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Mentoring Matters for Middle Level and Secondary Principals: March 2018

Leadership-life Fit – Just how focused are you?

Can you stay present, while being aware of your thoughts and surroundings? Can you recognize and move past distractions as they arise? Take this 20-question multiple-choice assessment to learn how mindful you are and what you can do to improve your focus.

Leading Learning—How well are you measuring learning?

Has your building determined what really matters in a contemporary education? Have you decided how to assess those things that matter? Have you considered how your assessments might enhance learning that matters, not just measure it?

Jay McTighe’s recent article in Educational Leadership explores these three essential questions. You can catch the summary below or read the full text.

Question 1: What matters in contemporary education?

McTighe offers four key educational goals of contemporary education and the type of teaching/assessment that best aligns to each:

Educational Goal:



#1 Knowledge:

What factual information and basic concepts should a student know?

Multiplication tables


Main characters from a story

Objective test or quiz

Teacher Questioning

#2 Basic Skills:

What skills should students be able to do to build competency and mastery?





Rubrics or other tool that measures along a continuum of proficiency from novice to expert

#3 Understanding:

What abstract or “big ideas” should students be able to understand?



Problem – solving


Assessment and instruction that requires students explain, justify, and defend with evidence. (generally, not multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank type assessments)

#4 Long-term Transfer:

What should students be able to do with their learning in new contexts or when facing new challenges down the road? What should they be able to transfer?

Cross-curricular units/goals

Habits of Mind

Critical Thinking

Authentic, performance-based tasks, with well-developed rubrics for evaluation


As McTighe notes, many transfer skills and abilities are those that are valued in the current work environment and sought on resumes as indicated in the following table from Job Outlook 2018. Interestingly, this report reflects a 10 percent increase from 2016 in both problem-solving skills and written communication skills. Leadership dropped from highest ranked to fourth in this same two-year span.



Problem-solving skills


Ability to work in a team


Communication skills (written)




Strong work ethic


Analytical/quantitative skills


Communication skills (verbal)








Technical skills


Interpersonal skills (relates well to others)


Computer skills


Organizational ability


Strategic planning skills




Friendly/outgoing personality




Entrepreneurial skills/risk-taker


Fluency in a foreign language


Source: Job Outlook 2018, National Association of Colleges and Employers

Question 2: How should we assess the things that matter?

We need varied and multiple measures of assessment that reflect and align to the four different types of learning goals as previously identified. McTighe references a single photograph as being informative, but not as complete or thorough as an entire album. Different cameras, different lenses, and different contexts may produce different images of the same subject—how well are we incorporating a variety of “photos” as evidence of student learning across these four goals to get a complete picture? Or, are we overly dependent upon standardized and objective types of tests? Although these tests have a place in our album, have we included other assessments that show how students think, problem-solve, and transfer their learning to new contexts?

Question 3: How might assessments enhance learning rather than just measure it?

Authentic tasks and projects integrate learning and measurement. Rubrics guide performance and provide feedback from the start; tasks derive from a realistic setting and require transfer and application of skill and knowledge; and collaboration and problem-solving are expectations. These are just a few of the assessment practices that serve to enhance learning.

What we monitor and what we measure communicate what we value. A shift in assessment practices necessitates a shift in instructional practices, both of which will require time and support for teachers. Still, the current demands of the work place behoove us to create a systemic plan for redesigning how we determine what’s important and how we measure what’s important.

Leadership 101—10 Skills Great Principals Have That You’ll Never See on a Resume

The amalgamation of 1 percent—it’s the little things done consistently over time that have great impact. This list compiles those “little things” that affect your culture, climate, and leadership influence. Processing these reflective questions in your mentoring partnership can provide additional insight to the “little things” and offer an opportunity for growth.

1. How do you grow professionally and how do you model and communicate your love of, and passion for, learning? What daily routine supports your personal/professional growth?

2. How do you navigate conflict between and among staff? Do you have a conversation template you follow?

3. What little things do you do that you’ve noticed contribute to a more positive culture?

4. Do you have any go-to lines or key questions you use to engage staff in conversation?

5. What’s your “convenience store” story (your quick two to three sentences that celebrate a recent teaching and learning accomplishment in your building)? How do you decide on your story? What do you look for through your observations – both formal and informal?

Monthly calendar and checklist

These lists are intended as a guide—we encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!