Administrator Magazine
Scholastic Administrator is a must-read resource for 240,000 of today's results-driven school leaders. Every issue features leadership for education executives, insight and analysis into what's next in education, and reporting on cutting-edge technologies in real life applications.

Superintendent's Desk: Run the Red Lights

Dr. Terry Holliday is the superintendent of the Iredell-Statesville Schools in North Carolina.

This was the big day. My cabinet members and I sat together, anxiously awaiting the phone call that would tell us whether or not we had won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the highest presidential honor for innovation and quality. When my cell phone vibrated, I jumped and then listened nervously.

After a long and dramatic pause, Secretary Carlos Gutierrez began, “On behalf of the President, I would like to be the first to congratulate you….” At that moment, more than 12 years of hard work was worth the effort. We had encountered many obstacles that could have stopped us. All organizations encounter these “red lights” as they try to change and improve their systems. It’s how we react to those red lights that matter.

Whenever I ask teachers why more of our students are not successful, the most frequent reasons are external ones. Parents aren’t supportive or involved enough, students aren’t attentive enough, administration is not supportive enough, and on and on. Every superintendent has heard a teacher say, “Just leave us alone and let us teach!”

When I talk with principals and central office personnel, I often hear the same reasons recited—usually with one more added, “teachers aren’t doing enough.” State legislators, meanwhile, like to say that districts aren’t proactive enough and need to recruit and retain “better talent.”

I believe that parents are sending us the best students they have, and odds are universities are sending us the best candidates they have in their teacher preparation programs. A long list of “reasons” cannot absolve us of our responsibility to create an environment in which all students will be successful.

Too often there is a belief that schools can’t overcome the impacts of the socioeconomic status of children. In our district, we don’t have time to obey that red light. Public education is the great equalizer, and schools must provide children with the tools to build a better future.

Seven years ago, our district began to develop a model to raise achievement and close gaps. One key point: the collaboration of teachers in professional learning communities and in school-level academic goal teams. We learned early on that teachers need training on how to make a team effective. The National Staff Development Council suggests that for every hour of content training, there should be seven hours of modeling, practice, coaching, and feedback. So we implemented instructional facilitators at each school to teach, coach, and support teachers. We chose these instructional facilitators from a group of our highest performing classroom teachers.

Still, there were more red lights. Some teachers said that they had already learned about curriculum, instruction, assessment and intervention in college and had no more to learn. Some defined professional development as  going to conferences. Sound familiar?

We overcame this by implementing classroom walkthroughs, which revealed a huge knowing/doing gap, with very little deployment of high-yield instructional strategies, differentiation, or effective interventions.

We’ve since made improvements on our model, but the core is still the instructional facilitator. This group of dedicated coaches comes together every week, and receives support for the work they do in the professional learning communities in their schools.

Our school system received national recognition because we are determined to ensure that every student is successful. We have improved SAT scores by 57 points, lowered our dropout rate from 10.5 percent to 3.5 percent, and cut academic achievement gaps for African-American and special-needs children by more than half—all while our expenditure-per-pupil remains one of the lowest in North Carolina.

We still have more work to do. We encounter red lights every day, and teams of professionals within our district make the decision whether to stop or move forward. Sometimes, you just have to run the red lights.    

  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten

    Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten

    by Cindy Middendorf

    View Sample Pages

    Master kindergarten teacher Cindy Middendorf shares her strategies for creating a nurturing, choice-based learning environment where all learners thrive. Packed with research-based tips, model lessons, photos, and student samples, this guide shows how to teach the kindergarten curriculum in a way that engages varied learning styles and taps multiple intelligences. Middendorf also shares expert advice on how to establish an effective classroom management system that supports differentiated learning. 128 pages.

    Click here to learn more about Scholastic Professional

    You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader® software, version 4.0 or higher, to view and print the sample page above. Get Adobe Reader® for FREE.

    $14.24 You save: 25%
    Professional Book | Grade K
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten
    Grade K $14.24
    Add To Cart
  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    Developing Students' Multiple Intelligences

    Developing Students' Multiple Intelligences

    by Kristen Nicholson-Nelson

    Are your students word smart? Math smart? People Smart? Tap into your students' diverse intelligences and enrich your lesson plans with this helpful resource. Packed with creative strategies and sample teaching units, background information about Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, learning center ideas, and more. Your students will love learning in ways that play to their strengths!

    $11.96 You save: 25%
    eBook | Grades K-8
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    Developing Students' Multiple Intelligences
    Grades K-8 $11.96
    Add To Cart
Help | Privacy Policy




(Separate multiple email addresses with commas)

Check this box to send yourself a copy of the email.


Scholastic respects your privacy. We do not retain or distribute lists of email addresses.