Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

March 1, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

Interview Of The Month: Ted Appel, An Exceptional Principal

As regular readers know, each month I interview people in the education world about whom I want to learn more. You can see read those past interviews here.

Ted Appel is the exceptional principal at the school where I teach, Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento. It’s the largest inner-city high school in the city, and over half of our students are English Language Learners. Ted has also been interviewed by Learning First, and he and I have co-authored an article titled The Positive Impact Of English Language Learners At An Urban School.

What led you to teaching in the classroom, and what prompted your decision to become a principal?

I had been working in outdoor programs for youth at risk for a few years, which was very rewarding and fun, but I felt like school had a overpowering impact on a child’s feelings about being a successful person. I also became interested in the experiential education movement and wondered how it could be applied to classroom learning.

I went into administration because I believed I had received some good training in strong instructional practices and I thought I could have a broader impact by training other teachers in some of those strategies. I eventually became a principal because I realized it was important to have influence over the whole culture of the school in order to really impact the practices in the classroom.

What are the three best things you think you’ve done since you’ve become Burbank’s principal, and what might be three mistakes?

I think the best thing I’ve helped to do at Luther Burbank is create an environment where teachers who are committed to making a difference in students’ lives, have an opportunity to do that work. We’ve created structures, in which everyone has a part, that have resulted in an environment that is orderly, consistent, respectful and dynamic. As a result, we’ve also been able to attract the kind of idealistic, talented, innovative, committed people, an urban school needs in order to make a real difference in kids’ lives.

The other thing I try to do is talk to a lot of people, a lot. The decision making/improvement process is ongoing. I put a lot of ideas out into discussion, hear a lot of feedback and alternative ideas. I think this dynamic leads to a positive professional culture and results in good decisions and creative experiments.

The first big mistake I made when I started was to allow students to use cell phones in the halls during lunch and passing periods. There was an incredible outbreak of organized fights including people from off campus. The hall monitors came to speak with me after three weeks and said, “change the policy or we quit”. What I learned wasn’t just about cell phone rules. I learned that if I think it may be a good idea to make some kind of change, I needed to involve the people who have different perspectives and or would be affected by the decision.

I understand that I make a lot of decisions every day and so I make a lot of mistakes, or don’t do things as well as I could or should. I approach the job like a constant job interview. You try to anticipate issues or questions and prepare with the best approach you know. You often need to think on your feet for what you perhaps did not expect. And you constantly analyze what you said or did and realize how you could have approached it better.

For principals who want to spend some reflective time on their own practice, what might be some important questions you’d recommend they might want to ask themselves?

I think principals need to consider who they talk to. Are they sharing ideas and listening to teachers and staff or just other administrators at the site and central office?

Are the structures, rules, and customs of the school currently necessary and relevant or do they exist for reasons that have disappeared?

Do you believe in the programs and practices of your school, or are you just managing and complying with rules and regulations that have been handed to you?

In looking at the beliefs of those who often self-described as “school reformers,” what do you think might be helpful ideas and unhelpful ones, and why?

It seems that the basis of the current school reform movement, is the belief that teachers and schools are not sufficiently motivated to get better. Thus, competition, punishment and rewards geared to outcome goals are their “innovations” for change and improvement. I believe this creates perverse incentives to manipulate outcomes rather than encourage know how and motivate sound practice.

I also don’t think it is helpful to refuse to acknowledge that some students come to school with intellectual, social, and cultural advantages to be successful in school environments. Acknowledging this fact is not a surrender to poor results. It is merely recognizing what anyone working in a classroom sees every day. It also helps when trying to honestly analyze what is needed, in terms of different approaches and resources, to help students to be successful. We have no problem acknowledging this in art, music or athletics. Why is there such fear in acknowledging it in academics?

I think it can be valuable to give students nationally normed tests. But these tests should not be used to label schools as good or bad. They should be used as a means to evaluate practice and examine ways schools can get better at helping students improve in the skills being assessed.

Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to share?

