examples of school websites that have an eye-catching homepage and are fun to explore.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District

Durham County Public Schools

Westwood Charter School

Larchmont Charter School

Mt. Carmel High School

Adlai E. Stevenson High School

Your frontline should be a pleasure

There is nothing more frustrating to a potential parent than to call a school for information and hear an unfriendly, unenthusiastic, unknowledgeable voice on the other end. On the phone or in person, your front line staff should be courteous, helpful and if needed, empathetic.  Make an anonymous call to your school’s Admissions Office and see how you are treated. Email the Admissions Office and see how promptly you are answered. Note the quality of the response and if it represents the atmosphere and feel you wish the school to portray?

School tours and visits weigh more than you think

Nothing sways a prospective parent more than a school tour. Your best people should be put on this important part of the public relations process. Make sure your tour guide is extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the school.  Parents like to see students in action.  Plan tours during the time of day that most closely portrays “a day in the life??? of a typical student.  Have examples on hand that show accomplishments, events, or activities that set you apart from other schools.  First impressions ARE important and often lasting. The effort a school puts into the campus tour really does pay off.

Rehearse the entire experience so that you get it right. Take a tour with your designated tour guide with the eye of a parent. When inspecting a school, parents don’t miss a thing and are easily impressed by enthusiasm, knowledge, and courtesy. Ask questions as if you were looking for a school for your own child.

Below are a few parent resources that educate parents on things to look for when visiting a school. Take a look at the list to see if you address these questions during your school tours.

The school visit: What to look for, What to ask

Ask the right questions, Find the right school

Questions to ask before enrolling your child in a new school

Making good first impressions with parents is key 

First impressions count in marketing your school just as much as they do in any endeavor. Are parents spending hours waiting in long lines to register?  Are they required to fill out stacks of paperwork before ever setting foot on your campus?  These types of activities set a negative first impression. No wonder parents aren’t excited about signing up for the PTA, volunteering as room mom, or contributing to your annual fundraiser.   You’ve given them a bad first impressionso for the rest of the school year, they do whatever it takes to stay away.

Not only does an online registration system help increase enrollment and streamline the application and registration process, but it also can portray a stress-free, open, inviting environment for your parents. Are you thinking about online enrollment, applications and registration? Don’t reinvent the wheel!  Learn how others are benefitting from K-12 Online’s secure system.  They’ve worked with many districts, charter, private and independent schools to provide an affordable alternative to paper pushing.

An Open House with welcoming arms

Good first impressions make a big difference! Your first open house or Back-to-School night gives teachers an opportunity to create a personal connection with parents, gain parents’ support, and establish ways for continued communication throughout the school year.

Before deciding what to do for your school’s open house, walk through your school building and classrooms with the eyes of a parent. Pretend you are walking in for the very first time and think about what would make great first impressions.  Do your hallways offer a welcoming presence?  Are your restrooms clean?  Are your classrooms colorful and reflective of students work?

Most parents want to see an organized building/classroom with friendly and welcoming teachers and staff.  They are not typically concerned about how many science tests are given, or what materials you use to teach math.  Parents generally want a good understanding of what their child’s school year will be like, how issues will be communicated and handled by teachers/staff, and what they can do to help ensure their child has a successful school year. Here are some ideas to incorporate into your next open house.

Open house School Ideas

Five Ideas for Open House

Tips for Open House and Back to School Night

60 Ideas for Open House


When it comes to schools, choice is a powerful element that can help create the conditions for a successful school. Families make relocating and home purchasing decisions around which school they want or don’t want their children to attend.  Don’t pass up an opportunity to show your best side.  Put your best foot forward in the beginning so that parents receive authentic first impressions.   What are you doing to make positive first impressions and portray a stress-free, open, inviting environment to your parents?

Successful Schools: Great teachers – hero or model for change (Part 2 of 2)

Measuring Great Teachers

What makes greats teachers? Does holding a master’s degree make one a better teacher? Do the best teachers hail from elite universities? Did they earn high GPAs in college? Did they major in the subject they are teaching? How much does experience matter? Do traditional, university-based teacher-preparation programs produce the best teachers, or are alternatively certified teachers just as good?

