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Scott Taylor

Superintendent , Kenilworth Public School District

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Educational leadership

The Battle of Shiloh is considered by American historians as one of the bloodiest wartime fights of the modern era. General Ulysses S. Grant led his troops to Union victory and, as biographer Jean Edward Smith accounts in his highly respected, well researched 2001 book titled "Grant," showed a leadership trait that should be emulated by anyone who strives to win a "battle."

"A general imparts attitude to an army. It is not simply a matter of issuing orders, but infusing spirit and initiative. An inchoate bond develops between a successful commander and the army. His will becomes theirs...The men fought because they knew that Grant expected them to, and they trusted his judgment that they could do so."

The key to the relationship Grant forged with his troops was the success he showed in battle. The general is known to have lost as many battles as he won, but the "wins" he scored in the fighting were significant and game-changing.

Grant's soldiers followed him through thick and thin. I recognize, as an educational leader, that I will have to show successes before I can expect my "troops" to follow my vision. I realize the leaders, teachers, and parents in my schools will not support my work whole-heartedly unless I can prove that their adherence to my plans for student achievement will pay off in the end.

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    Jun 16 2013: I love your point and strongly agree with your concern about use of the term "product" to describe learning outcomes. Do you think parents can value process over product? I hope non-educators have the capacity (and guts) to look beyond policymaker rhetoric and recognize the extreme importance the evolution of knowledge acquisition is (as opposed to the focus on the end-"product").
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      Jun 17 2013: Thanks for the kind words.

      Yes, I absolutely believe parents can value process over product and I have a concrete example. I taught in a Title 1 public school for eight years. About half way through my time in the classroom, the district decided to do away with letter grades and go to entirely standards-based reporting. This was before technology was anywhere near ready for processing data coming from so many (too many) state and district mandated assessments. Frankly, in doing away with letter grades, assessing students became a lot more complicated and the new report cards lost all meaning to the parents. Parents just began to view 4's as A's and 3's as B's etc. even though they were not the same.

      It was around this time I turned to portfolios to bring back some relevance to reporting and I pieced together a portfolio system involving the student, the parent and the teacher. The worth of the portfolio relied on a student-led conference. When students are enabled to explain learning outcomes to parents, parents become engaged and accountable in the process.

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