Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

What is the Star School Leader Award?

In lieu of National Principals Month, this award was created to honor principals who are the greatest school leaders — and who better to ask than those on the frontlines; teachers?

The nomination period lasted a little over two months, from Oct 14 until Dec 19. During this time, we received hundreds of stories from teachers across the country who were inspired by their principals.

To all those who submitted, we sincerely thank you for your contribution to this award. Your responses were a delight to read — you made us laugh, smile and even cry a bit, at times. But more importantly, your voices instilled in us a vast hope for the future of education, and a sense of how great leadership can pave the path to success for schools, teachers, and students.

You sent so many stories of exemplary school leadership that we were compelled to expand the contest to include multiple winners. In other words, we began with the goal to find a star, but we ended up with a constellation 😉 — of twelve recipients.

So, What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end. 
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.

What do they win? Recipients will receive a physical Star School Leader award, an Amazon giftcard, free professional development guides, and an upcoming spotlight feature on the Teacher Voice blog — so be sure to check in to view the spotlights in the upcoming months!

And now, without further ado… we present to you:


The Star School Leaders

Shameka Gerald

The Inspirational Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Shameka Gerald is the principal at Heritage High School, Virginia. Nominated by Tiffanie Smith.

Mrs. Gerald is an amazing leader that inspires both students and staff.  She is very caring and seeks to meet the needs of everyone. Mrs. Gerald’s leadership has allowed faculty and staff to go above and beyond in many areas.  This includes teachers being leaders in and out of the classroom. Over the past four years as our leader, she has instilled many leadership qualities in teachers to be an effective teacher leader.  This has allowed many to step out of the normal box and try new things in the classroom. Her leadership is very unique in that a few teachers have moved on to higher positions.”

Priscilla Salinas

The Life-Long Mentor, Star School Leader Recipient

Priscilla Salinas is the principal at Ford Elementary, Texas. Nominated by Narda Lugo.

Mrs. Salinas inspired me to continue to move forward in my education by always encouraging me to attain my masters.  I worked with her for seven years as a teacher before entering back to school to attain my Masters in Library Science.  I will forever be grateful towards Mrs. Salinas for giving my first teaching position then for hiring me again as a librarian.  I love my job and I could not have done it if Mrs. Salinas had not encouraged me to continue my education. She is a role model to many and continues to encourage everyone to continue to educate ourselves in a daily basis, even if that means losing one of her educators.  She says, “She might lose a teacher, but gain a role model to others.” She is always looking for ways to encourage us to continue to grow which makes us continue to want to.”

Keith Nemlich

The Thoughtful Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Keith Nemlich is the principal at Central Elementary School, Vermont. Nominated by Judy Verespy.

Mr. Keith Nemlich is a principal who truly prioritizes children’s needs. He is a caring, compassionate, thoughtful, inspiring leader who models patience, persistence and playfulness… He encourages mindfulness breaks in the classroom. He encourages teachers to share our expertise with one another at staff meetings, and to briefly observe colleagues at work when we can. Keith researches new, more effective ways to accomplish something he believes in, and patiently, persistently works to get administrative support from the district. I could go on and on about the joy of working for a principal who is intelligent, thoughtful, supportive and inspiring. With tighter school budgets, more stringent standards, plentiful new initiatives cutting into already rigorous school day schedules, teaching has become more stressful. Keith Nemlich makes the teachers, para professionals and students at our school want to go to work each day, and be the best we can!”

Carol Leveillee

The Culture Builder, Star School Leader Recipient

Carol Leveillee is the principal at Frederick Douglass Elementary, Delaware. Nominated by Jacqueline Allman.

In the four years that she has been our principal she has turned our failing title 1 school around and now we are thriving! She has brought so many ideas to our school through book studies and motivational speakers. Most recently she took a few staff members to a “Get Your Teach On” conference where staff brought back numbers ideas and now she is allowing us to share and implement new engagement strategies school wide. She also has inspired us to build those meaningful relationships with each other and our students and I believe that has helped us turn our school around.”

Corey Crochet

The Life-Long Learner, Star School Leader Recipient

Corey Crochet is the principal at Labadieville Middle School, Louisiana. Nominated by Cathy Martinez.