The difficulty from a policy perspective is that the relationship between readily quantifiable attributes–such as a teacher’s highest degree attained or level of experience–and student outcomes is unsubstantial. Many policy makers advocate increasing the quality of teaching, but there is considerable debate over the best way to measure and improve teacher quality. In other words, it is very clear that good teachers make a difference, but what’s unclear is how to truly measure a good teacher.

Teachers and teachers’ unions have widely criticized the value-added approach, arguing that test scores are not good indicators of teacher quality. However, many reformers argue that value-added ratings are some of the most accurate indicators for evaluating teachers and improving student performance.

In 2011, the Los Angeles Times released a searchable database of over 11,000 Los Angeles Unified School teachers, ranked by their VA ratings. The newspaper got access to the data through California’s Public Records Act — and hired a seasoned education analyst to crunch the numbers.

The response started out predictably. The local teachers’ union called for a boycott of the paper. But more than 1,100 teachers answered the paper’s invitation to see their data before it came out. Arguably, a newspaper is not the most ideal forum for teachers to receive performance feedback, however, the more important question is: Why did it take a newspaper to do what the school district should have done years ago?

Research dating back to the 1966 release of Equality of Educational Opportunity (the “Coleman Report???) shows that student performance is not directly related to school quality, but more so teacher quality, which was found to account for the largest portion of the variation in student test scores than all other characteristics of a school.
Much of the research published since the Coleman Report has confirmed the findings that high-quality teachers raise student performance, suggesting that the most important thing a school can do to increase student performance is provide its students with good teachers.

Parents have always worried about where to send their children to school; but the school, statistically speaking, does not matter as much as which adult stands in front of their children. Teacher quality tends to vary more within schools—even supposedly good schools—than among them.

But it’s difficult to identify excellent teachers in a reliable, objective way. The Coleman Report’s finding was based on the influence of a set of quantifiable teacher characteristics, such as years of experience, education levels, and performance on a vocabulary test. Since then, due in large part to the availability of new data sources that link and track teachers and students over a number of years, researchers have been able to estimate the overall contribution of teachers to student learning. This includes not only the effect of easily measurable attributes, such as experience and degrees obtained, but also the effect of harder to measure intangible attributes, such as a teacher’s enthusiasm and skill in conveying knowledge.

An excerpt from Atlantic Magazine, What Makes a Great Teacher
Teach for America, a nonprofit that recruits college graduates to spend two years teaching in low-income schools, began outside the educational establishment and has largely remained there. For years, it has been whittling away at its own assumptions, testing its hypotheses, and refining its hiring and training. Over time, it has built an unusual laboratory: almost half a million American children are being taught by Teach for America, and the organization tracks test-score data, linked to each teacher, for 85 – 90 percent of those kids. Teach for America keeps an unusual amount of data on its 7,300 teachers—a pool almost twice the size of the D.C. system’s teacher corps, and until now, has kept its investigation largely to itself.

Steven Farr is Teach for America’s in-house professor, so to speak. His job is to find and study excellent teachers, and train others to get similar results. Starting in 2002, Teach for America began using student test-score progress data to put teachers into one of three categories: those who move their students one and a half or more years ahead in one year; those who achieve one to one and a half years of growth; and those who yield less than one year of gains.

As Teach for America began to identify exceptional teachers using this data, Farr began to watch them. He observed their classes, read their lesson plans, and talked to them about their teaching methods and beliefs. He and his colleagues surveyed Teach for America teachers at least four times a year to find out what they were doing and what kinds of training had helped them the most.

Right away, certain patterns emerged. First, great teachers tended to set big goals for their students. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness. For example, when Farr called up teachers who were making remarkable gains and asked to visit their classrooms, he noticed he’d get a similar response from all of them: “They’d say, ‘You’re welcome to come, but I have to warn you—I am in the middle of just blowing up my classroom structure and changing my reading workshop because I think it’s not working as well as it could.’ When you hear that over and over, and you don’t hear that from other teachers, you start to form a hypothesis.??? Great teachers, he concluded, constantly reevaluate what they are doing.

Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.

But when Farr took his findings to teachers, they wanted more. “They’d say, ‘Yeah, yeah. Give me the concrete actions. What does this mean for a lesson plan?’??? So Farr and his colleagues made lists of specific teacher actions that fell under the high-level principles they had identified. For example, one way that great teachers ensure that kids are learning is to frequently check for understanding: Are the kids—all of the kids—following what you are saying? Asking “Does anyone have any questions???? does not work, and it’s a classic rookie mistake. Students are not always the best judges of their own learning. They might understand a line read aloud from a Shakespeare play, but have no idea what happened in the last act. “Strong teachers insist that effective teaching is neither mysterious nor magical. It is neither a function of dynamic personality nor dramatic performance,??? Farr writes in Teaching as Leadership, a book coming out in February from Farr and his colleagues.

In 2007, 24 percent of Teach for America teachers moved their students one and a half or more years ahead, according to the organization’s internal reports. In 2009, that number was up to 44 percent. That data relies largely on school tests, which vary in quality from state to state. When tests aren’t available or sufficiently rigorous, Teach for America helps teachers find or design other reliable diagnostics.

Once teachers have been in the classroom for a year or two, who is very good—and very bad—becomes much clearer. But teachers are almost never dismissed. Principals almost never give teachers poor performance evaluations—even when they know the teachers are failing.

Ideally, schools would hire better teachers to begin with. But this is notoriously difficult. How do you screen for a relentless mind-set?

When Teach for America began, applicants were evaluated on 12 criteria (such as persistence and communication skills), chosen based on conversations with educators. Starting in 2000, the organization began to retroactively critique its own judgments. What did the best teachers have in common when they applied for the job?

Once a model for outcomes-based hiring was built, it started churning out some humbling results. “I came into this with a bunch of theories,??? says Monique Ayotte-Hoeltzel, who was then head of admissions. “I was proven wrong at least as many times as I was validated.???

For years, Teach for America also selected for something called “constant learning.??? As Farr and others had noticed, great teachers tended to reflect on their performance and adapt accordingly. So people who tend to be self-aware might be a good bet. “It’s a perfectly reasonable hypothesis,??? Ayotte-Hoeltzel says.

What did predict success, interestingly, was a history of perseverance—not just an attitude, but a track record. In the interview process, Teach for America now asks applicants to talk about overcoming challenges in their lives—and ranks their perseverance based on their answers. Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and her colleagues have actually quantified the value of perseverance. In a study published in TheJournal of Positive Psychology in November 2009, they evaluated 390 Teach for America instructors before and after a year of teaching. Those who initially scored high for “grit???—defined as perseverance and a passion for long-term goals, and measured using a short multiple-choice test—were 31 percent more likely than their less gritty peers to spur academic growth in their students. Gritty people, the theory goes, work harder and stay committed to their goals longer. (Grit also predicts retention of cadets at West Point, Duckworth has found.)

But another trait seemed to matter even more. Teachers who scored high in “life satisfaction???—reporting that they were very content with their lives—were 43 percent more likely to perform well in the classroom than their less satisfied colleagues. These teachers “may be more adept at engaging their pupils, and their zest and enthusiasm may spread to their students,??? the study suggested.

In general, though, Teach for America’s staffers have discovered that past performance—especially the kind you can measure—is the best predictor of future performance. Recruits who have achieved big, measurable goals in college tend to do so as teachers. And the two best metrics of previous success tend to be grade-point average and “leadership achievement???—a record of running something and showing tangible results. If you not only led a tutoring program but doubled its size, that’s promising.

Knowledge matters, but not in every case. In studies of high-school math teachers, majoring in the subject seems to predict better results in the classroom. And more generally, people who attended a selective college are more likely to excel as teachers (although graduating from an Ivy League school does not unto itself predict significant gains in a Teach for America classroom). Meanwhile, a master’s degree in education seems to have no impact on classroom effectiveness.