People want school improvement to come from a simple fix. With variables as complex as society itself, there will be no simple solutions for all schools and all kids. We need to approach improvement in education not as a fix but as an ongoing dynamic that is achieved through consistent commitment to a common ideal; all children, through education, are entitled to the widest possible array of intellectual, cultural, social, political and economic opportunity. This goal is certainly not easy, nor can we ever really know if it is fully realized. That understanding, that we will never have the absolute answer should not be a source of frustration, should be a source of energy and pride.

Thanks, Ted!

June 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

All My BAM Radio Shows – Linked With Descriptions

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As regular readers know, I’ve been doing a weekly ten-minute online BAM! Radio Show for the past year-and-a-half. In each show, I’ve interviewed guests who have contributed to one of my Education Week Teacher columns. They’ve been pretty popular, with nearly 30,000 downloads each month.

I thought readers might find it helpful if I put links with descriptions to each show in one place. I won’t be starting them up again until September, but will continue to update this list when I do…

Three Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Teaching with Val Brown, Julia Thompson

Overwhelmed: Help for Those of Us Whose Lives Are Out of Balance with Debbie Silver

Would These 5 Tips Make You More Open to New Teaching Practices? Sally Zepeda, Bill Sterrett, and Pete Hall

Encouraging Other Teachers Who Work with English Language Learners with Sonia Nieto, Alicia Lopez

The Three Best Ways Teachers Can Encourage Support for English Language Learners with Jennifer Connors, Diane Staehr Fenner, Sydney Snyder

Teaching Strategies 2.0: What Is a Digital Portfolio? Why It Matters with Rusul Alrubail, Michael Fisher

The Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Professional Development with Rick Wormeli

Why Some Teachers Stay, While Others Quit with Sharon Jacobs

A Second Look: Teacher Attrition at High Poverty Urban Schools Karen Baptiste, Pia Wong, Yvette Jackson

How Small Learning Communities Create Powerful Climates for Academic Success with ReLeah Cosette-Lent, Ted Appel

How Are Common Core Standards Impacting Teaching Math to ELLs? with Ben Spielberg, Denisse R. Thompson, Gladis Kersaint

Exploring the Difference Between Student Participation and Student Engagement with Jennifer Gonzalez, Bill and Pérsida Himmele

Fitting Technology Into the Common Core Standards: Do This, Don’t Do That with Michael Fisher, Andrew Miller

What Are Good Examples of Reading Lessons Aligned to Common Core Standards? with Cheryl Dobbertin

What Are the Differences Between Project-Based, Problem-Based and Inquiry Learning? with Jeff Wilhelm, Suzie Boss

What Are the Best Ways to Teach Literature in the Age of Common Core? with Nancy Steineke, Sean McComb, Bill and Pérsida Himmele

Teaching English Language Learners (ELLs): Five Strategies That Work with Judie Haynes, MaryAnn Zehr

The 10 Best Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary in the Classroom with Katie Brown, Marilee Sprenger

Maker Movement, DYI, 3D Printers: New Fad or Real Path to 21st Century Skills? with Laura Blankenship

What Is Your Advice to Educators Who Want to Write a Book? with Marjorie McAneny, PJ Caposey, Alan Sitomer

Differentiated Instruction and Tracking Students: Is It Time to Reconsider? Laura Robb, Regie Routman

Effective Classroom Management: Do This, Not That with Pernille Ripp, Dr. Bryan Harris

How Can We Increase the Ranks of Teachers of Color? with Gloria Ladson-Billings

Are Caring and Relationship Building Compatible with Implementing Common Core Standards? with Mai Xi Lee, Sean Slade

How Can Teachers Meet Common Core English Standards with English Language Learners? with Maria Montalvo-Balbed, Debbie Zacarian

Can We Effectively Evaluate Teachers Based on Factors Teachers Completely Control? with Ben Spielberg and Ted Appel

Student Engagement Versus Student Compliance: How Much Does It Really Matter? with Debbie Silver, Dr. Bryan Harris

What Are the Myths and Misconceptions Around Formative Assessment? with Nancy Frey

How Can We Help Students Appreciate the Value of Learning Geography? Elisabeth Johnson, Kelly Young