Mr. Crochet has a difficult job; how do you inspire students of poverty to value learning? The answer; go back to school to get your PHD in Education.  Mr. Crochet is constantly learning and because of this, he inspires his teachers to do the same. Teachers meet twice a week during the school day, and often meet after school on their own time to study and learn how to make LMS reflect the efforts of the students, teachers and administration. LMS can be a challenging place to work. However, Mr. Crochet’s attitude of removing all obstacles that get in the way of learning is evident  across the campus. He tackles problems and is not afraid to go back to the drawing board when something is not working. His motto is “”Every Student. Every Day, Whatever it takes””. AND he will do whatever it takes through the lens of education and learning.”

Tammy Taylor

The Teacher's Advocate, Star School Leader Recipient

Tammy Taylor is the principal at Wellton Elementary School District, Arizona. Nominated by Lisa Jameson. 

“Before she became principal, Mrs. Taylor worked with Donors Choose to get sewing machines for our school. Now as our Principal, she helps teachers apply for donations through Donors Choose. This is just one of the ways that Mrs. Taylor has inspired teachers and staff members at Wellton Elementary. With her positive attitude and incredible energy, she has been an excellent role model for our teachers and staff.”

Tamara Jones-Jackson

The Analytical Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Tamara Jones-Jackson is the principal at Ralph J. Bunche Academy in Ecorse, Michigan. Nominated by Sandra Fuoco.

In 3 short months, she has created a functioning PTO where we never had one before, allowed teachers to take leadership roles for the betterment of the school, changed policies and procedures so that every day processes run smoother, provided guidance and instruction on how to use our data more effectively so that we can better serve our students, and created positive relationships with students, staff and parents.  But what astonishes me the most is she somehow, someway gets things done! In a struggling district without extra income, we now have a communication system in the building, ceiling tiles and bleachers are fixed (which haven’t been in years), teachers are getting much needed resources, etc. AND she does this all with a smile and positive attitude. In my 2 decades of teaching, she is truly the most inspirational, motivational, and believable leader I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Rodney Ivey

The Teacher Enabler, Star School Leader Recipient

Rodney Ivey is the principal at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary, Florida. Nominated by Janet Shaw.

Mr. Ivey’s positive leadership and vision for doing what is in the best interests of our children sets the tone for all of our faculty and staff to be positive, enthusiastic, and productive . He sees the best in people, therefore young and old rise to his expectations. Rather than micromanage, he works collaboratively with his staff to plan programs and events. He collects data for us, looking for trends and meeting with us on teams to focus on ways to help individual students. Mr. Ivey finds ways to boost students and staff, from a shout out bulletin board to eating lunch with children. He squeezes every penny out of a tight budget to gets his teachers what they need, even planning and manning fundraisers to accomplish his goals. While most of us stay late planning and preparing, many times, his car is the last in the parking lot. He does what needs to be done, even vacuuming my classroom when the custodians were busy on another project. His kind, accepting demeanor inspires students and teachers alike to be kind and considerate. His frequent walks through our classrooms are welcomed, as he joins in our lessons alongside students; we love it when he photographs engaging lessons and shares them out with the staff. Under his leadership, our campus is a very happy inclusive place, with a supportive family-like atmosphere that encompasses parents, kids, teachers, and staff.”

Traci O. Filiss

The Technology Pioneer, Star School Leader Recipient

Traci Filiss is the principal at Taos Academy, New Mexico. Nominated by Elizabeth LeBlanc.

Ms. Filiss is an inspirational leader because she shares decision-making responsibilities with her staff. Her expectations and her trust in their expertise is tremendous. For example, Taos Academy’s Leadership Team is made up of teacher leaders, many of whom also take on administrative roles. She works hard to empower all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, and families) to be leaders in our school setting.”

Faith Stroud

The Passionate Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Faith Shroud is the principal at Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy, Kentucky. Nominated by Sandra Stinson.

Mrs. Stroud is a very strong leader and true advocate for our scholars and our staff. She doesn’t ask anything of us that she is not willing to do herself. She goes into work on the weekends, yes that includes Sundays and works for the improvement of our school to benefit our scholars. She has worked to put a Chromebook in every scholar’s hands at our school. Which for our district is not the case every where else. She works and budgets to set up field trips for our scholars that have real world ties to their curriculum and provides them with experiences that they may not be able to have otherwise. She is a fully transparent leader. She does not hide things from the staff and expects the same from us. She works diligently to provide our scholars with the best educators in their field and strives to improve us as teachers with embedded PD and opportunities to attend seminars and workshops whenever possible. She is a true inspiration to me as a teacher and I think that our scholars feel the same way.”

Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez

The Collaborative Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez is the Superintendent/Principal at San Antonio Union School District, California. Nominated by Diane Stensrud.

Mrs. Hernandez continually seeks to better herself by reading, participating in professional groups for book discussions, attending conferences, taking classes to remain current, and classes to push the boundaries of education. She focuses on 21 Century Future Ready Skills, and encourages the staff to do the same. I love it when she hears us talking about an opportunity for professional development, and says, “Go for it! Let’s make this happen!” She attends as many conferences as possible with us, and makes every effort to provide team-building opportunities. She also makes every effort to equip us to reach our professional goals. Despite the challenges of working in a small district, and wearing many hats, Mrs. Hernandez continues to grow as a learner, as well as a leader. She is an inspiration to me!”

Sarah Hays

The Motivational Coach, Star School Leader Recipient

Sarah Hays is the principal at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, Montana. Nominated by Tina Martin.

“Each school year Sarah finds a way to motivate us as a staff. This year with the start of a new year with a lot of new staff members and an extra 75 students, we had a lot of movement (rooms, and locations of support staff). This did not stop Sarah from being positive and sharing her passion and goals for us as a staff. At the kick off meeting, Sarah talked about how we all came together and continue to do what is best for the children. She encouraged us and looked at the positives that are happening and not that we are a school bursting at the seams and there is no extra spaces. She shared copies of “The Energy Bus” and had us work break into groups to read each section of the book and come back to summarize what we read to the rest of the staff. Sarah modeled how we too as classroom teachers can share this strategy with our own students.”

Live at AESA: Kiddom Chats with The EduTech Guys

Education and SaaS technology leader with a passion for K12 edtech. Last month, Jason Katcher, VP of Revenue at Kiddom, sat down with the EduTech Guys at AESA 2018 (Colorado...

Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

Teachers and learners, you sent us hundreds of submissions nominating your principal for the Star School Leader Award. So many, in fact, that we couldn’t choose just one. See the twelve recipients here.

How Marshall County Differentiates Instruction with Kiddom (Watch Mini-Documentary Here)

Kentucky’s Marshall County adopted advanced technology to help build a more individualized learning experience; learn more in this doc hosted by Rob Lowe.

The Evolution of EdTech — and What’s Next

We explore 6 waves in the evolution of edtech to understand why the time is right for school systems to adopt their own “operating systems”.

Introducing Guardian Access—Bringing Families Closer to Their Child’s Education

Learn how a new feature connects all stakeholders in a child’s education.

Introducing Guardian Access—Bringing Families Closer to Their Child’s Education

Introducing Guardian Access—Bringing Families Closer to Their Child’s Education

A new Kiddom Academy feature helps parents and guardians better understand what their children are learning at school.


What Can Technology Offer Students and Families?

Many parents believe technology in the classroom will be helpful for their children’s education — in fact, 86% do, according to a recent study by Microsoft and YouGov.

The truth is, there’s a lot of debate around the subject. One study has seen very different results for technology-enabled personalized learning (Rand), with vast gains in an earlier report (2015) but only slight gains of late (2017). In “Technology Doesn’t Drive Blended Learning … or Does It?” author Thomas Arnett visits five blended-learning schools and concludes, among other perks, that “although technology is not the driving force behind student learning at these schools, it amplifies the real driving force: high-quality teaching.”

In a study by the Christensen Institute, authors Michael B. Horn and Julia Freeland Fisher acknowledge that the current research cycle is incomplete. Their analysis is an insightful attempt to move past the what to the why. At best, they argue, integrating tech into our schools means that schools can begin to “move from a one-size-fits-all approach to a student-centered one. Teachers can gain a far more precise understanding of how individual students are progressing and provide them with just-in-time materials and supports suited to their needs and strengths.”

At Kiddom, we believe this understanding should extend to parents and guardians, which is why we are proud to announce a new feature to do just that. With Guardian Access, available exclusively to schools and districts using Kiddom Academy, parents and guardians will automatically receive a weekly update to shed light on how their child is performing in school, the skills they’re learning, and where their child needs support.

Each weekly update includes two reports: an Assignments report and a Standards report, as well as the overall achievement level in a class.

