New England Association of Schools & Colleges Visitor Training

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) ACE Learning Principles are a useful framework for accreditation. Trillium Hibbeln is the associate director of the NEASC wing of international education. I attended a full-day workshop led by her. My goal of the day was to get a better understanding of the ACE Ecosystem and how it is used by schools for accreditation. NEASC reaccredited TIS last month but we were not able to use the ACE Learning Principles because we were jointly accredited by the Council of International Schools. IB World Schools jointly accredited by NEASC/CIS use the CIS Domains and not the ACE Learning Principles. After learning more about the ACE Ecosystem, I am strongly considering dropping CIS accreditation and only going with NEASC because I think the ACE Ecosystem will be better for our school community. The CIS Domains are traditional in that they cover all areas of schools, not just curriculum or teaching and learning. This is important, but I think too much faculty time is spent on non-teaching issues. These can be covered with leadership concisely and not take up too much of our energy. 

Trillium explained that the ACE Learning Principles are designed to help schools continue to grow during accreditation years, instead of documenting their compliance with school fundamentals such as finance, facilities, etc. These things are important, but for an established school like TIS, they should not be the centerpiece of our reflection during an accreditation cycle.

Another big takeaway from the day to help my current position as director of an international school was considering my role in creating and implementing big learning plans at the whole school level. We are in the final stages of completing our new Strategic Plan and the day assisted me with getting the plan together at a reasonable length. I also learned more about NEASC and the work it does. 

NEASC is curriculum neutral and they accredit many types of international schools with different pathways for schools in different stages of development and curriculum types. Trillium recommended the book by Tod Rose, “The End of Average“.

The basic level is the six FOUNDATION STANDARDS. The foundation standards serve as the gatekeeper for new schools and check-in for the basics for accredited schools. The six big areas are as follows:

  • Learning Structure – A clear purpose/mission and shared understanding of teaching and learning is the top level. Underneath would be a written curriculum (vertically and horizontally aligned) and policies that support the academics such as Special Needs, English Language Learners, etc.
  • Organizational Structure – Solid governance (Board – Leadership)
  • Health, Safety & Security – Are the students, employees, and parents safe?
  • Finance, Facilities, and Resources
  • Ethical Practice – Miscellaneous documentation (policies/handbooks) and practices (website, climate survey, etc.)
  • Boarding/Residential – Special look at boarding students that are particularly at risk

ACE Pathways – The idea behind this was to change the process of accreditation. NEASC thought accreditation hijacked two years of innovation and growth by forcing schools to be compliant. Schools take time to evolve and the teaching and learning plans you are working on now will impact students in the future. In looking at the principles, there is much for schools to latch on to and grow.

What Kids Need to Learn to Succeed in 2050

Israeli author, public intellectual, and history professor Yuval Noah Harari’s essay, “What Kids Need to Learn to Succeed in 2050” is one of the first I’ve seen that mentions the 22nd century. He speculates on what the world will be like 27 years from now (2050) and 77 years from now (2100). I might make it to 2050 and will not make it to 2100, unless science finds a way to prolong the human life span. Most of our current students and those born today will be alive in 2100 and the article is great for educators to reflect on what skills, attitudes, and facts we are teaching to young people today that will be useful to them when they are our age. Harari is a bit pessimistic that older adults (school leaders) can do this.

The best advice I can give a 15-year-old is: don’t rely on the adults too much. Most of them mean well, but they just don’t understand the world.

Harari, September 13, 2018 Forge

He argues that with the extremely fast rate of technological and cultural change schools need to radically reform how they prepare young people. The role of schools was the “3 Rs” (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic). Harari refers to pedagogical experts that think we should change to the “4 Cs” (Critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) because…(quote below)

More broadly, they believe, schools should downplay technical skills and emphasize general-purpose life skills. Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, learn new things, and preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations. To keep up with the world of 2050, you will need to do more than merely invent new ideas and products, but above all, reinvent yourself again and again

I would push back a little bit regarding teaching information and technical skills. The argument is with the world’s information available at your fingertips through your phone, why memorize any history or facts. I think there should be some of that in schools to give students a mental framework to make sense of the world. I agree that the 4Cs will bring more success to a student than the 3Rs, but going too far is not good for them.