Close Reading: What It Is, What It’s Not with Chris Lehman

Accountability: What are the Alternatives to Using Test Scores for Teacher Evaluations? with Julian Vasquez Heilig, Ph.D., Ben Spielberg

How Can We Make Math More Engaging and Accessible to Students? with Dr. Anne M. Collins, Sue O’Connell

What Is the Best Way to Train Student Teachers? with Emily Geltz, Linda Rief

How Can Teachers Best Manage Race and Class Issues In Schools?  with P. L. Thomas, Ashanti Foster

Second Thoughts: Teacher Attire, Does it Really Matter? with Roxanna Elden, Renee Moore

How Is Globalization Changing How and What You Teach? with  John Spencer, Diana Laufenberg

How Can Teachers Meet the Common Core Requirement for Complex Reading? with Amy Benjamin, Wendi Pillars

What Are We Losing By Eliminating Arts From the Curriculum? with Virginia McEnerney, David Booth

What Can We Do to Develop a Culture of Success in our Classrooms? with Heather Wolpert-Gawron, Chris Lehman

How Can History Teachers Make the Curriculum More Engaging? Peter Pappas, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez

What Are the Best Ways for Teachers to Work With School Counselors? with Leticia Gallardo, Mindy Willard

How Can We Help Students (And Ourselves) Stay Organized? with Julia Thompson , Ariel Sacks

How Can Administrators Help Create an Engaging Curriculum with Anne Reeves, Kelly Young

Dissecting Grades: What Do They Mean, What Are They Worth? with Rick Wormeli

How Can We Help Students Handle Loss and Grief? with Mary Tedrow, Stephen Lazar

How Can We Differentiate Instruction More Effectively? with Carol Tomlinson

What Are the Real Benefits of a 1:1 Program? What Are the Biggest Challenges? with Alice Barr, Dr. Troy Hicks

How Can We Get All Students in Our Classes Thinking and Learning All the Time? with Bill and Pérsida Himmele, Jim Peterson

What Are the Five Best Practices to Promote Better Student Learning with Diana Laufenberg, Jeff Charbonneau

What Do We Need to Do to Better Support English Language Learners? with Karen Nemeth, Judie Haynes

How Can We Reduce Teacher Attrition at High-Poverty Schools? with Barnett Berry, Ilana Garon

Why Precisely Do Teachers Leave High Poverty Schools? with Angel L. Cintron Jr. and Paul Bruno

What Are the Habits of Lifelong Readers, How Do We Instill Them? with Donalyn Miller

What Are the Basics Every Teacher Should Know About the Maker Movement? with Sylvia Martinez, Tanya Baker

Character, Grit, Perseverance: Magic Bullet? with Jason Flom and Debbie Silver

How Do We Increase Involvement Among Parents Who Are Already Overwhelmed? with Darcy Hutchins and Mai Xi Lee

May 2, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

“The Value Of ‘Small Learning Communities'”

The Value Of ‘Small Learning Communities’ is the title of my latest post at Education Week Teacher.

Educators Ted Appel, ReLeah Cossett, PJ Caposey and Tom Hoerr contribute their commentaries today sharing different perspectives on what a “small learning community” might look like….

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Small Learning Communities.

Here are some excerpts:

Small-learning

Teachers-seem-to

Small-learning1111

Do-I-think-small-schools

April 7, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

We Discuss Small Learning Communities On My Latest BAM! Radio Show

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Oops, there appears to be a technical issue with the show and it’s not accessible, but I’m sure BAM! will fix it right away – FIXED NOW!

How Small Learning Communities Create Powerful Climates for Academic Success is the topic of my latest BAM! Radio Show. My guests are the principal at the school where I teach (we’re divided into six “SLC’s”), Ted Appel, and educator ReLeah Cosette-Lent.

They both, and others, have contributed a written commentary on the topic, which will be covered in one of my future Education Week Teacher columns.

I’m adding the show to The Best Resources For Learning About Small Learning Communities.

December 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

My New BAM! Radio Show Features An Innovative Strategy For Teacher Evaluation

teacherevaluation

Can We Evaluate Teachers Based on Factors Teachers Completely Control? is the title of my latest BAM! Radio Show.

