Greatest evaluation EVER!

As I think we all know, at each of our events we do evaluations of sessions, days, and overall event and program.  We collect a lot of great info, and review each and every comment during our After Action Reviews (AAR).  We also share the results of the breakout feedback with the appropriate breakout presenters.  At one of our recent PLC events we received what may be the greatest evaluation we have EVER!

QUESTION:  “What suggestions do you have for future sessions?”

RESPONSE:  “Would I tell Jesus how to change his gait when walking on water?  I think not.  Change nothing.”

And that is whey we do it!

What about Bob?


 Robert J. Marzano is arguably one of the greatest educational researchers of our day.  His career is laced with facts and findings that have changed instruction, evaluation, assessment, leadership, you name it.  And unique to most researchers, he transforms his research results into practical application.

In September 2007 Bob spoke at our Ensuring EffectiveTeaching in Every Classroom event in Florida, built around his work.  He was still working for McREL but had also started Marzano & Associates consulting out of his home.  Following the day’s activities we were having dinner, and through normal conversation it seemed that professionally Bob was a little unsettled about his direction.  So I asked a simple question which became the first domino leading to significant changes in both our lives, and the lives of countless others.

“You’re only 61, so what do you want to do when you grow up?”

He laughed and then without hesitation stated he had always wanted to have a research lab, bringing all his past, present and future work into one place and bound together.  He had approached McREL, but understandably they needed to further diversify their work beyond his research.  He approached ASCD, but his vision didn’t fit to well with theirs.  So knowing what he wanted to do, and knowing what we do, what else could I say, but “Okay, let’s do it.  You be the brains and Solution Tree will be the brawn.”

We went to work and on May 15, 2008 Marzano Research Laboratory was founded.  A tiny staff still working in his home basement with operations managed out of Bloomington through Solution Tree’s systems.  Today we have a thriving well staffed Research Lab led by Bob, baring his family name, housing nearly all of his work in one place, and is no longer in his and Jana’s basement.

Marzano Research Laboratory Logo

MRL currently does work in the US, Australia, China, and distributes books in several other countries.  In 2011 we were awarded one of the prestigious federally funded Regional Educational Labs (REL) for an initial term of five years. This Fall, in a joint venture with Solution Tree, we are piloting Bob’s framework for whole school reform titled High Reliability Schools.  The culmination of his life’s work and research…to date.

Is Bob done or slowing down…not so much.  Is Bob headed towards having an even greater impact in education…oh yes.  This is what he does, and why we do it.

One of my local heros

Patricia ‘Pat’ Wilson, is a local High School teacher here in Bloomington, IN who recently won the 2012 Claes Nobel Educator of the Year award, presented to an exemplary educator who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to preparing students for success in college and in life.  She is a rock star teacher who also runs the largest HS Habitat For Humanities program in the country.   Such a passionate advocate for kids, our local community and Professional Learning Communities!!


Here’s a link to a video story we created from a recent visit with her.

Patricia Wilson shares her passions for PLCs

How great would it be if all of our veteran teachers had a passion like this for our kids!  WOW.  Pat is just on of the reasons why we do it!

Thanks Pat!

The Land Down Under

Elaine and David Brownlow are two of the nicest people you will ever meet.  They live in Melbourne Australia and run a privately held family company, Hawker Brownlow.  David is an entrepreneur and former school teacher,  and Elaine, before raising their two children who are now in the business, was a typesetter who morphed into a phenomenal editor, acquisitions manager and now the head of Hawker Brownlow.  She is a damn good business woman…mate!

One of the attributes making Hawker Brownlow unique is that besides publishing their own materials they acquire book rights from other publishers, reproduce the titles in Queen’s English, distribute them in Australia and New Zeleand, and pay a royalty back to the publisher.  Brilliant.  Companies like ASCD, Corwin Press, Solution Tree, Josie Bass, Eye on Education, and Stenhouse Press would never be able to reach educators Down Under like they can, much less together…with no politics!!!  Heck, ASCD and Corwin barely talk to me, much less share shelf space.

Four years ago when I attended my very first Hawker Brownlow Annual Conference, their 7th at that time, it was easy to see they could expand their conference offerings and also provide on-site Staff Development.  When I say easy to see, it was easy for Douglas Rife, President of Solution Tree Press, to see.  He encouraged me to go to Melbourne, see their operations, and put Elaine and I together to dream and scheme.  Elaine and David were so welcoming and their operation so well run, a partnership seemed natural.  So in the course of a 30 minute meeting involving Elaine, Douglas and me, we framed out Hawker Brownlow Professional Learning Solutions (HBPLS).


Since the formation of HBPLS we have expanded and grown under the watchful eye of David and Elaine, but run by their daughter Clare and Mr. Gavin Grift.  Clare and Gavin are a powerful team expanding the reach of great educational thinkers like Jay McTighe, Ruby Payne, Bob Marzano, Mike Mattos, Anthony Muhammad, Dylan Wiliams, Andy Hargreaves and Rick and Becky DuFour just to name a handful. You can check out all the others at

All partnerships should be this easy, well run, and enjoyable.  The Brownlows truly make a difference in the lives of so many educators and school children in Australia and New Zealand with their unique publishing company, and our partnership.  And that is why we do it!

The near death, and rise, of events at Solution Tree

When DG Elmore and I became the new owners of Solution Tree, then known as National Educational Service (NES), nearly all of the events were ‘themed’ events such as Strategies for Reaching Angry and Disruptive Youth.  Multiple sessions built around the at-risk youth theme.  The only exception that year was the first ever PLC Institute to be held at Mt. Tremblant in French Quebec Canada.  Why Tremblant?  Well from what I could tell it was because the previous owner, and sitting NES President, spoke French fluently and it seemed like a cool location…if you could find it.  This PLC event was mostly based on a new book, Professional Learning Communities at Work, and the two authors, Rick DuFour and Bob Eaker, presented the bulk of the sessions to a total of 90 attendees.

Conferences are high-risk endeavors, and in year one they ended up being a huge part of the significant losses NES incurred.  The following summer, after a disastrous Spring Conference season, I terminated all future conferences for the company with the exception of the August PLC Summer Institute, relocated to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  I soon realized why there was considerable conference space in Hilton Head in August….OH MY WAS IT HOT!  I believe it hit 105 all three days, but we still had 76 attendees participate in a very good event due to content, delivery and the TLC given to all.  We managed expenses well and broke even.  At 50 attendees we gave them water, at 55 we added ice, at 60 they got a cookie and an apple, etc.

The biggest concern for the future of this event was the location and how to keep registration costs reasonable.  Rick was very kind and offered up Adlai Stevenson High School as the new host site.  We used some of his faculty for additional breakout sessions, the Lincolnshire Marriott for housing, the Stevenson school buses for transportation and the kitchen to prepare meals for the 130 attendees. Registrations continued to grow, and in 2001 we jumped to 300 attendees at Stevenson, and in 2002 we hosted PLC Institutes at Stevenson and two other locations, all schools.  The rest is history.

From day one I loved the PLC Institute format of basing an entire event around a single book, or author’s work.  And I quickly realized it was critically important to consider the authors as partners, not hired presenters like so many conference providers.   Our authors have always been very involved in what sessions needed to be presented and by whom, and what content needed to be covered in each keynote.

You see, nobody knows the authors work better than the author, and their ultimate goal is to have their work understood, embraced and implemented with a focus on student achievement.  They didn’t get into education to make money; they got into education to make a difference.  To help kids succeed.  An event is just one medium we use so the author can do just that…make a difference.  And that is why we do it.

Author Pride

Bob Barr and I have been friends now for more than a decade.  He is a great educator, author and family man who has worked with so many of our schools, as well as taught so many of our educators at IU, Oregon State and Boise State.  When I get an email that includes this, how can you not love what we do. This is why we do it.BACOH_FrontCover_12-7-12

Well, today the Solution Tree box arrived and I got to see the new book. I knew what to expect, but even for this old jaded author and educator, I was simply not prepared for this stunning new book. It took my breath away.

Most of humanity will never get to experience this moment; that rare time when you rip open a box, pull back the wrapping and finally get to see the finished book. Thinking back to my boxes of notes from ten years or so of school observations and interviews, to stacks of yellow tablets of notes and outlines…and then about 3 years hunched over my computer trying to make sense out what I had been experiencing in high poverty/high performing schools; meeting and getting to work with Emily Gibson…and then today, there it was! I am just bursting with pride, but it is a pride for all of you, all of us.

Thanks Bob!!!!