I’ve been thinking about my Russian language learning. I am trying to find time to improve my Russian language, but with Google Translate improving daily, one can easily get around and I wonder what the equivalent of Google Translate will be 27 years from now. AI is just starting to transform how we work.

His take on technology is provocative. I’ve seen his example of technology enslaving people in the past with the advent of agriculture. People before agriculture would hunt and gather, live in smaller groups and most importantly for Harari’s argument, have more free time. Agriculture caused them to devote more time to producing food.

So on what can you rely instead? Perhaps on technology? That’s an even riskier gamble. Technology can help you a lot, but if technology gains too much power over your life, you might become a hostage to its agenda. Thousands of years ago humans invented agriculture, but this technology enriched just a tiny elite while enslaving the majority of humans. Most people found themselves working from sunrise till sunset plucking weeds, carrying water buckets, and harvesting corn under a blazing sun. It could happen to you too.

I agree with him in that I hate seeing “zombies” staring at their screens constantly instead of the world around them.

He ends the essay with a call to “know thyself”, the adage from Socrates. Students are bombarded with ideas, marketing, etc. through ubiquitous access to the internet. It is easy to get caught up with what the algorithms are telling you. Harari’s main message is that schools need to help students find their identity through what makes us human. Our relationships with others and our own senses interpret the world around us.

In my opinion, today’s students are looking for mentors. Adults can help guide them through the intricacies of digital information overload. I disagree with Harari’s assertion that young people can’t rely on older people, including teachers and school leaders.

Teaching Strategies Don’t Make You an Expert Teacher

New Zealand Education Professor Emeritus John Hattie is publishing a new book this month, “Visible Learning: The Sequel“. It is a follow-up to his 2008 Visible Learning. That work was based on Hattie and his team statistically analyzing thousands of research studies on influences on student achievement (learning) in schools. His team published a ranking of influences (teaching techniques / personal circumstances) on student achievement. I am looking forward to reading his book and was interested in hearing what he had to say in this TES Magazine interview from January.

His book was all the rage in education and we offered teachers in one of my previous schools, consultants from Hattie’s Research Group to work with our faculty. We focused on the strategies that had a highly positive impact on student achievement.

The problem is: we are hopeless at identifying successful teaching and scaling it up; that’s one of the most frustrating things in our business.

So, we need to ask less about how students engage in doing work, and more about how students think, know and solve. We need to shift from focusing on the impact of talking to focusing on the power of listening.

Tes Magazine – January 11, 2023 John Hattie interview

Hattie’s thinking has evolved and the sequel does not have any tables of influence. Hattie mentioned a new observation technique in Australia of filming an expert teacher talk through his/her thinking behind lesson planning, then filming the lesson and afterward, filming the teacher breakdown the decisions made during the lesson based on what was taking place in class.

We stopped a couple of years ago because the technology is now far ahead of where we were. But one of the things we found, from our work in England, was that 89 per cent of classroom time is spent with the teacher talking. Teachers asked around 150 questions a day, most of which required less than three-word answers. That’s the norm. Most teachers don’t know that, and they deny it. But the evidence is undeniable, and when they do see their own results, it drives them to improve.

Tes Magazine – January 11, 2023 John Hattie interview

Hattie’s quote above shows teachers often rely too much on direct instruction. There is a place for this, but Hattie is stresses for educators to switch from focusing on what they are doing, and moving to what the students are learning, in other words, the impact of the teaching on students.

My final takeaway from Hattie’s interview is his key finding in his work, that teacher expertise and quality is the most important factor in student learning. As the leader of the school, I need to make sure we hire teachers with this expertise and support the improvement of the teachers we have.

This reminds me of admissions and thinking about why families choose a K-12 school or a university. Often they focus on the campus, facilities, marketing literature, etc. They should be choosing schools based on the teachers and professors.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice

DEIJ is a hot topic with international schools worldwide. We are beginning our journey at the Tashkent International school through an Equity Task Force that is defining what our initiatives will look like over the next couple of years. The group asked me what I envision for DEIJ and I wrote the following:

“I would like to have a DEIJ strand in our Strategic Plan, enhancing our Global Citizenship strand. The Central & Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA) DEIJ Recommendations for CEESA Schools provides a comprehensive framework to define our initiatives over the next couple of years. I think we should start with making sure our policies and guiding statements address the best practices of international school DEIJ standards. This means a brief statement in the Board Governance Manual and detailed guidelines in operational handbooks such as Child Safeguarding & Protection and Recruitment. DEIJ is a mindset or lens that all TIS employees should view their daily work and interactions with students, parents and colleagues. Our first job is to raise awareness in community members so it is in everyone’s consciousness and to continually bring it up in all the work we do here. Eventually, all TIS employees will have a DEIJ mindset in their actions and conduct.  For our context of Uzbekistan, I think we should prioritize empowering women and decreasing income inequality.”