It’s a ten-minute conversation I had with Ben Spielberg and Ted Appel, the principal of the school where I teach. Our talk focuses on the idea of measuring inputs — in other words, identifying what practices we know make up good teaching and evaluating educators on whether they are implementing those practices.

This show is a follow-up to my Education Week Teacher post, Using Teacher Evaluations ‘to Promote Growth.’

You can read more about this idea here and here.

November 26, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Giving Thanks: Eleven Key People Who Changed My Professional Career(s) — For The Better!

Yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers – Alexander Russo — wrote an excellent post titled Giving Thanks: 6 Key Moments That Changed My Post-Grad School Career .

It’s inspired me to do something similar:

1. Johnny Baranski, who invited me to join the Portland (Oregon) Catholic Worker and which led to my spending seven years in the Catholic Worker Movement, including starting a soup kitchen/emergency shelter in Santa Rosa, California.

2. Mary Ochs, who took a chance and hired me for my first job as a community organizer and led to a nineteen-year organizing career.

3. Larry McNeil, who was my first supervisor when I began organizing for the Industrial Areas Foundation and from whom I learned so much.

4. Jay Schenirer, then Sacramento School Board member, who encouraged me to apply for my first (and, so far, only) teaching job — at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento.

5. Ted Appel, Burbank principal, who hired me and who continues to provide incredible leadership at our school.

6. Kelly Young, who provides literacy consulting to our school and to others, and from whom I’ve learned more about teaching than from anyone else.

7. Katie Hull Sypnieski, Lara Hoekstra and Dana Dusbiber, close teaching colleagues, friends, and co-authors for the past eleven years.

8. John Norton from Middleweb, who provided very early encouragement to me to begin blogging and writing books.

9. Mary Ann Zehr, who suggested to Education Week that they approach me about writing a column there.

Feel free to share your “thank you’s” to people in the comments, or leave links to blog posts where you do the same….

November 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
4 Comments

Did The Obama Administration Signal A Major Shift In Teacher Evaluation Policies Today?

Today, the Obama Administration issued new requirements pushing for an equal distribution of “excellent” teachers across all schools in all districts. How did they define an “excellent” teacher? They left a lot of room for states to make that determination, but did say what an excellent teacher is not:

Department officials also indicated what is not “excellent,” including educators in their first year of teaching, those without certification or licensure and those who are absent from class more than 10 days in a school year.

In other words, as Education Week put it:

the Obama administration directs states to focus their plans mainly on “inputs”—such as how many years of experience a teacher has—rather than “outputs,” or how effective teachers actually are at moving the needle on student achievement.

This issue of “input” versus “output” is a topic that the principal of our school, Ted Appel, and I have been discussing for quite awhile. And Ben Spielberg wrote what I think is one of the best pieces on teacher evaluation that anyone has written precisely about it (see This Is One Of The Best Pieces I’ve Read On Teacher Evaluation: “The Problem with Outcome-Oriented Evaluations”).

He described the value of evaluating inputs, as opposed to outputs. In other words, most teacher evaluation discussion is focused on measuring student outcomes. But, as Ben points out, we often have far less control over those outcomes than is believed.

I’m wondering if these new guidelines from the Administration might signal a first move towards recognizing this reality and away from blind adherence to the use of harmful methods like Value-Added Measures?

What do you think? Am I reading too much into today’s announcement?

By the way, if you’d like to read more about what Ben and others have to say about teacher evaluations, I’ve just posted the third post in my Ed Week series on the topic.

October 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

“Seven Strategies For Working With Student Teachers”

Seven Strategies For Working With Student Teachers is the title of my latest Education Week Teacher post.

Today’s final post in the series features what I think is a particularly interesting combination — a quest response from Ted Appel, the principal of the inner-city school where I teach, who describes the innovative requirements he insisted upon if a university was interested in placing student teachers with us; followed by a commentary from Pia Lindquist Wong, director of a university teaching credentials program who found that her ideas dovetailed with those of Ted’s – the two then developed a partnership.

Here are two excerpts:

The-supervisor-at-no

The-idea-that-student