The most valuable educational credentials may be the ones that circle back to squishier traits like perseverance. Last summer, an internal Teach for America analysis found that an applicant’s college GPA alone is not as good a predictor as the GPA in the final two years of college. If an applicant starts out with mediocre grades and improves, in other words, that curve appears to be more revealing than getting straight A’s all along.

Last year, Teach for America churned through 35,000 candidates to choose 4,100 new teachers. Staff members select new hires by deferring almost entirely to the model: they enter more than 30 data points about a given candidate (about twice the number of inputs they considered a decade ago), and then the model spits out a hiring recommendation. Every year, the model changes, depending on what the new batch of student data shows. Farr is more hopeful each year. “When I see not a handful, not dozens, but hundreds of people being successful in a world where most people think success is not possible, I know it can be done,??? he told me.

If school systems hired, trained, and rewarded teachers according to the principles Teach for America has identified, then teachers would not need to work so hard. They would be operating in a system designed in a radically different way—designed, that is, for success.

Read the entire article at What Makes a Great Teacher?

Overall Impact
The effect of a good teacher on a child’s life is monumental. The influence of teacher quality was found to persist for years after a student had a particular teacher.

Economists Eric Hanushek, John Kain, and Steven Rivkin estimated that, at a minimum, variations in teacher quality account for 7.5 percent of the total variation in student achievement–a much larger share than any other school characteristic.

In financial terms, replacing a teacher whose true VA is in the bottom 5% with a teacher of average quality would generate lifetime earnings gains worth more than $250,000 for the average classroom. On the other hand, “If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income,” said Friedman. (Chetty, et all. 2011)

More recently, policy makers have sought to isolate teachers’ contributions to student performance and assess how much of their overall contribution can be associated with measurable teacher characteristics.

Race to the Top, a contest created to spur innovation and reform in K-12 education at the state and local level is one example. To qualify, states must first remove any legal barriers to linking student test scores to teachers. To win money, states must also begin distinguishing between effective and ineffective teachers—and consider that information when deciding whether to grant tenure, give raises, or fire a teacher or principal. States are awarded points for satisfying certain educational policies, such as performance-based standards for teachers and principals, complying with nationwide standards, promoting charter schools and privatization of education, and computerization.

For teachers, Race to the Top means increased access to professional development opportunities and an equitable evaluation and compensation system that will reward teachers for their ability to positively shape the lives their students.
Given the enormous contribution of good teachers to the lives of students, one would think the organizations that represent teachers would welcome a program that praises great teachers and pushes under performing ones out. This is not necessarily the case. Acknowledging reality would require teacher groups to make distinctions between good and bad teachers and hold them accountable for their performance, something they seem unwilling to practice, much less institutionalize.

Great teachers make a great difference; poor teachers hurt a child’s life chances. Isn’t that all we need to know to embark upon a serious effort to reward good teachers and encourage poor teachers out of the profession? Instead, we tend to attribute the gifts of great teachers to some mystical quality that we can recognize and admire—but not replicate. The great teacher serves as a hero but never, ironically, as a model for change.

Successful Schools: Great teachers – hero or model for change (Part 1 of 2)

A good teacher improves a child’s test scores in the classroom, enhances his or her chances to attend college, increases his or her potential to earn more money and decreases the likelihood of teen pregnancy, according to a 2011 study.

The study, conducted by economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years from a large urban school district from fourth grade to adulthood, making it one of the largest and most consequential educational studies in recent years.

Their findings focus on the long-term impact of teachers based on “value-added??? (VA) ratings, the average test-score gain for his or her students, adjusted for differences across classrooms in student characteristics such as prior scores. Simply put, the difference between a student’s expected growth and actual performance is the “value??? a teacher added or subtracted during the year.

The study measured both short-term and long-term impact, from the classroom to a student’s collegiate, career and family success. The authors found that when a high VA teacher joins a school, test scores rise immediately in the grade taught by that teacher; when a high VA teacher leaves, test scores fall.[i]

Study after study shows that the single most important factor in determining the quality of education a child receives is the quality of his or her teacher.

