I Became a Principal to Make School a Place Where Students Wanted to Be

As a youngster, LeViis Haney wasn’t the greatest student. In a recent blog for Education Week, he shares his struggle to stay motivated. But thanks to many great teachers who gave him the room to take an active role in his own learning, he chose to enter education, become a school principal and earn a Ph.D. Today, Haney is paying it forward by leading his school, Lovett Elementary on Chicago’s far West Side, into the world of personalized learning. In his second year as Lovett’s principal, he and his staff decided they were ready to tackle a perennial challenge—boredom and related discipline problems among Lovett’s middle schoolers. By joining forces with the  Chicago Public Education Fund and  LEAP Innovations, Haney and Lovett’s teachers were able to redesign the middle-school experience from the ground up. By carving out extra planning time for teachers to think deeply about their practices, Lovett has transformed its spaces, use of time and relationships between teachers and students to give each young person a much more tailored learning experience. (You can read more about it  here.) Haney has worked hard to balance the need-to-know students as learners through testing data with all the other ways teachers and students get deeply acquainted. “Lots of times we teach based on how we feel. A lesson feels good when there are lots of teachable moments and we use them,” he says. “We don’t want to lose that, but we also want to be data-driven.” Test-score growth suggests Lovett is on the right track.

Data-Driven Doesn’t Have to Mean Boring

Part of the secret is that data informs lessons but doesn’t equate with drill-and-kill learning. Kids get to use adaptive software that helps them learn at their own pace, and they also have plenty of opportunities to work on projects alone and in groups. “Students need to talk to each other,” Haney says. “Students must be given complex questions and have time to collaborate on answers.” Personalized learning has been such a hit among teachers that they clamored to get started ahead of schedule. And this summer, Haney received LEAP Innovation’s Educator Leadership Award. Principal Haney, for all you do, this one’s for you.
Maureen Kelleher
Maureen Kelleher is Editorial Director at Future Ed. She was formerly Editorial Partner at Ed Post and is a veteran education reporter, a former high school English teacher, and also the proud mom of an elementary student in Chicago Public Schools. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. Between 1998 and 2006 she was an ...

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