I am very fortunate to be leading a school in rural Illinois that has had the opportunity to be open and has been open for in-person learning every single day in the first semester. It wasn’t easy but adjusting our procedures and being creative has allowed us to go half the year with only one student and one adult case in the first semester. Here are some issues that I see with closing schools and how it negatively impacts our students and our community.
1) Our low income students across the nation will be significantly impacted by the closure of schools and remote learning during the 2020-21 school year. According to Matthew Yglesias article, “And the problems will likely be most severe for lower-income students, whose parents are least likely to be working from home and least likely to have the personal knowledge and wherewithal to act as effective homeschoolers.”
2) There is not enough financial support from the federal governments CARES act to support all schools and our students for remote learning, hybrid learning, or in-person learning. Schools are taking on a new burden without the financial support needed. Similar to another unfunded mandate.
3) According to Andy Jordan Principal, Illinois has given schools local control when it comes to in-person, remote, or hybrid learning. The issue is that our great state is so diverse, unique, and underfunded that superintendents, school boards, and principals are having to make difficult decisions that could effectively determine the long term learning outcomes of their students for years to come. I believe our students being in-person learning will give them a huge advantage vs. remote and hybrid schools due to being able to accomplish more learning in person and essentially giving our students a better chance of having greater student achievement compared to other schools.
4) There are high economic costs to our families if we go full remote or hybrid model. According to UNESCO, “Working parents are more likely to miss work when schools close in order to take care of their children. This results in wage loss and tend to negatively impact productivity.”
5) The loss of being normal. The social emotional effects of being isolated and not being able to interact with students, teachers, and go through a normal school year is detrimental to a student’s development. Many students are missing out on key social emotional events that normal students should have.
According to Andy Jordan Principal he believes that schools need to be open and students need to be in school for the best learning to happen. Student achievement goes up with teachers are able to work every day with their students. Andy Jordan Principal predicts that schools that are remote or hybrid their student achievement and test scores will be lower than their historical average in years past. I believe it is unfortunate that many students educational lives have been impacted negatively due to how some states have handled the pandemic but I do not fault them either as during a worldwide pandemic it is almost impossible to predict and foresee what the right decision is for our students educationally. I’m just glad that we made the right one.
Currently an Illinois Principal Andy Jordan's blog is his own thoughts and does not represent his districts or previous district's views or positions. Mr. Jordan is a lifelong learner who has dedicated himself to education and has currently just completed his 12th year of college successfully securing a Chief School Business Official Degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Educators consider several factors when setting discipline policy. Creating safe environments,
meeting the needs of individual students, administering punishment equitably, and deterring
behavior all play a part in discipline practices commonly used in k-12 schools.
With a lack of resources and crowded schools however, it is no wonder that administrators
suspend or expel 2 million high school students a year.
Exclusionary discipline to include out of school suspension (OSS) is a common tool used to
mitigate poor student behavior in k-12 schools throughout the United States.
The rise in OSS was fueled by the war on drugs and the get tough on crime campaigns of the
1980’s and 90’s when the nation’s fear of violence by young people soared. These campaigns
along with media coverage of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, caused school
districts to adopt zero tolerance discipline policies with the intent to erase, deter, and curb
student misbehavior on k-12 campuses.
In the wake of the Columbine massacre, the fear of the “teenage super predator” resulted in
federal funding of school resource officers while student support staff including counselors and
school psychologists were cut from tight district budgets. Furthermore, the 1994 Gun Free
Schools Act required states receiving federal funding to expel, for at least a year, any student
found bringing a weapon to school.
By the end of the 1990s, every school district in the country reported having a zero tolerance
policy contributing to the rise in the use of out of school suspensions.
Zero tolerance policies and the use of OSS began with the good intention to make schools safer
from violence, guns, and drugs. Over time however, these policies began to encompass a wide
variety of non-violent student misbehaviors. As a result, schools began suspending students for
class disruption, general disrespect, cell phone use, or chronic absenteeism.
Larger schools experience discipline challenges that smaller schools do not. Smaller schools
have the ability to cultivate better student-adult relationships that help mitigate bad behavior.
According to the 2017 Brown Center Report on American Education: Race and school, schools
with up to 1300 students had lower suspension rates than those with larger populations.