Last month, K-12 Online took a look at how leadership factored into the success of a school. Research revealed that leadership was essential for quality education, but was second only to teaching among all school-related factors that contribute to student performance.

So what makes for a quality teacher? This question is particularly relevant given that researchers have raised concerns about the overall quality of today’s teaching workforce. Teaching is one of the most complicated jobs today! It demands a broad knowledge of subject matters, curriculum, and standards. Teachers must show enthusiasm, a caring attitude, and a love of learning. And they must have knowledge of discipline and classroom management techniques. Most importantly, a quality teacher MUST have the desire to make a difference in the lives of young people.

Think about your best teachers. Their techniques may have been different, but more than likely, they all had some sort of connective capacity. They were able to connect themselves to their students, their students to each other, and everyone to the subject being studied.

Characteristics of Great Teachers

Here are some characteristics of great teachers. It is not meant to be an all encompassing or definitive list. Many excellent teachers may possess only some of these traits, and consider others not mentioned to be just as valuable. The characteristics detailed below are just a guideline to help teachers create and sustain connectivity in their classrooms – a universal characteristic of great teachers.

Great teachers set expectations of success for all students. Since the famous Rosenthal experiment in the late 1960s, the Pygmalion effect—the observation that teachers’ expectations for their students affect how well students learn—has been well documented.[ii] Great teachers expect that all students can and will achieve in their classroom, and they don’t give up on underachievers. There are so many factors in a students’ life, that it’s impossible for a teacher to guarantee success to all, however, if you give up on your students, adopting a fatalistic, “it’s out of my hands??? attitude, students will sense your lack of commitment and tune out. The main objective for a teacher is to create a climate for success in your classroom to meet the needs of all students. As long as you can unequivocally say that you’ve done that for the day, each and every day, you’ve upheld the expectation for success.

Great teachers have clear, written objectives. Effective teachers have lesson plans that give students a clear idea of what they will be learning, what the assignments are and what the grading policy is. Assignments have learning goals and give students ample opportunity to practice new skills. The teacher is consistent in grading and returns work in a timely manner. The lesson plan serves as a road map and may be altered depending on classroom needs.

Great teachers have a sense of purpose. 
 A RAND study conducted more than 30 years ago[iii] found links between student achievement and teachers’ sense of value—their belief in their students’ ability to succeed, as well as their own ability as teachers to help those students succeed. You can’t be good in a generic sense; you have to be good for something. As a teacher, this means that you know what your students expect, and you make plans to meet those expectations. You, too, have expectations about what happens in your classroom, based on the goals you’re trying to achieve. If you want to prepare your students for employment, you expect punctuality and good attendance. If you want your students to become better readers, you allow time for reading and provide access to books.

Great teachers are prepared and organized. They are in their classrooms early and ready to teach. They present lessons in a clear and structured way. Their classrooms are organized in such a way as to minimize distractions.

Great teachers engage students and get them to look at issues in a variety of ways. Effective teachers use facts as a starting point, not an end point; they ask “why??? questions, look at all sides and encourage students to predict what will happen next. They ask questions frequently to make sure students are following along. They try to engage the whole class, and they don’t allow a few students to dominate the class. They keep students motivated with varied, lively approaches.

Great teachers are comfortable with not knowing. 
There are going to be dilemmas you cannot immediately resolve, and questions you cannot immediately answer. It’s okay to not know, to be open to letting your students tell you the answer, and to understand that learning never stops, even for the teacher. If you can live with an unanswered question, think and observe, the answer may develop in an unexpected, unconventional way.

Great teachers adapt and change to meet student needs. Can you really claim to have taught a class if no one learned any of the concepts in the lesson from your presentation? If none of your students ever pick up a book outside of the classroom, have you really taught them to be better readers? A great lesson plan and a great lesson are two entirely different things. It’s nice when one follows the other, but it doesn’t always work that way. Teachers teach so that students may learn. When learning doesn’t happen, you need to be willing to devise new strategies, think in new ways, and generally do anything possible to revive the learning process.