We’ll cover each report in more length below, but before we do, let’s briefly revisit the practice standards-based grading, since many parents and guardians might have children that are in schools that are new or transitioning to this instructional practice (feel free to skip the next section if you’re already familiar with standards-based grading).

What is standards-based grading and how does it impact my child?

Having technology in the classroom isn’t the end-all, be-all — you can’t expect a hammer to build a roof. However, useful technology can give parents, teachers, and students the right tools to measure a student’s progress accurately. It enables all parties involved to participate in an ongoing, active quality check of their student’s education, with the power to quickly identify a trend change in real time — and to react quickly with intervention or encouragement.

To add to this change in the way we measure, an important shift is forming in what we measure. Many modern classrooms are adopting a system called standards-based grading, or mastery-based learning. This approach is a creature of many names: you’ll hear the words skillsstandardsproficiency or competency-based learning — all of these terms represent the shift towards measuring student progress according to specific, measurable skills. Students are encouraged to focus on that skill or standard until they have shown that they’ve mastered it, often with several attempts, before moving on.

Mastery-based reporting requires a different mindset (and practice) than that used with traditional grades. The goal is not to be an A-student, but to demonstrate mastery of skills, and move on when you’re ready. Most students will not reach the level called “exceeding”; if they do, this might mean that they’re not being challenged enough, and may need to move on to the next grade-level competencies. For more on this, check out this Guardian Access support article.

What this means for you and your child, and why Kiddom is useful

What this means is that the student is able to understand their own achievement in terms of what they are progressing in. As you can imagine, this new approach carries the discussion a lot further than the traditional report card, where a child and parent are offered some grade letter or percentage that doesn’t mean much more than “pass” or “fail,” and certainly doesn’t provide much in terms of actionable insight.

With Kiddom, students are always on top of, not just how they’re progressing, but which specific standards or skills they are excelling in, and which they need to improve. In short, they’re able to articulate and take ownership of their own learning, and pull their parents into the details with confidence.

As mentioned, another way technology is shaping modern parenting is the ability to access progress in real-time — you don’t need to wait around for six weeks to see a report card of grades too late to fix. Now, parents are able to stay in the know and help their children work on the areas where they need improvement, from the onset of when a student starts slipping.

At the top of both reports, you’ll get a general assessment of your students’ achievement for a given class. If your teacher uses standards based grading, you will see one of the four terms: Developing, Approaching, Mastery, or Exceeds. For more information on the breakdown of those terms, see this page. You can use this to understand you child’s development aligned to a skill.

Let’s take a look at the two types of reports available via Guardian Access:

Assignment Reports. The assignment report was designed to help parents and students with accountability. This report helps answer: What does my student need to complete? How is my child doing for their assignments? How are they doing for a particular assignment type? The focus is on how they performed for that piece of work, rather than the standard. This particular report gives you more details for the actual assignment, rather than the standards the assignment aligns to. This allows you to track what your student is doing in class, see the attached standard labels to each assignment, and note the student’s mastery level according to that particular assessment.

Standards Reports. The standard report helps answer: What is my child learning? What is their progress? You will notice that you will still see an average performance for all of the standards assessed. This is a snapshot of how your student is doing overall. Additionally, you will find details on the specific standards that your student is working on: it will show the standard label, description, and their mastery level for that particular standard.

We believe this alignment can make parent-teacher conferences much more effective, especially if students are able to drive the conversation about what they’re learning.

Key takeaways

1. The field of education is still in discovery mode to determine the best ways to use technology appropriately in the classroom, but a few proven uses are the abilities to measure progress in real-time, and to enhance the power of teachers.

2. As teachers and learners ease into more individualized, student-centric learning approaches, the role of parents and guardians is also evolving.

3. Kiddom’s new feature Guardian Access enables parents with greater access to their children’s progress, allowing them to:

A. Give students individualized feedback; congratulating them on the exact skills they’ve learned or providing support as they approach understanding of a standard.

B. Monitor student achievement in real-time, and help students take action before grades are “finalized.”

C. Allow students to take more ownership of their grades, developing self-management skills.

At Kiddom, we’re focused on delivering value to every stakeholder involved in a child’s education. As we work toward our mission, we’re excited to help even more teachers, students, parents and guardians, and schools achieve the wonderful things that were previously thought impossible.