Research has shown that the use of OSS has not produced safer schools or deterred student
misbehavior. Instead the exclusion from school increases drop out rates and student
disenfranchisement, disproportionally affects students of color, and lowers academic
Increased Dropout Rates
Students who have been suspended from school are more likely to drop out. Suspension
disconnects students from a stable support system and erodes trust. This disconnection and lack
of trust can lead to higher drop out rates.
A Johns Hopkins University study found out of school suspension increased the likelihood of
students leaving school from 16 percent to 32 percent. A study conducted by researchers at
Columbia University found only one third of students who received a suspension during the first
three semesters of high school went on to graduate within four years.
The use of out of school suspensions disproportionately target students of color. Both African
American and Hispanic students are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than
their white peers.
According to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, during the 2014-2015
school year, 75.7 percent of in-school suspensions in Mississippi involved black students who
make up 49.6 percent of the k-12 population. While there is an almost equal percentage of white
students in the state (45.7 percent), only 22.5 percent of in-school suspensions involved this
Several other states including Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and Louisiana also had a
disproportionate number of suspensions for black students. These racial disparities are not the
result of different behavior but of different treatment.
Lower Academic Achievement
Out of school suspensions have a negative impact on student academic achievement. Students
with at least one OSS had lower grades on average than their non-suspended peers. Missed class
time and an erosion of the student school relationship contribute to this lower academic
Educators must shift from the use of exclusionary discipline practices and adopt positive
approaches to school discipline including Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS),
restorative justice and trauma informed care. These methods have shown to improve behavior,
academic achievement, and social-emotional learning. Further, they align with the ethical and
moral responsibilities of educators to improve the lives of young people. Andy Jordan Principal
has been reducing out of school suspensions and implementing PBIS and support systems for
schools as an administrator since 2014. For more information please email him at
firstname.lastname@example.org. For ideas on how to build relationship please see Principal
Andy Jordan's Genius Hour Blog or improving school culture with assemblies blog.
Blog Written By: Andy Jordan Principal
Here are 5 principal hacks that every principal or superintendent should use to make their job easier. Here are some more tools to add to your administrative toolbox.
1) Google Calendar: There are two musts that school administrators, principals, and superintendents must do to improve their time management with google calendars. The first is to create a special education calendar that your special education teachers will use to schedule all of their IEP meetings on. For larger districts this will allow the special education department to see all IEP meetings and not double book the school psychologist, social worker, principal, or speech pathologist. It will also allow special education teachers to just schedule the IEP meeting without having to send out emails to 3-5 IEP team members asking what time works best for them. Having this information auto-populate on your principal calendar instead of having to answer and accept meetings will save you time. The second important use of your google calendar is giving your Secretary access to your calendar. Allowing the building secretary to see and schedule appointments for you will also save you much needed time.
2) Voxer App: If you haven't already downloaded the voxer app I recommend you do it now. This walkie talkie app allows you to communicate and leave text messages and voice messages for other important team members within your district. It's instant communication and it speeds up communication. Best part about it is that the messages are retrackable and they can not be subject to freedom of information act. It's a great app that I use to communicate with other principals and superintendents around the state. I can leave a question for my professional colleagues and they get answer me whenever they are available. This is a must use tool to improve your communication and productivity.
3) Google Docs: If you have not switched your principal or superintendent files over to google docs you need to. Having the flexibility to work on a document from your work computer, home office computer, and on your phone has been a game changer for me. I've had many administrative meetings or informal conversations and being able to access all of my googledocs on my phone quickly to reference has increased my productivity. Not only that you can easily share documents and have other members of your administrative team work on your doc at the same time.
4) Scheduling Emails: If other principals and superintendents are like me I do a lot of my work late at night and on the weekends to try and stay ahead of the never ending job. Leading a positive culture in the building I don't want to send my teachers or secretary emails late at night or over the weekends. Just like Facebook if you use a google email address you can schedule your emails to go out on a certain day and time. Make sure you give your staff some space and respect their schedule. Don't email them over the weekend or late at night. If you use the paid feature you can also pause your inbox or select only certain people that can get into your inbox. When I was working on big projects I would pause all my incoming emails except for my main secretary and superintendent. This allowed me to be more productive during the workday.