Great teachers form strong relationships with their students and show that they care about them as people. Great teachers are warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. Teachers with these qualities are known to stay after school and make themselves available to students and parents who need them. They are involved in school-wide committees and activities, and they demonstrate a commitment to the school.

Great teachers are masters of their subject matter. They exhibit expertise in the subjects they are teaching and spend time continuing to gain new knowledge in their field. They present material in an enthusiastic manner and instill a hunger in their students to learn more on their own.

Great teachers communicate frequently with parents. They reach parents through conferences and frequent written reports home. They don’t hesitate to pick up the telephone to call a parent if they are concerned about a student.

Great teachers know how to live with ambiguity. 
One of the greatest challenges of teaching is the lack of immediate, accurate feedback. There is no way to predict what the long-term results of your work will be. But if you have a sense of purpose and try to cultivate expectations of success for all students, you will be less likely to dwell on that unpredictability, and focus on how you can impact them today.

Great teachers enjoy their work and their students.
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to lose sight of its importance. Teachers who enjoy their work and their students are motivated, energized, and creative. The opposite of enjoyment is burnout-the state where no one and nothing can spark any interest. Notice, too, that enjoying your work and enjoying your students may be two different things. Focusing too much on content may make students feel misunderstood or left out. Focusing exclusively on students, without an eye to content, may make students feel understood and appreciated, but may not help them to achieve their educational goals as quickly as they’d like. Achieving a balance between the two extremes takes time and attention; it demands that you observe closely, evaluate carefully, and act on your findings.

Great teachers are reflective. 
Outside of a teacher having the desire to make a difference in the lives of their students, this may be the only infallible, absolute characteristic of all great teachers, because without it, none of the other traits can fully mature. Good teachers routinely think about and reflect on their classes, their students, their methods, and their materials. They compare and contrast, draw parallels and distinctions, review, remove and restore. Failing to observe your class on a regular basis disconnects you from the teaching and learning process and it’s impossible to create connectivity if you’re disconnected.

Great teachers have the ability to connect with students. Cornelius-White conducted a meta-analysis of research on teacher-student relationships and found that teachers’ warmth, empathy, and “nondirectivity??? strongly correlated to higher levels of student participation, motivation, and achievement.[iv] Great teachers understand that teaching is not a static state, but a constant process. Great teachers are imaginative and expect their students to be, too. They meet students where they are, but ask them to reach higher. They love their subject, and find ways to draw their students in.

No one can comprise all of the above attributes but every teacher has a new opportunity each day to become a better teacher. Great teachers are the ones who seize more opportunities than they miss!

Do you know a Great Teacher? Nominate them to win $500! Deadline for nominations and voting is December 31. Click here for details.



[i] Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Jonah Rockoff. “The Long-term Impacts of Teaching,??? NBR Working Paper Series (No. 17699),??? National Bureau of Economic Research. (December 2011)

[ii] Hattie, J, Visible learning. London: Routledge. (2009).

[iii] Armor, D., Conroy-Oseguera, P., Cox, M., King, N., McDonnell, L., Pascal, A., et al., “Analysis of the school preferred reading programs in selected Los Angeles minority schools (Report No. R-2007-LAUSD),??? RAND. (1976).

[iv] Cornelius-White, J. “Learner-centered teacher-student relationships are effective: A meta-analysis,??? Review of Educational Research. (2007).

Things Teachers Wished Principals Knew

Principals, pull up a chair: Here is what your teachers may or may not be telling you.

1. How much time, effort, and ‘free’ extra work they do for the school.

2. That school scores and standardized testing are not the only measure of a school’s quality.

3. How to provide fun, up-to-date training and professional development learning opportunities for everyone on the staff. And
if you can’t make it fun, then please bring bagels…food takes the edge off.

4. Principals need to have a vision for their building. They need to believe in their vision so all staff are inspired to get on board.

