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by Laurie Kimbrel

Public participation in local government is the foundation of American democracy.  Nowhere is this more evident than in our public schools, where elected boards of education work together to ensure that systems and policies are in place to support student learning.  Since the decisions of a school board impact our children, the stakes are high, and it’s essential that voters take the time to be informed before they cast their ballots.


The Role of the Board

Although school board meetings sometimes look structured and routine to the outside observer, the board makes a number of very important decisions about how our schools operate.  It’s important to remember that school districts are governed collectively by boards, rather than by individual trustees.  Because the board is a governmental body, it can only take action by majority vote at a public meeting.  According to the American Associations of School Boards, there are some characteristics that are common to good school boards no matter where they are in the country:

  • Good boards set a vision for their districts based on input from stakeholders.  The vision is an aspirational statement of what should be true for all students.  Decisions of the board should be made in light of the mission.
  • Good school boards set policy for the district and listen to a variety of stakeholder groups as a part of the policy-setting process.
  • Good school boards understand the budget and ensure that it responsibly supports the mission.
  • Good boards attempt to reach decisions that all members can support.
  • Good school boards make every effort to operate openly by encouraging public attendance at their meetings and keeping constituents informed of the district’s progress.
  • Good boards are efficient and have protocols and procedures for how they will operate as a team.
  • Good boards know that they are in the business of education.  They talk about education, they study the needs of students, and they are familiar with current educational research.
  • Good school boards know the difference between governance (which is the board’s job) and management (which is the administration’s job), and place a high priority on respecting that difference.


What to Look for in an Individual Trustee

Good school trustees can come from all walks of life.  The ability to work together as a team is not determined by age, race, occupation, income, or social standing.  Both the California School Boards Association and the American School Boards Association have identified the characteristics of effective trustees.  These qualities may be helpful to keep in mind as you are researching the views and experiences of the candidates.  An effective individual trustee:

  • Has the proven ability to work as a member of a team, including keeping an open mind and engaging in give-and-take to arrive at a group consensus.
  • Keeps learning and achievement of all students as their primary focus.
  • Takes the time necessary to become informed and do the homework required to actively take part in effective school board meetings.
  • Recognizes and respects differences of perspective and style on the board and among staff, students, parents, and the community.
  • Acts with dignity and understands the implications of demeanor and behavior.
  • Keeps confidential matters confidential.
  • Participates in professional development and commits the time and energy necessary to be an informed leader.

Effective trustees are often those who have proved successful in their particular vocations or avocations, and who have demonstrated a genuine concern for the needs of students and community improvement.  Schools and students need trustees who believe unequivocally in the value of public education.  Trustees must be dedicated to serving and teaching each and every student.


As with all elections, we should become informed voters and make our choices wisely.  After all, our new trustees will have the awesome responsibility of looking out for the best interests of our students, and our students deserve the very best.

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by Laurie Kimbrel, Ed.D.

On of the qualities of an excellent educator is the belief that every student can and must learn at high levels. High quality teachers also know that some students need more time or support in order to reach expected levels of proficiency and that it is their role to provide the learning experiences necessary to produce student growth. One of the biggest challenges of teaching is that in a typical classroom, the students have a wide range of abilities, interests, backgrounds and readiness for learning the content.

There are a multitude of techniques that excellent teachers use to ensure that they meet the needs of the wide variety of students in their classrooms. Here are just a few strategies for educators to consider as they develop plans to meet the diverse needs of their students. Of course, all of these strategies have a time and a place and are not appropriate on every occasion. Similarly, some of these strategies can require additional work on the part of the teacher and so they should be used as time permits.

Focus on Student Interests

Great teachers take the time to know their students both on both an academic and personal level. It’s important to understand a student’s interest beyond the classroom. What do they enjoy doing in their spare time? What motivates them outside of school? One of the most powerful ways to motivate students in the classroom is to incorporate their interests into what they learn. Determine methods and times to allow students to choose the topics that they want to talk about. When possible, incorporate their interests into the content or assignments. A focus on student interests can also be a powerful relationship builder. It matters to a student that the teacher has taken the time to understand their passions and interests.

Increase Student Choice in Assignments and Assessments

Students can demonstrate an understanding of content in a number of ways. Many teachers successfully use student choice as a method to increase engagement and motivation. Consider offering a variety of options for an assignment. If the purpose of the assignment is understanding of a key concept, why not let some students write about it, allow others to present to the class or have a one on one conference with the teacher. If the learning goal includes written communication, offer choice in terms of the topic or area of research.

Technology as a Tool to Enhance Instruction

Students are digital natives and often feel more comfortable working with technology than adults. Some students are more likely to be more engaged when they use electronic devices in class or to complete homework. It is important to note that technology should not be utilized for the sake of having a device in front of the student. It should enhance the lesson and the content rather than becoming the sole focus.

Student Collaboration in Groups

Students often benefit from collaborative work with their peers. There are a number of ways to group students in order to maximize the learning experience. Some teachers prefer to allow students to choose their own groups so that they are able to work with friends. Others prefer to arrange students into mixed ability groups so that stronger students have the opportunity to re-teach or provide leadership to struggling students. Still other teachers use a variety of groupings so that students have experience working successfully with a variety of peers.