5) Be Visible: Being active in your building and visible during passing periods and viable in the classrooms is crucial in being a good leader and running a good building. If you are locked up in your office all day you start getting out of touch of what is happening in your building. It might take a lot of your time to get out and to be active but it is certainly time well invested. Anytime that you have meetings outside of your building or if you are gone for most of the day make sure to do a walk through in every classroom at least once in the morning so you are visible and people know you are in the building. Same thing if you have been gone most of the day when you get back to the school make sure to do a quick walk through to ensure that people see you. They say students misbehave when the teacher is absent this is true of the administrator if they know the principal is gone they tend to push the limits more so make sure you are seen and they know you are there even if your not.
Blog written by: Principal Andy Jordan
I wanted to share some key strategies for other school leaders that I have used when it comes to starting and running a successful school Facebook page. According to PEW Research 69% of adults are using Facebook. More importantly parents, grandparents, and relatives can tag and share information quickly. This is one of the best ways to communicate with your school community and with how schools are viewed in the local, state, and national media now it is more important than ever for schools to be sharing their stories with the community.
Being an administrator is tough and it has changed vastly over the past few decades but with reduced funding, over worked staff, and more responsibilities added to the principal role it is almost an impossible job to perform. Here are a few tips to help you get through that first year and to make it easier on yourself.
1) Be Visible: Be in the hallway every passing period and before/after school. Also, be sure to rotate where you are in the hallways. Make it a point to be in the cafeteria and talking with students during lunch time. Smile and interact with the students and ask them how their day is going. You'd be surprised how many students go the entire day without any real interaction with another person in your school.
2) Praise the Positive: One of my favorite leadership authors is Jon Gordon and he always said feed the positive's in your school. Make it a point to praise an adult staff member each and every day! Talk about a game changer if you start praising your staff on a daily basis they will start to feel great and it will turn into a habit one worth keeping.
3) Ask Staff and Students what they want Changed: Your leading the students and staff it is a great idea to figure out what is important to them and what they would like to be changed in their school. Being humble and realizing that you are serving them and they are not there for you is important, if you have all the answers and don't listen you will lose followers quickly. And then execute changes that are in your control. There's not a better feeling around than improving a school with the teachers and students input.
4) Recognition: Recognize anything and everything that you can possible and let people know about it. The more you highlight and recognize the more staff and students will know what you like and what they have to do to become recognized which will create a culture of success in the building.
5) Have Fun: Like I said it's an impossible job you might as well try to enjoy it! Some days will be better than other but one thing that is for certain is that you will have a never ending stack of problems that you will attempt to fix daily. Be preventative a happy principal is a happy school. Students feed off of their teachers and the teachers feed off of you make it enjoyable for everyone and have fun!
Blog written by Principal Andy Jordan
As of August 1st, 2020 there are more than 1,900 teaching positions unfilled in Illinois according to the Illinois State Board of Education website. Last year according to the IASB.com website 56 percent of school districts surveyed felt they had a problem with teacher shortages and 22 percent felt they had a major problem with teacher shortages. Furthermore, a follow up survey showed that 92% of southern Illinois districts had issues with teacher shortages in 2019.
According to USAtoday.com In an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, 1 in 5 teachers say they are unlikely to go back to school if their classrooms reopen in the fall, a potential massive wave of resignations. With Illinois already being in a teacher shortage and a potential wave of teacher resignations occurring if schools do come back to school their could potentially be a wave of teachers that resign.
These are all series issues concerning schools and districts come 2020 and 2021. The other angle that concerns me that I haven't heard anyone talk about is the effect of COVID-19 in our schools and how that will affect our teaching staff. I pray that zero students and teachers get COVID-19 this Fall and school year, but realistically that probably isn't going to happen considering that we are in a world wide health crisis. Teachers and administrators tend to be overworked and overstretched and it couldn't be more true at small schools where budgets are insufficient and staff are underpaid. These rural overworked staff have more stress and tread on the tires compared to other well funded fully supported districts. I foresee teachers and administrators across the state getting COVID-19 and some passing away from the disease.
I applaud the work of our educators and our school staff and the efforts and work they are going through to keep our schools and students safe. I feel uneasy about the teacher pipeline next year and I fear we will have a large amount of our teacher workforce quit the profession or pass away from the disease. Hopefully, I am wrong but with how teachers and administrators are viewed nationally and their average pay rate with their degrees compared to people with same level of degrees outside of education I am unsure that we will be able to close the Illinois teacher shortage crisis or change the curve to bring the teacher workforce back up to where it needs to be.
Blog written by: Andy Jordan Principal
I was first introduced to Genius Hour from my superintendent Dr. Adam Brumbaugh and I quickly researched it from A.J. Juliani. It is based off of the google 20% model where google employees spend 20% of their time working on their own individual projects and their own ideas. What google found from their "Genius Hour" is that the 20% of their employee time produced 50% of google's products. The investment and productivity was quite impressive.
Now spending 20% of a students time or 1 out of 5 days doing Genius Hour projects/activities would not be acceptable in a traditional school. I have incorporated Genius Hour on a monthly basis for one hour. There are two different models in school one that is a project based model where students work on an activity for an extended period of time and then present on their project at the end of the semester/year. And the relationship model where students get to choose their teacher and pick what activity they would like to learn. I'm going to explain the relationship model and how to operate it successfully in your school.
Key Components to Genius Hour-Relationship Model:
1) Teachers and non-certified staff (try to include non-certs if possible) get to teach an activity or a skill that they enjoy. Some examples I've seen include: how to create a YouTube video, making stress balls, yoga, family feud, fishing how to tie a lure/line, strategies of chess, radio broadcasting, making slime, and so on.
2) Use a googlesheet to manage all the information easily and let the staff sign up for what they want to teach and how many students they can accommodate. Then let all your students access the document in "view only" mode so they have a few days to review all the fun activities and see what teachers are going to be teaching.
3) Set a date/time during a study hall that your teacher can display the googlesheet and then have that teacher sign up the individuals in her class for whatever activity they would like to participate.
4) Tell your staff that you are behind them and they can purchase items for reimbursement. I've always told them anything under $20 don't ask me for permission just buy it and submit for reimbursement, but if you are buying more than $20 worth of material check with me first. Surprisingly, I've never really spent a lot of money on reimbursing my teachers they have been creative and only a few ask for reimbursements.
5) Last step assign someone to manage the yearbook camera and have them go around and take photos and then have them post it to Facebook.
Positive Effects of Genius Hour in my Schools:
1) Increased school culture. I've had many students thank me for running genius hour and have told me they actually enjoy coming to school now and that I've made it fun for them.
2) Teachers getting to build better relationships and build more trust with our students. This is key to help avoid and decrease discipline issues in their classrooms.
3) Students increased their sense of pride and respect for the staff and school by getting to know the teachers on a more personable level.
4) Improved school-community relationships. Make sure to take many pictures and post them on Facebook. Parents love to see their children learning and having fun in school. The more positive messages you can give your school community the better!
The only push-back I've received is that we are using one class period per month and we are taking away classroom instruction time. I do agree that instruction time is crucial, but I believe Genius Hour and the effects from Genius Hour far outweigh the one class of instructional time lost. Overall, it's a great program and I hope more schools incorporate it and improve their culture.
Blog written by Andy Jordan
Do you remember the days when school was fun and the gyms were packed with school pride? I believe one of the most important factors in operating a great school is school culture and the strong relationships within the school. According to a 2015 Gallap poll only 32% of Juniors in school feel like they are engaged. An edweek.org blog also stated that 44% of new teachers that enter the profession will leave teaching within their first 5 years.
One way to cultivate school culture is by holding monthly assemblies in the gym with your staff and student body. After hosting monthly assemblies for three years as an administrator I'm surprised that more schools don't invest the time to cultivate their culture. Here are some of the benefits of hosting monthly assemblies:
1) Increased culture: We were able to teach kids what we wanted from them every month by highlighting all the positives that our students and staff were doing on a regular basis. It was a great way to reinforce the positives and build off of our daily PBIS system that we incorporated in our building.
2) Decreased student absences: One trend I picked up on (thanks to my rock-star secretary) over a few years of hosting our school assemblies was that our attendance rates on assembly days were near perfect. Students knew when our assemblies were, they enjoyed them, and they didn't want to miss them.
3) Improved student discipline: All administrators have had their fair share of student discipline issues some more than others. Over the years of hosting assemblies I've always enjoyed the fact that I've never had a student write up or behavior problem during an assembly. And our frequency of student write-ups on assembly days dropped significantly.
4) Positive Public Relations: Post your school assembly pictures on Facebook and share all the positives with your school community. Showing parents that students are having a blast and building great memories in your school will foster positive relationships with the community and give your parents something to talk about with their children
Depending on your school culture and how traditional schools have been operating for decades monthly assemblies can seem like an uphill battle. You might receive push back that you are taking away instructional time from the students and teachers. I would agree with that; however, I would argue that the improved culture with students feeling better and teachers feeling better that you will receive better results and the time spent will be well worth it. Here are some ideas for you to hit the road running for your first assembly:
1) Create a template and stick to it
2) Reward what you value in your school from academic success on state tests to students/staff helping each other out
3) Recognize students in sports and clubs (research shows that student who participate in extra-curricular activities are more successful). Student and athlete of the month are also good ideas.
4) Recognize your staff this will show your students that staff and teachers are super important and valued
5) Bring in guest speakers to spice up your monthly assemblies and keep the momentum going. Some of my favorites include BMX bikers, hypnotist, gold medalist, and motivational speakers.
There are many templates that you can use that best fits your school, but the most important thing is to take the leap and start having fun in your school. Your students and teachers will appreciate it.
Blog written by Andy Jordan
Being part of a great leadership team and work environment is crucial to running a successful school over a long period of time. As principals or superintendents it should be our priority to create excellent working conditions for our leadership team and teacher leaders to elevate their skills and productivity. It's also important if you are part of a negative team with a poor superintendent or school board it might be time to start looking for another administrative job.
The picture above is from Jim Collins book How The Mighty Fall. These are great tips for principals and/or superintendents looking to improve their leadership team and also These are also good reminders of what it looks like for schools that are going down the wrong path.
Here are some tips as superintendent on improving and moving your school forward:
1) Make data informed decisions and invite stakeholder involvement
2) Build your administrative team and welcome deep discussions and highlight their successes
3) Work on growing a successor and other leaders within the building. If you leave the district as a superintendent and there is a leadership void you have done your district a disservice
4) When hiring teachers or principals and its between the "local person" or the "other person" make sure you hire the "best person" every time
5) Put your school in the best position by hiring the most talented person instead of the person with the most experience
Blog written by: Principal Andy Jordan
The ability for you to effectively engage in difficult conversations may not be easy or fun, but it is crucial for you to be able successfully navigate every difficult conversation that comes your way. As an administrator who is able to successfully confront and handle conflict is key to running a great school.
1. Get the facts. Whatever the situation student discipline, parent complaint, staff issue make sure you get the facts before the conversation and make sure the person reporting it is coming to you with first hand information. Seek out anyone else who could be involved in the situation if necessary to gain more knowledge about the incident. Having good situational awareness and knowing your personal/students/parents is key to being able to identify how reliable the information is.
2. Put yourself in their shoes. After getting the story ask yourself why that person would have done something like that. Is this the first time something like this has happened? Are their other underlying issues going on that caused this action? What is the rapport between the two parties? Who has a good connection/insight on the person that you could potentially ask if needed.
3. Walk through the conversation. Be prepared to have a couple of options for discipline thought out sitting in your pocket depending on how the conversation goes and what you determine after discussing it with them. Could be anything from a misunderstanding (no discipline), warning, detention, suspension, termination, or write up. Anticipate the worst case scenario of the person yelling and cursing at you, destroying property, or slamming doors and be prepared to respond and not be rattled. Be prepared to stop them immediately and tell them that they have now escalated the situation and it's now in their best interest to stop talking and take a minute to calm down.
4. Stay calm and execute the conversation. Be prompt and get to the point right away. Tell them why they are their and what they are accused of. Pretend that their parent (or superintendent) is sitting in the room with you and treat them how you would want to be treated. Stick to the facts, don't add any bias or interpretation to the conversation let them speak for themselves. After they present their case then determine what is appropriate discipline (if any), deliver the consequence, and then end the conversation.
5. Document, document, document. Believe it or not after having a difficult conversation stories sometimes change and words can be twisted. It might be a small issue, but depending on the circumstances of the situation and person(s) involved it could escalate into a bigger problem quickly. Make sure to document the conversation and what was said and keep those notes on file. It's much easier to go back and reference your notes if questioned by the school board or the superintendent.
Blog written by Andy Jordan
Andy Jordan, Ed.S.
Andy Jordan is a first generation college graduate who has dedicated his career to improving schools and fighting educational equality. Please follow and comment as we discuss the educational process. For more information and for videos please visit Principal Andy Jordan's YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/AndyJordanPrincipal