5. Make an effort to lead by showing not telling.

6. Technology is not just one more thing, but can actually support other initiatives you are trying to achieve.

7. The best principles believe in their teachers and have their backs.

8. Trust your teachers. Principals build the banks of the river but should then let the river flow.

9. Your teachers are the experts – build the structures to let teachers utilize their expertise.

10. Be honest and credible. Don’t blame the higher ups for YOUR policies and requirements.

11. Take the time to really get to know your teachers. They possess a wide range of skills, knowledge and experiences that are far beyond the regular curriculum.

12. It is extremely important to a school’s success that parents feel welcomed and comfortable.

13. Teachers NEED to always feel appreciated.

Online Registration – Ten Tips to Improve Registration

Every time one of your students enrolls or does online registration, you save time and money by not having to manually enter the information. In addition to the resources saved, parents enjoy the convenience of registering on their own time.

Many of our K-12 Online schools have been extremely successful in reducing the time, money, and resources they’ve used during returning student registration. We have compiled their knowledge to bring you our top ten tips to improve your back-to-school registration process.


1. Ensure easy website navigation

— Place the “Register Online??? Web button on your home page and other popular pages to easily link parents to your customized registration form —the fewer clicks to registration, the better.


2. Customize your forms

— It’s easy to create your own customized forms. These are forms you may need in addition to District standard forms and the ones created for you by K-12 Online.

— You can start from scratch or use a template from the forms library.

— Create your forms in Firefox Mozilla. It has fewer bugs than Internet Explorer.


3. Communicate with parents

— Send a Principal’s welcome back letter. Building mutual trust with parents from the start helps provide students with a strong foundation for learning throughout the year.

— Share with parents and students how easy and convenient it is for them to register online.

— Provide easy-to-follow steps for registration on your Web site.

— Include a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section or page regarding online registration on your Web site.


4. Monitor online registration

— A few days prior to “back-to-school??? registration week, monitor the online registration progress and print a report. The report will show you who has completed registration and who has not.

— Send a reminder email to students/parents who have not completed registration and remind students to bring in their signed registration form.

— If you assess fines or fees, reduce long registration lines by sending customized messages to students/parents prior to registration day allowing them to pay in advance.


BACK-TO-SCHOOL WEEK (For those schools that have back-to-school registration prior to the first day of class)


5. Provide adequate training

— Conduct a “back-to-school??? registration training meeting with staff and volunteers so that they are familiar with your system and know where to find pertinent information.

— If volunteers and sub-admin are checking in students, ensure that they have the correct role privileges. (See SCP HELP)

— Recruit adequate staff and volunteers. Provide staggered time slots and make sure the times overlap to make for an easy transition.

— Make sure your staff is familiar with the student online registration process, how to navigate the system and are comfortable explaining it to parents.

— Take note of the reduced data entry workload and valuable time saved to focus on other priorities.


6. Provide good signage

— Have adequate signage so parents know exactly where to go when they arrive.

— Have signs outside with a copy of the registration form pasted to it with instructions of where to go if they do not have the completed Registration form.


7. Simplify registration day

— If it is going to be a warm day, set-up in the gym or other inside area rather than outside and make sure you have enough space to accommodate your students and parents.

— Ask your PTA or a service group to host a refreshment station for parents. It provides a place to congregate and helps build a sense of community among parents.

— Have computers with access to the Internet and printers available (computer lab or library) for those who have not completed the registration process. Provide explicit directions on how to log into online registration through the school network.

— Have one computer with a volunteer whose sole job is to print out the Completed Registration Form for those students who completed the registration at home, but forgot to print the form….the express line!


8. Utilize your school’s Website

— Provide parents and students with easy, online access to your customized registration forms right from your website.

— Post events, announcements, etc. along with photos to stay connected with students, parents and volunteers throughout the school year.


9. Build ongoing awareness

— Whether you send a letter to parents, call them before school starts, or meet them in person, make contact early and plan to follow up with them throughout the year.

–Build general awareness through personalized emails with a clear call to action and/or relevant information.

— Segment your email list to send targeted emails/messages to parents, students or volunteers.


10. Start planning for next school year

— Review with staff ideas for improving the registration process for next year.