We targeted May 19 as a Professional Development Day to introduce DEIJ to our faculty and staff.

Chat GPT: A New Era in Computers

(update – The IT Director sent me a link with good ideas:

I am fascinated by artificial intelligence (AI) and the new Chat Bot, Chat GPT (Generative Pre-Training). A “chatbot” is a computer program that allows people to have a simulated conversation with the program. Simple chatbots are quite common, for example, a chat dialogue that appears on the screen of a website you visit, or entering voice commands into Siri on an iPhone. Chat GPT is the most sophisticated and user-friendly chatbot to have wide public use. It is data-driven and predictive (conversational) and the GPT is a big jump in complexity from the Siri assistant I use on my phone. It is contextually aware and uses natural-language understanding (NLU) and machine learning (ML) to learn as they go.

The software was developed by a non-profit company called, Open AI. The research laboratory received large donations from Microsoft, Elon Musk and others. They are based in San Francisco and in 2015, decided to go the non-profit route to make sure they are developing AI for the good of humanity. The co-chair, Sam Altman, expects it to surpass human intelligence in the coming decades. The New York Times has a lot of articles on AI and ChatGPT including a good introduction to the technology on its podcast, The Daily, “Did Artificial Intelligence Just Get Too Smart?”.

Of course, my 20-year-old son already has been using it and yesterday morning he helped me get started. I was preparing a script for a holiday message to our school community. Instead of me writing it, I asked Chat GPT to do it with including some basic instructions to reference our school’s Purpose Statement and the importance of relationships. I was amazed at what came back and with a few tweaks and personalizing it a bit more, I had a strong script. I would compare it to someone using a Wikipedia entry to start a research paper, but even more sophisticated. The software has the incredible ability to scour much of the internet and quickly synthesize ideas into a coherent structure. Of course, it is only as good as what is posted on line, so it makes mistakes. I do not see it replacing humans yet and I view it as a tool that can be used as a base to work from, but we will be grappling with ever-improving versions of AI in the next coming years.

I do think this is a really big deal for education, our economy, and the world as a whole. I am going to experiment more with it over this holiday break. I can see why Google is “declaring a code red” for its search business. Why should I bother doing a search for components of a good holiday message when I can just ask the computer to write the speech for me. My son also showed me Open AI’s digital image software, Dall-E 2, a program that creates images from descriptions you can input. I asked Dall-E 2 to create a Monet-like painting of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. As you can see below, it looks like the Tashkent Television Tower in the background and the Japanese Garden in the foreground.

I wonder how K-12 international schools and universities will deal with the technology. I can see students using ChatGPT to help them complete essays, lab reports and other writing assignments. Schools will need to work AI into their honor codes and academic honesty policies. For example, it can come up with a decent International Baccalaureate Extended Essay including a bibliography and in-text citations. I like CNBC Sofia Pitt’s take on the technology, “ChatGPT’s value really lies in its ability to explain complicated topics as if you were talking to a human, and to do simple writing tasks.” I am sure this will not be the last AI post I do this school year.

How to Detect a Liar: Daniel Pink’s Latest Recommendation

Daniel Pink is one of my favorite authors. I read several of his books and subscribe to his PinkCast newsletter. He always has useful recommendations. The latest edition of the PinkCast features author Eric Barker. Barker’s latest book is “Plays Well With Others: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Relationships is (Mostly) Wrong”. Relationships are the key to success for students, teachers, and parents in a school community when it comes to happiness and learning. Humans are hyper-social animals and interactions with other humans is integral to our well-being.

In the Pinkcast episode above, Daniel talks about how to detect a lie. This could be especially useful to educators when they are gathering information from students. I was surprised at how often humans tell lies. I would guess some of them are “white lies” that lubricate social relations. I will read a .pdf preview from Eric’s book and see if it will be worthwhile to purchase his book.

