The vast majority of the 250 schools I have visited over the last decade were designed and
built with little alignment to what many of use believe is the future of learning. School
communities have spent vast treasure building learning spaces that re-enforce an industrial
model of education that should have been retired thirty or more years ago.
If you are like me, this is certainly one of your favorite seasons of the year and the particular season to which I refer has little to do with the weather. On the other hand this season has everything to do with school colors, fight songs, tailgating, game-day attire, and how we structure and schedule our Saturday afternoons and evenings.
Some of the most interesting conversations about grants happen when I am on the road or in
Recently, a gentleman named Emmanuel and I started a conversation while waiting for a plane.
Naturally, I am always eager to talk about grants. But unfortunately, I hear the war stories of
those who have been too fearful even to try to seek a grant, or I hear lament from those who
refuse to run into a brick wall again.
Emmanuel runs several non-profits, so he was especially eager to hear about my work. Again, I
found myself quoting from my own book, The "How to" Grants Manual, as I tried to put grant
seeking in perspective. Quoting from my book is not challenging after authoring nine editions of
it and teaching it for 50 years.
Have I done everything I can to prepare for this school year? Have I forgotten
something that's key to keeping everyone informed? As school leaders, we are always thinking
about what we need to do next.
The Winning Grants Institute is an innovative partnership between The Akribos Group and
David G. Bauer Associates and is based on The “ How To” Grants Manual, now in its 9thedition.
The Winning Grants Institute has developed a program that results in a success rate of
approximately 50% and made it available in a cloud-based format.
This week I am visiting the venerable Tower Hill School in Delaware to share thoughts about
the status of education in a rapidly changing world, and some vision about how a leading
school might impact the big challenges ahead. I was asked to share a few examples of
schools that are really leading the way. This is always a difficult task because there are so
many, and so many I don’t even know about. Over the last decade there has been a virtual
tsunami of K-12 innovation, much of it leading towards a much more student-centric, inquiryproject-experiential learning environment. As I said back in 2012, we are re-finding what eduleaders like Montessori and Dewey knew 100+ years ago.
Here we are in spring 2022. COVID-19 is shifting from pandemic to endemic. Putin invaded a sovereign nation and revived the threat of global nuclear war. Inflation is the highest it has been in four decades. And if you have been working in schools, you are the closest to burnout you have ever been – or well past it.
School administrators and teachers have been heroic in their efforts to prop up the creaking bureaucracy of our inherited system of schooling. A system that was designed during a time when teachers and textbooks were the predominant sources of knowledge and the path after secondary school was highly predictable.
If engagement through two-way communication is part of your strategic plan, it may be time to
think critically about the tools teachers are using to reach parents. Most K-12 communication
solutions weren’t built with consideration for analytics, or administrator oversight.
Other common issues are lack of language translation, one-way mass text blasts, and robo calls
with no way for parents to return a phone call. Feature-rich parent apps may seem like the
solution, but apps only work for the parents who will download them. What results is inefficient
communication that frustrates teachers and parents alike.
For a district administrator, these issues may go unnoticed because they can be difficult to
observe. Educators are innovative–experts at making the most of the tools available to them
with little extra time. Your teachers may be using a free app with little security, a tool with no
administrator oversight, or their own cell phones to talk to parents. What are the signs that your
teachers need better tools so that parent engagement is supporting your district goals?
At The Akribos Group, we are fully committed to research-based practice and data informed
processes and solutions. In support of that commitment, we attempt to provide informative
insights and resources that support educational institutions and organizations in their efforts to
facilitate productive and efficient programming. In this edition of Thought Leader, we are
pleased to share content from our friends at SchoolStatus with a focus on data informed parent
communication for effective strategic planning.
If you are trying to change your school, this is where your efforts will be most rewarded. In Part II, we again visit the work of systems guru Donella Meadows who identifies ” ‘leverage points’ within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.” In Part I, I covered her Bottom Six, or less impactful leverage points; in this post I translate the Top Six.
Schools are complex systems. In a meaty article by systems guru Donella Meadows (HT to Tim Fish at
NAIS for sharing with me) we find that, “Folks who do systems analysis have a great belief in ‘leverage points’. These are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.”
The Covid 19 Pandemic was declared a national emergency on March 19, 2020, and most of us would
agree that the past twenty-two months have been memorable, and unfortunately not all those
memories have been pleasant. A world-wide pandemic with resulting implications, compounded by a
highly contentious political season, has left many of us worn and weary looking for a much brighter
future. The covid experience has certainly given us multiple opportunities for personal and professional
reflection and learning and this is particularly true for those who serve in positions of leadership.
Without a doubt, many leaders find themselves in a truly defining moment, both personally and
As I prepared to go on my journey to help football teams open the year I considered the concept of greatness.
What is it and how do I help teams and athletes achieve it? The late Muhammad Ali often said, I am the
greatest of all time. What exactly does that mean? Does that mean that he was the best boxer? A god, man or
In an effort to place concrete, ready-to-implement SEL strategies in the hands of more educators, more quickly, The Center for Educational Effectiveness recently released an online training course taught by SEL specialist, Dr. Greg Benner from the University of Alabama. Research shows that SEL not only improves student achievement by an average of 11 percentile points, but it also increases prosocial behaviors (such as kindness, sharing and empathy), improves student attitudes toward school, and reduces depression and stress among students (Durlak et al., 2011). In the six-module SEL training, called THE WHOLE EDUCATOR SERIES, Dr. Benner asserts that the many benefits of implementing strong SEL strategies don’t end with the students, but can be of vast benefit to educators themselves, decreasing their own stress levels and potential for burnout - a critical point given that job-related stress is the primary reason for 43% of educators leaving teaching before and during the pandemic (RAND Corp., 2021).
As a part of our research partnership with The University of Alabama College of Education, The
Akribos Group is pleased to offer our enthusiastic support for The Whole Educator Series. The
program was conceptualized and founded by Dr. Greg Benner, O’Sullivan Professor of Special
Education, and Implementation Science at The University of Alabama, who is a recognized leader in
Whole Child transformation programs.
Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Dean James E. Ryan states, “Right now, there exists an
almost ironclad link between a child’s ZIP code and their chances of success.” In this five-part blog
series I have questioned policy and practice, over reliant on standardized test scores and indirectly the
standardized movement, against the stark reality of few schools providing transformative opportunities
for students inside of their school systems.
John F. Kennedy stated, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.”
The quote is resonant, particularly in this time as since March of 2020, school operations and education
delivery have been highly variable across our country. However, it is overly convenient to attribute our
difficulty in getting timely supports to children solely because of the COVID pandemic.
In my first two pieces as guest contributor, we focused on the urgency of what some refer to as the
“twin pandemics,” social unrest and COVID 19, causing us to need access to high quality data to ensure
we are framing the issues unique to each school system during these tumultuous times. In addition to
having high quality data to frame clear problems of practice, it is essential each school organization
consistently measure and build high-quality culture, as absent high-quality culture, little work
benefitting children gets done.