— Email a short survey to parents asking whether they found online registration convenient and easy to use and what changes could be made.

Fundraising: How Online Registration Helps

A recent poll showed that 1 in 4 parents are considering switching their child(ren) from a traditional large public school environment to a smaller (independent, private, charter, religious) school. Parents feel that smaller schools have a clear academic focus and vision for high quality successful learning, while in the public school system, there is a greater gap in achievement between socioeconomic classes, more violence and higher dropout rates, and children can easily get lost in the large, impersonal system.

This can become tricky for smaller schools, because unlike the public school system that is required by law to accept all children, smaller schools typically have an admission and acceptance process. This increase in student applicants can be one of the most costly, outdated and environmentally wasteful processes that small schools endure every year. With the help of an online registration system, small schools have the ability to not only save money, but also generate it though fundraising.

A registration system that incorporates fundraising can prove valuable, help make money for the school, and in many cases, even pay for itself. With the economic downturn and flailing economy, it is necessary for smaller schools to identify processes that can be improved or optimized to generate funds through SAVINGS.

K-12 Online offers a complete online student registration software application that transforms the student application & enrollment process by eliminating expensive paper-based methods. Offering online access to customizable forms and reports, K-12 Online™ is an AFFORDABLE system that will help your school with fundraising in addition to saving money, time and resources!

School Management Software for private schools, charter schools and public schools

According to D’Agostino, K-12 Online, the school management software, benefitted his school in ways he never even thought of.

Principal Phil D’Agostino’s Costa Mesa High school piloted K-12 Online this past year. According to D’Agostino, K-12 Online, the school management software, benefitted his school in ways he never even thought of. Here are just a few of the benefits of this safe and secure, paperless educational technology.

The school management system is able to report the online registration progress of students. It will show which students have actually started to register. Right in the middle of the summer, we could flag students who had not started the registration process and call them. We would have a better idea of our master schedule in the middle of the summer rather than the week before school. We could then hire staff accordingly.

The online registration system also has the ability to send messages to the safe and secure parent and student portal so when students logged in to enroll, they could take care of business before going through the registration line during registration week such as pay for lost text and library books which can be a huge savings for schools.

When students return during registration day, they only have one signed form to return. It’s virtually paperless. The school management software has the ability to check-in students so we lined up 5 terminals and had staff accept the form and check them in. The students then proceeded to pick up their ASB items, take their school picture and pick up their books. It was so fast, we had no lines at 9.00am, a half hour into registration. The system once again was able to report who had actually checked in so follow-up calls could be made.

This school management system has made registration so efficient that next year, the number of registration days will be reduced, saving the school money and allowing the staff to get back to their offices and prepare for the start of school!

Fundraising Made Easy: Best School Practices

In addition to being educators, public school teachers have the never-ending task of hand wringing and scrounging to provide the simplest classroom needs.

So when, a fundraising website, launched in 2000 to engage the community and provide individuals a simple, accountable and personal way to address educational inequality, teachers and PTA’s across the nation were ecstatic. is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. It connects public school teachers with people who want to support classroom learning.

Public school teachers from across America can post classroom project requests; anything from pencils for a poetry writing contest to instruments for a school recital, balls for P.E. class, or iPads for online book access.

Donors can then browse project requests by location or subject, or even search for a particular school, and give any amount to the one that inspires them. Once a project reaches its fundraising goal, delivers the materials to the school.

A gift of as little as $1 gets the same level of choice, transparency, and feedback as someone who gives millions. All donors receive photos of the project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher/students, and a cost report showing how each dollar was spent.

It’s that easy! Post your need and start fundraising for your school or classroom today!


Environmentally Friendly Tips for Schools

As a company that is committed to developing environmentally friendly school software that eliminates inefficient, costly and labor intensive paper processes, K12 Online has found five easy ways schools to go green, redirect resources, improve student achievement, and enhance the learning experience.

Here is a list of environmentally friendly tips that educators and parents can do to help facilitate a clean, green classroom and school environment. Continue reading

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