Happy teaching and learning! 💜

Are you a school leader who needs a better tool to help inform and serve parents, guardians, teachers, and students? Does your grade book do a meaningful job in explaining your students’ strengths and areas to grow? Talk to our school success team about Kiddom Academy today.

Are you a teacher interested in using Kiddom for search-by-standard lesson planning, teacher collaboration, personalized assignments, student communication, and real-time assessment and reporting? You can still do all of these things with our free app. Sign up here.

Introducing Standard Mastery Reports

Introducing Standard Mastery Reports

Dig deep into student performance on individual standards

As more and more teachers across the globe manage their classrooms using Kiddom, we’ve been thinking about how our reports can be even more actionable.

Simply put: we want teachers to be able to complete the instructional cycle for every student faster. And more efficiently. To do this, we believe teachers must need to be able to (1) investigate progress already made on specific standards/skills and (2) quickly act on it.

Well, we’re thrilled to announce this is now possible. Teachers, meet your new standard mastery reports and prepare to say, “Ooh la la…” 🤗

Standard Mastery Reports

To access your standard mastery reports, visit your reports page. Click on an individual standard from your reports to view a more detailed summary of your class performance on a specific standard.

Access these reports by clicking on an individual standard
  • At the very top, you’ll see a more detailed description of the standard you clicked on
  • Use the arrows next to this card to cycle between standards
  • The first reporting metric, Class Average, shows your overall class average for this standard
  • To the right, Class Average is distributed by mastery group
  • Use the graph below this to track the performance of your class on this standard over time
  • Sort the order of students by first name, last name, or by performance (e.g. sort by “lowest grade” to display students who need the most support first)

Individual Student Progress on Standards

From your standard mastery reports, scroll down and click on any student to open up individual student progress over time on specific standards.

Click on an individual student from your standard mastery reports to dig even deeper
  • At the top, you’ll see a graph you can use to track the performance of this student (on this particular standard) over time
  • Every assignment that is aligned to this standard (and assigned to that student) can be viewed here
  • Clicking on an assignment will open that particular student’s submission (where you’re welcome to add additional feedback and/or comments)

Find Resources Directly From Your Reports

Remember the, “we want teachers to be able to complete the instructional cycle for every student faster” thing we mentioned?

  • From your standard mastery reports, clicking “Find more assignments for this standard” will instantly open your resource library.
  • Use our library to find and assign free teaching resources (videos, quizzes, activities, and more) based on the intelligence you obtain from your standard mastery reports
  • Teaching resources here are meant to supplement/enrich instruction and offer teachers additional differentiation materials

What’s Next

We’re building Kiddom to be a place where teachers and learners can work together effortlessly, no matter where they are. We’re going to be focusing on one particular group of patient folks next: Android users. Stay tuned…

In the mean time, what are you waiting for? You have new reports to explore!


By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

P.S. Book a free 1:1 demo to learn how Kiddom can support your instructional practice. We’d love to say hello in person!

The McDonaldization of Pedagogy

The McDonaldization of Pedagogy

Teach like a Champion by Doug Lemov

Teach Like a Champion is a teacher training book written by Doug Lemov. It contains 49 teaching techniques he claims will transform inexperienced educators into “master teachers.” Since its publication in 2010, teacher prep programs, charter school networks, and public school districts have implemented TLAC into their training protocol. The administrators of these programs tout Lemov’s book as the quintessential guide to improving teacher performance, but veteran teachers express concern about its methods.

Ray Salazar of Chicago Public Schools writes that TLAC focuses too much on controlling students instead of supplying them with knowledge. Salazar’s contention holds water: one of TLAC’s six sections, “Building and Maintaining High Behavioral Expectations,” is dedicated entirely to managing student behavior. Technique 36, “100 Percent,” mandates absolute compliance from every student at all times. In perspective, 23 of TLAC’s 49 techniques focus exclusively on governing classroom conduct, while only one addresses content. Even this singular exception is authoritarian in nature: Technique 5, “No Apologies,” tells educators to never apologize for the “boring” content they teach.

Elizabeth Green of The New York Times Magazine interviewed Doug Lemov about the process behind the creation of TLAC. She quotes him on the importance of discipline, “It doesn’t matter what questions you’re asking if the kids are running the classroom.” Lemov’s imperious worldview is further reflected in the recommended administration of the remaining tactics: in a section titled No Opt Out, Lemov advocates detaining students for recess if they fail to repeat answers as directed.