What I Learned from the Pandemic?

What did school leaders learn from the pandemic? It finally feels like we are mostly out of the crisis management mode we’ve been living in since the novel coronavirus spread out of China in March of 2020. I think this is a good time to reflect on what we learned from this horrible experience.

My biggest takeaway was a crystallization in my mind that the relational aspect of learning is the most important part of education. Many people think that school is all about facts and figures on a test. It is not. It is all about the relationship between teachers and students, between students and their parents, and between students themselves. This creates an environment that causes us to care about the information we are teaching and learning. David Sax, author of The Future is Analog, articulates this brilliantly in his interview with The Gist’s, Mike Pesca. Learning technology enhances how teachers deliver information and plan lessons but it will never replace human-to-human education. Larry Cuban, a professor of Educational Technology at Stanford writes about the history of new educational technologies being introduced to schools. It always goes back to the relationship between teacher and student. This cannot be developed on Zoom/Google Meet. Teachers will always be necessary, and even with Artificial Intelligence coming soon to common use, daily human contact will always be at the heart of schools.

Emily Oster’s article in the Atlantic, “Let’s Declare a Pandemic Amnesty” reminds me of the uncertainty that surrounded the pandemic at the beginning. It was a “novel” coronavirus and we didn’t know the impact. Some people panicked, some ignored it, and most people were a mix of caution and getting on with their lives. It is easy to look back and see what we got wrong and what we got right. In my mind, I think it was shown that schools were not “supersites” of viral spread and school closures did more damage than good for students. I also am taking away that mask mandates are not necessary. A well-fitting K95 surgical mask protects individuals and people should be encouraged to wear them if they feel like it. mRNA vaccines work (prevent serious symptoms) and schools should strictly enforce vaccination policies for all contagious diseases. It is wrong to allow unvaccinated children to enroll in schools.

“The Fog of War” applies to pandemics as well. The deluge of information, misinformation, opinions, etc. was overwhelming for school leaders to deal with. I remember panicked teachers desperately looking for flights out of Uzbekistan, people wiping down groceries with disinfectant, the WHO advising us first NOT to wear masks and then later to wear masks, etc. It reinforced for me that a school leader needs to take in a wide range of information, but in the end, he/she needs to reflect on it and make his/her own path forward based on what is best for the school community as a whole.

Final learning was to pair with experts. No school leader was a public health official before the pandemic. I felt like I became one over the last three years :), but bringing in the Head of the World Health Organization, seeking advice from the US embassy medical team and forming stronger bonds with our sister Tashkent International Clinic helped me figure out what was going on in an ever-changing viral pandemic.

Implicit Bias Training

I participated in an Implicit Bias workshop offered by Alan Phan and Aparna Sundaram from the Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA) Diversity Collective this evening. The workshop was aimed at school leaders and recruiting practices. Heads of Schools have a lot of power in selecting faculty and staff. Implicit biases are unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that humans hold that affect our actions, decisions and understanding. These can be positive or negative. They are personal and can be affected by media, experiences, friends family, and colleagues. Alan and Aparna went through the research literature on the subject. One interesting slide was Milton J. Bennett’s Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity Continuum (below). Alan said most international school leaders are in the Acceptance Stage and the goal of training like this is to move people into the Adaptation and Integration stages. I would like to think my 30 years of living outside my home culture of the USA and working in a field that is predominately women and getting to know intimately families from all over the world, has helped me overcome my biases.

It is human to be biased and my main recruiting takeaway from the workshop will be to Make the Unconscious Conscious, as the slide below mentions. I will ask myself questions about why I like or don’t like a particular person when making hiring decisions.

Remembrance Day Ceremony

Raising of the French Flag in the Garden of the French Embassy

One of my responsibilities as the head of the Tashkent International School is to represent the school at diplomatic events in the expatriate community in the city. These events are an opportunity to solidify relationships with diplomatic missions that depend on TIS to provide a world-class, English-language education for the dependents of their employees.

Yesterday I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony hosted by the French Embassy. The French Ambassador is one of the “Founders” of our school. The Founders are the ambassadors of the five diplomatic missions (USA, UK & Northern Ireland, Germany, Korea, and France) as well as the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations mission. The French and UK embassies rotate hosting the ceremony here in Tashkent and often, a TIS student reads a poem during the ceremony. This year, the French School and the British School provided students to participate.

