Central Community and East Feliciana are the Louisiana Finalists!

Spring is in full-bloom here in the southeastern United States and LEAN Frog is pleased to announce that the Louisiana school systems’ first year of participation in this Best Practices Contest has blossomed beyond our expectations!  The Louisiana entries were highly competitive and well-deserving of recognition. After several rounds of judging, LEAN Frog and co-sponsors the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS)/Louisiana Association of School Executives (LASE) are excited to announce the Louisiana Finalists in the “Tri-State Best K-12 Practices” Contest. . .

 

Central High School (Central Community School System in Baton Rouge, LA) and Jackson Elementary School (East Feliciana Public Schools in Clinton, LA).  Formal recognition and a $1,000 cash prize will be given to each of the finalists at an award ceremony to be held at their prize-winning schools. Additionally, the Louisiana finalists will be recognized at the at the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS) Summer Conference June 20-22 at the Double Tree in Lafayette, LA.

 

Central High School’s (CHS) “Student-run Help Desk” is a best practice begun in 2015 – a year after the start of their 1:1 digital initiative.  Inspired by college, student-run technology “help desks”, the CHS student-directed and staffed Help Desk provides full-time tech services on 1,400 student/teacher laptops. Additionally, these students maintain all classroom workstations, projectors, printers and nearly every other technical device.  The Help Desk staffers provide technology training to incoming students and professional development to faculty. These help desk students secure real-world IT experience (e.g., troubleshooting problems, repairing hardware and software, tracking inventory, communicating with customers, developing standard operating procedures), develop technical writing skills (e.g., creating training documents and documenting standard operating procedures) and jump start their careers by earning CompTIA A+ certification. Some students have gone on to become employed by the school system’s IT department.

A Central High School student-run Help Desk staffer repairs a laptop.

 

Jackson Elementary School’s (JES) “Cubs Morning Meeting” began in 2014 to address student and staff needs to develop a common language and space to explore the school’s values of respect, responsibility and kindness without sacrificing instructional time. The Cubs Morning Meeting (20 minutes first thing in the morning) has evolved into an almost entirely student developed and led assembly involving all members of the Jackson Elementary School Cub family (kindergarten through fifth grade).  This best practice has helped JES achieve a variety of quantitative and qualitative school goals connected to climate (e.g., 28% decrease in out of school suspensions), efficiency (e.g., reduced number of informational faculty meetings, adding a monthly meeting focused entirely on professional development without increasing the number of faculty meeting the staff needs to attend), and student leadership and public speaking skills (e.g., “Author’s Chair” presentations). Because each homeroom gets at least two weeks of practice leading Morning Meeting each school year, the number and variety of students provided with leadership and presentation skills has grown exponentially.

Students share their writings in the “Author’s Chair” during Jackson Elementary’s Cubs Morning Time

 

Louisiana had a record number of entries its first year participating in the Best Practices contest. We thank all of those who took the time to enter the contest and we applaud all your efforts on behalf of the students in Louisiana public schools!

 

The Alabama finalists were announced in December 2017 at the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) Annual Convention (AASB is the Alabama contest co-sponsor.) The Tennessee finalists were acknowledged at the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) Legislative & Learning Conference in February 2018 (TOSS is the Tennessee contest co-sponsor).  All six state finalists will compete for a Grand Prize of an additional $4,000 that will be awarded at a Board of Education meeting of the winning school system.  This presentation will allow the local community to share in the school system’s recognition for positively impacting student achievement and promoting the effective and efficient use of public resources.

 

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Louisiana Believes . . . in Great Best Practices Contest Entries!

The state plan for the Louisiana State Department of Education is Louisiana Believes.  The Louisiana Believes plan was designed to ensure that every child is on track to a college degree or a professional career and emphasizes the crucial role students, parents and teachers play in helping students achieve. This strong belief is echoed in the entries we received from Louisiana school systems in their first year of participation in the Best Practices contest*.  Well, we believe that Alabama and Tennessee have some stiff competition for taking home the Grand Prize in the Tri-State Best K-12 Practices contest.  In their first year out of the gate, Louisiana public schools have submitted innovative and impactful entries that demonstrate the strength and depth of public education.

 

Some of the Louisiana-submitted best practices involved:

  •  Increased Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education opportunities for K-12 students to expand their critical thinking skills and prepare them for the 21st century workforce
  • Student-led early morning assemblies that distribute important school news and shared “cultural values” and spotlight student and staff recognitions
  • Professional Development for Career Technical Education (CTE) Teachers that focuses on the economic growth plans of the community, facilitates learning and collaboration with local businesses, and promotes students earning industry certifications
  • A strategically focused blueprint for increasing student achievement, developing educator effectiveness, and building public confidence
  • Expansion of the student directed and staffed IT “Help Desk” to deliver full-time technology maintenance services, enhance the use of technology in academic projects, and provide CompTIA A+ certifications for students
  •  Intensive ACT preparation to help students increase their scores and broaden their college opportunities.

 

We are thankful for the wonderful entries submitted by Louisiana, Tennessee, and Alabama and we greatly appreciate the support provided by our public education co-sponsors -Executive Director Sally Howell and the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) in Alabama, Executive Director Dale Lynch and the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) in Tennessee, and Executive Director Mike Faulk and the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS) in Louisiana.  Thanks also to Executive Director J. Rogers Pope and the Louisiana Association of School Executives (LASE).

 

So now the question is . . .

 

Stay tuned for the revelation of the Louisiana finalists (see previous posts about Alabama entries and finalists and Tennessee entries and finalists) who will receive $1000.00 each and for the Grand Prize Winner selected from each state’s finalists.  The Grand Prize winner will receive an additional $4000.00 cash award!!!

 

* LEAN Frog sponsors the Tri-State Best K-12 Practices Contest for Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana public schools in association with the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB), the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS), and the Louisiana Association of School Executives/Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASE/LASS) LEAN Frog established the contest to give back to public schools and to promote creative and sustainable practices that impact student achievement and encourage the effective and efficient use of public resources. Started in Alabama in 2014, expanded into Tennessee in 2016 and into Louisiana this year, winners receive public recognition and a cash prize for their successful entries.

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Tennessee Best Practices Entries are Turning Up the Heat

 

Dave has one word for the Tri-States Best Practices competition–“hot! hot! hot!”  I guess that’s actually three words.  See below for what he has to say about some of the entries we’ve received so far from Tennessee school systems.  Keep ’em coming Tennessee.  Your deadline to submit entries is Tuesday, January 23!

 

It may be snowy and bitter cold outside, but here at LEAN Frog we are warm — basking in the “heat” of the exciting entries that are representing Tennessee public school systems in the “Tri-State Best K-12 Practices” Contest!  Alabama did a great job in submitting many fine entries (see previous posts about Alabama entries and the two Alabama finalists who each won $1000 as state finalists: Eufaula City Schools and Muscle Shoals City Schools.  Feature posts about these finalists are coming soon), however, Tennessee has “thrown several logs on the fire of competition” and this Contest is “ablaze.”

 

Some examples of Tennessee entries received so far are:

  •  A program that identifies and assists students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in postsecondary education
  • A comprehensive, stakeholder-engaging plan to improve processes in key goal areas
  • A summer feeding program enhanced by a diner-style mobile component
  • A STEM educational program introducing, training, and providing dual enrollment opportunities to students
  • A technology-based program — serving an urban/rural county with a high-poverty rate — by providing multiple educational opportunities
  • A school-wide positive collaboration and celebration time

So…when you are taking a break from building snowmen and drinking hot cocoa, enter the “Tri-State Best K-12 Practices” Contest before the Tennessee submission deadline of Tuesday, January 23, 2018.  (Louisiana school systems: your deadline of Monday, February 19 is fast approaching as well.)

LEAN Frog and contest co-sponsor the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) will announce the two Tennessee Finalists at the upcoming TOSS Legislative Conference (February 5-7).   The Finalists will each receive $1,000 and will compete against the Alabama and Louisiana Finalists for the Grand Prize! The grand prize winning school system will receive an additional $4000 and be recognized at a school board meeting  so the local community can join in on the celebration.

For further information about the “Tri-State Best K-12 Practices” Contest go to:  http://theleanleap.com/contest/.  Remember to follow us on Twitter for updates on the contest.  Click here for brainstorming tips on identifying best practices and Click here for posts on previous winners.

 

LEAN Frog began the Best Practices contest in 2014 with the purpose of giving-back to public schools.  The contest promotes creative and sustainable practices that impact student achievement and encourage the effective and efficient use of public resources.  The contest started with Alabama public schools in 2014, expanded to include Tennessee public schools in 2016 and now includes public schools in Alabama, Tennesee, and Louisiana in the Tri-States Best K-12 Practices contest. 

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Eufaula City and Muscle Shoals are the Alabama Finalists!

GREAT things are happening in Alabama public schools!  This past Friday, Eufaula City Schools and Muscle Shoals City Schools were recognized as the Alabama Finalists in the “Tri-State Best K-12 Practices” Contest.

Their titled entries — “From Crayons to Careers:  Intentional Preparation for College and Career Readiness” from Eufaula City Schools and the “Pathfinder Alabama Program” from Muscle Shoals City Schools – were selected through a double-judged process as the “best of the best” from a large, competitive field of high quality Alabama school system entries.

In the 4th year of the “best practices” contest in Alabama — sponsored by the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) and LEAN Frog — these two OUTSTANDING entries were publicly recognized and received a $1,000 cash prize at the AASB Annual Convention in Birmingham.  Both entries will compete against the finalists from Tennessee (co-sponsored with Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents/TOSS) and Louisiana (co-sponsored with Louisiana Association of School Executives and Louisiana Association of School Superintendents LASS/LASE) for the Grand Prize of $4,000 and regional bragging rights for impacting student achievement and promoting the effective and efficient use of public resources.

The Eufaula City Schools entry represented a deliberate move from a system of schools to a school system.  The school system reviewed activities across the district and tied all major activities and events to their “Dream Big, Innovate Often” theme.  All levels of leadership throughout the system worked together to develop a systematic approach to knowing what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and who should do it.  After the completion of events, leadership followed by recapping what was done and developing detailed notes for continuous improvement.

-from left to right: Sherri Headrick (LEAN Frog), Mitzi Clayton, Sally Howell (AASB), Otis Hill (ECS), Byron Headrick (LEAN Frog) and Louise Conner (ECS)

The Muscle Shoals City Schools entry addressed a national problem — students in Work-Based Learning programs not being afforded opportunities in skilled, technical environments due to employer restrictions on insurance of minors.  To alleviate the problem, Muscle Shoals piloted the Pathfinder program at their Muscle Shoals Career Academy.  They partnered with a human resources company to be the employer of record.  At the time of inception, there was no other program in the nation like it.  Now others are replicating this best practice across the country.

-from left to right: Sherri Headrick (LEAN Frog), Celia Rudolph (MSCS), Sally Howell (AASB), Brian Lindsey (MSCS), and Byron Headrick (LEAN Frog)

 

This year’s Alabama entries represented a vast range of departments/functional areas (from Child Nutrition to Career Tech), addressed numerous challenges schools/school systems face (from summer slide to lack of summer and other employment for students), and creatively used resources such as social media, scheduling, and buildings.  We thank all of those who took the time to enter the contest.  We applaud your work and we thank you for all you do on behalf of Alabama public education.

Stay tuned for feature posts on the Alabama finalists.

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INNOVATIVE and AMAZING Alabama Entries for Tri-State K-12 Best Practices Contest

Are you ready for some positive, uplifting news about Alabama public education?

Want to hear about some OUTSTANDING instructional and non-instructional practices that benefit children?

Well the Alabama entries for the “Tri-State Best K-12 Practices”* contest deliver just that.   This year in Alabama, many INNOVATIVE and AMAZING entries were submitted for the Contest!  The number of entries received increased dramatically and the quality was dazzling.  Also, as in the past, several school systems, submitted multiple entries!

This year’s Best Practice entries covered timely and important issues such as the following:

  • Offering new educational opportunities based on the needs of students and their families.
  • Creating programs and organizing entire schools to promote sustainable project based learning.
  • Providing skills, certifications, and job experiences in technical fields;
  • Using survey and assessment data to design programs and practices to better support students’ academic performance and social development
  • Developing detailed outreach plans to encourage and support students in state and national competitions.
  • Designing structures to align activities system-wide to support the school system’s mission and motto.
  • Re-focusing schools’ organizational/administrative structure and physical environment to enhance student experiences during the school year and over the summer in creative and innovative academic activities.
  • Establishing practices to provide more collaboration time for teachers
  • Using social media to celebrate students and staff, promote activities, and increase transparency.
  • Advancing unique professional development opportunities for teachers.
  • Creating programs and practices to address problems such as the summer slide and lack of employment opportunities for students.
  • Ensuring that all students have opportunity to have a nutritious breakfast.

Stay tuned for MORE GOOD NEWS about Alabama as LEAN Frog announces the Finalists for the Alabama portion of the contest at the AASB 2017 Annual Convention Awards Luncheon on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Birmingham!   The two finalists receive $1000.00 and will be eligible for the $4000 grand prize award!

 

Note: The Tennessee and Louisiana entry acceptance periods are still open.  Tennessee entrance period ends January 23 and Louisiana entrance period ends February 19. We are expecting Innovative and Amazing entries from you as well.  Click here for brainstorming tips on identifying best practices. Click here for posts on previous winners.

 

* LEAN Frog sponsors the Tri-State Best K-12 Practices Contest for Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana public schools in association with the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB), the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS), and the Louisiana Association of School Executives/Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASE/LASS)  LEAN Frog established the contest to give back to public schools and to promote creative and sustainable practices that impact student achievement and encourage the effective and efficient use of public resources.  Started in Alabama in 2014, expanded into Tennessee in 2016 and into Louisiana this year, winners receive public recognition and a cash prize for their successful entries. We will feature a series of posts on the Alabama finalists, followed by Tennessee and Louisiana finalists respectively. 

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From Titans to Therapy Dogs: Enter Alabama’s Best Contest Before Oct. 17 Deadline

  • A Tennessee Titan visit. A visit from a senator-smooching therapy dog.
  • Hot nutritious breakfasts provided during the summer.  Breakfasts and personalized interventions provided on Saturdays.
  • Teaching students and parents the importance of consistent school attendance.  Teaching athletes the importance of leadership, character, integrity and discipline.

3 practice snipThis is a just a sample of the wide range of entries we have received for the Alabama’s Best Non-Instructional Practices Contest.  Keep ’em coming!  The deadline to enter is this Friday (October 17, 2014).

The Alabama’s Best Contest recognizes and awards best practices and innovations in the non-instructional departments of Alabama’s K-12 public schools.  The winning entry will receive $3000.  Two second place winners will receive $1000 each.

LEAN Frog and the Alabama Association of School Boards are recognizing Alabama school districts (or schools within a district) for the significant role non-instructional support services play in promoting student achievement.   From Child Nutrition to Transportation to Student Services, non-instructional departments in public schools across Alabama are implementing creative, sustainable best practices.  These best practices improve students’ well-being,  help prepare them for successful futures, and encourage the involvement of school staff, parents and the local community.  The entries we have received so far boast some impressive results:

  • A 63% increase in high school breakfast participation rates
  • Promotion of unity and shared responsibility
  • A 5% increase in the number of students with perfect attendance
  • Special Education students helped with motor skills
  • Improved ACT  test scores
  • Dramatic decreases in detention
  • Over 98,000 hot meals served to children 18 and under during the summer
  • Reductions in truancy, discipline issues and tardiness

2nd 2 practiceDoes your school or school system have one or more innovative practices or creative solutions that deserve to be recognized?  Review the requirements, rules and regulations for the Alabama’s Best Contest and ENTER NOW.  Deadline to enter is Friday, October 17.

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Best Practices in Public Education: More than a Buzzword

You’ve probably seen the Weird Al Yankovich video “Mission Statement” parodying the buzz words that are so commonplace in corporate America (If not click the image below… it’s worth a look).

Click the Image above to see Weird Al Yankovich video “Mission Statement” parodying the buzz words that are so commonplace in corporate America

Click the Image above to see Weird Al Yankovich video “Mission Statement” parodying the buzz words that are so commonplace in corporate America

While “Best Practices” may not be the latest vogue phrase in education, it is used frequently.  Google “best practices in public education” and you will get over two hundred million results in less than one full second.  The U.S. Department of Education has a site dedicated to best practices.  There are best practices clearinghouses for education.  The term may be overused, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Researching relevant best practices can often help schools better plan and implement initiatives and in some cases, the designers of the practice can provide lessons learned and share resource information.

What are Best Practices in Public Education?

A best practice is a way of doing things that has been found to be successful for accomplishing goals.  The term is used to describe “what works.”   In a school system a goal might be using data to improve student learning and achievement, increasing parent and community involvement, or improving breakfast participation rates. Regardless of the goal, best practices can help save the trouble of re-inventing the wheel.  Often you can customize someone else’s solution to a problem and find a way to address your issue or accomplish your goal.  There are as many standards for conferring the best practice label as there are school systems.  Some may label any behavior that shows the slightest success a best practice while others prefer having a professional association with strict criteria to confer the label.  In short, a best practice can range from a good idea that may not require a lot of resources (e.g. teachers placing positive message sticky notes on students lockers) to a detailed initiative that involves several cross functional teams (e.g., Education Team Excellence Recognition Awards presented by the American Society of Quality each year at their National Quality Education Conference.).

cool practice

An example of a best practice idea that may not require a lot of resources – Middle School Students receive positive notes (Hamblen County Schools, TN)

What Should I Consider When Selecting Best Practices for My School System?

Regardless of who gives a method or technique the title of best practice, what matters is whether the practice works (or can work) for you.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Does the practice align with our goals? If the practice does not address your specific need or does not have the same aims as you do, it is not necessarily a best practice for you system, school or department.
  • Does the practice fit with our community? While a program that worked well in a large urban school system may be adaptable, it may be better for a rural school system to find another program that has a similar population.
  • Does the practice fit with our system’s organizational culture and values?  A program that relies on a very centralized school system structure may not fit well with a system that has high local school independence.
  • What resources does the practice require? It’s imperative to understand what resources (money, personnel, time, skill, etc.) a practice you are considering requires and whether or not your system can provide them before committing to that practice.

Alabama’s Best Non-Instructional Practices Contest

The idea behind recognizing best practices is that they can be used or adapted for use by others.  Best practices on the instructional side are well documented.  In fact, you are probably inundated with ways to raise test scores, improve summer learning retention, and decrease dropout rates. You may not be as familiar with ways to increase your Meals Per Labor Hours (MPLH) rates in your Child Nutrition Department or improve customer satisfaction in your Transportation Office.  These and other non-instructional areas can significantly impact the finances, academics, and community relations of your school system. We are co-sponsoring the Alabama’s Best Non-Instructional Practices Contest in partnership with the Alabama Association of School Boards, to recognize those non-instructional practices and innovations that positively impact student achievement and promote the effective and efficient use of public resources in the state of Alabama.  Do you work or are you affiliated with an Alabama Public School?  If so, have you dealt with an operational issue or challenge and had good results?  Your best practice may be the solution that someone else needs, enter your best practice in our contest today.

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