Green then describes sitting in on a teacher, Ms. Bellucci, who finds comfort in Lemov’s techniques. Green commends Bellucci for “perfectly satisfying Lemov’s ideal” after there was “not a giggle or head turned” when a student was sent to the disciplinary dean. Interestingly, Lemov once occupied the position of disciplinary dean at Pacific Rim Charter, an institution he founded after admittedly struggling to connect with students as an educator.

Another teacher, Rebecca Radding, left a New Orleans KIPP school after the administration mandated usage of TLAC in classrooms. Radding’s disliked the book’s overarching emphasis on testing.

To understand why testing is so heavily weighted, we can return to Green’s interview, where Lemov provides insight into his motives for writing TLAC. After launching the Uncommon Schools charter network, Lemov’s foremost constraint to expansion was finding high-quality teachers. In the style of Moneyball, he analyzed publicly available standardized testing data, searching for outliers — under-resourced schools whose students tested well.

These outliers were further scrutinized by subject and age. If eighth grade math students at a low-resource school performed at a disproportionately high level, Uncommon Schools offered the responsible teacher better pay. While this proved effective at identifying teachers who improved scores, there was a limited supply of undervalued educators to poach. As charters proliferated, demand for these scarce commodities increased and their costs grew.

Faced with this predicament, Lemov sought to create better teachers. He filmed a number of educators who managed the best scores with the fewest resources, reviewed the footage, and distilled their practices into the techniques found in TLAC. Lemov’s exclusive study of teachers who generated high test scores seems to validate assertions that the text is heavily slanted toward testing.

Peggy Robertson, a former teacher and current administrator of United Opt Out, calls TLAC, “shallow, uniform, and simplistic.” Regarding the text’s depth and simplicity, we’ve mentioned that none of the 49 techniques talk seriously about content. Further, many of the tactics are extraordinarily basic (e.g., Technique 8, “Post It”. Be sure your students know your objective for the day by posting it on the board). Lemov also describes Technique 17, “Ratio,” which has two parts, as “complex.” His utilization of “complex” to characterize the interplay between initiating a dialog (“increasing student participation”) and staying out of the way (“limiting teacher talk”) while students share ideas speaks volumes for the book’s substance.

Concerning TLAC’s emphasis on uniformity, two sections, “Planning that Ensures Academic Achievement” and “Structuring and Delivering Your Lessons” present lesson planning in a specific, rigid manner. Technique 28, “Entry Routine,” stresses the benefits of beginning every class identically to create time-saving patterns. Technique 9, “The Shortest Path, declares that only direct instruction should be used to teach students, because it is the fastest method. Technique 14, “Board=Paper,” and Technique 26, “Everybody Writes,” place importance on every student writing down every word their teacher puts up for viewing.

One way we can summarize the collective complaints of Salazar, Radding, and Robertson is under the umbrella of “McDonaldization. McDonaldization is a term coined by George Ritzer to describe the practice of taking a task (e.g., teaching), and breaking it down into smaller sub-tasks (i.e., techniques). These sub-tasks are subject to rationalization, where only the most efficient means of completing the task is utilized; others methods are abandoned for the optimized path. Efficiency is measured with quantitative metrics, production methods are organized to ensure predictability, and the environment is controlled to enhance the uniformity of products. One could readily make the case the core tenets of McDonaldization: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control, are present in TLAC’s 49 techniques.

Credit: PhotoPin, licensed under CC by 2.0

While McDonaldization can save resources, indiscriminate application often produces poor outcomes for consumers. Consider those who wait in long lines to pay high prices for “fast” food of dubious quality. The processing required to ensure fast food’s efficiency and predictability results in a product that is less healthy and lower quality than a freshly prepared version.

In Unhappy Meals, author Michael Pollan investigates why we eat so many processed foods. In the 1980s, America allocated tremendous resources toward researching food and its essential components. The ultimate goal was to understand what parts of a food make it nutritious, so that we might more efficiently consume them. The findings of this research resulted in food producers replacing real, natural foods with less costly alternatives, fortified with “healthy” vitamins and minerals. Pollan notes that as consumption of processed and fortified products increased, America’s health worsened. Those who ate high quantities of processed foods were more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Pollan writes that processed foods are less healthy because food is most nutritious when the whole food is consumed. For example, eating an orange is healthier than gulping down a blend of Tang, Metamucil, and Emergen-C, even if the two have perfectly identical quantities of sugar, dietary fiber, and vitamins. The orange is healthier than the drink not because it has more nutrients, but because its pith contains amino acids that facilitate absorption of Vitamin C in the stomach. Pollan says that no matter how nutritious they claim to be, processed “food-like substances” stripped from their natural context will never be as healthy as whole foods.