UK Ambassador Timothy Torlot Speaks While French Ambassador Aurelia Bouchez Looks On

Remembrance Day memorializes the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 2018 which marked the end of World War I hostilities between the Entente (French, UK, USA, and others) and the Germans, the last remaining country fighting against the Entente.

I was touched by the moving ceremony. The ambassadors reminded us of the folly and tragedy of war and especially the senseless murder of young men. Now that I have two sons reaching 18 years old, I realize how immature and young they are at that age. They are still children and it is so wrong to send them into war. Their best years are ahead of them and to lose the experiences of falling in love, having a family and career, and growing old, are the worst that war brings to humanity.

Ambassador Torlot also reminded us that war is currently taking place in Europe once again. Humanity does not learn the lessons of the past.

Soliciting Parent Feedback

Last week I hosted a parent coffee with the goal of soliciting feedback from TIS parents. Over 30 parents attended the session and it was valuable for me to hear directly from them. My main “takeaways” from the session were as follows: 

  1. Concerned about the influence of the internet and digital technologies on children’s development. This includes social media use, gaming, screen time, etc. 
  2. More information on different aspects of the school ranging from teacher credentials, curriculum, student achievement data such as IB scores, university acceptances, foreign language study, to information about the IB teaching and learning techniques.  
  3. Too many cafeteria snack offerings have high sugar and fat content. 
  4. TIS to consider the most effective methods of communication between school and home. 

Below are the meeting minutes

Over 30 parents attended the Coffee with the Director session. The purpose of the meeting was to receive feedback from parents regarding their experiences with the school. There were 19 different nationalities represented within the parents attending and after introductions and conversations, we shared our different schooling experiences.

  1. Children like TIS and families are mostly happy with the schooling. 
  2. Different cultures have different expectations of schools. 
  3. Parents do not see much homework, especially in the PYP and would like to know more about the educational process and their children’s progress. Elementary School Principal Derek Nelson has a planned session for parents in November.

Director Bill Kralovec shared submissions to the Suggestion Box recently installed near the entrance gate. They are as follows:

  • Share the credentials and educational background of the faculty
  • Share more information about the subject curriculum.
  • There were questions about the wall calendars and 2021-2022 Yearbooks. 
  • Parents are concerned students are using mobile phones too much at school. They are concerned about overall amount of screen time between laptops and phones. 
  • Shorten wait time in the cafeteria for snacks and lunches. 
  • Give students more school supplies (stationary, office supplies)  

At the meeting, the following suggestions/comments were put forth by attendees. 

  • Parents reiterated their concerns about the influence of social media, gaming (ex. MineCraft), mobile phones and screen time on students. Some felt the students spend too much time on screens at school. 
  • The nutrition of snack options for students during break times and after school was questioned. There are too many snacks like donuts, baked goods, chocolate and not enough healthy options.
  • Sugar control (parents think children has unlimited access to the liquid sweetener for drinks)  
  • Consider offering breakfast and offer free healthy snacks for students
  • Director answered questions regarding drinking water. All water is filtered or bottled water. 

Communication Channels

  • Whole School Google Calendar (link)
  • Newsletter (upcoming events, sent every other Tuesday 10:00 AM to email) 
  • Curriculum/Classroom Information through Toddle (ES) and Manage Bac (SS)
  • Emails 

TIS is developing an online Parent Platform, a “one-stop shop” for all necessary school information. TIS is considering starting a Telegram Channel. 

The parents also asked to provide more transparent information about:

  • School graduation;
  • University acceptance;
  • School achievements;
  • Language acquisition 

The HR manager told the parents that the school has a “High school profile” where they can partly find the answers to their questions.

Bill is planning to lead community sessions on the following topics during the 2022-2023 school year: 

  1. Advice to families for dealing with the impact of social media, mobile phones, screen time, etc. 
  2. Latest research on sleep and circadian rhythms impact and learning and what families can do to improve sleep. 
  3. Air pollution impact on health and cognitive ability

The Director thanked everyone and asked the parents to share their ideas, suggestion, and offers with him in person or send them via emails to and/or