Focus on Equity versus Equality

If we truly believe it is our role to ensure that all students learn, then our focus should be on equity versus equality. A focus on equality would mean that every student has the same instruction and amount of time to learn. However, we know that some students need more time or support and so our focus should be to ensue equitable outcomes. If a student needs more time to learn and demonstrate mastery, then it should be provided. If a student needs more support then the teacher should work both individually and with his or her colleagues to provide it as well. Learning is not a race. Those who master a concept quickly should be provided opportunities to deepen and apply their learning but students who take more time should not be left behind.


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by Laurie Kimbrel, Ed.D.

Over the course of my career, I have blogged and written extensively about the need for all students to succeed at high levels. By now, most understand that success in an economy driven by technology, innovation and service will require both content knowledge as well as a set of underlying skills such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Both our own common sense and research tell us that our students must be prepared for learning beyond high school in college, job training and apprenticeship programs. But how do we ensure that all students are ready when they are only with us in schools for a few years? The answer lies in both effective classroom instruction as well as effective intervention.

We know that all students can learn, however, some students need more time and more support. In the past, many school systems waited for students to fail or fall far behind to intervene. Summer school was offered when students failed a course and the student needed to repeat the entire course regardless of content that had been previously mastered. Special education was sometimes offered as a last resort when frustrated staff didn’t know what else to do. In contrast, imagine a school system where student outcomes are clearly identified, where there is high quality instruction in every classroom and where TIMELY intervention is available for EVERY student at the first sign of a struggle. What if students didn’t have to wait for help until they had already failed?

The best intervention is prevention and so our most important work actually begins with a strong core instructional program in every classroom for every student. Approximately 80% of students who receive a well instructed, research-based curriculum should experience success as a result of initial instruction in the classroom.

In order to ensure that all students learn at high levels, it is also necessary to create intervention plans to assist students who need support.  Plans should have the following characteristics:

  • Tiered support – some students need a little help and some need a lot of help. Our interventions offer various levels of assistance based on the needs of the student.
  • Directive – interventions must be mandatory. We can’t claim that our mission is to ensure that all students learn at high levels and then allow our students to “choose” to fail.
  • Administered by trained professionals – systems must be in place so that the professionals with the most expertise in a given area are able to deliver intervention. This notion is based on a medical model. If you have the flu, you can see the physician’s assistant, but if you have cancer, you need the oncologist.
  • Targeted – intervention is very specific to the student and the standard in which he or she needs assistance. Using a reliable system of assessment in the classroom ensures that we identify specific areas of intervention.
  • Timely – effective intervention occurs promptly, not after an F grade has been given for the course. Also, interventions should only be as long as needed, a student should not have to languish in intervention past the point where it is helpful.

If you would like additional information on effective intervention:

An easy to read article –

“The Why Behind RtI” by Austin Buffum, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber

A great book –

“Simplifying Response to Intervention”

by Austin Guffu, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber





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Shared but not written by Laurie Kimbrel

View Laurie Kimbrel Superintendent profile and bookmark her blog to ensure that you don’t fail to get the latest post, images, and fascinating news. Laurie Kimbrel is a seasoned educator specializing in helping students face life with the right skills.

Character Education Holistic Approach

A lot of people suggest that the best way to implement CE is through holistic approach or an approach that incorporates character development in each aspect of the student’s school life. Several characteristics of the holistic approach are as follows:

  • Everything in the school gets set to student, staff and community relationship development.
  • The school is a caring hub for learners who access a solid bond that connects students, staff and the school.
  • Social and emotional learning is encouraged in the same enthusiastic style academic learning is emphasized.
  • The collaboration and the cooperation amongst students are sensitized over competition.
  • Values including respect, fairness and honesty are everyday lessons that are taught inside and outside the classroom.
  • Classroom management and discipline are fostered together to champion problem­solving platforms as opposed to a rewards and punishment module.

The Benefits of Character Education

Fortunately, character education is not just centered on an all or nothing enterprise; there is plenty that teachers do to grant meaningful character building experiences to their students.

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Shared but not written by Laurie Kimbrel

Laurie Kimbrel at Tamalpais Union High School has a well documented website. Visit Dr. Laurie Kimbrel’s website and access the latest’s facts, news, information and images not forgetting a complete biography.

Character education (CE) is everything that has influences on the characteristics of the students a teacher teaches. Character education is the concentrated effort to help students understand, comprehend and take action on core ethical values.

Character education is portrayed in the way the teacher talks, behaves, the conduct he/she tolerates, which morals and deeds the teacher encourages and the expectations transmitted.

The question is, what sort of values are teachers passing along to their students?

CE remains as an extremely controversial subject, it’s dependent on personal desired outcome. A lot of people including some educators believe that getting children/students to do what they are being told to do is character education.

With this line of thinking, rules get set and imposed and a rewards systems are setup. Punishments are introduced although they produce temporary and limited behavioral changes.

Punishing students as it has been observed does very little to nothing to affect the student’s underlying characteristics. There are other individuals who argue that teachers should focus on creating independent thinkers who commit to moral principles.

Develop students who can do the right thing even when faced with difficult circumstances that demand that they use a different approach to tackle them. CE initiatives can as well be modest and can include one teacher doing several things the right way. Character education can teach students to be elaborate, be inclusive of all and everything that is at their disposal.

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