Pollan offers two bits of actionable advice to those seeking to improve their eating. One is to avoid foods with packaging containing health claims. “Fat Free” items are often packed with sugar, while “Sugar Free” items are often stuffed with fat; neither is good for us. The other recommendation is to eat whole foods in their natural state. Again, this is because of the importance of how the context that food is consumed in influences the way its nutrients are absorbed.

If we consider the implications of Pollan’s recommendations, we can derive some potentially useful anecdotes to evaluate Teach Like A Champion and teacher training at large. In his recommendation that people eat whole foods, rather than their processed and fortified counterparts, we find a framework to address Teach Like A Champion’s efforts to break down education into bite-sized bits of technique. As processing healthy foods efficiently transforms them into unhealthy “food-like substances,” TLAC’s processing of teaching results in the construction of an oversimplified, “teaching-like practice.”

The text does not mention compassion, wit, intuition, determination, or improvisation in the classroom. Instead, it reduces a dynamic practice into an insultingly reductive list. This list takes teaching out of context. It fails to account for variance in teacher strengths, student learning styles, group dynamics, and classroom moods.

Credit: PhotoPin, licensed under CC by 2.0

TLAC also avoids discussing the structural contexts that cause schools to receive different resources. Much the opposite of acknowledging the difficulties posed by such differences, Lemov tells teachers, “No matter what the circumstances you face on the job, and no matter what strategic decisions are mandated to you, you can succeed.” While the notion that every teacher can make a difference sounds beautiful, there are teachers across the country without enough textbooks for every student who would contest the conclusion that access to resources does not impact learning outcomes.

From Pollan’s recommendation to avoid foods that make health claims, we can generalize that there are limits to data. Last year, we learned that sweeteners in “diet” sodas cause glucose intolerance, a precursor to diabetes, and alter gut microbes to cause weight gain. Despite the negative health impacts of “diet” sodas, such products are marketed as “Calorie Free.”

In the instance of “diet” sodas, an arbitrary metric (i.e., calories) is used to define a product as “healthier” than its alternative, even though it still produces poor health outcomes. We should ask if the calculable measures of teaching (i.e., standardized testing) might be prone to the same problems. Testing’s potential for misrepresentation seems even greater when we consider how nebulous the process of learning is, and how many forms intelligence can take on. Making standardized test scores the singular focus of any training protocol seems questionable when considered from this view.

There are other problems with Lemov’s claims: when he touts Uncommon Schools as effectively implementing TLAC’s techniques to raise test scores, he doesn’t mention that teachers in his schools are taught TLAC tactics in conjunction with content-oriented programming. His teachers also function as student-teachers for several years before taking control of their own classrooms. Much differently, some training programs making use of TLAC are accepting students with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than education, hustling them through a five-week certificate program, and shoving them in front of classes. They’re presented with a copy of Teach Like A Champion and a reaffirmation that hard work and 49 techniques are all they need to become master teachers.

For the same reason we don’t consider everyone who learns to follow recipes a master chef, or those who learn “game” from pick-up books to be expert lovers, we shouldn’t consider any new teacher a “master,” no matter how many efficient strategies he or she implements. We should instead view the process of becoming a good teacher as one that requires practice, commitment, and dedication. To create “master teachers,” we need to evaluate the whole process of how we train and support our teachers throughout their careers.

By: T. Madison Glimp
Content Contributor @ Kiddom

Do Now: Get Some Rest

Do Now: Get Some Rest

Dear Teachers,

Thank for your passion, commitment, and service to students in 2015.

Once you’re officially on winter break, I encourage you to disable your e-mail, file away student work, and push lesson planning off until the New Year. You’ve earned the right to procrastinate.



As a former high school teacher, I often caught myself grading exit tickets and rewriting curricula during the holidays. When the holidays were over, I already felt exhausted. This limited my ability to reflect and recharge.

Don’t let this happen to you. You’ve earned the right to pause, enjoy life, and rest. Celebrate this holiday season fully engaged with your friends and family.

Be well.

— Abbas

By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer